Wednesday, December 12, 2007; 10:27 AM
The First Laddie issue is out of the closet.
Not that the role of Bill Clinton in a Hillary administration was ever exactly swept under the rug, but the eyepopping poll figure I mentioned yesterday has driven home the point: Many voters do see this as a two-for-one proposition, a virtual third term for the Clinton administration.
But there it was in black and white, in the NYT/CBS poll: Forty-four percent of Democrats say Bill's involvement in Hill's campaign made them more likely to support her. (Compared to 1 percent who said that about Oprah & Obama. Oops. Maybe we all went overboard.)
Since we may be looking at a Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton cycle, I've been thinking about how George W. and Hillary each benefited from their ties to previous Oval Office occupants. There is no question that Bush 43 would not have been an instant front-runner for the GOP nomination had he not been the son of Bush 41. Many voters figured, subconsciously or otherwise, that the Texas governor, who had barely traveled outside the country, must have learned something from his dad and could rely on him for sage counsel.
Hillary Clinton is even more closely tied to Bill in the public mind, for two reasons. Her key experience, beyond seven years as a senator, is the two terms she spent as first lady. And even more than President Bush calling Poppy, Bill would be living in the same house--a logistical fact that has to be reassuring to those who like the 42nd president and infuriating to those who can't stand him. Even if he did nothing but play golf and give speeches around the world, Bill would be a looming presence in the new administration.
So even as Hillary, with her 35-year career as a policymaker, advocate and politician, tries to stake out her own ground, her election would amount to something of a restoration.
A case in point: this New York Daily News item on Bill as campaign manager:
"Sources familiar with the ex-President's thinking say he doesn't believe his wife's situation is desperate. But he's unhappy with her operation - once hailed as a juggernaut - and concerned she could lose the Democratic nomination without major alterations in strategy and staffing."
Usually you panic after you lose Iowa.
As Sally Bedell Smith, author of a new book on the couple, puts it in the Wall Street Journal:
"Imagine being asked to serve as her running mate, knowing that her husband would be far more influential than any vice president. What would a potential secretary of state face now that Sen. Clinton has already said she would use her husband as ambassador to the world? As a former president, would Mr. Clinton read the daily intelligence briefing? His unofficial portfolio would potentially overlap with everyone in authority, without his being subject to Senate confirmation."
And what other political partnership would produce this Huffington Post screamer: "Bill Shocker: I Told Hillary to Dump Me."
Turns out it was a looong time ago: "He was so impressed by his wife when they first started dating, he once tried to convince her she should dump him and focus on a political career of her own."
Here's an interesting stat that Andrew Sullivan picked up from a CNN poll: "Obama is easily the most popular Democrat among Republicans. 23 percent pick him if they have to, compared with 13 percent who picked Clinton. Even Edwards is more popular among Republicans than Clinton."