He was famously christened the “Comeback Kid” during his 1992 presidential campaign.
Twenty years later, Bill Clinton has once again returned to the limelight of American presidential politics.
The doyen of the Democratic Party has been a ubiquitous presence in the run-up to the November 6 presidential election, in which Republican challenger Mitt Romney is seeking to unseat Democratic incumbent Barack Obama.
Clinton—who presided over an era of relative tranquility sandwiched between the end of the Cold War and a decade marked by financial turmoil, wars, and global terrorism—has crisscrossed the nation in recent weeks campaigning for Obama and Democratic candidates in US congressional races.
The former president has delivered impassioned speeches supporting Obama at major Democratic events, has been featured in two of Obama’s campaign advertisements, and cited favorably in last week’s presidential debate—by both candidates.
“He believes the stakes are pretty high for this election,” Peter Fenn, a longtime Democratic political consultant, said of Clinton.
Throughout this year’s presidential campaign, Clinton has repeatedly portrayed a Romney presidency as one that portends an era of increasing wealth disparity, dangerous deregulation, and reckless foreign policy.
Republicans have at times found kind words for the former president, though they tried to impeach him from office in the late 1990s. But this recent flattery has often come in a context seemingly aimed at undercutting Obama’s stature among his political base.
Following Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National convention last month, which was widely seen as the event’s premier performance, Romney said in an interview with the political television show “Meet the Press,” that Clinton “did stand out in contrast with other speakers” at the convention.
“I think he really did elevate the Democrat convention in a lot of ways,” Romney said. “And frankly, the contrast may not have been as attractive as Barack Obama might have preferred if he were choosing who’d go before him and who’d go after.”
Clinton and his wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, remain among the most polarizing figures in the history of American politics, and they have been the focus of a handful of the top television ads from both campaigns in this election.
Of the top ten ads from each campaign in terms of spending, Bill Clinton is featured in two Obama spots, while two Romney ads show Hillary Clinton criticizing Obama during their hotly contested Democratic presidential primary in 2008, The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing its analysis based on data from the political advertising monitoring firm Kantar Media/CMAG.
Another likely reason for Clinton’s close involvement in this campaign is his desire to defend his wife’s record as Obama’s top diplomat, said Fenn, who previously served as executive director of a political action committee close to the former president.
“She’s part and parcel of this team, and he doesn’t want to see things turned around on the foreign policy and national security front,” Fenn said.
Furthermore, he added, a lingering fondness for the Clinton era among many Americans often helps the former president make stronger arguments for Obama than Obama can make for himself.
“People understand what Clinton accomplished, and he’s trying to make it clear that this is precisely what the Obama administration would do in a second term,” Fenn said. “He can make these arguments so cogently, and because he is popular, they’re given a great deal of weight.”
On Friday Clinton addressed a crowd of several thousand people in the state of Indiana to support Democratic U.S. Representative Joe Donnelly in a US Senate campaign that could be pivotal in determining which party controls the upper house.
“It never hurts to have Bill Clinton say good things about you,” Donnelly was quoted by The Indianapolis Star as saying.