Ex-Clinton aide checked before joining Obama team

By Deanna Bellandi

CHICAGO – Hillary Rodham Clinton’s former campaign manager, now on Barack Obama’s team, says she could easily work for her old boss again if Clinton were on the Democratic ticket.

Clinton replaced Patti Solis Doyle after poor early showings in the primaries, but Solis Doyle told The Associated Press on Wednesday she didn’t think their longtime friendship was permanently damaged. She joined the Obama campaign last month as chief of staff to Obama’s eventual running mate.

Solis Doyle said her move came as no surprise to Clinton. Still, some of Clinton’s backers were outraged by what they saw as a slight to Clinton and an indication that she would not get the vice presidential slot.

“I understand the, you know, deep emotion and passion, absolutely. She’s my friend and I threw everything into her campaign that I could possibly throw into it,” Solis Doyle said during an interview in her office at Obama’s downtown Chicago headquarters. “But as heartbreaking as it was, she lost. And now it’s time, for the good of our country and for the good of my kids, to move on and get Barack Obama elected.”

Clinton and Solis Doyle have a long history. She worked as Clinton’s scheduler during Bill Clinton’s first run for the presidency in 1992 and continued with her through eight years in the White House, the former first lady’s Senate bid and her unsuccessful campaign for president. Clinton read at her wedding.

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She says the move to Obama came with “very complicated emotions” because of that past. So she checked with her old boss before joining Obama’s team.

“She’s a friend of mine and I just wanted to, both on a personal and professional level, let her know what I was doing and make sure that she was, you know, good with it. And she was,” Solis Doyle said.

The two exchanged phones calls – but kept missing each other – so Solis Doyle sent Clinton an e-mail. She said Clinton congratulated her and told her she was sure she would do a great job. The two have kept in contact via e-mail but haven’t had a chance to “really, really talk” since the primary campaign ended.

The high-profile Latina has lots to offer Obama, describing herself as a “two-for” for him as both a Hispanic and a woman, two constituencies loyal to Clinton in the primaries.

There also are the countless other political contacts Solis Doyle has amassed during her more than 16-year friendship with Clinton that she can offer Obama, said Solis Doyle’s brother, Chicago Alderman Danny Solis.

“I know that this is the campaign of change, but there’s still a lot of establishment out there that you need to bring into this year of change, and I think she knows all of those people,” Solis said.

The daughter of Mexican immigrants who grew up in Chicago, Solis Doyle said she can be a bridge to Hispanic leaders because of her deep ties to the Hispanic community, a key voting bloc this fall.

“I can help bring a lot of those people who were Hillary supporters over and, you know, I want to help do that,” she said.

Both Obama and Republican John McCain are pushing to lock in Hispanic support – voters Obama says could decide the election because of past tight contests in key states like Florida.

While Hispanics favored Clinton nearly 2-to-1 in the primaries over Obama, a recent AP-Yahoo News Poll showed Obama leading McCain among Hispanics 47 percent to 22 percent with 26 percent undecided.

Solis Doyle is someone Hispanic leaders will take cues from, said Adolfo Carrion, president of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and Bronx borough president in New York.

“When she comes into a community and says, ‘You know me. You trust me. We have a relationship. We need to support this guy,’ I think that goes a long way,” he said.