Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) met with President Barack Obama at the White House Friday morning, giving Rothman's campaign a boost days before he faces congressional colleague Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) in a Democratic primary forced by New Jersey redistricting.
According to the Rothman campaign, the president invited Rothman to the Oval Office and "affirmed his support" for the candidate in Tuesday's election.
"President Obama asked me to come to the Oval Office today so that everyone will know that he supports me and wants me to help him with his agenda in his second term, as I have in his first,” Rothman said in a statement. "I sincerely appreciate President Obama’s support at this crucial time. It means the world to me to have him take the time out to speak with me this morning and talk about the important progressive issues I’m fighting for in the Ninth District."
But on the heels of Rothman's announcement, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest was careful to note that Obama has not endorsed Rothman over Pascrell, seeing as both candidates are members of the party that the president heads.
Rothman and Pascrell were once friendly House colleagues who've come to lob some nasty charges at one another as they fight for a single congressional seat.
In an interesting twist, the Rothman-Pascrell race revives some old 2008 storylines. Rothman was an early supporter of Obama when he battled Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination, while Pascrell was an avowed Clinton supporter. In addition to the president's White House meeting with Rothman, Obama adviser David Axelrod has said he's backing Rothman, while former President Bill Clinton announced last week that he would be actively campaigning for Pascrell.
As HuffPost's John Celock previously reported, the Rothman-Pascrell battle came about when New Jersey lost one congressional seat and the state's redistricting commission placed Rothman's hometown in the district of Rep. Scott Garrett (R). Rather than face Garrett, Rothman chose to move his residence and face colleague Pascrell in a new, more Democratic-friendly district. Most of the new district hails from former Rothman territory.
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