Hillary Clinton’s top fundraisers in New Jersey want Barack Obama to offer their vanquished candidate the vice-presidency ina show of respectto her and her 18 million supporters.
"If I don’t see the respect for Hillary Clinton, I will vote for him, but will I be a proactive person? No," said John Graham, national co-chair of fund-raising for the Clinton campaign and one of the money men in that small and powerful circle of Clinton fundraisers in New Jersey known as "The Group."
"Respect is offering her the position with her right of taking it or not taking it," Graham explained. "He can win without her, but Hillary in the picture gives him Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida."
Emerging from the shadow cast by John Kerry’s 2004 presidential loss and after vetting a number of the 2008 hopefuls, The Group came together with the express purpose of raising enough money to get Clinton elected president.
"She’s the best, most qualified person," Graham concluded last year after sit-down time with Joe Biden, John Edwards, Evan Bayh, Mark Warner and others.
A cadre of around eight people that includes Graham, Al DeCotiis, Michael Kempner, Reginald Jackson and Zenon Christodoulou, The Group ended up personally pulling in $4.4 million for Clinton, and served as the Jersey catalyst for raising $6 million total for the New York senator’s presidential campaign.
"Nationally, we’re respected, believe me," said Graham.
On Wednesday, core members of The Group participated in a conference call in which they discussed the way forward. Graham said Newark Mayor Cory Booker reached out to him at a recent fund-raiser for U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy at the Robert Treat Hotel and at least one representative from the fund-raising arm of the Obama campaign placed a phone call to him. But to date there’s been no formal meeting or armistice between the democratic presidential campaigns here.
Like Graham, several participants in yesterday’s conference call said they’d be loathe to go all out for Obama unless Clinton is on the ticket. Asked today if Clinton wants to be vice-president under Obama, Graham said, "she’ll take it."
Sen. Bon Menendez (D-NJ), one of Clinton’s most active supporters, also likes the former first lady for vice-president. However, he said attention must be paid to Obama’s decision-making process, and Democrats need to give him some room.
"I respect that John and others feel passionately about Hillary Clinton," said Menendez. "But there are many ways for Barack Obama to show Hillary respect. Making her vice president might be the ultimate way. He’s got to go through this process.
"You can’t have pressure on Barack Obama," Menendez added. "That almost works against the ultimate goal, because then his choice of Hillary Clinton could be interpreted as him being pressured into doing something – and if he can be pressured into doing that, the sense would be that he can be pressured into a lot of things."
Graham insisted he agrees with the senator. He doesn’t want to apply pressure.
"His issues are our issues," he said of Obama. "But after two years of this, let’s face it, we can’t just curl up and pretend everything’s ok. We can heal the party and heal the world, and Barack’s picking Hillary for vice-president would show strong, well-respected leadership."