With Bill lauded even by his political opponents and Hillary enjoying success as secretary of State, there is a new groundswell among Democrats to secure the succession and back a Clinton run for the White House in 2016.
The bitter and negative US presidential election this year has left few political reputations intact. Republican challenger Mitt Romney has run a staggering, gaffe-prone campaign, while President Barack Obama is battling a listless economy and a disenchanted Democratic base.
However, through all the attacks ads, missteps and heated controversies, both Bill and Hillary Clinton have emerged with their reputations and status not only intact but greatly enhanced. In a remarkable development, and 12 years since they vacated the White House, the Clintons have rarely seemed more influential or more relevant.
Rather than slipping away into obscurity, Bill Clinton is hitting the campaign trail hard for Obama after his stirring performance at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, overshadowed the president.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is trotting the globe as the US’ top diplomat amid feverish speculation that, whichever of Obama or Romney wins on Tuesday Nov. 6, she will again run for the White House in 2016. That could make her the first female US president and conceivably extend Clintonian domination of US politics to 2024.
“How many couples do we know of in US politics, or any politics, that are so manifestly talented, accomplished, persistent, persuasive and so evenly matched?” asked William Galston, a former top adviser to Bill Clinton and now a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “One has already been president and the other nearly was and may still be.”
Bill Clinton is an unexpectedly visible figure on the campaign trail this year, hitting key swing states such as New Hampshire. He holds pro-Obama rallies and puts his name to fundraising emails. His speech in Charlotte won plaudits from both sides of the political aisle. Indeed, when Romney later came to speak at an event in New York hosted by Clinton’s charity, the Republican candidate joked about the former president’s seemingly magic touch.
“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,” he said.
Experts believe much of the goodwill now exhibited towards Clinton reflects a perception that his 1990s presidency was largely free from the wars and economic crises that have gripped the US over the past decade.
“We think of it as a time of peace and prosperity. We don’t think Obama measures up. We know Romney does not measure up. So we want what we don’t now have,” said Larry Haas, a political expert and former aide in the Clinton White House.
There is also the fact that the former president remains one of the most gifted speakers in the world whose appetite for attention and publicity is entirely undiminished since his heyday and is in stark contrast to other former presidents, such as George W. Bush.
“He is the most persuasive man on the planet,” Galston said.
Or, to put it another way, “he just cannot help himself. He has never been shy of upstaging the person he is supposed to be supporting,” said Andrew Smith, a political scientist at the University of New Hampshire.