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Is Bill Clinton an effective ally... for Mitt Romney?
Romney has been talking up the former chief executive as a way to paint President Obama as a leftist Democratic outlier. Could the ploy backfire?
In praising former President Bill Clinton to bash President Obama, Mitt Romney has suggested that Obama's supposed abandonment of "the Clinton doctrine" is due to "a personal beef with the Clintons."
In praising former President Bill Clinton to bash President Obama, Mitt Romney has suggested that Obama's supposed abandonment of "the Clinton doctrine" is due to "a personal beef with the Clintons."
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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n an odd turn of events, "Mitt Romney has turned into Bill Clinton's biggest booster," says Reid J. Epstein at Politico. On the trail, Romney showers Clinton with lavish praise, contrasting the former president's declaration that "the era of Big Government is over" with President Obama's "old school" liberalism, and suggesting that Obama's supposed abandonment of "the Clinton doctrine" is due to "a personal beef with the Clintons." A perplexed E.J. Dionne points out at The Washington Post that taxes were higher under Clinton, Clinton pushed a much more liberal health-care plan than Obama's, and Romney trashed Clinton as recently as January. "Mitt Romney was against Bill Clinton before he was for him," Dionne says. Is embracing Clinton now a good campaign strategy?

The hug-Clinton strategy has big potential: Romney is brandishing Clinton as "a +5 Amulet of Centrism to assert moderate credentials without changing his policies or modifying his rhetoric," says Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect. That's pretty clever, really. Making Clinton "an avatar for reasonable liberalism" lets Romney paint himself as "the Republican heir to Clinton's legacy of reform" — popular with working-class whites — while tagging Obama as "the GOP's analogue to George W. Bush," who's popular with nobody.
"Bill Clinton is the GOP's new favorite Democrat"

This will blow up in Romney's face: Sure, embracing Clinton "makes sense in a way," at least on paper, says Suzi Parker at The Washington Post, but in practice Romney's just "poking a sleeping bear." Clinton is out on the trail actively stumping for Obama, his wife works for the president, and as a Democrat's Democrat, "there is no way Bill Clinton is going to let a Republican presidential candidate use him to win votes." Now, thanks to Romney, Clinton has a bigger stage to wield his immense political talents against the GOP nominee.
"Mitt Romney playing with fire by summoning Bill Clinton"

Effective or not, Clinton's fair game: There's a fair amount of chutzpah in Romney's touting a president who he's previously campaigned against and whose policies he's publicly denounced, says Steve Kornacki at Salon. But this is politics, and using Clinton to paint Obama as a lefty is only as audacious as "Obama's own use of Ronald Reagan — the conservative president who raised taxes 11 times and denounced debt-ceiling brinkmanship — as a measuring stick for how far to the right this era's GOP has moved."
"When Mitt ridiculed Clinton"

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