Clinton, once in Cabinet, wins support from Obama officials

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Hillary Clinton on 2008 Iowa Déjà Vu

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hillary Clinton hasn't just been wrapping herself in President Barack Obama's legacy lately. She's been wrapping herself in his Cabinet.

With Obama's endorsement out of reach for now, Clinton's presidential campaign has racked up support from his administration's top officials. It's part of the effort to win over loyalists in the Obama coalition as Clinton -- secretary of state in his first term -- fights for every edge.

Obama's housing chief, Julian Castro, campaigned for Clinton this weekend in Nevada and Iowa. Clinton recently accepted the endorsement of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and appeared in South Carolina with former Attorney General Eric Holder. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, and Labor Secretary Tom Perez also are among the current and former officials who have publicly declared their support.

The high-level endorsements come as Clinton tries to undercut her main rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, by casting him as fair-weather friend to her former boss. She has called out Sanders for suggesting in 2011 that Obama should face a second-term primary challenge, and for criticizing Obama for taking donations from Wall Street.

PHOTOS: Hilary Clinton dukes it out at Democratic debate

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Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton duking it out during Democratic debates
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Clinton, once in Cabinet, wins support from Obama officials
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt and Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton interrupt each other during the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate at Miami-Dade College, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton argues a point as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, listens during a Democratic presidential primary debate at the University of Michigan-Flint, Sunday, March 6, 2016, in Flint, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton makes a point as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, reatcs during a Democratic presidential primary debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
MILWAUKEE, WI - FEBRUARY 11: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (L) and Hillary Clinton participate in the PBS NewsHour Democratic presidential candidate debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on February 11, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.The debate is the final debate before the Nevada caucuses scheduled for February 20. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., gestures towards Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a democratic presidential primary debate at the Gaillard Center, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, left, speaks at the NBC, YouTube Democratic presidential debate at the Gaillard Center, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in Charleston, S.C. To the right is Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton and Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speak during a break at the NBC, YouTube Democratic presidential debate at the Gaillard Center, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)
DURHAM, NH - FEBRUARY 04: Democratic presidential candidates former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during their MSNBC Democratic Candidates Debate at the University of New Hampshire on February 4, 2016 in Durham, New Hampshire. This is the final debate for the Democratic candidates before the New Hampshire primaries. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton, right, speaks to Bernie Sanders during a break at the Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Bernie Sanders, left, offers an apology to Hillary Clinton during a Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Bernie Sanders, left, speaks to Hillary Clinton after a Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Bernie Sanders, left, makes a point as Hillary Rodham Clinton listens during a Democratic presidential primary debate, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, walks by Bernie Sanders during a commercial break at a Democratic presidential primary debate, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
FILE - In this Nov. 14, 2015, file photo, Bernie Sanders makes a point during a Democratic presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa. The Democratic presidential candidates are meeting for their third debate on Dec. 19, with tensions suddenly boiling between Hillary Clinton and her chief rival, Sanders. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley appear before a Democratic presidential primary debate, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, speak during the CNN Democratic presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Democratic presidential candidates from left, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee take the stage before the CNN Democratic presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (L) and Hillary Clinton take part in a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, left, and Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state, participate in the first Democratic presidential debate at the Wynn Las Vegas resort and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015. While tonight's first Democratic presidential debate will probably lack the name-calling and sharp jabs of the Republican face-offs, there's still potential for strong disagreements between the party's leading contenders. Photographer: Josh Haner/Pool via Bloomberg
Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont,, left, and Hillary Rodham Clinton laugh during the CNN Democratic presidential debate, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: Democratic presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (L) and Hillary Clinton shake hands at the end of a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: Democratic presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (L) and Hillary Clinton take part in a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: Democratic presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (L) and Hillary Clinton take part in a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: (L-R) Democratic presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley take part in a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - October 13: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton pictured at the 2015 CNN Democratic Presidential Debate at Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, NV on October 13, 2015. Credit: Erik Kabik Photography/ MediaPunch/IPX
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Sanders' campaign has embraced the outsider status.

"We're proud of the endorsements we've gotten from millions of Americans who are supporting Bernie in taking on the rigged economy and the corrupt campaign finance system that props it up," campaign manager Jeff Weaver said.

Obama administration officials are hardly the flashiest of endorsements, and his Cabinet hasn't produced lots of household names. Clinton was the most recognizable.

But each helps reach some important group -- African Americans, Latinos, labor, Iowans -- and Clinton need every bit of electoral help she can get.

"You're happy to have them all," said Democratic strategist Bob Shrum. "They each have a marginal impact, but a marginal impact matters when you're weeks before Iowa."

The officials have their own motivations for signing on early.

Castro, a 41-year-old former San Antonio mayor, hasn't shot down speculation that he could find himself on the ticket with Clinton. His turns on the campaign trail could prove to be something of an audition.

"There are rumors you're in vice president training camp," Stephen Colbert asked Castro, when Castro was on the "The Late Show." ''What does that involve other than staying awake behind someone giving the State of the Union address?"

Castro laughed, but didn't dispel the rumors.

Like other Cabinet members, Castro has reached out to targeted audiences. He announced his support to a largely Latino crowd at a San Antonio rally in October. Clinton said she would "look hard" at Castro as a running mate.

Obama has said he will not endorse during the primary, and he and his aides are treading carefully.

White House officials say they have not offered any formal guidance to Cabinet members who have decided to wade into the race before the boss, only that they give the White House a courtesy heads up before they go public with their support.

The standing restrictions on political activity apply. Officials are told not to trade on their office for political purposes or use their official titles at events. Staff time and government money cannot be used for travel or planning. Officials can't ask for money. They can speak at fundraisers.

But there's no prohibition on reminding people who you work for and why your support matters.

"As someone who has had a front row seat, I sure as hell don't want to see the progress we made go backward," Perez said during a visit to a Las Vegas union office for some phone-banking in December. "And that's why, folks, I'm going to say I'm proud as hell of the fact that I have had the privilege of working for Barack Obama and I'm proud as hell to endorse Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States."

Not all past candidates have wanted surrogates linking them so closely to the current occupant of the White House.

Vice President Al Gore relied on several current and former Cabinet secretaries in 2000 to serve as advisers as well as critics of his opponent, Republican George W. Bush. Eight years later, the campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tried to distance itself from the two-term Bush, particularly on war policies. (McCain's open feud with former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld put so much distance between the men that Rumsfeld would not say whether he would vote for the GOP nominee.)

But as Clinton and Sanders compete for die-hard Democrats, association with the Obama administration remains a net plus. Obama's support among Democratic base voters is rock solid. Ninety-one percent of African-Americans and 86 percent of Democrats say they approve of Obama's job performance, according to Gallup.

PHOTOS: Bill Clinton campaigns for Hillary

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Bill Clinton campaigns for Hillary Clinton
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Clinton, once in Cabinet, wins support from Obama officials
Photo by: Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx 2016 3/31/16 Former United States President Bill Clinton campaigns in support of his wife - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton - at the headquarters of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37 (AFSCME DC 37). (NYC)
NEWTON, MA - MARCH 1: President Bill Clinton greets people at the Newton Free Library in Newton, Mass., during Massachusetts primary voting on March 1, 2016. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEWTON, MA - MARCH 1: President Bill Clinton greets people at the Newton Free Library in Newton, Mass., during Massachusetts primary voting on March 1, 2016. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEWTON, MA - MARCH 1: President Bill Clinton greets people at the Newton Free Library in Newton, Mass., during Massachusetts primary voting on March 1, 2016. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEWTON, MA - MARCH 1: President Bill Clinton greets people at the Newton Free Library in Newton, Mass., during Massachusetts primary voting on March 1, 2016. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEWTON, MA - MARCH 1: President Bill Clinton greets people at the Newton Free Library in Newton, Mass., during Massachusetts primary voting on March 1, 2016. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
RIVIERA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 15: President Bill Clinton campaigns for Hillary Clinton at Port of Palm Beach on February 15, 2016 in Riviera Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mychal Watts/WireImage)
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 08: Former U.S. president Bill Clinton speaks during a 'Get Out The Vote Clinton Family Event' for democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Manchester Community College on February 8, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. With one day to go before the New Hampshire primaries, Hillary Clinton continues to campaign throughout the state. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, left to right, speaks as her husband Bill Clinton, former U.S. president, and their daughter Chelsea Clinton look on during a primary night event in Hooksett, New Hampshire, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Clinton congratulated Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, on his victory in her concession speech in Hooksett and vowed to battle on, saying she knows how to get results voters are demanding. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Former President Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton embrace during a campaign stop Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, in Hudson, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 16 - Former President Bill Clinton reaches for a hand after a campaign event as he helps promote his wife, democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Former President Bill Clinton greets supporters at a campaign office for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Ankeny, Iowa, Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Bill Clinton, former U.S. President and husband of Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, center, takes a 'selfie' photographs after speaking at a campaign rally at Exeter Town Hall in Exeter, New Hampshire, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. After spending the first eight months of his wifes candidacy behind the scenes, advising and fundraising out of sight of voters and the media, the never-shy former president is upping his level of public engagement starting today. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 16 - Chelsea Clinton listens as her father, former President Bill Clinton speaks at a campaign event as they help promote his wife, democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 16 - Former President Bill Clinton speaks at a campaign event along with his daughter, Chelsea Clinton, as they help promote his wife, democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
MARSHALLTOWN, IA - JANUARY 15: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton greets guests after speaking at a campaign event for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at Marshalltown Community College on January 15, 2016 in Marshalltown, Iowa. Both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates and their surrogates have been making appearances at events across Iowa to build support in advance of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. (Photo by Charles Ledford/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, right, stands on stage with husband Bill Clinton, former U.S. president, at the conclusion of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. With Vice President Joe Biden officially out of the presidential race, the nation's first nominating contest between front-runner Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders is gaining steam, according to a new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Former president of the United States Bill Clinton delivers his speech during a commemorative rally in memory of late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at Rabin Square in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on October 31, 2015. The rally is part of commemorations marking the 20th anniversary of Rabin's killing by a right-wing Jewish extremist. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX (Photo credit should read THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)
Bill Clinton, former U.S. President and husband of Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, arrives to speak during a rally ahead of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. Clinton's odds of winning the Democratic presidential nomination are now at or near an all-time high, according to prediction markets PredictWise, Pivit, and PredictIt. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Former President Bill Clinton greets a visitor to Newbo City Market in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, before speaking at a campaign stop for his wife Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton at the National Czech & Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton wears a shirt reading "Bill for First Lady" before a speech by Clinton during a campaign event at Broward College, Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Former US President Bill Clinton hug after she officially launched her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination during a speech at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island June 13, 2015 in New York. Hillary Clinton announced Saturday she was running for president for all Americans, unveiling a progressive platform promising to promote equal opportunity and fight for a beleaguered middle class. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 13: People cheer after Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stands on stage with her husband former president Bill Clinton after her official kickoff rally at the Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan on June 13, 2015 in New York City. The long awaited speech at a historical location associated with the values Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined in his 1941 State of the Union address, is the Democratic the candidateÃs attempt to define the issues of her campaign to become the first female president of the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 13: People cheer as Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stands on stage with her husband former president Bill Clinton after her official kickoff rally at the Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan on June 13, 2015 in New York City. The long awaited speech at a historical location associated with the values Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined in his 1941 State of the Union address, is the Democratic the candidateÃs attempt to define the issues of her campaign to become the first female president of the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Photo by: Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx 2016 3/31/16 Former United States President Bill Clinton campaigns in support of his wife - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton - at the headquarters of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37 (AFSCME DC 37). (NYC)
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton makes remarks at the Hillary Victory Fund "I'm With Her" benefit concert for his wife, U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, at Radio City Music Hall in the Manhattan borough of New York City, March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
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