Few politicians, including the current GOP frontrunner and businessman Donald Trump, relate to people the way that President Clinton does, and he probably doesn't have an equal when it comes to communicating with them about their concerns. Clinton has always understood that when it comes to politics, it's about the math. For Republicans yearning to find some traction in the final stretch of the primary season before actual voters get out and vote, Clinton understands that it is simple addition -- getting more people to take notice of the campaign and the candidate. And God knows he's a pro at communicating big concepts or policy in a language most people can digest.
So Hillary Clinton's campaign is smart to get the former President out now, as more and more people are beginning to tune in and decide who they might like. The closing arguments about why one candidate might be better than the other need to be made, and the fact is that Bill not only knows Hillary -- he knows campaigning, and he will be in a unique position to close the deal, especially with the many undecided voters still out there.
Maybe all this is what led Donald Trump to go on a national tirade against Bill Clinton
. Throughout the primary season, Trump's message of "making America great again" is actually meant to divide people and distract potential voters from talking about what he would actually do to rebuild the economy or even avert future terrorist attacks.
But is what Trump is likely banking on -- that Bill Clinton's past misconduct will harm Hillary Clinton's chances of winning the Democratic primary -- really the case? The simple answer is no.
Let's start with the fact that it's old news. It was old news when she ran for the U.S. Senate in New York and won. It was old news when she ran for re-election to the U.S. Senate and won. It was even older news when she ran for president in 2008 and captured the majority of primary votes, even as she fell short in delegates. The reality is that Bill Clinton is responsible for his behavior, and the idea that Hillary has to somehow shun or keep him on the sideline because of his past mistakes is -- as Trump would say -- stupid. Indeed, his misconduct did not, ultimately, even harm Bill Clinton. He survived impeachment in 1998
and Democrats actually gained seats during that midterm.
By the time I ran Al Gore's campaign in 2000, Clinton's ability to motivate voters was still very impressive. While he didn't get to campaign in states that might have provided more electoral votes like Arkansas and perhaps Florida, we did use him effectively in pulling out non-traditional voters in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin
In the last midterm election, in 2014, Clinton was cited as the most admired president in the last 25 years in a Wall Street Journal poll
. That same year, Hillary was voted the most admired woman in the Gallup poll
for the 13th consecutive year. So it's hard to buy the idea that his past behavior is hurting either him or Hillary now.
Bill Clinton left office 15 years ago, and this election is about the future, not the past. But if people decide to start dumping on Bill, they will see it backfire on them just like it did in the 1990s with the impeachment debacle. Hillary's numbers will just go up if they start attacking Bill.
In the meantime, Bill has been nothing but an asset since Hillary declared her candidacy in May, whether it be as a supportive spouse, raising money, or telling everyday Americans why the person he's known for over 40 years is best suited to become our next president. Just as Jane Sanders and Katie O'Malley have shown, spouses are vital to helping fill in missing gaps of information that might enable some undecided voter to finally come around.
Ultimately, President Clinton's role is very clear. He can continue to be a sounding board for Hillary, and he provides advice when asked. And while he should not get involved in the day-to-day operation of the campaign, it's also silly to suggest that a couple who've been together as long as the Clintons have don't discuss what is clearly something very important to them both.
So, let's have at it. Bill Clinton is hitting the campaign trail once again. And his opponents will hit him at their own peril.