When Pal’s Cabin was still ground zero for Essex County political activity, John Graham used to be in there all the time in advance of the 2008 Presidential contest, lining up financial support for his old pal Hillary Clinton. A millionaire inside game player as the founder and CEO of Fairview Insurance, Graham was the Frank Sinatra of that scrappy New Jersey political rat pack otherwise known as The Group, a Mary McCarthy novel derivative of Bill Clinton junkies who seemed bound once again for the White House.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way, at least not then, as Barack Obama upended Hillary Clinton’s 2008 dreams and left Graham and his fellow financiers left to dismally ponder how it was that the world went, almost overnight, from Clinton to Obama and from Elvis Presley to Jon Bon Jovi.
It probably didn’t help matters that their first meeting with Obama was at Bon Jovi’s house in Middletown. That meeting went about as smoothly as U.S. Senator Bob Menendez’s curbside encounter with Obama in Denver. Members of The Group thought Obama was cool and aloof and Obama, presumably, thought The Group was old and irrelevant.
But that was then, this is now, and now those Hillary Clinton fans are back, captained by none other than Graham, whose company convened a prime Democratic National Convention function at the Renaissance Hotel last week. In the days and weeks ahead, Graham and others within The Group’s inner circle – including MWW Boss Michael Kempner – will uptick the number of fundraising functions for Clinton as New Jersey, apparently safely in her column, dutifully fulfills the role of campaign cash cow.
Although Clinton received a nine-point bounce from her convention, Graham today still found himself in a familiar position: fending off needling questions about the Democratic presidential nominee’s likeability and trustworthiness.
For Graham, it was no heavy lift.
“If you look around the arena and saw women with their young daughters, what you saw was a microcosm of the country,” said the Democratic fundraiser, a delegate to the convention. “You were most proud to see that women had arrived, as we nominated definitely the most qualified person to be president. If you look at [Donald] Trump by comparison, he’s imploding. This thing with Khzir Khan, he’s a narcissist. He’s showing it with nearly everything he says. I dont know how anyone could vote for him, frankly. The things he’s said about women, religion – he’s letting it all out and it’s hurting him. Hillary will gradually pull away from this thing. That’s what is going on now.”
Emphasizing Clinton’s commitment to getting the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan in place in the 1990s, Graham said he sees Trump by contrast falling all over the place.
“When you think about the burden that Hillary has had – the first woman nominee – it’s really a tremendous burden,” he said. “She has had to overcome this incredibly ugly misogyny that is out there. Then you have Trump, who made a serious mistake when he brought Roger Ailes into his campaign. This is a man harassing women working for him. I really do think it’s all changing in Hillary’s favor. Trump’s putting a nail in his own coffin like I’ve never before seen in a candidate.”