When an event is billed as a “Women for Hillary” rally, it’s not surprising candidate Hillary Clinton and Senator Jeanne Shaheen were more or less preaching to the choir.
Heather Johnson was standing behind a barricade in front of the Portsmouth Middle School – the backdrop to something of a lovefest between Shaheen and Clinton Saturday morning. “I already know what I’m doing,” she says, “I’m voting for Hillary.”
The fact that Shaheen, New Hampshire's Democratic U.S. Senator, had given her endorsement to Clinton was not surprising - as Portsmouth lawyer Paul Pudloski commented, “they’ve been political allies for over 25 years." For Pudloski, who said he has not yet decided who he’s voting for, the endorsement “makes no difference to me.”
But there was a reason Shaheen and Clinton stood on a stage Saturday, Shaheen pronouncing “I am a woman for Hillary,” and Clinton responding she’s “lucky to have a friend like Jeanne Shaheen.” As Clinton supporter Ned Helms put it, “This is not just a nice, stand up, wave your hand and now you have an endorsement.”
Helms has worked in New Hampshire politics for decades, co-chairing President Obama’s state campaign in 2008 and 2012. He says when Shaheen makes an endorsement, she puts her back into it.
“She’s built presidential campaigns from the ground up. She knows the inside workings; she knows who to call. She’ll give invaluable advice in terms of how to position things, what the important strategic and operational aspects of the campaign are.”
Shaheen worked on Gary Hart’s 1984 campaign for President, in which Hart won the New Hampshire primary in an upset victory. She was also John Kerry’s national chairperson, and has been credited with reviving his 2004 campaign early in the primaries.
In a speech, Shaheen made it clear she has an idea who Clinton needs to reach. “She will proudly stand with women,” Shaheen said, “she will proudly stand with Latino Americans. She will proudly stand with the LGBT community. She will proudly stand with teachers. And she will proudly stand with the hard working men and women of labor.”
If Shaheen can mobilize Democrats in New Hampshire early on in an increasingly competitive Democratic field, that could give Clinton the edge she needs heading into the most serious stretch of primary campaigning.