David Smith and Sabrina Siddiqui report in the Guardian:
“New Hampshire tonight has made Bill Clinton the comeback kid.”
So said Bill Clinton himself in February 1992, when a second-place finish behind the now largely forgotten Paul Tsongas in the state’s Democratic primary revived his fortunes. Later that year he would unseat George HW Bush in the presidential election.
Twenty-four years later, “the comeback kid” will return to the stump in New Hampshire on Monday. He will be hoping to administer another Lazarus-like political resuscitation. After the sting of rejection in 2008, when his wife was bested by a young upstart named Barack Obama, he will make the case for Hillary Clinton’s second shot at becoming the first woman in the White House.
This time the former secretary of state appears to be on course, with a comfortable lead in Democratic polls after debate performances that apparently neutralised the socialist insurgency of Bernie Sanders. Her campaign says it raised $37m in the past three months, a record for a non-incumbent, and more than $112m in all of 2015. The Republican field, meanwhile, remains overcrowded and chaotic.
But the Bill factor is the great unknown. Thus far he has taken a back seat, accompanying his wife on occasional campaign stops but not taking centre stage. Even at the Democratic debates, he has travelled with Clinton but has not been inside the arena – often choosing to watch from the hotel.
“His proper role in, and impact on, his wife’s candidacy is unsettled and unclear,” New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote last week. “He remains both wildly charismatic and maddeningly undisciplined. He connotes both prosperous times and cynical scheming.”
Now set to be unleashed, Bill’s magnetism and oratory could be the ultimate campaign weapon. He often ranks as the most popular living US president in surveys and his speech at the 2012 Democratic convention gave a major boost to Obama’s re-election campaign. But those very same qualities could also overshadow the former first lady, whom some regard as lacking a personable and relatable demeanor.
Furthermore, Bill can be a loose cannon, prone to losing his temper and the kind of gaffes that hindered rather than helped in 2008. And this time the celebrated Clinton machine faces a challenge that might not quite compute, a man who describes himself as their “worst nightmare”: Donald Trump.
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