President Obama golfed Sunday with one candidate for Virginia governor — Terry McAuliffe, the longtime Clinton aide and former DNC chairman who announced his gubernatorial bid last month — but the president offered a remarkably heartfelt endorsement to another potential candidate, former Rep. Tom Perriello, two years ago during the 2010 midterms.
On Oct. 29, 2010, just four days before polls closed on Perriello’s re-election bid, President Obama hosted a packed rally for the congressman in the Charlottesville Pavilion. Lines were out the door, stretching the entire length of Charlottesville’s downtown mall.
“I just want to make sure you get out and vote on Tuesday for one of the best congressmen Virginia’s ever had, Tom Perriello,” said Obama, adding that he supported the candidate despite their disagreements in Washington.
“I am here for one reason,” Obama said. “I’m not here because Tom votes with me on every issue — sometimes he disagrees with me. There are times where I know that his first allegiance is not to party labels — it’s not to the Democratic party — it’s to the people of his district and the people of Virginia.”
Obama touted Perriello as a “test case” in integrity, and led supporters in a spirited chant: “Go, Tom, Go! Go, Tom, Go!”
The Obama rally drew a crowd, and media attention — it was the president’s first rally appearance on behalf of just one House member — but Perriello got hammered for the joint appearance. Republicans said the event was proof that Perriello was “actually working for the president,” not Virginia constituents.
Anticipating the attack, Perriello dished to the Huffington Post one day before the Obama rally, highlighting the issues on which he and the president differed. “The idea that I’m in lockstep [with the president] is just kind of silly BS that conventional-wisdom pundits get stuck on,” he told HuffPo’s Sam Stein. “I think at the end of the day I take a much stronger populist position on the need to rebuild America’s competitiveness.”
Perriello did not support the president’s Wall Street reform bill, and he called for the firing of both Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and top economic advisor Larry Summers. The former congressman also received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association over his Republican challenger, State Senator Robert Hurt.
Perriello has not announced that he will join the 2013 race. But amid speculation and unreturned requests for comment, he is still considering, according to a Talking Points Memo report. If Perriello did get in the game, he would have to battle McAuliffe for the Democratic nomination.
Clinton, owed a favor of two by Obama this cycle, could give the president good reason to endorse McAuliffe. During the 2012 election, Obama and President Clinton also made their first joint fundraising appearance at McAuliffe’s home in McLean, Va.
But it’s hard to see Obama embracing Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign chairman with the sort of passion he lent Perriello two years ago.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misidentified the Republican candidate for governor as the incumbent, Bob McDonnell, who is term-limited.