Former President Bill Clinton speaks in support of his wife, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., at the California Democratic Convention, Sunday, March 30, 2008 in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Former President Clinton is still smarting over New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's endorsement of Barack Obama.
During a private meeting with California Democrats this past weekend, Clinton grew red-faced as he talked about how he expected Richardson, who was a member of Clinton's Cabinet, to back Hillary Rodham Clinton for the presidential nomination or at least stay neutral, according to several people who attended.
Instead, Richardson endorsed Obama late last month, calling him a "once-in-a-lifetime leader."
"He sort of gets a little redder and redder and redder, but he wasn't off the deep end as I had seen him in the past," said Inola Henry, an uncommitted superdelegate. "It was sort of like, 'Gee, I'm a martyr.' He seemed more hurt than anything."
Clinton used his appearance at the state Democratic Party convention in San Jose to lobby California's 21 uncommitted superdelegates to support his wife.
After posing for a group photograph with the former president, superdelegate Rachel Binah told Clinton she was disappointed that one of his allies, strategist James Carville, had compared Richardson to Judas after he endorsed Obama.
Clinton, according to several people present, distanced himself from Carville's remarks. But he went on to say that he had not expected Richardson to endorse the Illinois senator, especially since the New Mexico governor had invited Clinton to Santa Fe to watch the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.
"He did say he certainly had been led to believe that he was going to get the endorsement," Henry said Wednesday. She was one of about 15 superdelegates - some uncommitted, others backing Clinton - who attended Sunday's meeting with Clinton before he addressed the convention.
Aleita Huguenin, another superdelegate, remembered Clinton saying, "We thought he'd let us know if he did an endorsement." But Huguenin said the comments about Richardson were "a minor blip in the whole meeting."
According superdelegate Chris Stampolis, Clinton said only that Richardson had promised not to endorse Obama, saying, "'He told me to my face five times he would not do that.'"
Binah did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but she previously told The Associated Press she supports Clinton. Other superdelegates interviewed by the AP said it was Binah's statement that prompted Clinton's comments about Richardson's decision.
Pahl Shipley, a spokesman for Richardson, said his boss never promised to endorse Hillary Clinton.
"He never told the president or anybody else, for that matter," Shipley said. "The governor respectfully disagrees with the president."
Richardson, the nation's only Hispanic governor, endorsed Obama on March 21, shortly after the Illinois senator gave a speech about race. It was a blow to the Clintons because of their long association with Richardson, who served as Clinton's energy secretary and ambassador to the United Nations.
Clinton's campaign declined to comment, except to say the former president was in California to promote his wife's candidacy.
"President Clinton discussed the importance of this election with Democratic Party members and how after 46 primaries and caucuses, by virtually every measure, this election remains a very close race," campaign spokesman Luis Vizcaino said in a statement. "President Clinton is incredibly popular in the Golden State, and the convention was a great opportunity for him to speak directly with members of the California Democratic Party."
Bob Mulholland, a spokesman for the state party who attended the private meeting, said Clinton expressed himself passionately but insisted the meeting was productive.
"I left the meeting feeling this was great," Mulholland said. "The guy had time to talk to us about the campaign."
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