According to a lengthy feature published in Politico on Wednesday evening Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has a strained relationship with President Barack Obama.
The story, which was written by Edward-Isaac Dovere described several factors leading to a “behind the scenes struggle with the White House.” These include a pair of recent gaffes, alleged efforts to get the DNC to pay for he wardrobe, and a perception Wasserman Schultz is more interested in pursuing a potential House leadership bid than supporting the party.
Wasserman Schultz rejected the notion she has focused on her personal ambitions while heading the DNC. She told Politico her time leading at the party was “not about me.”
According to Dovere, who said he conducted “interviews with three dozen current and former DNC staffers, committee officers, elected officials, state party leaders and top Democratic operatives,” this tension has led to awkward in-person interactions between the president and Wasserman Schultz. The story claimed Obama and Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, have “rarely even talked since 2011,” and she attempts to speak with the president by getting on the end of photo lines at events where he greets her by saying, “You need another picture, Debbie?”
Under Wasserman Schultz’s leadership the DNC retired debt incurred during the 2012 election. Dovere described as Wasserman Schultz attempting to tout this achievement on one of the occasions when she approached the president.
“I just want you to know, the DNC has retired its debt,” she said, according to the story.
“Debbie, you think I don’t know?” Obama allegedly responded, adding, “I’m the president of the United States.”
According to Politico, the tension between Obama and Wasserman Schultz got bad enough that his inner circle considered replacing her as head of the DNC. Dovere said this plan was abandoned because “there was nervousness about the optics of Obama dropping a woman from the party leadership.”
Wasserman Schultz initially supported Hillary Clinton rather than Obama in the 2008 presidential race. However, Dovere reported that, if Clinton is the Democratic nominee in 2016, she is likely to replace Wasserman Schultz. He attributed this to lasting animosity over the fact Wasserman Schultz allegedly reached out to Obama in 2008 and expressed her willingness to back him before Clinton officially ended her campaign.
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill denied there was an issue between the two. He told Politico Clinton has the “highest regard” for Wasserman Schultz.
The White House also insisted the reports of a strained relationship between Wasserman Schultz were greatly exaggerated. Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz told Obama was “grateful” for her work at the DNC and felt she is doing a “great job” positioning Democrats for this year’s midterm elections.
When asked about the Politico story, DNC National Press Secretary Michael Czin pointed to the party’s fundraising success under Wasserman Schultz’s leadership and the fact Obama reappointed her after the last presidential race.
“The Chair has worked tirelessly for President Obama and Democrats up and down the ballot in her three and a half years at the helm of the DNC. That’s why President Obama reappointed her following his own reelection,” said Czin. “The Chair’s record and accomplishments at the DNC speaks for themselves. Just this cycle she has traveled to 99 cities and 37 states to participate in hundreds of events in support of Democrats up and down the ticket. This cycle the DNC has raised more than $US120 million, retired more than $US20 million in debt that helped us win in 2012, built a groundbreaking program to expand access to the ballot box while providing campaigns of all size the same data and technology platforms that the Obama campaign pioneered. That’s a record anyone would be proud of.”
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