When former President Bill Clinton began appearing beside Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail early this summer, the effect was electrifying. What memories he brought back! That bustling economy, that low unemployment rate, that knack for international diplomacy … No wonder both men and women were screaming for more.
"I am thrilled to see Bill Clinton back in the spotlight," says Dawn Glossa, a 36-year-old Democrat from Chicago. "He brings back feelings of better days in the U.S., when the working class could afford a home, interest rates were reasonable and the rest of the world liked us!"
Democrats are hailing the days of the Clinton administration as a bygone era of peace and prosperity, before the war in Iraq, terror alerts, endless airport security checks and sky-high gas prices became a way of life.
Life in 1997 wasn't without its terror fears. That was the year that Timothy McVeigh was sentenced to death for the Oklahoma City bombings and Razmi Yousef was found guilty of orchestrating the first World Trade Center bombing of 1993. But the Clintons are humming their old Fleetwood Mac theme song, "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)" and hoping that voters are looking kindly on yesterday.
So far it looks like they are. According to , 63 percent of registered voters think Hillary Clinton could take the presidency in 2008. Even 53 percent of Republicans polled think that if she is nominated, she could win.
Polls show a whopping 71 percent of voters feel neutral or positive about the fact that Hillary's husband is Bill Clinton. And 26 percent of voters, both men and women, say that the Clinton marriage would actually influence the way they vote.
The Clinton campaign has raised over $63 million to date. Having Bill Clinton at her side at key campaign stops and fundraising events has added star power and enthusiasm to her already powerful candidacy.
"When he talks, people are going to listen to what he has to say," says democratic pollster Mark Mellman. "He was a two-term president, he's literally been there."
In Iowa, the billboards and tickets said "Hillary and Bill Clinton" but the former president kept his introductory speeches short. He touted Hillary's qualifications, citing her record on civil rights, health care and education as well as his admiration of her many political gifts. And by then, the crowds were galvanized, ready to hear from the candidate herself.
Her campaign is being careful not to present the Clintons as "co-presidents" and certainly not, as Hillary famously gaffed in 1992, a special. They want people to identify Hillary with the Clinton years that they long for with such nostalgia, but not for him to overshadow her or confuse voters on the issues.
Bill Clinton is by no means a full-time campaign spouse. He's been busy with his foundation, traveling to Tanzania to make subsidized malaria drugs available to those in need. He also supports global climate initiatives and childhood health and obesity programs and awareness. These issues are all in step with Hillary's campaign as well.
The general consensus is that he's complimenting her in all the right ways. Pundits have commented on her stiffness and her monotone way of speaking. Bill has been reportedly coaching his wife on movements and speech making.
"Of the two, Bill is definitely the 'people person,'" says Juliette Coulter, a 38-year-old independent from Dallas. "Hillary comes across as a bit icy, so Bill makes her seem warmer."
The two are working to add a combination of humor and sincerity. Their viral Sopranos finale spoof campaign video was funny (if not a little corny) but more importantly, it showed them as a duo, being light-hearted: Not an adjective people usually use to describe Hillary.
This is what having a campaign spouse is for. "A candidate's spouse often provides the lighter touch. They bring out the relaxed, likable side," says Stuart Rothenberg, political analyst and editor of The Rothenberg Political Report.
Hillary can use some help in the humor department. Her dig at her husband back in January about having experience dealing with seemed to elicit more raised eyebrow than chuckles. And her comment during Bill's first run that she chose a career rather than to "stay home and bake cookies," alienated her from stay-at-home moms. There's no doubt about it: Hillary's jokes often end up as foot-in-mouths.