Rangel: Hillary endorsements are ‘premature’

Rangel in his Harlem office. (Reid Pillifant)
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Rep. Charlie Rangel was surprised to see Sen. Chuck Schumer offer such a conspicuously early endorsement of Hillary Clinton in Iowa this weekend.

"I think really, it's premature," Rangel said, in an interview with a few local reporters at his office in Harlem on Monday afternoon.

Rangel had volunteered some praise for Clinton's resume earlier in the conversation, but later said, "I only mentioned that because I didn't want Chuck Schumer to be out there alone."

I asked Rangel why he thought it was premature.

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"Because once you're a candidate, people take shots at you," Rangel said. "And I don't really think that it's necessary for her to announce now. The election is 2016. A lot of things can happen between now and 2016, but the same way Republicans have taken Benghazi, the same way they've taken a sliver of the people who are losing insurance policies and making that an issue of telling the truth. ... They're looking for targets, and it only takes one or two of them to get the attention of the [media]."

"I just hate to see her having to defend her candidacy at this early stage in the game," he said.

Rangel famously encouraged Clinton to run for the U.S. Senate in 2000, and he's called her resume for 2016 "overwhelming."

"I think it won't take four years to decide what she's going to do," he told me last year. "And she has the type of personality, if her nation required a draft, she would answer, she would answer. She loves this country and loves the opportunity. And the sacrifices she's already made is an indication of her strength and dedication."

Today, Rangel said he had yet to talk to Clinton, or her husband, about the prospect of a presidential run.

"Nobody has said anything to me, and I don't have enough ego to believe they are going to anytime soon," he said.