Sometimes, it feels like Bill Clinton never left office. His Arkansan accent and folksy charm seem like omnipresent fixtures in the political world. And from campaign stops to charity dinners, the former President is particularly adept at avoiding political irrelevance.
This campaign season is no exception. Recently, Clinton has been stumping with Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes (D) for her neck-and-neck senatorial race against incumbent Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Right now, Clinton is an indispensable asset to her campaign. He was the last Democrat to win a statewide federal contest in Kentucky, and he still enjoys considerable popularity there. He also serves the all-important function of distancing Grimes from a highly unpopular President Obama. After Obama’s coal regulation legislation, his approval ratings in the Bluegrass state, at a lousy 34 percent, are far more dismal than the national average.
But Alison Grimes isn’t the only woman Clinton’s campaigning for. So far, he has opened almost every speech he’s given in the state with a shout-out to Hillary’s massive win in Kentucky over Obama in 2008. This line provokes exuberant cheers begging Hillary to run, a crowd desperate for another Clinton to rally behind.
Bill Clinton will be integral to both of these women’s success. He lends them the legitimacy of a President’s backing without the crippling stigma that would accompany Obama’s endorsement. Besides that, Clinton is simply well liked. The scandals of his presidency seem less egregious in hindsight; the bipartisan productivity and general success have been better remembered, and for good reason.
For Hillary, his support is both obviously expected and somewhat less important. She commands an adoring following and massive name recognition on her own. But for lesser-known Grimes, his support may be just what she needs to eke out a win.