- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Former President Bill Clinton joined his wife, Hillary, for a rare joint campaign appearance last night, raising $2.7 million for her presidential bid and telling about 1,000 donors he always thought she was the best public servant of their generation.

“This is cool — I get to introduce Hillary,” Mr. Clinton said at the fundraising event that, in true Clinton style, started more than an hour after the announced time.

As the couple stood together on the raised stage at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Mr. Clinton described his wife as someone who already has had the experience in the White House and in the world, noting that she visited 82 countries as first lady and has been proved correct on her health care proposals from early in his administration.

For her part, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, joked that she thinks it would be illegal to name her husband secretary of state if she becomes president, as she said some have asked her to do. But she said she “can make him ambassador to the world, because we have a lot of work to do to get our country back in the standing it should be.”

Outside the hotel, protesters from the group Code Pink demanded that Mrs. Clinton become more strident in trying to end the war in Iraq, and one woman made it into the ballroom and started chanting in the middle of Mrs. Clinton’s remarks. As soon as she realized what was going on, Mrs. Clinton launched into an applause line, drawing an extended cheer from the audience that drowned the woman out. The protester was then escorted out by security.

Last night’s fundraiser was the third joint appearance for the former first couple in less than 20 days. The two kept separate public schedules for the first month-and-a-half after Mrs. Clinton announced that she would seek her party’s presidential nomination in 2008.

Each of those three appearances has been a strategic move that uses Mr. Clinton to his best advantage: fundraising last week in Manhattan and again yesterday in Washington, and helping court black voters in Selma, Ala., where Mr. Clinton was added into the program at the last moment to personally be inducted into the Voting Rights Hall of Fame.

The plan had been for Mrs. Clinton to accept the induction on his behalf, but she said he was able to rearrange his schedule to make it. Some pundits saw it as an attempt to help Mrs. Clinton go toe to toe with Sen. Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat who is also running for president.

Speaking to Radio Iowa at the time, Mrs. Clinton said joint appearances would be rare, but she wants them to occur.

“It’ll happen when it can because, you know, I love seeing him. I love having him with me,” she said.

For the most part, Mr. Clinton’s schedule includes separate private fundraisers for his wife, and speaking engagements with Democrats and civil rights groups.

“It’s a real tricky situation for her because Bill Clinton has the ability to overshadow anyone, including his wife,” said Morris Reid, a political strategist not affiliated with any campaign. “She has to be real careful; she doesn’t want to be upstaged. The flip side of that is, if she doesn’t roll him out, everyone is going to say ‘what’s the problem.’ ”

He said former Vice President Al Gore suffered in 2000 when he tried to distance himself from Mr. Clinton, and he said he hopes the Clinton operation has learned that lesson.

Mr. Reid said Mrs. Clinton should keep using Mr. Clinton as a surrogate for places she can’t go, to visit places where his popularity is higher than hers, and to do private fundraisers.

“I’d use him in spades in Ohio, early and often,” he said.

Mrs. Clinton does not shy away from tying herself to her husband’s policies.

“You know, he and I have a lot of the same beliefs about fiscal responsibility and helping the middle class and trying to restore our manufacturing base and dealing with health care and education and energy costs,” she told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Thanks to their time in the White House, Mrs. Clinton is a well-known figure — which means opinions about her are already set for many voters.

A recent national survey of likely voters by pollster John Zogby found that 46 percent of those polled said they would not vote for Mrs. Clinton under any circumstances, further underscoring doubts among some Democrats about her electability. Among men, 51 percent said they would never vote for her, nor would 42 percent of women, the Zogby poll reported.

Significantly, 18 percent of Democrats said they would “never cast a vote in Clinton’s favor,” compared to 19 percent who said that about her two chief rivals for the nomination, Mr. Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, the Democrats’ 2004 vice-presidential nominee.

“This includes a significant number of Republicans, conservative-leaning independents, liberal anti-war people who don’t trust her, plus those who don’t like her for a number of reasons, including those who consider her polarizing or feel she can’t win,” Mr. Zogby said in a telephone interview from Beirut.

“If there is 46 percent who say never, then there are the rest who can be drawn from. But when I see 33 percent who say they could never vote for Obama or Edwards, and even Al Gore has less than that, then there is a problem with her and her campaign,” Mr. Zogby said.

The Zogby poll was conducted March 7 to 9 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

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