Published July 30, 2012
“There isn’t anybody on the planet who has a greater [economic] perspective on not just the last four years, but the last two decades, than Bill Clinton. He can really articulate the choice that is before people.”
-- David Axelrod, a top strategist to the Obama campaign, talking to the New York Times about the decision to have the 42nd president a starring role at the Democratic National Convention.
If President Obama can’t improve his standing with working-class, white voters he is facing a landslide defeat in the fall. And with the stakes so high, the president is again forced to turn to his most dangerous ally: former President Bill Clinton.
Clinton, the Democrat who restored Democrats’ standing with blue-collar voters after decades of decline, has been tapped by the Obama campaign for the big speech of the party’s convention in Charlotte. Clinton will deliver the primetime address the day before Obama’s big speech and will be the one who formally places Obama’s name into nomination.
Many Clinton Democrats – particularly politicians who backed the former president’s wife over Obama in the bitter 2008 Democratic primaries – are skipping Charlotte altogether and growing strains on the uneasy truce between Obama’s liberal wing of the party and the more moderate Clinton faction.
Giving Clinton the coveted speaking slot rather than the more conventional choice of the incumbent’s running mate, Vice President Joe Biden, is no doubt an effort to show unity and lend some star power to the beleaguered convention.
Not only is Obama on track to lose North Carolina by a stout margin, but the convention has been beset by troubles including labor unions angry about having to bankroll a massive event in a right-to-work state, same-sex-marriage activists infuriated by the state’s recent enactment of a stringent ban of the practice, and chaos within the state party.
Showcasing the popular, centrist former president and having him bless the candidacy of his wife’s erstwhile rival hits a lot of the right notes.
Most importantly, though, it makes Clinton a more prominent emissary to the voters who catapulted the former Arkansas governor into the White House in 1992 and kept him there in 1996.
Obama’s unsteady status in Democratic strongholds like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania is attributable to Obama’s dire condition with Clinton Democrats, aka Reagan Democrats. Obama’s showing with white voters without college degrees is the worst of any Democrat in a generation and could be on track to lose white voters without college degrees by as much as 30 points, rather than the 15-point gap he saw in 2008.
For example, in 2008, these voters constituted 37 percent of the electorate in Pennsylvania. If Obama gets only a third of these votes in November, especially given his expected falloff with upscale suburbanites, Republican Mitt Romney would not only be the first Republican in 24 years to carry the state, but would do so handily.
This is why voters in Pennsylvania and other Rust Belt states have been treated to an unprecedented barrage of scorching attack ads from an incumbent president. The commercials are character attacks on Romney that cast him as one who ships blue-collar jobs overseas, is really, really rich and may be some kind of tax cheat. It’s vicious stuff and has done damage to Obama’s standing with voters, which reveals how concerned the president and his team are about this key demographic.
Clinton, aka Bubba, a child of Hot Springs, Ark., with many moderate views and a gift for down-home talk, had no such problems, as revealed by his 9-point win in Pennsylvania in 1992 and 10-point victory four years later.
So it makes perfect sense to elevate Clinton as the ambassador to those who bitterly cling to things – except for the fact that he has been far more trouble for Obama than he has been worth.
Clinton, who has an ego to match his political skills, had a disastrous outing when Obama last tapped him for help. In the spring, Obama turned to Clinton not just to warm up frosty blue-collar white voters, but also to pry open the wallets of financial-sector donors who were put off by Obama’s rhetoric about Romney’s career as a private equity CEO.
Not only did Clinton manage to deplore Obama’s attacks on Romney, but also contradicted the president on a proposed tax increase on top earners and said that Romney, as a successful businessman and a former governor, is qualified to be president. The groans and forehead slaps from Chicago rang across the land.
It is evidence of how concerned Obama is about blue-collar white voters that he would give such a dangerous ally – and a man who must surely have considered many times how an Obama defeat would set the stage for his family’s restoration to power – such a prominent role.
The Day in Quotes
“Ronald Reagan was one of our great foreign policy presidents. He did not come from the Senate, he did not come from the foreign policy world; he was a governor. But his resolve, his clarity of purpose, his intelligence, his capacity to deal with complex issues and solve tough problems served him extremely well.”
-- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in an interview with CBS News ahead of a visit to Poland today.
“In the final analysis [of Iran’s nuclear ambitions], of course, no option should be excluded. We recognize Israel's right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with you.”
-- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in a speech in Jerusalem in which he also declared Jerusalem, a city also claimed by Palestinians, as the capital of Israel.
“We’re not going to let [Mitt Romney] play his tried-and-true role as prep-school bully.”
-- Robert Gibbs, senior adviser to President Obama’s re-election campaign, on “This Week” discussing the campaign’s efforts to blunt the attack from Romney over Obama’s now-infamous “you didn’t build that” line about entrepreneurs.
“President Obama may want voters to think he’s hard at work and has ‘a lot on his plate,’ but it seems the only thing he’s working on is his golf game.”
-- Mitt Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams in a statement blasting Obama for playing golf Sunday, his 11th outing since having last met with his jobs council.
“So, yes, there are some limitations that can be imposed.”
-- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia discussing gun rights on “FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”
“From time to time I’ve been audited as it happens, I think, to other citizens as well, and the accounting firm which prepares my taxes has done a very thorough and complete job pay taxes as legally due. I don’t pay more than are legally due.”
-- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in an interview with ABC News.
"Obama doesn't have a clue about business — he wouldn't know how to run the Bunny Ranch. Romney would."
-- Dennis Hof, proprietor of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, a legal brothel outside of Carson City, Nev., talking to the Associated Press for a story about how the swing state will vote.
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.