Bill Clinton to take Obama message to battleground states

Olivier Knox
The Ticket

Do you look back fondly on Bill Clinton's time in office as an era of prosperity? President Barack Obama's re-election campaign hopes you do—because it will be unleashing the gifted politician, sometimes known as "the Big Dog," in battleground states.

"I anticipate that he'll be one of our principal surrogates in the fall," a senior Obama campaign official told several dozen reporters at a briefing held in Washington. The session, which included six top Obama campaign officials, was held on condition that they not be named.

"Obviously, President Clinton has extraordinary credibility on these issues of how you build a strong economy," the official said. "He faced some of the same forces when he was president that president Obama is facing now, the same opposition to dealing with a fiscal challenge by taxing the wealthy to pay a little more, the same opposition to the kind of investments we need to make in order to grow the economy."

His hopes for a second term weighed down by the sour economy, the current president frequently invokes Clinton in his stump speech and paints the Obama-Romney choice in November as being between Clinton's economy and George W. Bush's. And Clinton appears to have set aside any bad blood from the 2008 campaign, when Obama beat Hillary Clinton in a frequently harsh campaign. Clinton has starred in Obama campaign ads, helped Obama raise funds and defended Obama in media interviews. (It hasn't always gone perfectly. Republicans gleefully seized on Clinton's description of Romney's business record as "sterling.") Next up, Clinton will play a starring role at the Democratic convention—formally nominating Obama for re-election and defending his economic policies.

To hear the Obama campaign aides tell it, Clinton will play such as big role that the fall campaign may start to feel like an Obama/Biden/Clinton ticket. "We want as much of his time as he's willing to give. And he's been very generous so far," said the official. "He's indicated to us that he's willing to give us a significant amount of time moving forward."

Clinton's broad appeal—a July 2012 Gallup poll found 66 percent of Americans regard him favorably, against 28 unfavorably—includes many white working-class voters, a demographic Obama sometimes struggles to reach.

"He plays everywhere," said a second Obama campaign official. "You've seen his numbers, his economic message. There isn't a battleground state it doesn't play well. Bill Clinton can go anywhere."