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‘Very wrong for the Democrats to undercut’ Obama: William Daley

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WASHINGTON — When it come to Democrats humiliating President Barack Obama by rejecting his trade deal, former chief of staff William Daley on Sunday dismissed lack of presidential schmoozing as a factor.

Instead, Daley said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” what did Obama in was “obviously the influence of labor.” The Democratic-allied labor unions “have been consistent forever that trade deals are bad,” he said.

“I feel strongly that it is very wrong for the Democrats to undercut the president at this stage,” Daley said.

Before he was Obama’s chief of staff for a year, Daley, now a Chicago business executive, was commerce secretary in the Bill Clinton White House. In Clinton’s first term, Daley was Clinton’s point man on getting the North American Free Trade Agreement passed with an assist from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, then a Clinton staffer.

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House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., delivered the final blow, urging members to vote against Obama on a related amendment in an effort to get what many Democrats would consider a better deal. For a practical matter, the entire trade measure is stalled for now.

Later in the “Meet the Press” interview, assessing how much damage Democrats have inflicted on their own president, Daley, looking ahead to the 2016 elections, said even though Obama won’t be on the ballot, he will be campaigning for Democrats and “to weaken him, it is a politically stupid thing to do.”

The rap on Obama for years has been that he does not spend time hanging out with members of Congress and therefore finds it difficult to flip them when it comes to hard votes such as the ones Friday, when Democratic House members were impervious to his personal pleas for support.

Daley rejected that narrative as ridiculous when it comes to the Asian-Pacific trade pact and wooing Democratic support.

Obama made a lobbying call to Capitol Hill just before the House vote on Friday and made a surprise stop at the men’s congressional baseball game Thursday.

“To pass this vote off in some way because he wasn’t nice to people or didn’t go and have a beer with them or go to the baseball game enough with them is kind of silly, especially when you consider the seriousness of this issue,” Daley said, adding that Republican House members turned on President George W. Bush and it hurt them in the general election in 2008.

“If the Democrats continue to do this sort of thing, and especially on this issue and undercut the president, they’re only shooting themselves in the foot, because it’s only going to weaken the party and whoever the nominee is of the party next year,” he said.

For the Democrats, that will likely be Hillary Clinton, who has been beaten up by progressives, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., one of her rivals for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, for not taking a stand on the trade deal.

In Iowa on Sunday, Clinton didn’t say how she would have voted on the actual measures — which the Senate passed with a two-vote margin last month — but more telling, she said she backed Pelosi.

Clinton said more national security safeguards have to be built into the deal as well as more protections for U.S. workers: “In order to get a deal that meets these high standards, the president should listen to and work with his allies in Congress, starting with Nancy Pelosi.”

Obama could have another chance to pass key elements in the Asian-Pacific trade measure in the coming days, but only if he finds dozens of his fellow Democrats to join with Republicans to support his top second-term trade priority.

The only Illinois House Democrat in Obama’s adopted home state who fully supports the Obama Asian-Pacific trade deal is Rep. Mike Quigley.

On Wednesday evening, Obama will host an annual picnic for members of Congress at the White House.

Follow Lynn Sweet on Twitter: @LynnSweet