Bill Clinton’s name was splashed across the front page of the New York Post Friday morning. “Blonde Bombshell,” the sneering headline read, detailing how the former president steered $2 million of Clinton Global Initiative funds to a company of a very attractive “friend.”
He was more than an hour late to a rally at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, New Jersey, because he got stuck behind a truck accident on the Tappan Zee Bridge.
And when he finally arrived at the organizing event where he dutifully touted his wife’s record and the significance of winning the June 7 New Jersey primary, he was heckled by a Bernie Sanders supporter for his passage of the 1994 crime bill.
“Why did you put more people in prison?” the heckler yelled out from the crowd.
It wasn’t an easy day — and it hasn’t been a smooth ride — for the Big Dog. Over the past few months, Bill Clinton has kept up a frenetic, cross-country campaign schedule almost as packed as Hillary Clinton’s. Along the way, he’s drawn huge crowds in small towns unaccustomed to seeing a former leader of the free world. But he also has been criticized for having lost his “magic” on the stump, knocked by loyal foot soldiers for talking more about his own record than about his wife, and left by his wife’s campaign to defend himself against a steady drumbeat of criticism of the 1994 crime bill, a significant part of his legacy. He’s also emerged as a prime target for Donald Trump, who has branded him an “abuser” of women.
Yet for all his drawbacks, Clinton is still viewed by his wife’s campaign as an inimitable surrogate, one who allies believe will be second only to President Barack Obama in his ability to get out the Democratic vote in a general election.
“Bill Clinton has a towering favorable rating among Democrats,” said his former aide Paul Begala, now an adviser to the super PAC backing Hillary Clinton, Priorities USA.
President Clinton had a 53% favorability rating in a January Washington Post poll.
While allies said he is frustrated at the focus on his past and concerned about how to take on Trump, he acknowledges he is going to be a lightning rod. “Some of those right-wingers were sending videos accusing me of murder,” he told a crowd of 550 in New Jersey of his own campaign in their state in 1992. “They’re just replaying the same old ‘92 playbook.”
“The key is for him to be an asset under the radar screen,” said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Clinton surrogate. “These public appearances are great, particularly in areas that don’t get the candidates themselves. He does a great job of moving the base, of jacking turnout. When he’s disciplined, he’s a tremendous asset, and he will be disciplined because he understands the stakes.”
Rendell added that the key for the temperamental former president will be “not rising to take the bait.”
For now, Clinton seems keen to avoid that scenario at all costs. He has not sat down for an interview since 2015, and aides said he plans to “keep his head down” at least until the Democratic National Convention in July. He has avoided attending any of the Democratic debates for fear of creating a distraction from his wife.
In his speeches across the country, he steers clear of taking on Trump directly, focusing instead on finishing off the primary election fight. “It sounds good to say ‘free tuition’ at all public schools but there are two problems with it,” he said, hitting the Vermont senator for touting unachievable ideals.
Read Full Story At Politico