Making a calculated decision that Bill Clinton can do more good than harm for their election chance this year, Democratic Party officials are looking to the former president to take an active role in getting John Kerry elected to the presidency.
“There has been talk about the danger of Bill Clinton overshadowing John,” a senior Democrat told the London Telegraph, “but the decision has been taken to accept him as being center stage and hope that some of the magic rubs off.”
At the heart of reasoning for calling upon Clinton is the perceived notion – even among Kerry supporters – that the Massachusetts senator lacks a commanding presence in the race.
“I’ve never heard him tell a joke,” one campaign worker told the paper at a Kerry fund-raising party last week. “I’ve never seen him look as if he was genuinely enjoying himself. He just needs to come across as more human. If Clinton can help with that, then we sure need that help.”
According to the Telegraph, Kerry’s senior strategist Harold Ickes contacted Clinton this month to discuss how the two-term veteran of the White House could best be utilized leading up to the polls in November.
It was agreed that Clinton would make a speech at the July Democratic Convention in Boston, despite fears of upstaging Kerry.
“There will be members of the Kerry staff and the advisory council who will say that Kerry may be overshadowed by Clinton speaking,” said Ickes. “But I think that at the convention, as much as Democrats love Bill Clinton, they are going to be very much focused on their nominee and they will give him a huge send off.”
During the campaign of 2000, Al Gore chose to distance himself from Clinton, who was impeached but not convicted in connection with a sex scandal involving White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Though Gore won the popular vote by a small margin, Bush won the race by winning more state votes in the Electoral College.
Another Democrat pushing for heavy involvement by Clinton is former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.
“Whatever you can do to use Bill and Hillary, big time, use them. The sun that makes your plants grow and makes everybody strong and gives life to the world is so big that when it shows up everybody tends to notice it. So what? What do you get from the sun? You get nourishment. You get life.”
Last week, Bill Clinton gave his most public message of support for Kerry.
“Sen. Kerry has made quite clear what he believes about the major issues in the news today,” said Clinton, “and I think he’s shown a certain reticence given the seriousness of the problems in the world today. I like the way he’s handling it.”
The ex-president also denied that the forthcoming publication of his autobiography, “My Life,” will steal the political limelight when it hits bookstores in June.
“It will get a lot of ink and a lot of press coverage, but will not detract from anybody,” he said.
The Telegraph reports that at the Kerry campaign headquarters in Washington, some aides are less confident their candidate can hold his own, if Clinton indeed takes a high-profile role in the campaign.
“Al Gore made a mistake when he didn’t use Clinton,” said one campaign worker. “John Kerry is not going to make that mistake. But he will need to be very careful. How many Democrats are going to look at Bill during the convention and think: ‘He’s still the best candidate we have.’?”
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