Clinton juggernaut hits 2014 campaign trail

AP News
|
Posted: Sep 08, 2014 3:19 PM
Clinton juggernaut hits 2014 campaign trail

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Clinton juggernaut hits the midterm campaign trail this week as the power couple lends fundraising prowess and their seal of approval to Democratic candidates shunning an unpopular President Barack Obama. For Hillary Rodham Clinton, the events with Democratic donors and activists are keeping her profile high as she weighs a second bid for the presidency.

The Clintons are working to help female candidates and boost turnout in conservative-leaning states like Arkansas, where Bill Clinton was governor before becoming president, and Kentucky, where Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes talks up her alliance with the Clintons, not Obama.

Hillary Clinton's time and political currency remains especially highly coveted.

"She's a natural fit in any state at the moment," said Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, a longtime adviser to the Clintons.

The same can't be said of Obama, whose approval ratings have tumbled and who has kept his campaigning mostly at off-camera events with financial donors. He isn't expected to campaign in states like Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina where Senate control could be decided. Republicans are driving for the six-seat gain they need to grab the Senate majority, with their highest hopes in conservative states Obama lost in 2012.

Hillary Clinton, who recorded an automated get-out-the-vote call for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his running mate, Kathy Hochul, headlines a fundraiser for Senate Democrats at her Washington home on Tuesday and a New York reception for Democratic governors on Friday. By Sunday, the Clintons will join thousands of Democrats in Iowa to honor retiring Sen. Tom Harkin in the state that helped propel Obama, at Mrs. Clinton's expense, to the presidency.

The shift to the Clintons, according to interviews with more than a dozen Democratic leaders and operatives, is part history, part circumstances. Party activists tend to look ahead to a successor during a president's second term and Mrs. Clinton's potential to become the first female president — without an obvious Obama-like primary challenger right now — has made that interest more acute. Obama's approval ratings remain stuck in the low 40s, forcing some Senate incumbents to distance themselves.

Obama's turbulent dealings with Republicans in Congress have fueled the shift, raising hopes that his successor will break the logjam, some of the activists say.

So the Clintons are extending their long history of helping their friends.

"There's a tremendous positive feeling for getting two for the price of one," said Mitch Ceasar, a Florida lawyer and member of the Democratic National Committee.

Obama can still raise millions for Democrats and aides say he'll assist candidates in states where he can be most helpful, in individual House races and places like Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Obama could make last-minute appearances in states like Georgia and North Carolina to boost turnout among black voters. But so far, many Democrats have avoided him in public.

During Obama's Labor Day rally in Milwaukee, for example, Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke did not appear at the president's side. And in North Carolina, vulnerable Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan had to appear with Obama during his visit to a convention of veterans— but first, she released a statement criticizing his record on veterans health care.

The Clintons, meanwhile, don't have the same issues. And help they provide now could benefit Hillary Clinton if she seeks the party's nomination in 2016.

Bill Clinton has campaigned with Grimes, a longtime family friend who calls herself a "Clinton Democrat" in her bid against McConnell, and two Arkansas allies, Sen. Mark Pryor and gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross, Clinton's campaign driver back in 1982.

Since Labor Day, Clinton has traveled to Connecticut to help Gov. Dan Malloy; Maine on behalf of Rep. Mike Michaud, who faces GOP Gov. Paul LePage; Miami to help former Gov. Charlie Crist, the ex-Republican who is seeking his old office, and New Orleans to raise money for Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu. The former president will be in Atlanta next weekend to raise money for Senate candidate Michelle Nunn before joining with the former first lady in Iowa.

During a New York fundraiser last week to support House Democrats, Bill Clinton told attendees that Republicans in Congress had stoked conflict and division instead of finding common ground, noting dozens of votes to repeal Obama's health care law. The former president also spoke of the need to raise the minimum wage, which he increased as Arkansas governor and as president, according to a Democratic official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the event was private.

The former secretary of state's campaigning comes with risks — her approval ratings have fallen in the past when she engages in partisan activities. Republicans are already looking to engage her at every turn.

When Mrs. Clinton called climate change the "most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face" at a Nevada energy conference last week, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was quick with a retort. "I don't think we really want a commander-in-chief who's battling climate change instead of terrorism," Paul told Fox News.

___

Follow Ken Thomas on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas