From the beginning, political pros worried that Bill Clinton would be the real problem for Hillary Clinton’s quest to become America’s first woman President. It wasn’t just just the womanizing that bothered campaign strategists but they also expressed concerns about his enormous ego and desire to hog the spotlight.
As Hillary heads into make or break primaries in Ohio and Texas, the “Bill” is about to come due and it is not the deal breaker her strategists worried about at the campaign’s beginnings.
Hillary is not losing ground in Ohio or trailing in Texas because of her husband’s skirt chasing or his bombastic campaign appearances. She is suffering because of something he actually accomplished as President: The controversial North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
NAFTA became reality during Bill Clinton’s watch and it looms large as the hot button issue that could sink his wife’s hopes for the Democratic nomination.
Writes Richard Sisk of The New York Daily News:
Hillary Clinton’s campaign in must-have Ohio is struggling to hold onto its core – white, working-class women over 50.
“No way, Gino. I’m sorry but no way I’m voting for her,” Barbara Rice told Gino Carbenia, an affable union rep and well-known local guy who came to her door with Clinton handouts.
In between swipes with her snow shovel at the blizzard over northeast Ohio, the 65-year-old teacher said, “I have my reasons” for rejecting Clinton, and “her husband is one.”
It’s not Bill Clinton the loose cannon of the 2008 primary trail who turns off voters here. It’s the President Bill Clinton who, in 1994, pushed through the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Ohioans blame for the exodus of factory jobs. Barack Obama is trying at every turn to hang the NAFTA sign around Hillary’s neck.
Despite her pledges to renegotiate NAFTA, “Sen. Clinton just has the bad luck of being associated with her husband’s administration,” said Case Western Reserve University’s Alexander Lamis.
In both Ohio and Texas, polls follow a familiar pattern. Clinton’s once-large leads are gone. She trails in Texas and Ohio is a toss-up, giving Barack Obama a shot at capturing both states.
Clinton campaing insiders admit they expect to lose Texas and possibly Ohio. Two weeks ago, Bill Clinton told voters in Texas that if she loses there the race is over. Campaign spin doctors are now trying to distance themselves, once again, from an off-the-cuff remark from the President.
But the polls look bleak.
Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly trails rival Barack Obama in Texas and the two are virtually tied in Ohio ahead of critical contests that could decide the fate of her presidential bid, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Houston Chronicle poll released on Sunday.
Clinton faces heavy pressure to win in both big states on Tuesday and halt the Illinois senator’s momentum after his 11 consecutive victories in their battle to become the Democratic nominee in November’s presidential election.
Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady, has seen big poll leads disappear in both states over the last two weeks as Obama seized control of the Democratic race with his winning streak.
She now trails Obama in Texas by 4 points, 47 percent to 43 percent, up from a 2-point edge for Obama on Saturday. Obama’s strength in the state’s big cities and among men, young voters and blacks has offset her advantage with the state’s sizable bloc of Hispanics and older voters.
Clinton still holds leads in heavily Hispanic south Texas and conservative west Texas, but Obama has pulled virtually even among women voters, usually one of her strongest constituencies.
In Ohio, Clinton has a statistically insignificant 1-point edge on Obama, 47 percent to 46 percent, after the two were dead even on Saturday. That is well within the margin of error of 3.7 percentage points in the poll conducted by Zogby International.
As Clinton and Obama criss-crossed the state last week, Ohio was buffeted by new hits to its already cratered economy.
Many things have gone wrong with the Clinton campaign but her biggest failure may be her husband.
Writes Paul Harris in The London Observer:
Clinton is in the battle of her life and the odds are against her. And it is not only a fight to be the next occupant of the White House. It is also about the legacy that Clinton and her husband, Bill, have left America and whether they still have a role to play.
They are also willing to play nasty to emerge victorious. American TV screens are now full of one of the most aggressive attack ads in recent history. Dubbed ‘Children’, it in effect suggests that a vote for Barack Obama will lead to such weakness on national security that the American homeland will be in peril. It is shot over pictures of sleeping babies and it appeals directly to the ‘security moms’ demographic that Clinton needs.
But the facts on the ground remain the same. It has finally come down to this: on Tuesday, Clinton needs to win Texas and Ohio. Anything less could force her from the race and spell the end of the Clinton dynasty. The revered Clinton brand, once so confident of a second act, is now desperately fighting to stop the curtain coming down early.
James C. Humes, a visiting fellow in history at the University of Colorado, writes in the Pueblo Chiefain:
A president is barred by his country’s constitution from having more than two terms. So he has his best friend and most loyal associate become his party’s candidate for president.
That scenario describes the president of Russia, but also Bill Clinton, who was described by a former New York City congressman, John Le Boutillier, as the “American Putin.”
Before this presidential election year, Clinton had joined George H.W. Bush in promoting disaster and hunger relief and other international charitable causes in Asia and Africa. Clinton, already a popular figure in the world, had enhanced his image as a world statesman.
Now he has sullied that perception as he supplanted the image of a respected former president for that of a pit bull by savaging his wife’s opponent, Barack Obama. As Newsweek’s editor in chief, Evan Thomas, wrote, “His badgering and baiting her principal opponent” is a naked attempt to do something truly unprecedented, “an unelected, unofficial but nonetheless true co-presidency.”