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In a couple of known cases, his operatives tried to game the system ahead of Democratic congressional primaries, dangling job possibilities in front of challengers in hopes they would get out of the way of Obama's preferred incumbents. (They didn't.) This appears to be mild stuff in the canon of political manipulation, the kind of puppeteering that leaders in both parties have done for generations.
Obama staked a claim to purity on that front, said primaries belong to the people not the pols and decried even the subtle back-room tactics "that are within the lines of legality but still don't fulfill the spirit of service."
For truly conniving, ego-driven, potty-mouthed machinations from the belly of the Chicago Democratic machine, tune in to the corruption trial just under way of Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor accused of scheming to profit from his ability to fill Obama's old Senate seat. Even so, dispensing favors for political ends was a specialty of the old ward bosses, not to mention some bare-knuckled presidents. Obama presented himself as above that sort of thing.
Such was Obama's response a month before taking office, when Blagojevich's troubles spilled into the open. Obama was fresh from a campaign whose most remarkable chapter came early on when he defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Back then, Obama was the Rep. Joe Sestak of the day, making things messy for the party establishment by challenging a respected and powerful figure favored for the nomination.
The Obama White House sought to protect two senators against upstart Democratic challengers who were powered, like Obama once was against Clinton, by the audacity of hope. In a Pennsylvania Senate primary contest, the White House dispatched former President Bill Clinton to try to get Sestak to stand down against longtime Sen. Arlen Specter, a Republican turned Democrat. Sestak's prize: an unpaid presidential advisory position while keeping his seat in the House.
Then late last week, it emerged that White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina had contacted former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff about possible administration jobs in hopes that Romanoff wouldn't challenge Sen. Michael Bennet in the state's Aug. 10 Senate primary. Messina described three federal international development jobs that might be available to Romanoff if he got out of Bennet's way. Like Sestak, Romanoff decided to stay in the race.