Hillary Clinton’s campaign is bringing out her secret weapon: her husband, Bill.
The former president has been taking on a more active role in his wife’s campaign in recent days. On Wednesday, Bill Clinton fired off an email to his wife’s supporters asking them to contribute $1 or more to her campaign ahead of midnight FEC deadline for the quarter.
“I haven’t written to you yet during this election, but today’s too important to stay on the sidelines,” he wrote in the email.
Bill Clinton’s involvement in his wife’s campaign comes as she battles both Bernie Sanders and Vice President Joe Biden (who is yet to jump into the race) in the polls.
His presence could help bring some excitement to a campaign that’s been dogged by an unshakable email controversy and high unfavorables. It could also help reassure big Hollywood donors who might be skittish about her prospects.
“She’s obviously going to use him in a positive way,” Democratic strategist Bill Carrick told TheWrap. “He’s wildly popular and admired. He did extremely well as President, balancing the budget. After the Bush years and a bad economy a lot of people are looking nostalgically at the Clintons.”
But even though many consider the former president to be a huge draw — as well as a prolific fundraiser –some experts say putting him front and center this early in the campaign could backfire.
The move has already been met with snarky headlines. One conservative political blog proclaimed, “Desperation move: Team Hillary pulls Bill off the shelf to salvage primary bid,” while the Associate Press concluded, “Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign set to get a boost from Bill.”
“The basic problem for Hillary is that Bill Clinton’s popularity and talent are not transferrable,” professor of government at California’s Claremont McKenna College Jack Pitney told TheWrap. “It’s hard to shine when you’re standing next to a supernova.”
Hillary has been making a concerted effort to show a softer side to voters, hitting the talk show circuit and sitting down with “Girls” creator and star Lena Dunham. But few can match her husband’s level of charisma. The inventible comparison, some say, could end up hurting Hillary in the longrun.
“He can raise a lot of money for her but he can’t make her a better politician,” Pitney said. “Bill Clinton can’t put in what God left out.”
Not to mention, the last time Bill Clinton got involved in his wife’s campaign, it wasn’t exactly a homerun.
In January 2008, Clinton’s campaign found itself in panic mode after the former President said this about then-Senator Barack Obama’s campaign: “Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairytale I’ve ever seen.” He later explained that he was talking about Obama’s stance on the Iraq war, not his bid to become the first black president.
But by then the damage was done. Clinton drew harsh criticism from African-Americans at a particularly crucial time, just as the presidential primary campaign reached Southern states.
Still, it’s hard to ignore the pros of having someone like Bill Clinton on your campaign trail. He filled in for Hillary at two events in Chicago on Sept. 17 after she was forced to cancel due to campaign schedule changes. And he’s already committed to fundraisers in Atlanta and Kansas City this week and in Detroit later in October, according to the Associated Press.
“Who would have one of the most popular politicians ever as their husband and not have them campaign for them?” L.A.-based Democratic political consultant and Clinton supporter Donna Bojarsky told TheWrap. “People like to overanalyze his participation. The fact that he’s campaigning is no surprise at all,” adding, “He’s compelling and honest. He’s a hot ticket.”