Need to get voters excited? Call Bill Clinton, not Obama.
A Gallup poll suggests that both Democrats and independents are more likely to be enthusiastic about a campaign visit from former President Bill Clinton than from President Obama.
Both President Obama and former President Clinton have been traveling the country campaigning to prevent a Republican landslide in November’s elections. Clinton has headlined more than 80 events for hard-pressed Democratic candidates, and some observers think he could complete 100 appearances by election day.
In a poll conducted October 14-17, Gallup asked registered voters whether having Clinton or Obama campaign for a candidate would be a plus, minus, or make no difference. From those responses, Gallup calculated a “net impact” by subtracting the percentage who said campaigning would make them less likely to vote for a candidate from the percentage who said it would make them more likely to vote for a candidate.
“Clinton does modestly better than Obama among Democrats,” writes Gallup editor in chief Frank Newport. The net positive impact of Clinton’s campaigning among Democrats is 48 percent, while for Obama it is 42 percent.
Where the former president dramatically outshines Obama is with independent voters. Among independents, “Clinton’s impact breaks about even,” Mr. Newport writes. Some 21 percent of independents are more likely to support a candidate if Mr. Clinton works for them, while 23 percent are less likely, leaving the net result at a negative 2 percent.
But independents in the poll react in a much more negative fashion to Obama. While 12 percent say they would be more likely to vote for a person Obama supports on the stump, a whopping 39 percent say they would be less likely. That produces a net impact from Obama campaign appearances of a negative 27 percent among independents. Since independent voters are often the key to winning elections, that negative impact is a major problem for Democrats.
Why the gap in campaign performance? Gallup's Mr. Newport argues that it “almost certainly reflects the fact that Clinton has been out of office for 10 years, and thus has become a more benign figure to those who are independent or who identify with the Republican Party.” Obama, he argues, as sitting president is “more likely to generate strong feelings at this point in his career.”
Another likely factor in the poll results is that Bill Clinton is a gifted campaigner, whatever one thinks of his politics. Politico columnist Annie Groer aptly refers to the former president as a man “who never saw a rope line he didn’t want to work.” At an event in New Mexico, the former president said he planned to do “about one stop for everybody that helped Hillary run for president.”
Mr. Clinton is in Florida October 19 and 20 to help Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek. The former president is expected to make campaign stops in St. Petersburg on Tuesday and in Orlando on Wednesday.
The Gallup poll contacted a random sample of 935 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.