Hillary Clinton, Gov. Maggie Hassan and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in Manchester last November

Aug 30, 2015 10:56 PM

Steinhauser: Shaheen backing of Clinton comes at opportune time

NH1 Political Director -

CONCORD – New Hampshire’s most popular Democratic lawmaker will formally back Hillary Clinton next weekend.

And for Clinton, next Saturday’s official endorsement by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen at an event in Portsmouth, comes as the former secretary of state’s poll numbers in New Hampshire, other early voting states, and nationally, have slipped.

Clinton, who was once the overwhelming front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, slightly trails Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the most recent two public opinion surveys in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

Asked about the timing of Shaheen’s endorsement, Clinton campaign New Hampshire state director Mike Vlacich told NH1 News that "Jeanne Shaheen is a great leader who makes a difference for the people of New Hampshire and women everywhere, and there is no better way to move into fall than with Hillary Clinton and Jeanne Shaheen in Portsmouth on Labor Day weekend."

Before running Clinton’s Granite State campaign operation, Vlacich was a longtime Shaheen staffer who steered her challenging re-election victory in last year’s midterm elections.

Still, the endorsement comes at an important time. The recent polls indicating Sanders ahead of Clinton were a bit of a shock, as New Hampshire was long considered Clinton country. Bill Clinton was nicknamed the “comeback kid” after his second place finish in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary, spring boarding him to the nomination and a White House victory. Bill Clinton won the state in both the 1992 and 1996 general elections.

Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York’s comeback victory in the 2008 Democratic primary re-launched her into an epic battle with then-Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois for the nomination. Eight years later, Clinton enjoys the backing of almost the entire Democratic party hierarchy in New Hampshire. But Sanders, who is well known in the Granite State and who has made numerous trips to New Hampshire since last summer, has seen his poll numbers rise dramatically the past couple of months.

And the endorsement also comes as speculation mounts regarding a White House bid by Vice President Joe Biden.

Shaheen’s formal support is not unexpected. She backed Clinton in the 2008 nomination battle, and in 2013 she signed a letter along with the other female Democratic senators urging Clinton to run again.

After Clinton launched her 2016 campaign in April, Shaheen said in an email to supporters that “we all have to rally behind her starting right now.”

In an email Sunday, Shaheen wrote “now it’s time for us to come together again for a president who will fight for all of us, just like you fought for me. New Hampshire is a special place to Hillary -- always has been, always will be.”

The “Women for Hillary” event will take place at 195 Parrot Ave. in Portsmouth starting at 11:30am on Saturday.

News of the Shaheen endorsement comes just a few days after Clinton grabbed the backing of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsask, a former two-term Iowa governor. The most recent public opinion poll in Iowa indicated Clinton in the lead, but Sanders gaining ground.

Shaheen’s formal support also shines a light on the lack of a similar endorsement so far by Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Then-state Sen. Hassan supported Clinton’s 2008 campaign. But the governor, who’s battling GOP lawmakers who control the state Senate and House over the budget, has yet to make an endorsement. Hassan is also weighing running for a third term as governor next year or challenging Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who’s up for re-election.

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