SALEM, N.H. — Seven years ago, when Hillary Rodham Clinton needed her most, then-state Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan was there for her presidential campaign.
Today, it’s anybody’s guess whether Hassan, now governor of the Granite State, will back Clinton again.
On the Globe’s list of the 115 most desirable Democratic endorsements in the 2016 New Hampshire presidential primary, more than half of the state’s political establishment is “Ready for Hillary.” This includes President Obama’s pointman in the state, Jim Demers. It also includes Granite State activists who backed John Edwards, like Maureen and Donald Manning in Manchester. The Clinton network is vast in New Hampshire, including three former US ambassadors, several Clinton administration appointments, and all three of the state’s Democratic National Committee members.
But so far, Hassan is not on board.
In 2008, Hassan and a few dozen other female Clinton supporters may have had as much to do with her surprise first-in-the-nation primary win over Obama as did Clinton’s tears at a now-famous Portsmouth event. This group, which included other prominent New Hampshire Democratic women, signed a blast e-mail to other women in the state raising questions about whether Obama sufficiently supported abortion rights because he had voted “present” on a number of abortion-related bills in the Illinois Senate.
Exit polls showed older, pro-abortion rights female voters lifted Clinton to victory in that primary, setting the stage for a protracted primary. Afterwards some of those who wrote the letter expressed regret, but the deed was done. And for Hassan, the Clintons repaid the favor.
Less than four years later, Hassan was running for governor after she was defeated for reelection to the Legislature. She faced off with another former state senator who backed Obama in the 2008 primary. While Hassan was the front-runner for the nomination, her primary was dicey. With weeks to go, Hassan called in a favor: While Hillary Clinton was traveling the globe as US secretary of state, former president Bill Clinton flew into Nashua to hold a rally for her.
It did the trick.
But Hassan also got help from another source in her 2012 race. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley was chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. That group spent $7 million to help Hassan win, more than any other group. A top Hassan political adviser, Marc Goldberg, has Maryland roots. O’Malley is expected to announce his presidential bid on Saturday, followed by a trip to New Hampshire the next day.
After Hassan won her first term, and President Obama won reelection, Vice President Joe Biden personally invited her to attend his swearing in. Biden would then agree to do a fund-raiser for Hassan. O’Malley did two.
During Hassan’s reelection race last fall, Hillary Clinton made her first trip back to the Granite State since the 2008 election. She held a rally for Hassan and US Senator Jeanne Shaheen. Afterward Clinton did a fund-raiser for Hassan in Portsmouth.
When asked at a Tuesday event, Hassan responded she hasn’t endorsed a presidential contender because she is focused on passing a state budget. “I am focused on the budget, and I am also mindful of the state’s role as holding the first in the nation primary,” Hassan said.
Hassan might have other matters on her mind, too, like a 2016 race against US Senator Kelly Ayotte. Democrats expect her to challenge the Republican next year.
Shaheen endorsed Clinton in 2013, when she signed a letter with other female Democratic US senators urging her to seek the presidency again.
But Ann McLane Kuster, New Hampshire’s only Democratic US House member, has said she is trying to be neutral at the beginning of the state’s primary.
Both the Clinton and Hassan operations chalk up the governor’s hesitance to a matter of timing. First, Hassan has to pass a budget, next she will have to make a decision on the Senate race — and then an endorsement for president.
Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story inaccurately described how a former Maryland political aide, Marc Goldberg, went to work for New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan. Goldberg said he made the move of his own volition.