Gallup reports that for the first time in the Obama years Bill Clinton has surpassed the sitting president in terms of public popularity. According to the polling organization, 61 percent of Americans view Clinton favorably, as opposed to 52 percent for Obama. George W. Bush registers a surprisingly strong 45 percent approval.
The Clinton number is good news for Democrats looking ahead to the 2010 midterm elections and the battle for Congress.
As my colleague Kenneth T. Walsh noted a few weeks ago, Clinton is a hot ticket on the campaign trail. And no surprise: Clinton can bring presidential-level troop rallying, headline grabbing, and fundraising to a campaign without bringing any of the baggage that is piling up around Obama. As Ken wrote:
Party strategists say Clinton's lure is especially powerful because of the relatively low job-approval ratings of President Obama in many swing states and districts, where voters are upset by his brand of activist government and big spending. As a result, Clinton is considered a larger draw than Obama in conservative and centrist regions, such as the South and rural areas.
Indeed, as The Fix's Aaron Blake noted a few weeks ago, a majority of top 2010 congressional races are taking place in areas where Obama struggled during the Democratic primaries two years ago. Districts like those represented by Democratic Reps. Suzanne Kosmas of Florida, Baron Hill of Indiana, and Harry Teague of New Mexico were Hillary Clinton country in 2008. They should be Bill Clinton country in 2010.
There is actually a neat circularity about the idea of Clinton becoming the surrogate campaigner in chief. Back in 1998, when he was mired in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, President Clinton was not the usual hot presidential property on the campaign trail. I remember campaign flacks arguing with apparently straight faces that a presidential visit was really much more trouble than it was worth. Instead a different Clinton was dispatched around the country: Hillary. Her success on the hustings not only helped propel the Democrats to a stunning upset victory in the midterm elections but also set the stage for her New York senate run (and, ultimately, her presidential bid).
Republicans and not a few fearful Democrats wonder if this year's elections will be a rerun of 1994. Maybe with a bit of help from the Comeback Kid they might look more like '98?