Pres. Bill Clinton at the Convention, and During Football, Too
WASHINGTON – This is an all hands on deck moment for Democrats. That’s why it was so stunning over the weekend that they couldn’t answer the one question everyone knew was coming: Are you better off today than you were four years ago? The answer to this question, especially if you’re a Democratic surrogate, a role I once played, is yes. Yet Democrats didn’t figure it out until the next day. It’s a blunder Bill Clinton would never make and that’s why the most anticipated speech this week has now become the most important. It’s up against the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants game, but according to Mark Halperin, Pres. Clinton will make an appearance during the game, too.
Clinton’s role sets up the narrative that includes the wounds of 2008, once again revisited in Ryan Lizza’s piece for The New Yorker. With my book now the perfect preamble to it all, as relevant now as ever, because it’s the true history to why Bill Clinton’s speech is seminal as it was predictable.
Since the midterms in 2010, the stature of Pres. Obama has leaked like a sieve. Some of the reviews are unfair, while others are earned. One of the biggest mistakes has allowed the election to be framed as it has been, because at no time in Obama’s first term has he set out a consistent economic strategy, instead being driven by tactics, many of which have been in reaction to Republicans, as he moves right with every point of obstruction.
Just this past weekend Pres. Obama was in Ohio making the case for unions, something he refused to do when Democrats needed him in Wisconsin. The only difference being that his political career was on the line this time. That’s the problem with Obama, he only stands up when his own skin is in the game. It’s just one reason why enthusiasm for him is low.
From the National Journal on a recent Gallup poll:
Among the 9,659 registered voters interviewed by the Gallup Organization’s tracking polls Aug. 6-26, Romney and Obama were tied overall at 46 percent. But Obama beat Romney by 24 points, 58 percent to 34 percent, among voters ages 18-29 and by a whopping 32 points, 61 percent to 29 percent, among Latinos. In each case, the percentage who say they will definitely vote is significantly lower than it is among other demographic groups who view Obama less charitably.
Voters ages 65 and older favor Romney by a 15-point margin, 54 percent to 39 percent, and 86 percent of those in that oldest cohort say they definitely plan to vote, compared with just 61 percent of those ages 18-29. Romney has a statistically insignificant 1-point edge (46 percent to 45 percent) among those 30 to 49 years of age, but 80 percent of them say they will definitely vote. Among the 50-to-64 age group, Romney leads by 3 points, 48 percent to 45 percent, with 86 percent of that cohort saying they will definitely vote.
What these numbers don’t say is that Mitt Romney just hasn’t come close to closing the sale.
That’s where former Pres. Bill Clinton comes in, who’ll not only make the case for Pres. Obama’s reelection, but make the case for the Democratic Party, while reaching into the heart of working class white voters to say, it’s Democrats who have your back.
There is nothing formulaic about Clinton’s presence at the Democratic National Convention this year. He is not just another old presidential war horse being trotted out for nostalgia or a staged show of unity. When Obama called in late July to say he would be grateful if his Democratic predecessor would give the speech placing his name in nomination, something that no former commander in chief has done before, it was an acknowledgment of how much the sitting president needs the former president. And Clinton, who loves to be needed as much as he needs to be loved, responded with an enthusiasm and diligence that served as yet another signal to people close to both men that an old wound has for the most part been healed.
The unknown in Pres. Clinton’s speech is the stage he will also be setting that now remains empty. His resurgence, from convention speech to political ads playing in battleground states, all stressing the economic power of Democratic leadership, clears the path for what may come in 2016: Hillary’s second run for the presidency.
Like Bill Clinton’s speech at the convention, however, the counter narrative lives in Elizabeth Warren’s presence and message, which is a shadow on Hillary, because many progressives will never embrace another Clinton, even if Hillary’s domestic agenda was never her husband’s. But this is the unseen current rumbling deep beneath what is presently job one for Pres. Clinton.
It stands alongside the media’s boredom with the 2012 election season, which is a vacuous, poll tested, negative campaign with no vision and no risks in message, which is so much less than our country requires at a time when our challenges remain great, especially where getting a living wage is concerned. Because, unfortunately, one could also say predictably, Paul Ryan’s pick, which political analysts like myself and all others tried to will to make the campaign about something larger, didn’t manifest.
Pres. Obama is a gifted orator. But after his first term, it’s unclear if anyone will believe anything Obama says on Thursday night. Many have tired of rhetoric and his speeches, because the auto bailout while important, hasn’t hit their own life and the very real economic depression Pres. Obama worked to successfully avert is the economic case for his presidency, but is also the case Obama himself neglected to weave throughout his presidency.
So, Pres. Clinton is set to make the sale Pres. Obama couldn’t. It’s a big job and his work won’t end in Charlotte.
Taylor Marsh, a veteran political analyst and former Huffington Post contributor, is the author of The Hillary Effect, available at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon. Her new-media blog www.taylormarsh.com covers national politics, women and power.
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