With the first primary election just under a month away, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is releasing her not-so secret weapon, her husband. But deploying the former president comes with its own risks.
Bill Clinton is expected to arrive in New Hampshire Monday to kick off a series of solo appearances while Hillary makes her way across Iowa. It was in New Hampshire more than two decades ago that the former president revived his struggling campaign, and he remains popular there today.
But preceding Mr. Clinton’s first official outings on behalf of his wife are a series of verbal attacks from GOP candidate Donald Trump. In recent weeks, the businessman has ramped up his criticism for the former commander-in-chief, alluding to his decades-old sexual assault allegations and his impeachment.
“I’m the only one that’s willing to talk about his problems,” Mr. Trump told CBS Face the Nation on Sunday. “I mean, what he did and what he has gone through I think is frankly terrible, especially if she wants to play the woman card.”
His attacks came shortly after Ms. Clinton called her husband her “secret weapon” last month. In the coming days, Trump will also be campaigning in New Hampshire leading up to its primary on Feb. 9. As the state’s residents gear up to vote, Trump remains the frontrunner among Republican candidates, while polls project that Clinton is about four points behind her opponent, Bernie Sanders.
Trump also made his point via Twitter:
Thus far, both Clintons have mostly abstained from responding to Trump's comments, which their campaign considers an impudent political tactic.
But at a campaign event in Derry, N.H., Sunday, Clinton was heckled by a local GOP lawmaker. State Rep. Katherine Prudhomme O’Brien stood up and began yelling. In a video capturing the town hall event, she confronts her heckler candidly.
"You are very rude, and I'm not ever going to call on you," Clinton said to Ms. O’brien, whose shouts are inaudible. "Thank you."
After the event, Rep. O'Brien told reporters she wanted to ask Clinton a question about the women who had accused her husband of sexual assault. As the presidential candidate herself has been campaigning about her sexual assault plan, emphasizing that survivors all deserve to be heard, O’Brien said she finds her stance to be hypocritical.
"She says that rape victims should be believed," O'Brien said. "I agree with her, that is true, they should be believed and we should assess what they are saying..."
After Trump resurrected the sex scandals that rocked Bill Clinton’s presidency, conservatives have voiced similar sentiments against his wife, aiming to tar her credibility on gender issues and divert her support from women.
But some feminists see this strategy as insincere, as some of Clinton’s most vocal critics on this front are not exactly proponents of gender sexual equity.
"Young women who care about battling sexual assault and rape culture are smart enough to know when their issues are being co-opted,” Jessica Valenti, a feminist author, told the Washington Post. “Republicans consistently underestimate how savvy younger women are, so this just feels like more of the same."
All the while, Mr. Sanders has made it clear that he has no intentions of using President Clinton’s sexual history against his opponent.
“I think, you know, we have enormous problems facing this country, and I think we got more things to worry about than Bill Clinton’s sexual life,” Sanders said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”