Democrats really miss George W. Bush. At least they miss running against him.
It’s been a whole year since the former president vacated the political stage, but Democrats are again invoking him in a last-ditch effort to retain the late Ted Kennedy’s senate seat.
Just days before a close election, Bill Clinton is urging residents of Massachusetts via automated telephone calls to vote for Democratic candidate Martha Coakley. Clinton argues her opponent Scott Brown would help Republicans "bring back President Bush’s economic policies."
Bush was highly unpopular by the end of his second term, and America seems not to have forgotten him. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll last month found that 58 percent of the country deems the Bush years "awful" or "not so good."
Anti-Bush posturing helped Democrats regain control of Congress and build enormous majorities in 2006 and 2008. And they haven’t given it up.
Democratic candidates from Virginia and New Jersey compared their Republican opponents to Bush in November’s gubernatorial elections. While both were unsuccessful in their election bids, the strategy could prove effective in the more progressive Massachusetts.
Democrats are also hoping it will work on a national level.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said last month that Democrats will revive their attacks on Bush in November’s midterms, in an effort to stave off what could potentially be major losses.
The following is the script of Bill Clinton’s call [mp3]:
Hello, this is Bill Clinton. I’m calling to urge you to get out and vote for Martha Coakley on Tuesday, January 19.
This election is critical, not just for Massachussetts but for our entire country. The Republicans are spending millions of dollars to win Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat and they’re telling you that they’ve got a better economic plan, when all they want is to bring back President Bush’s economic policies. They’re telling you they’ve got a health care plan, when all they want is to leave the health insurance companies in control of America’s health care and bankrupt the country.
So please, get out and vote for Martha Coakley on Tuesday January 19. I know her. She's a good person. She’ll be a good Senator.
A huge election for Democrats
If Coakley wins Tuesday's election, the result is a mathematical status-quo for Democrats as the seat is being temporarily held by former Democratic National Committee chairman Paul Kirk.
But a Brown victory would add the 41st Republican to the chamber, disrupting Democrats’ filibuster-proof senate majority and enabling an increasingly defiant GOP to derail President Obama’s legislative initiatives.
In a sign of how seriously Democrats view this battle, Clinton and Obama are both making appearances in Massachusetts to campaign for Coakley.
“The stakes in this race are incredibly high,” said DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan, equating Brown with the “far-right tea-party crowd.”
“If we don't hold this seat, a right-wing Republican will hold Sen. Ted Kennedy's old seat until at least 2012 -- and we'll lose a crucial vote in the Senate for health reform and the agenda we fought so hard for last year,” he said.
The election is in part a proxy war over the controversial health reform package passed by Democrats in Congress. Health care was the top issue in the debates between the candidates.
“If Scott Brown wins, it'll kill the health bill,” said Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA).
Polls say the race is in a statistical dead heat, with Brown barely edging out Coakley.