Campaigning Clinton Takes Democrats Back To '94 Democrats may be forgiven this fall for feeling as if they are experiencing a flashback to 1994. For one thing, there's the obvious comparison to that year's midterms, when Republicans took over Congress. And then there's President Clinton's presence in almost every competitive race.
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Campaigning Clinton Takes Democrats Back To '94

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Campaigning Clinton Takes Democrats Back To '94

Campaigning Clinton Takes Democrats Back To '94

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And Democrats may be forgiven this fall for feeling as if they're in the middle of a flashback to 1994. For one thing, there's the obvious comparison to that year's midterms, when energized Republicans took over Congress. And then there's this - in almost every competitive race, the sound of that unmistakable voice...

President BILL CLINTON: Thank you.

(Soundbite of applause)

MONTAGNE: Bill Clinton has been all over the campaign trail for Democrats. So far this year he's done 95 events in support of 65 candidates. As NPR's Martin Kaste reports, Clinton is considered as much of an asset to Democratic candidates as President Obama, and in some cases perhaps more so.

MARTIN KASTE: One of Clinton's stops this week was Everett, Washington, where he stumped for Senator Patty Murray. The graying baby boomer crowd treated him like a rock star.

Ms. MARY BEAUDUIN: He shook my hand. I'm never going to wash it again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASTE: Mary Beauduin drove more than an hour to see Clinton.

Ms. BEAUDUIN: I think that he's the best president that we've ever had. I think he's wonderful and...

KASTE: But onstage, Clinton tried to deflect that rock star stuff. Instead of leading a pep rally, he launched into a lecture on recent economic history.

President CLINTON: It took me four years to balance the budget, then I gave you four surpluses, paid $600 billion down on the national debt.

(Soundbite of cheering)

KASTE: The interruptions for cheering almost seemed to make him impatient.

Mr. CLINTON: This is important, folks. You need to talk to people who aren't here. I don't want cheerleading. I want you to win. This is a matter of the evidence.

KASTE: As though he were in a courtroom, Clinton laid out a point-by-point argument for why he thinks the Republicans are wrong about the economy - a half-hour speech which he's delivered dozens of times just this month.

Mr. CHAD CAUSEY (Democratic Congressional Candidate, Arkansas): He certainly seems like he has a lot of strength.

KASTE: Chad Causey is a first-time candidate running for Congress in Arkansas. Clinton came through his district last week.

Mr. CAUSEY: We went from three nonstop until probably 11:00 at night was when that rally finally got done, and I shook his hand and he got on that plane to leave.

KASTE: Causey admits that the enthusiasm for Clinton may be a form of nostalgia for the go-go '90s, and he hopes some of it rubs off on him.

Mr. CAUSEY: Some folks feel that the connection to President Clinton is that time of economic growth and prosperity in this country. I hope that they will find that connection with me moving forward.

KASTE: But Clinton offers candidates something more than just nostalgia. He gives them a chance to get on local TV with a Democratic president who's not President Obama.

Just this weekend, Gallup polled registered voters, asking them if appearances by President Clinton or President Obama would make them more likely to vote for a local candidate - 26 percent said Mr. Clinton would, 19 percent said Mr. Obama would.�So the two men have about the same power to encourage votes. But when it comes to discouraging votes, there's a bigger difference. Forty percent said an appearance by President Obama would make them less likely to vote for a candidate, compared to just 26 percent for Clinton.

Frank Newport is the editor-in-chief at Gallup.

Mr. FRANK NEWPORT (Gallup): When Obama shows up, he may motivate the base, but Obama also has a higher power to alienate independents and Republicans as does Clinton. Clinton's a more benign figure right now. It's a little safer in some ways to bring Bill Clinton to one's district than it is to bring the much more polarizing current president, Barack Obama.

(Soundbite of cheering)

KASTE: But as Clinton himself points out to the cheering crowds, presidents are often judged more harshly in office than out.

Mr. CLINTON: Look, folks, I remember. I've seen this movie before, in 1994.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man: (Unintelligible) this time.

Mr. CLINTON: I called the president the other day and I said, relax, they haven't said anything about you they didn't say about me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CLINTON: The only reason they're being nice to me now is I can't run for anything anymore.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASTE: If this is a rerun of that movie, Democrats can only hope that the current president does as well in the role of the Comeback Kid.

Martin Kaste, NPR News.

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