When everyone else in the Congressional delegation went with backyard pick Sen. Hillary Clinton, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) instead stood with Chicago newcomer U.S. Sen. Barack Obama for president.
"If you’re the only one to endorse a candidate like that, you could stand to be in line for a cabinet position or something else," said Ray Durkin, party elder and former State Party chairman, who went way out of the box and against the establishment grain when he endorsed New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson last year.
"You never know, Durkin said.
Unlike Richardson, who belly-flopped early in his presidential bid, Obama ascended to become his party’s presumptive nominee. Now, as the exodus of Clintonistas makes its way over to Obama, they already find Rothman among the handful of New Jersey for Obama diehards.
But the six term congressman today said he’s not interested in serving as a member of Obama’s administration, should his choice for president prevail over Sen. John McCain.
"No, I don’t want a cabinet position," he told PolitickerNJ.com. "I like going to Washington and representing the people of New Jersey."
Not commenting on what his presidential choice means for his individual career, and specifically refusing to speculate on where it vaults him in terms of senatorial succession, Rothman said, "What it means at this point is a lot more work in the next five months, working with leaders, both Hillary and Barack supporters, to ensure that we carry this state for Obama."
Rothman said he never gave up hope that Obama would be the nominee, just as Clinton’s supporters never lost hope.
"We knew we’d have to work as hard as possible," he said. "After all those contests we did feel proud that two such outstanding and distinguished people were representing party. They both performed magnificently, but in the end, Obama’s campaign did a better job of focusing the requisite number of delegates, not only from primaries but caucuses, and having the financial resources for a vast grassroots organization and a very active effort in all forms of media advertising."
In addition to his work on behalf of Obama, the congressman played a much discussed role in helping to shut down Bergen Democratic Chairman Joseph Ferreiro’s efforts to back South Jersey challenger U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1) over U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).
Rothman insisted it was less spaghetti western showdown than simply "momentary mis-communication between two old and dear friends," and today reaffirmed his support for Ferreiro on the eve of the Bergen County Democratic Organization’s reorganization meeting.
"We’ve known each other for 28 years," said the congressman. "We’ve worked together and supported each other, and, yes, I’m supporting him for chairman."