Thursday, March 26, 2015

Release the Clinton!

President Bill Clinton in Killeen TX, February 2008
A couple of months ago in a piece entitled "Will Hillary's Country Inroads Take Us Home?", I noted that Hillary Clinton's numbers continue to be stronger than you might expect from a Democrat in rural areas, while roughly maintaining President Obama's popularity in the big cities. I say "continue" because it was largely her popularity in rural areas that allowed her to pull off some victories that shocked the pundits and helped her keep pace with Obama through the final months of her 2008 campaign.

I remember quite well the run-up to the Texas Democratic primary in March 2008, in which Bill Clinton crisscrossed our huge state seemingly nonstop. The strategy was smart: Hillary could headline bigger events and remain the public face of the national campaign while he "quietly" (lesson learned from South Carolina) focused on winning votes in small to mid-sized cities that don't normally come close to seeing a national candidate...much less a former person.

Shaking every hand that wanted a shake
At the rally I attended in Killeen (about an hour north of Austin and not known for its liberal politics), the crowd was large, festive and enthusiastic. Not only did he give a typically convincing speech, but afterwards he shook every hand on the rope line and signed every item he was given. After shaking his hand, I shouted to him that his first presidential campaign instantly switched me from Republican to Democrat when I was a teenager. He then stopped, came back, shook my hand again and said a simple "thank you" in return. It was a small gesture but it sure meant a lot to me.

I couldn't have been the only voter who left that event very impressed with the guy.

Signing my vintage '92 campaign sticker...and everything else
The pundits largely dismissed Hillary's chances in Texas at the time, but she ended up winning that primary anyway. And along with Ohio and Rhode Island, the Texas victory was crucially important to her campaign's historic and inspiring resurrection.

Texas might be largely off the national radar in 2016 (we shall see), but don't be surprised if a similarly relentless Bill-centric strategy reemerges to lock in votes well outside of the major metropolitan areas in states like Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina and Colorado.

Town by town and handshake by handshake, it can all add up to make a big difference in a national campaign...especially when it involves one of the greatest political minds of our time and the most admired president of the last 25 years.

Luckily, we probably won't be able to keep him away even if we tried.


  1. I like Obama, but Bill Clinton always seemed better at connecting on a personal level. My favorite president during my lifetime! (So far, of course.)

    1. I can't wait to see the former and future presidents Clinton on the campaign trail again!

    2. Obama sure can give a great, inspiring speech. Bill Clinton has a wonderful conversation with you. And there is nobody in politics that explains things like he does. He will be a powerful asset for Hillary - has to be careful not to overshadow her, though. As for shaking hands, I remember years ago when the Clintons came to my city. They shook so many hands - really took the time to do that. I was struck by their approachability and modesty. He was president at the time.