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Controversial California congresswoman backs Clinton

July 18, 2007 |  5:10 pm

Amid the deluge of endorsements Hillary Rodham Clinton is racking up, this one likely will get noticed more for who it angers than who it impresses.

The latest Californian to officially back the Democrat's presidential candidacy is Rep. Ellen Tauscher, who represents the well-off East Bay suburbs over the hill and “through the tunnel” from Oakland and Berkeley, as locals say. On a conference call with reporters, the pair talked of bonding on the campaign trail (when then-First Lady Clinton stumped for Tauscher) and as parents trading tips on raising their daughters (the congresswoman, a divorcee, is a single mom).

But they also share something else in common: each voted in favor of the war in Iraq they now oppose. And, partly because of that vote, each has been the target of attacks from anti-war activists and left-leaning bloggers. Tauscher also has drawn the ire of progressives because she is a member of the "Blue Dogs" in the House --- a group of moderate Democrats --- and a leader of the New Democrat Coalition.

During today's call, Clinton described the latter group as “a very large group of House members committed to pro-growth economic policies that will really help us return to shared prosperity.” Liberal bloggers describe it less kindly, tending toward characterizations such as “sell-out” and "Republican Lite."

Early this year, Tauscher was under particularly intense fire from progressive voices, as spelled out in a Washington Post story. Since then, she's heightened her profile as an opponent of the Iraq war; Tauscher is a chief sponsor, for instance, of a push to rescind the resolution that authorized the U.S. military action. Still ...

... Tauscher joining the Clinton camp can be expected to generate negative comment on the left.

For all the grief she's taken, Tauscher appears at little risk of losing her House seat, which she has held easily, since her first election in 1996. She also is widely believed to harbor designs on one of California’s two U.S. Senate seats, whenever Democrats Dianne Feinstein or Barbara Boxer steps aside.

Clinton also scored another endorsement worthy of note today because it comes out of the backyard of her chief rival in the Democratic race, Barack Obama. The new Clinton backer is Terry Duffy, who is not only a major figure in Chicago's business community but a Republican, to boot.

You can read more about it on The Swamp, the Chicago Tribune's DC-based blog. And you can read Tauscher's statement embracing Clinton here.

During the conference call with Tauscher, Clinton responded --- after a fashion --- to Elizabeth Edwards' suggestion in a interview that her husband, John, was more committed to feminist causes than the First Lady-turned-New-York-senator-turned White House candidate.

Said Clinton: "Well, I'm running because I believe I'm the best qualified and experienced person to do the difficult job of being our nation's president, starting in January 2009. I have a very clear understanding of how hard the job is at any time. ... I've also worked very hard for most of my life on behalf of women and children and families and I'm very proud of my record before I was in public life and now as a senator. I'm going to continue to work on the issues that I know are important to the women and children whom I already represent and have been privileged to fight for for more than 35 years."

-- Don Frederick