Oh, to be a fly on the wall backstage.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz had an awkward task at the Democratic National Committee's Women’s Leadership Forum on Friday. She had to have back-to-back-to-back public encounters with the leaders of her party, who gathered there a day after a scathing and deeply reported story suggested that Democrats are all but done with her as chairman.
One by one, she introduced Vice President Biden, Hillary Clinton and President Obama. And it was essentially air-kisses all around.
But the subtext was hard to miss, even as they praised her as the something amounting to the best DNC chair they had ever known.
Biden: “I have worked with a lot of chairpersons of the Democratic Party, but I’ve never seen anybody work as hard and as tirelessly as Debbie has.”
This after Wasserman Schultz fondly recalled that, as a college student in 1988, she had worn a "Biden for President" button on her backpack, even after the party’s nominee was chosen.
Speaking of Democratic nominees, Clinton was up next. Wasserman Schultz said there was “no finer role model as woman leaders” than Clinton, whom she clashed with in the closing days of the 2008 campaign.
Clinton said, “Debbie wears so many hats, so well. DNC chair, congressman, trusted friend, mom.”
What wasn't known at the time was that reports would later surface that Wasserman Schultz would be a no-show at a New York fundraiser with Clinton.
mini news: DWS will skip DNC fundraiser w/HClinton in NY tonight b/c she stayed for Obama WLF speech post this: http://t.co/IlyLCEQPsm— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) September 19, 2014
More praise and publicly warm feelings were next up between Obama and Wasserman Schultz. But, naturally, the questions about her future were still hard to miss.
“I want to thank Debbie for the great work she is doing to keep our party strong,” Obama said. “Nobody anywhere works harder.”
The question is how long Wasserman Schultz will remain working at the DNC. Even putting the reports of tension aside, she has been at the helm for a tenure that is longer than many of her predecessors. Having started in 2011, her term is set to end in 2016, but it's hard to imagine her staying beyond the upcoming midterms.
A few sources at the event who are familiar with DNC staff and its inner workings noted that the big problem with the piece that surfaced wasn't the awkward timing (shortly before the women's event and weeks before the midterms), but rather the clear sense that people who are in her inner circle aired grievances in such a public way.
They also said they expected that Wasserman Schultz would continue to appear out on the stump. At least that will be less awkward than Friday.