Hillary Clinton

Clinton backs Wasserman Schultz, praising her ‘fighting spirit’

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz stands next to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as she stops in to greet workers at a campaign office for Wasserman Schultz in Davie on Tuesday.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz stands next to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as she stops in to greet workers at a campaign office for Wasserman Schultz in Davie on Tuesday. AP

In between a Miami Zika-clinic tour and a pair of Miami Beach fundraisers, Hillary Clinton and her motorcade made their way north on I-95 Tuesday for a Broward County pit stop.

Their destination: U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s campaign headquarters in Davie.

The Democratic presidential primary lives on in Florida’s 23rd congressional district.

Clinton formally endorsed Wasserman Schultz, who faces her first primary challenger in 24 years in Tim Canova, a political novice backed by Clinton’s former rival, Bernie Sanders.

“I have to have her in Congress, by my side, working day after day,” Clinton told diehard Wasserman Schultz supporters packed in the strip-mall campaign office. She hugged the Weston congresswoman and kissed her on the cheek — and told activists to give Wasserman Schultz a victory in the Aug. 30 Florida congressional primary.

“I really respect Debbie’s fighting spirit,” added Clinton. She also touted Wasserman Schultz’s budget-committee role in Congress — a senior position Canova wouldn’t immediately be able to fill — and the fact that Wasserman Schultz is the mother of school-age children. Canova is unmarried and doesn’t have kids.

“We are going to make sure that Broward and Miami-Dade counties carry you,” said Wasserman Schultz, whose district extends to northeastern Dade.

Clinton’s support for Wasserman Schultz is hardly surprising. The congresswoman is an honorary chairwoman of one arm of Clinton’s campaign. And Clinton praised Wasserman Schultz after the congresswoman stepped down last month as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, a resignation prompted by a leaked-emails scandal that exposed how some party staffers preferred Clinton to Sanders.

Still, Clinton’s campaign appearance on Wasserman Schultz’s behalf won’t help win over Sanders fans who blame the congresswoman for, among other things, setting an initial primary schedule seen as favorable to Clinton.

“Really?! How does this help getting Bernie supporters on her side again?” Erika Andiola, a fomer Sanders Hispanic spokeswoman, tweeted in response to Clinton’s Davie visit. “Dios mio...”

Wasserman Schultz’s district is heavily pro-Clinton: Clinton drew about double the support of Sanders in the March 15 presidential primary.

Sanders has said he might travel to South Florida to stump for Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor. Just a couple of hours before Clinton dropped in on Wasserman Schultz’s office, Sanders urged supporters in an email — titled “Defeating Debbie Wasserman Schultz” — to give Canova money.

Last week, Wasserman Schultz campaigned with Vice President Joe Biden, who has also taken her side in the contested primary.

Miami Herald staff writer Amy Sherman contributed to this report.

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