January 27, 2007
Calling it “one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve had to make in politics,” Rep. Bobby Rush said Friday he is backing Barack Obama for president — despite Rush’s long friendship with rival White House hopeful Hillary Clinton and her husband.
“Barack is a favorite son, and I’m going to be with Barack,” Rush said of his fellow South Side Democrat. “I intend to work very hard with him and for him. And this challenge is going to be enormous, but I’m going to be with him. … We come from the same neighborhood and represent the same constituency, and I’m going to be with my constituency and Sen. Obama.”
In 1991, Rush was the first elected official in Illinois to back Bill Clinton’s first presidential run. He went on to serve as national director of voter registration for the Clinton-Gore ticket in 1992.
Rush said it was Clinton who called him on the night of the Illinois primary that year with the news that Rush had won the Democratic nomination for the South Side’s 1st Congressional District.
“I was trying to … get the results and everything, and he called me and congratulated me and informed me that I had won,” Rush said. “It’s one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve had to make in politics. Bill Clinton and the Clinton family are very close.”
‘We buried the hatchet’
Rush’s relationship with Obama has been more rocky. It soured when Obama waged a failed bid to oust Rush from his congressional seat in 2000. Clinton helped Rush in that race, giving a rare primary endorsement and cutting 30-second radio spots singing Rush’s praises.
The incumbent congressman won with 61 percent to Obama’s 30 percent in a four-candidate field — an outcome a chastened Obama later laughingly called “a big spanking.”