SANTA FE, N.M. – President Clinton (search) can't put his recovering heart into John Kerry's election effort out on the campaign trail, but he is using his voice to help in the final weeks of the race.
Clinton regularly phones Kerry and his aides to offer advice, and he plans to tape a phone message that will be sent into voters' homes. Campaign officials say it's likely he'll also record radio advertisements, but his slow recovery from heart surgery is making it questionable whether he'll be able to do any physical campaigning.
Democrats who have spoken to Clinton say he is eager to get more involved, but his doctors and his wife are not sure he is strong enough to travel five weeks after he underwent quadruple bypass surgery (search).
One senior Democratic official who recently saw Clinton said the former president looked wan and reported that his recovery had been harder than he had expected. But Clinton told the official to begin planning a couple of events for the final days of the campaign.
Another Democrat who has talked to Clinton said that may be wishful thinking, and it's unclear whether there will be any appearances.
Clinton spokesman Jim Kennedy said there have been no decisions about whether he'll be able to campaign.
Vice President Al Gore (search) shied away from appearing with Clinton four years ago, afraid the Monica Lewinsky scandal could taint his own campaign. But Clinton remains popular, and most Democrats are eager to tap into his star power this year.
The former president is planning to give a speech at New York's Hamilton College on Nov. 9 — a week after the election. And he's planning to appear in Arkansas at the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting on Nov. 16, two days before he opens his presidential library.
Clinton, 58, underwent surgery in New York City on Sept. 6 after complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath. He has been recovering at home in Chappaqua just north of New York City and has recently been going on walks and chatting with other residents.
One Democrat who has spoken to Sen. Hillary Clinton said she has been more cautious than her husband about a quick return to the campaign trail and to work at his foundation. During an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live" last Friday, Sen. Clinton said they would be guided by the advice of doctors at her husband's six-week checkup, although in the meantime he's talking on the phone to the campaign and supporters around the country.
"I'm so pleased that Bill has really made it clear he's going to do what the doctors advise, and he doesn't want to rush," she said. "He wants to be as fully recovered as possible."
Clinton has appeared only once publicly with Kerry this year — a Democratic unity dinner on March 25, three weeks after Kerry sewed up the party's nomination.
But he has spoken to Kerry regularly since his surgery, and a Democrat close to Clinton said the most recent call was within the past week. Clinton talks once or twice a week to adviser John Sasso, who travels at Kerry's side, including a phone conversation on Monday, campaign officials said.
Kerry adviser Mike McCurry, who was press secretary in the Clinton White House, said the former president has offered pointers for the debates, guidance for increasing Democratic turnout and other strategic advice.
"He's giving good, wise, counsel," McCurry said. "We would be delighted to have him help, but we understand the importance of following doctors' orders."
The Kerry campaign would like to use Clinton to encourage Democratic voters to get to the polls. He could be particularly helpful in motivating black voters, whom Kerry has been making a special effort to reach.
"If he's able to travel, going and helping to rally the base would be particularly helpful to us," said Kerry adviser Joe Lockhart, also a former Clinton press secretary.