Bill Clinton: Is He The Democrats' Newt Gingrich?

Much has been made of former President Bill Clinton’s recent off-message comments about Mitt Romney, taxes, and the economy. In fact, an entire literature has sprung up around why Mr. Clinton appears, at times, to be acting as a double agent for Mr. Romney.

Perhaps, one theory goes, ex-President Clinton is trying to undermine President Obama’s reelection prospects as a way to boost his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, as a possible presidential candidate in 2016.

Another is that he is trying to help Mr. Obama by nudging his campaign away from its criticism of Romney’s business record at Bain Capital, on the idea that that line of attack is counterproductive.

A third is that Mr. Clinton is trying to help himself, as a philanthropist with close ties to Wall Street and other wealthy donors, many of whom are put off by Obama’s populist rhetoric.

But here’s another theory: Clinton is, in some ways, the Democrats’ Newt Gingrich. Both the former president and former House speaker are passionate, smart, ideas-driven politicians with an undisciplined streak and a history of marital infidelity. Last year, Mr. Gingrich came out of retirement as an active politician to run for president, and, like Clinton, said some things that hurt his own team. Exhibit A: calling rising GOP star Paul Ryan’s budget plan “right-wing social engineering.”

And, in the end, Clinton will remain a major surrogate for Obama, while Gingrich is a bit player in the general election. Part of Clinton’s appeal, analysts say, is that he speaks his mind and is able to articulate complex ideas in a way that’s understandable to the broad public.

“Clinton is still a big weapon for Obama and one he will certainly need in October,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor 

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published this page in In The News 2012-06-07 16:00:00 -0400
Analysis & Political Strategy