Pick Your Clinton: Democrats Want Duo on Trail
Democrats are gearing up to unleash the Clinton Dynasty.
They hope deploying the popular former White House occupants could help drum up money and hype in what could be a tough election year for the party. Democrats see the power couple as an asset, especially because Republicans have no singular unifying figure who can hit the trail.
But good thing there’s two of them.
Democratic operatives say each half of the Clinton duo appeals to different segments of the electorate — so assignments to races must be deliberate and strategic.
North of the Mason-Dixon Line and east of the Mississippi River is former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton territory — replete with voters who have already warmed to electing women to Congress. Former President Bill Clinton, party officials say, plays better in the South and Midwest, where he performed well with traditional Yellow Dog Democrats who relate to the party’s economic message but tend to be more conservative on social issues.
Together, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate say there are few areas where the Clinton duo wouldn’t have a positive impact.
“Both Clintons can go into any competitive district in the country and be enormously helpful to Democratic candidates,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel said. “The second Secretary Clinton is ready, we’d love to have her campaigning for House Democrats.”
Israel — who lauded the duo’s crossover appeal — couldn’t even name the top districts he’d want them to campaign in this cycle.
“We’ll take any five she’s willing to go, any 10, 15 or 20,” Israel said. “She has that crossover appeal.”
At the same time, given his sagging national approval rating, President Barack Obama may only be useful to assist with fundraising and to help turn out base voters.
It took several years after he left office for Bill Clinton to make it back into the limelight, but over the past few cycles the former president has been a staple on the Democratic stump — often helping candidates and members of Congress who have expended their own political capital to benefit his wife’s 2008 campaign. He was a top surrogate for Obama’s re-election, and campaigned for more than 20 House candidates across the country in 2012.
Bound by her constraints as secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has been absent from the trail since her presidential bid — skipping the party convention and avoiding partisan politics.
But with the kickoff of a nationwide book tour for her new memoir “Hard Choices,” and amid what looks like preparation for a presidential bid, Democrats are flush with excitement that a Hillary Clinton campaign stop could be imminent.
A Clinton aide did not return a request for comment on when or where she could campaign this cycle. But as her book tour takes her across the 50 states, Team Hillary has opened the door to campaign with yet-to-be-named vulnerable incumbents and promising candidates.
“The more she goes out and helps people in ’14, the more they are going to be inclined to help her in ’16,” Democratic operative Dave Heller said of the former first lady. “It’s mutually beneficial for everybody involved — except for the Republicans.”
Here are the House and Senate contests where Democrats say the Clintons would make the most impact.
Preferred Clinton: Bill Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor is the most vulnerable Senate incumbent of the cycle in a state Mitt Romney carried with 61 percent in 2012.
To win, Pryor must distance himself from national Democratic figures such as Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — both highly unpopular in the state.
The native son and governor of Arkansas for more than a decade is the one Democratic figure who could give Pryor a boost.
Bill Clinton has already gone in to stump for Pryor , helping him fill his war chest to defend against the millions in outside group spending that is flooding the airwaves.
He has also helped raise money for two Democratic candidates in open-seat House races: former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays in the 2nd District, and James Lee Witt, a former FEMA director under Clinton and the Democratic nominee in the 4th District.
For the two House candidates — who are fighting against the noise of the Senate race and to be taken seriously in their exceedingly tough contests — future Bill Clinton stops could only add legitimacy to their bids.
Preferred Clinton: Hillary
Illinois is a major House battleground in 2014, with Democrats defending four seats and looking for a pick-up in a swing district in central Illinois.
As an Illinois native — born and raised in and around Chicago — Hillary Clinton would play well in all five of those races.
Freshman Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider is facing former Rep. Bob Dold, a top Republican recruit, in the 10th District near Clinton’s hometown of Park Ridge. She could raise the profile of a freshman Democrat facing a well-funded and well-liked GOP opponent.
In the evenly split 13th District, the former first lady could draw excitement from the young Democratic voters at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Those voters often stay home in an election year, and would be a key voting bloc to help Democratic nominee Ann Callis overtake freshman GOP Rep. Rodney Davis.
Hillary Clinton could help boost minority turnout in the 12th District, where freshman Rep. Bill Enyart is facing stiff competition from GOP state Rep. Mike Bost. She also appeals to the large population of working-class factory voters in the 17th District, where freshman Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos is locked in a rematch with former GOP Rep. Bobby Schilling.
Preferred Clinton: Hillary
The second she steps foot in the first-in-the-nation caucus state, national political reporters will swarm. That might make the former first lady reluctant, but Democrats believe she would boost Rep. Bruce Braley’s Senate campaign and former state Sen. Staci Appel’s bid in Iowa’s 3rd District — one of just seven tossup House contests on the map this cycle.
Clinton could help Braley with female voters as he faces state Sen. Joni Ernst — the Republican nominee looking to become the first woman elected to Congress from the Hawkeye State.
Preferred Clinton: Bill
The former president has already stumped in the Bluegrass State for Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic nominee against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
His victories there in 1992 and 1996 were the last time a Democratic presidential candidate won the state.
Last year, he helped Grimes rake in $600,000 at one event, a huge haul for a candidate facing one of the most well-funded incumbents in the country.
Grimes could use another Clinton visit for another injection of cash going into the November general election. She trails her rival in cash on hand with $4.9 million to McConnell’s $10.1 million.
Preferred Clinton: Hillary
Like Iowa, any events in the Granite State would stoke presidential speculation to the highest heights.
Republicans are making a go at all three federal seats here this fall. Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott P. Brown’s unconventional comeback bid against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is sucking up national media attention with control of the Senate in the balance.
A visit from Hillary Clinton could shift the wind behind Shaheen’s sails, allowing her campaign to steer the narrative — at least for a bit.
She could also expend her political capital to help build goodwill for Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a top Republican target facing a potential rematch with former GOP Rep. Frank Guinta. The congresswoman has been criticized for being gaffe-prone on the trail.
Preferred Clinton: Hillary
Four House seats here in districts from the New York City area all the way Upstate are expected to be competitive.
The Clintons have a home in the Empire State and she has proven electoral success here, winning Senate contests in 2000 and 2006 , and carrying the state’s presidential primary by a 17-point margin over Obama six years ago. Her own strategy for the Senate was to visit all parts of the state, not just her base regions. She would frequently campaign at farms and in rural areas.
Democrats would love to see her visit the 21st District, a Tossup contest, to boost the profile of Aaron Woolf, a filmmaker who has never before appeared on the ballot.
She would also attract attention in the 1st District, where Democratic Rep. Timothy H. Bishop is facing a tough re-election bid. She is popular among the district’s voters, carrying Suffolk County — where the district is located — with 62 percent in her 2008 bid.
Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.