President Bill Clinton
Twelve years after leaving the White House, Bill Clinton is campaigning as if he's in the political race of his life.
In some ways, he is. Clinton is endorsing President Barack Obama and Democrats in tight races for the House and Senate. But he's also burnishing a legacy as the party's elder statesman, rock star, global humanitarian and husband of Hillary Rodham Clinton, a once-and-perhaps-future presidential candidate herself, reports The Associated Press.
In Indianapolis on Friday to boost Senate Democratic hopeful Joe Donnelly, Clinton said he hadn't expected to be so involved in the 2012 campaign. But Hillary Clinton is busy as secretary of state, and daughter Chelsea works for a broadcast network, he noted.
"So you're stuck with me," Clinton told the crowd.
Obama and other Democrats — maybe even Clinton himself — wouldn't have it any other way.
The Obama campaign announced Saturday that rocker Bruce Springsteen will join Clinton at a rally next Thursday in the Parma, Ohio, area.
Bitter at the way Al Gore campaigned largely without him in 2000, Clinton has become Obama's surrogate in chief in a nationwide campaign tour, lending his oratorical skill and folksy style to increasingly personal contests in races that, four weeks out, show few signs of budging. Clinton is especially helpful in conservative states where Democratic candidates aren't eager to appear with the unpopular Obama. Clinton is a leading expert in the art of the political comeback — a skill the struggling Obama could use now.
Also, there's this uncomfortable truth: Obama needs Clinton to generate support with white, working-class and independent voters who were drawn to Clinton and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney — but who haven't warmed to Obama.
"If there's one thing we've learned in this election season, by the way, it is that a few words from Bill Clinton can do a man a lot of good," Romney joked in his own speech at the Clinton Global Initiative last month, a nod to Clinton's convention speech.
Obama himself has cracked that he should appoint Clinton "secretary of explaining stuff."
The lighthearted tone and determined cooperation between Obama and Clinton is hard-won and may not end with the 2012 campaign.
The bruising 2008 Democratic primary between Obama and Hillary Clinton damaged relations between the families. Obama's appointment of Hillary Clinton to serve as his secretary of state — and her successes in the job — healed the relationship enough for Clinton to step in to help with Obama's re-election. And if Obama has Bill Clinton to thank for a second term, one way to pay back the debt could be Obama's support for a Hillary Clinton campaign of the future.
Among voters generally, Bill Clinton is more appealing than Obama. A CBS News/New York Times poll in September found 66 percent of registered voters with a favorable view of Clinton, compared with 45 percent for Obama.