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Clintonite Wolfson Touts Obama (Even without Campaign Job)

When I ran into Howard Wolfson, the former message czar for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign, at the Democratic National Convention last week, I asked him why he wasn’t working on the Obama campaign. He said he hadn’t been asked. Sen. Barack Obama’s aides would have been wise to tap Wolfson. He is not only a skilled Democratic strategist — with roots that predate the Clinton operation — but the kind of visible Clintonite who could help advance all those unity efforts. Now it turns out he’s working on the unity anyway.

In a stirring essay that ran in The Washington Post on Monday and also on his blog, Wolfson narrates his feelings as a “Clintonite in Denver“:

….Then came Thursday night at Invesco Field. During the campaign, we scoffed at events like this, mostly because we were not capable of producing them. A cross-section of voters waited for hours to enter the stadium and take their seats. As one friend put it, it looked more like an American convention than the convention of any particular political party. Clinton delegates greeted one another with tears and hugs and were greeted in turn by Obama delegates. Several Obama supporters took my hand to thank me for what the Clintons had said that week, urging that they stay involved in the campaign. Every so often, I would simply look around me, amazed at the significance not just of the day but of the entire campaign.

Wolfson describes the embraces and excitement of a party uniting behind Obama:

No one in recent history had attempted this kind of a political conversation with 75,000 people. Barack Obama pulled it off. For 18 months, I listened to Obama on television, sometimes intently, often just barely — background noise to a running series of conference calls and meetings and emails. In person, my attention undivided, I saw something of what so many others had seen for so long. Progress in America is never cheap, and even today history exacts a price for Obama’s victory — the dreams of electing the first female president, the dreams of so many who rushed toward Hillary Clinton on rope lines across America and refused to give up her hand and their hopes. Today these dreams are giving way to another kind of progress….

On Wolfson’s blog, a woman named Donna, who said she was an Obama delegate from North Carolina, wrote that the essay was moving, and told Wolfson, “I have tremendous respect for both Clintons and believe that you ran a campaign you should be proud of.” Another commenter called the essay “beautiful,” and one Clinton supporter said it elicited a first-time response to a newspaper article:

This is the first time I have ever responded to a newspaper article, but wanted you to know that I admire and applaud you for your article in “The Washington Post” today. I voted for Clinton in the Florida primary but am now supporting Obama 100 percent.

Back in Denver, Wolfson and I also discussed the job he did take after Clinton bowed out — a regular commentator for Fox News. I mentioned that the GOP sends out press releases promoting comments from Democrats that might undermine Obama, often from Fox broadcasts. For example, for two days leading up to the convention, the Republican National Comittee press releases highlighted comments from another Clintonite-turned-Fox commentator, Lanny Davis.

Wolfson agreed that a fair way to test his commentary is to see if it provides fodder for Republicans. So far, I count several RNC emails about Davis, but none about Wolfson.

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