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The prospect of campaigning with President Barack Obama this cycle is enough to make any number of Democratic incumbents salivate. But many would much prefer the attention of a former White House occupant: Bill Clinton.
Even at this early stage in the campaign season, Obama is already dispatching Clinton into some of the roughest electoral territory in the country. And the good news keeps rolling in.
The former president helped to bring out nearly 700 Democrats to cheer on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) at a rally Thursday. And some say he may have single-handedly saved Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) from a bruising primary defeat last week; she relied heavily on ads that Clinton a former Arkansas governor cut for her in the final days of her campaign.
And this is just the beginning.
Hes always been an asset. ... He attracts big crowds, he works tirelessly and hes a great fundraiser for people. Youre going to see him used as a surrogate and a fundraiser throughout this cycle, Democratic pollster John Anzalone said. His numbers are really good. Especially for some of our Southern clients, weve been putting him [into polling] as a possible Democrat to come down.
Clinton is likely to be more appealing to Democrats than Obama would be for a number of reasons, one longtime Democratic media consultant said. For starters, Clinton, a centrist Southerner, has more flexibility to campaign in different regions of the country than the current president.
Additionally, You can always count on Bill Clinton to not only excite the base but to make a very pointed and rational economic argument. Voters think we got it absolutely right in the 1990s, economically, when he was president, said the media consultant.
Hes a rock star, said New York Rep. Joe Crowley, vice chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Im not surprised at all that so many Democrats want to be tied to him in 2010, Crowley said. He speculated that Clintons staying power is due in part to peoples nostalgia for times of prosperity during his time in the White House, and in part to him being a former president, which means he enjoys a disconnect from the issues at hand.
Southern Democrats in conservative districts resoundingly agreed that Clinton enjoys widespread popularity in their part of the country more so than former Illinois Sen. Obama and many said he is uniquely positioned to make or break a candidates race.
Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.), who earlier this month lost the primary for his states governorship, said Clinton would have been the first person he would have called had he won.
In my state, the only national Democrat you can bring in to campaign is Bill Clinton, Davis said. Hes probably the most popular national Democrat weve got.
Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.), who is immersed in a heated bid to unseat Republican Sen. David Vitter, said Clinton carried his district in both the 1992 and 1996 presidential races and is still very well-liked, despite a number of conservatives in his district.