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What About Bill?

Now that Obama and Bill Clinton have finally chatted, the big question is: how should Obama use the 42nd president in his campaign? Terry McAuliffe offers a suggestion to Time's Karen Tumulty:

Obama has no trouble generating mega-crowds on his own, nor does he need Clinton's help in fundraising. Instead, says McAuliffe, it might make more sense for the Obama to deploy Bill as Hillary did, in small towns and rural areas that have never seen a political star of his magnitude in the flesh. The Obama campaign knows well how effective Bill Clinton was in bringing out the vote in these settings. One top Obama strategist told me that the reason the Illinois Senator lost the popular vote in Texas was not those now-famous 3 a.m. phone call ads, but rather, the fact the Bill was working precincts on his wife's behalf up and down the eastern and western edges of the state.

Of course, Bill's Music Man routine wasn't effective everywhere he tried it: his small-town crusade on Hillary's behalf in North Carolina, for instance, didn't do her much good there. But it's interesting that a Clintonista like McAuliffe is suggesting that this should be Bill's job in the general election campaign. It's almost as if the Clinton camp is signalling the Obama camp that it should keep Bill out of sight, out of mind.

--Jason Zengerle