Will Clintons’ attacks affect Shaheen?

Under normal circumstances, given their similarities, there’d be no question that having Hillary Clinton topping the ticket would just about guarantee a U.S. Senate win for Jeanne Shaheen. But these are not normal circumstances.

It’s a tale of two husbands.

First you had Clinton national co-chair Bill Shaheen reminding a reporter that Barack Obama had youthful drug indiscretions back in his youth. Oh, the national Clinton campaign very publicly wrung its hands of the whole disturbing episode. Mr. Shaheen fell on his sword for the good of the campaign. But the word was successfully gotten out there, and it had its intended effect.

Now comes the other potential first husband, former President Bill Clinton. After his Iowa win, Barack Obama found out he had not one but two opponents. This Bill attacked as a “fairy tale” the fact that Barack Obama consistently opposed the Iraq war from the start.

And so the nastiness began. The Clintons shifted into full throttle, with the former president transforming into hatchet man for Hillary. In contrast to a campaign perhaps naively based on hope, the Clintons’ campaign instead turns cynically to the old Machiavellian school of politics. Blatantly dishonest, intentional distortions are OK since they work.

A distorted and clearly dishonest last-minute sneak attack by the Clintons’ campaign against Obama has already hurt Shaheen. It was a letter sent to a wide list of pro-choice New Hampshire women, which said Obama was “unwilling to take a stand for choice.” Never mind that Obama has a 100 percent pro-choice record.

Prominent Obama supporter Mary Rauh was quoted as saying, “I can’t tell you how it distresses me … how horrified I am that the Clinton campaign would do this.”

The Clintons’ camp also kept Obama poll-checkers away from their stations in Nashua to lower Obama’s turnout. Ugly stuff.

Unchastened, there are reports the Clintons’ campaign continues to do it in other states.

The damage caused by the Clintons not only destroys the former president’s legacy but also rubs off on Shaheen, should one Clinton actually become the nominee. The link is anything but positive for Shaheen. Obama has a lot of supporters in New Hampshire who are angry at the machine, and that cannot help Shaheen.

While it is true the pro-choice community is trying to heal the rift, because all Democrats are better on reproductive rights than any Republican, some unusually bad blood remains here in New Hampshire.

Both Hillary Clinton and Jeanne Shaheen depend on an aura of inevitability. And they are both widely recognized as the ultimate party establishment candidates.

There are a heck of a lot more voters and activists than there are lockstep party insiders. People wearing Shaheen stickers at events have whispered to me that while they have to keep up appearances because of the fearsome Shaheen Machine, in the private voting booth they’ll do what they want.

Then there’s the blogosphere. Here’s one anonymous entry: “Most Obama supporters are very mad … Not only are they going to cast their vote against Hillary but also cast their vote against the former governor of NH [who] is running for a senate seat.”

Even if they win their party nominations, there could be a heavy price the Clintons and Shaheens have to pay for demonizing the much-loved and respected Barack Obama.

State senator from 1990 to 2004, Burt Cohen now hosts a radio talk show.

Categories: Opinion