The new Gallup survey can't get much more galling. It shows that more Democrats would be more likely to vote for a Democratic candidate for office if Bill Clinton pitched the candidate than if President Obama did. Even more galling than that is that independents say that they would be far less likely to vote for a candidate that Obama pitched than one that Clinton pitched. So what does Bill have that Obama doesn't have for far too many Democrats and just about all independents?
To start with he's not a sitting president who has been pounded from pillar to post from the instant that he put his toe in the White House. Clinton has the luxury of not just the time and distance he's been removed from the White House, but the image and embrace as a wise, elder statesman who has much to offer Democrats on winning elections. That's just the start. The even tougher truth to swallow for the White House is that Clinton is still fondly even rapturously regarded as the Democrat who got things done. He was not embroiled in a major war, the economy hummed, be beat back every major political and legal challenge from the GOP Clinton loathers and baiters, he was a cash cow for Democratic candidates and incumbents, he did a course correction with the Democratic Party that transformed it from a party stigmatized as one that pandered to minorities, and thumbed its nose at the White middle class, to one that championed their interests. He was and obviously is still seen by Democrats as the consummate professional, charismatic, Democrat that can deliver the goods. It's the Clinton mystique all over again, and it hasn't lost one bit of allure.
There's one more thing that makes Clinton the one Democrat who's still most in demand and listened to by other Democrats, that thing is desperation. The GOP hatchet job on Obama has been so diabolically effective that Democrats have scattered to the hills in panic, despair and disillusionment. The mantra from virtually every political analyst, pundit, GOP echo box, and even many top Democrats, is that the midterms will be a colossal wipe out for Democrats. And the blame for that lay with one Democrat, and only one Democrat, President Obama. Many of the Democrats that rode Obama's coat tails to victory in November 2008 are avoiding him like the plague. Some have gone further and depicted themselves in ads and saber rattling speeches and interviews as the anti-Democrat Democrat. They brag that they have cut bait with Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at every turn. Clinton then is the shining light, their one beacon of hope if not to stem the alleged November massacre at least to dampen some of the worst effects.
There's a final galling note in the Gallup survey. It found that Obama's negative impact as recorded in its survey data showed that if he campaigned for a Democratic candidate or incumbent that it could rev up GOP voters to vote for the Democrat's GOP rival. Some of that is already seen in Nevada where Senate minority leader Harry Reid is in a race to the wire with Tea Party backed Looney Sharron Angle.
Obama has repeatedly gone to bat for Reid in campaign appearances in the state with Reid in tow. But Clinton pitched Reid in the state too. If Gallup is right then that didn't hurt Reid. The hurt though is in the thought that a former president can do more for his party than the man who heads the party.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk show on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.
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