Bill Clinton's long game for Hillary

Is there some sort of mystery behind the new found love festival going on between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama? I mean, he’s an ex-president from the same party as the current White House occupant. Ostensibly they should share the same general vision for the country. It’s not like he’s going to vote for Romney, so clearly he’d be supporting Obama, right?

That sounds fairly obvious, but should it be this enthusiastic? They had their share of spats during the 2008 Democratic primary, and things got rather testy at times. Are those woulds fully healed by now? That’s the question Dana Milbank tackles this weekend. What’s up with the bromance?

How to explain this budding “bromance,” as first lady Michelle Obama puts it, between her husband and Bill Clinton?

The 44th president and the 42nd president are indeed having a whirlwind affair in the closing days of the campaign. President Obama takes Clinton on three campaign stops next week, stopping in Orlando, Youngstown, Ohio, and Northern Virginia to kick off the last full week of the race.

Apparently some are seeing the shadow of Hillary on the wall here.

Sen. John McCain floated a theory last week about the bromance. The Arizona Republican, in a conference call for the Romney campaign Tuesday, told reporters that there are “some that think this may have a lot to do with 2016 and the president’s wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Of course, I would never suspicion such a thing, but there are some real jerks around who think that might be the case.”

I am one of those jerks. I don’t subscribe to the prevailing theory that Clinton’s efforts to boost Obama are about solidifying his own legacy. Clinton is a shrewd strategist, and he surely must have grasped that it is highly unlikely that Hillary Clinton, or any other Democrat, will win in 2016 if Obama does not win in 2012.

Milbank is hardly the first to toss out this theory, but it depends on the assumption that the US economy is on the way back, albeit rather slowly at the moment. Under this scenario, no matter who is president for the next four years, the economy will fight its way back as it’s always done after receiving a stiff body blow. It may be faster under Romney or slower under Obama, but the general outlook will be better either way in 2016 than it is now. And whoever holds the keys of power in the White House is going to get to take credit for it.

If you sign on for that set of assumptions, as Milbank explains it, then another logical one follows. If Mitt Romney wins the election next week, he’s going to have a pretty easy glide path for a second term. If, conversely, Obama wins, he will credit his policies with the reviving economy and whoever the Democrats nominate next should be the beneficiary of that good will among the voters.

But wait… Hillary isn’t interested in working any more, is she?

Hillary Clinton continues to deny interest in another run, but she is already inching away from a similar vow that she would not serve as secretary of state in a second Obama term. “A lot of people have talked to me about staying,” she told the Wall Street Journal in a recent interview.

This could give her time to repair any damage to her reputation caused by security lapses that led to the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. Her longtime aide in charge of protecting her image, Philippe Reines, has engaged in a series of high-profile squabbles with media outlets recently, which is more suggestive of an aspiring candidate than of a retiring diplomat.

Her campaign theme is already being prepared by her husband, who is establishing that the expansion of the next four years will be attributable to Clintonian methods. “We created 22 million new jobs and turned deficits into surpluses,” Clinton says in his new ad for Obama. “President Obama’s got it right. We should invest in the middle class, education and innovation, and pay down our debt with spending restraint and asking the wealthy to pay a little more. Sound familiar?”

I’m still not sure about this one. It’s fairly easy to write this off as some political parlor games in the closing days of the campaign, as we all wait for it to finally be over. And I’m still not sure how much I buy the idea that Hillary is ready for another shot at the brass ring, particularly in 2016 when she will be 69 years old. But then again, if anyone should know it would be Bill. (Assuming he’s not still sleeping on the couch.) I’ll leave the call on this one up to you.

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