There’s something about Bill Clinton that just drives Republicans nuts – a multitude of things, no doubt.
Fourteen years after he left the White House (with a major sex scandal and impeachment as part of his legacy), he’s as popular as ever.
Following post-first lady stints as a US Senator and then Secretary of State, his wife is in a strong position to become the first woman to win the presidency – especially now that GOP front-runner New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is dealing with his own scandal, which has knocked him down in the polls.
Mr. Clinton also has become a major money-raiser for Democratic candidates. Later this month, he’ll be in Kentucky, campaigning for Alison Lundergan Grimes in her bid to oust Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who trails Ms. Grimes 42-46 in the latest Bluegrass Poll.
“We are very excited to have President Clinton coming into town to make his first campaign stop of this election cycle,” Grimes told the Louisville Courier-Journal Friday. “I was elated when he called and said he wanted to make this race his top priority.” (Grimes is Kentucky’s secretary of state.)
Then there’s sex and the so-called war on women – the charge against the GOP made by Democrats about reproductive health and other issues, which Republicans have been trying to fight off.
How else to explain US Sen. Rand Paul’s repeated references to the Monica Lewinsky scandal that nearly did in Bill Clinton lo these 16 years ago?
Mr. Paul brought it up on NBC’s “Meet the Press” two weeks ago.
“He took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his office,” Paul told host David Gregory. “There is no excuse for that, and that is predatory behavior.”
On Newsmax TV Thursday, Paul – reportedly considering a presidential run himself – tried to connect Clinton’s past to 2016 front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"What if that unsavory character is your husband?" Paul asked. "What if that unsavory character is Bill Clinton raising money for people across the country, and what if he were someone that was guilty of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior at the workplace – which, obviously, having sex with an intern at the office is inappropriate by any standard."
Then he came back to it in a pre-taped C-SPAN interview to be broadcast Sunday.
Said Paul: “The Democrats can't say, 'We're the great defenders of women's rights in the workplace and we will defend you against some kind of abusive boss that uses their position of authority to take advantage of a young women' when the leader of their party, the leading fundraiser in the country, is Bill Clinton, who was a perpetrator of that kind of sexual harassment. Anybody who wants to take money from Bill Clinton or have a fundraiser has a lot of explaining to do.”
Maybe so, but Republicans still have explaining of their own to.
On Friday, former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee tried to explain away his comment last month to a meeting of the Republican National Committee. He had said:
“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without ‘Uncle Sugar’ coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or reproductive system without the help of the government, so be it.”
Not surprisingly, many women – Republicans as well as Democrats – found Huckabee’s phraseology off-putting to say the least.
On Friday, he was asked on Fox News if he wanted to take back his “libido” statement. No, he said, but he did try to make light of it in his typically folksy way:
“No, why would I? What’s wrong with – even the word?” he said. “It’s a wholesome thing. God gave us sexual drive. It’s not something dirty. It isn’t vulgar. It’s a wonderful gift from God in the context of a relationship between a man and a woman who have committed to each other as life partners. That’s a good thing. There’s nothing unholy or untoward about that.”
“My point was, not that I believe this, but I said the Democrats act as if women are only concerned about these reproductive issues,” Huckabee explained.
The next couple of election cycles will tell whether or not the GOP has fixed its “gender gap” problem, silencing Democrats’ “war on women” harangue.
At this point, the need is obvious.
According to a CNN/ORC International poll released Friday, 55 percent of Americans surveyed say the GOP doesn't understand women. That number rises to 59 percent among all women and 64 percent among women over 50.
"That last number is intriguing, since older women are more likely to vote Republican than younger women. Yet younger women don't have as much of a problem with the GOP on this measure," polling director Keating Holland said in CNN’s report. "That suggests that the problem women have with the Republican Party may be related less to the policy positions the GOP takes and more related to the attitudes behind those policies and the tone the party takes when addressing them.”
"When you look at our position on issues, a lot of times majority of Americans agree with our positions. But it's the way that we talk about it that doesn't resonate and we have to do a better job," Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State, the highest ranking Republican woman in the House, told CNN. "I think it's fair to say there have been some comments which are offensive and they're not representative of the entire Republican Party."
Which just gives Bill Clinton – baggage and all – plenty of room and reason to do well for Democrats.