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The Democratic Senate primary race in Colorado also rekindled an old rivalry. As we mentioned, President Obama endorsed Senator Michael Bennet early on, but former President Bill Clinton did not. He backed Bennet's Democratic challenger, Andrew Romanoff. The split was unusual. In most cases, the two presidents have found themselves in the same camp.
NPR's Scott Horsley reports now on the role Bill Clinton is playing this election season and why, in some parts of the country, he is proving to be the more popular campaigner.
SCOTT HORSLEY: Bill Clinton has done a lot more this summer than watch his daughter get married. He's been busy raising money for Democratic candidates, recording robocalls and radio ads, and appearing at campaign rallies - like this one, for Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln.
(Soundbite of rally)
President BILL CLINTON: I'm not running for anything. I can't run for anything. However, the older I get, the more I think about the future, not the past.
HORSLEY: Past relationships play a big role, though, in deciding where the former president will spend his time. Yesterday,�he was campaigning in Pennsylvania for Senate candidate Joe Sestak, who worked in the Clinton White House. Next week, Clinton will show up at three south Florida rallies for Senate candidate Kendrick Meek.
Mr. KENDRICK MEEK (Senate Candidate, Florida): Well, it means a lot. President Clinton is well-loved here in the state. And I am very proud to be the recipient of his time.
HORSLEY: Meek, who spoke by cell phone from his campaign bus, is in a tough primary fight against billionaire political novice Jeff Greene.
Meek first met Clinton almost 20 years ago when, as a young state trooper, he was assigned to drive the Arkansas governor on a campaign visit to Florida. When Clinton arrived, he realized he'd forgotten his deodorant.
Mr. MEEK: We stopped at a grocery store, and he picked up a bottle of roll-on and put it on, and we stood out in front of the store while he did that.
HORSLEY: Meek remembered the incident, and so did Clinton. Bumping into the trooper more than a year later at a fancy hotel, the newly elected president joked: Kendrick, we're a long way from the Suwanee Swifty convenience store.
Mr. MEEK: The fact that he could remember that, as president, as a young trooper, I was stunned. But the fact is, President Clinton and I have had a long relationship. He's going to be a big part of the reason why we win down here, along with President Barack Obama's endorsement.
HORSLEY: President Obama will appear alongside Meek at a Florida fundraiser next week. But political analyst Susan MacManus, of the University of South Florida, says it's Clinton's shoe-leather campaigning in vote-rich Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties that may help Meek the most.
Professor SUSAN MACMANUS (Political Analyst, University of South Florida): President Obama is not doing well in the polls here in Florida. And President Clinton is getting much more favorable ratings in this state and elsewhere. If you had to pick a president to bring into Florida right now, President Clinton would be the one to have. And lo and behold, that's who's coming.
HORSLEY: A Gallup Poll last month found Clinton's favorability rating almost 10 points higher than President Obama's. That popularity has not always rubbed off, though, on the candidates Clinton has endorsed. Andrew Romanoff lost the Senate primary in Colorado yesterday. And Clinton's pick in the Georgia governor's race lost last month.
MacManus notes there is a common thread in the Clinton endorsements: All the candidates Bill Clinton has campaigned for this year supported Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential contest.
Prof. MACMANUS: Loyalty is a factor in people going the extra mile. And that can be most helpful at a time when they seem to be a bit lagging in the polls.
HORSLEY: President Obama, whose own support in the polls is lagging, may take some comfort from Bill Clinton's revival. At this point in his own presidency, Clinton's approval rating was even lower than Mr. Obama's is now. But the Comeback Kid bounced back. Even after impeachment by the House and acquittal by the Senate, Clinton left office with an approval rating of 66 percent.
Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.
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