In 2007, Hillary Clinton Wasn't Bruce Braley's First or Second Choice

John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton all courted the now-Senate candidate's endorsement.

Democratic presidential hopeful New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (L), Illinois Senator Barack Obama (C) and former North Carolina senator John Edwards (R) take questions during the Democratic Presidential Primary Debate hosted by CNN and the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute 21 January 2008 at the Palace Theater in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

Bill and Hillary Clinton are both making late stops in Iowa this week to boost the Senate candidacy of Bruce Braley, whose fate could determine control of the U.S. Senate. Given the stakes, one might wonder: What took them so long? The answer might be found in about seven years of history. 

The former first couple are renowned for being both fiercely loyal and for holding political grudges. Back in 2007, when Hillary Clinton was running for president, Braley was a U.S. House member being courted by all camps for his endorsement ahead of the Iowa caucuses. After Clinton worked hard for it, he endorsed John Edwards. And, after the North Carolina senator's campaign imploded amid a sex scandal, Braley embraced the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.

So, that may explain why the Clintons made stops in Arkansas (multiple), Kentucky (multiple), and a bunch of other states with tight Senate races before they managed to fit Braley's race into their schedule. Hillary Clinton will be in Iowa Wednesday and Bill Clinton will be in the state Saturday.

“Elections are about tomorrow, not about the past,” said Jeff Link, a senior strategist with Braley's campaign. “Bruce is thrilled to have the support of Bill and Hillary Clinton throughout this campaign and their help in this final week is invaluable. I'm sure the Clintons are thinking about tomorrow, too.”

Edwards, Obama and Clinton all courted Braley's endorsement, headlining separate “Bruce, Blues and BBQ” fundraising dinners for him as they sought his backing in 2007. Braley, newly elected to Congress in 2006, was the first of Iowa's then three Democratic members of Congress to announce an endorsement.

Braley and Edwards are both former trial lawyers, and Braley noted their other similarities when he made his announcement. Edwards' father worked in a mill and his own worked at a grain elevator, Braley noted. “John is the only Democratic candidate who grew up in rural America, and he has most specific, most progressive and most far-reaching ideas,” he said at the time.

Obama won the Iowa caucuses in January 2008, Edwards finished second and Clinton finished third. In the spring of 2008, as Obama and Clinton were fighting an epic battle for the Democratic nomination, Braley backed Obama. He cited Obama's strong showing in his Iowa congressional during the caucuses as one of the reasons for his move.

“I think that excitement and enthusiasm is evident around the country, and so that's one of the reasons, in addition to what's happening in my own district, that I've reached this decision,” Braley told the Des Moines Register.

Braley also said Obama “put pressure” on him to make the endorsement. “He basically said, you know, ‘You need to make a decision. You need to get on the team. We need you. And what can I do to help you make that decision?’’ Braley told the Register.

None of this is to suggest the Clintons don't want Braley to beat Republican Joni Ernst in one of the most closely watched Senate campaigns this election cycle. Hillary Clinton has endorsed him and Ready for Hillary, a super-PAC preparing for her potential presidential bid, has also done work in the state on Braley's behalf.

Hillary Clinton's appearance will be just her second visit to the state since the 2008 caucuses. Still, the former first lady is an asset to Democratic candidates in Iowa, although less so than her husband. A Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll released earlier this month showed that among voters of all political stripes, 65 percent think having Bill Clinton as a backer helps Braley. Hillary Clinton was viewed as helpful by 52 percent.

Bill Clinton only briefly mentioned Braley during his speech at Harkin's Steak Fry, a fundraising event held last month and hosted by outgoing Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, and it wasn't a great moment for the candidate. Clinton managed to mispronounce his name, calling him “Bruce Bailey.”

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