The election is almost here and the last-minute, frantic attempts at finding an advantage over the opponents has begun. Bill Clinton is one of the favorite surrogates to go out on the campaign trail and drum up support, but his efforts at stumping for his party has a certain subterfuge to it. As Democrats run away from Obama and his record, the Clintons are becoming increasingly influential. Bill Clinton’s campaign efforts may be as much for his wife’s potential run for the presidency in 2016 as they are for the current candidates. Yet the Clinton camp is remaining mum on her future plans and her famous husband is following suit.
Clinton has most recently been in Arkansas and Kentucky where Democratic candidates are facing hard races. Arkansas is an easy choice for him to make since it is his home state and he remains very popular there. One long-time friend of his says, “[Ultra conservatives] are Clinton supporters even though they are Obama haters.” That fact may be one of the primary reasons why Obama has made relatively few appearances in support of candidates this season. But it also points to what the future of the Democratic party may be. With President Obama being so unpopular, the best face of the party may be Bill Clinton and, in 2016, his wife.
There are Reagan Republicans and now there are Clinton Democrats, a trend that is a far cry from previous years. When Obama first became the candidate in 2008, he made the party his own with a slogan of hope and change. But his popularity has dipped considerably and now his name is almost as bad as “Beetlejuice.” No one wants to say it for fear that the spectre of his unpopularity will rub off on them. Hence, the new Clinton Democrats.
Alison Lundergan-Grimes is one of those, her denials of having voted for President Obama being painful to watch. “I think Kentuckians know I’m a Clinton Democrat through and through,” she said. Now she has the former president stumping for her and her party in Kentucky. In a state like Kentucky where Republicans have a good showing, that may seem a bit counterproductive. But Clinton is far less hated than Obama is right now.
How did that come about? It is hard to say, exactly. Clinton and Obama have similar records on things like taxes, healthcare and climate change. Some of the answers may lie with the radicalization of the conservative base. Issues like gay marriage and climate change have become far more important than they were in the past. President Obama’s moves on those issues represent an extremely stark contrast their strident opposition. Clinton did not have to contend with such intense opposition and his actions are generally more centrist than the current president’s. Still, some of the cause may simply be time. Obama is the enemy of right now while Clinton had his time years ago. In that respect, he probably benefits from the rosiness of short-term memory loss.
While candidates right now are recognizing and capitalizing on the Clinton popularity, the real interesting speculation comes around Hillary and 2016. More people like the Clintons than like Obama. Would that be enough to secure her the nomination? That may be the plan, though her husband has said nothing. Bill has noted that being an ex-president is great because he can say whatever comes into his head. But he hinted at the future by saying that with his wife’s ambitions, he could only say what he wanted if he did not make any headlines with it. That kind of think-ahead talk is what fuels the continuing speculation about Hillary’s 2016 campaign.
Bill Clinton may be retired, but he is still active in Democratic politics. As he moves around the country to places like his home of Arkansas and the more conservative Kentucky, he does his duty to his party. But the more Bill Clinton stumps for Democratic candidates, the more obvious it becomes that it is his party and not President Obama’s. That fact may well play a part this election and in the next, should Hillary decide to run. The question of whether or not Democrats can capitalize on the Clinton popularity is having its first test with this year’s campaigns. And the next one could very well be a campaign for president.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury