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Republicans Dish Praise for Bill Clinton's Style Despite Campaign Trail Blitz

Former President Bill Clinton , left, speaks at a campaign rally for West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, right, in Morgantown, W.Va. on Oct. 11. (AP Photo)

Bill Clinton is everywhere. And Republicans don't seem to mind. 

If anything, the party that brought you the second presidential impeachment in U.S. history is pining for the days when the Clintons ruled Washington. 

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in an interview last month that Clinton "will go down in history as a better president" than Obama. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a rising GOP star, told The New York Times he enjoys the ex-president and that when he was in power, "the nation benefited" from his moderation -- at least in the last six years. Ex-Clinton foe David Bossie, now the head of the Citizens United group behind the Supreme Court decision that tore apart campaign finance law, told The Daily Beast he was wrong to think Clinton was a "radical" in the '90s. 

But wait a minute. Isn't Clinton the guy actively campaigning for Democrats across the country while offering dire warnings about what will happen if Republicans take over Congress? 

While some Republicans look back fondly on the Clinton years as a time when bipartisan legislation like welfare reform was possible, those in Clinton's crosshairs have not forgotten his power on the stump. 

"Bill Clinton will stop at nothing to raise money to defeat me," Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said in a fundraising e-mail last week. Pleading for donations to fight back, the firebrand congresswoman complained about a Minneapolis fundraiser Clinton held for opponent Tarryl Clark and accused him of hitting a "new low" by calling her "stupid." 

Actually, Clinton didn't so much call her stupid as give her his trademark compliment/insult. The full quote was: "She's very attractive in saying all these things she says, but it's pretty stupid." 

Still, Clinton is able to fill the void on the campaign trail where Obama's presence is considered too toxic. Take West Virginia, where Clinton campaigned Monday for Democratic Senate nominee Joe Manchin. Or Arkansas, where Clinton campaigned last month for on-the-ropes Sen. Blanche Lincoln and is set to stump for her again on Wednesday. Lincoln just used September's Clinton footage in a new TV ad. 

Clinton has another campaign stop set for Tuesday night in Nevada, where he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will hold a joint rally in Las Vegas. From there, he campaigns next week for underdog Democratic Senate nominee Kendrick Meek in Florida. And he's got a Baltimore rally set for Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley next Thursday. 

In staying in the spotlight, the legacy-conscious ex-president surely is buoyed by polls that show his popularity higher than Obama's. 

But despite the public's sustained affection for the man who never won a majority of the popular vote, Republicans who don't have to worry about him bolstering their opponents just can't seem to stay mad at him. 

GOP strategist Ron Bonjean argued that Clinton is not as dangerous on the stump as he sounds. 

"I don't think it really matters that he's campaigning. It'll make candidates feel good," he said, chalking up Clinton's dozens of campaign trail appearances to his love for shoe-leather politics. 

"He's thrived off of that for years," Bonjean said. 

Bonjean agreed with other Republicans who suggest Clinton had a stronger cooperative streak than the sitting president. He said Obama's partisanship has just about hit a "breaking point" where, even if he takes a Clinton-esque trek toward the center after the midterm election, Republicans might not reciprocate. 

Putting aside Monica Lewinsky for a moment, he said Clinton "was viewed much more as a pragmatic leader and one who tried to make bipartisan deals such as the welfare reform bill or balancing the budget." 

"He understood that even though he's president, he needed Congress," Bonjean said. "Obama doesn't think that way."

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