The Clinton Voters Count

Wednesday, 08 Aug 2012 03:46 PM

By Christopher Ruddy Newsmax

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Christopher Ruddy’s Perspective: When I met Mitt Romney this summer during our interview with him for Newsmax magazine’s cover story, I told him this election could be close, and if he wanted to win, he would need to win over the “Clinton voter.”

According to a new Gallup Poll, former President Bill Clinton’s popularity is at a record high, with 66 percent of Americans viewing him favorably. In addition to Democrats, he has wide support among independents and even 44 percent of Republicans now view Clinton favorably.

bill-clinton-getty.jpg
Former President Clinton's popularity is at a record high.
(Getty Images)
I have talked before about the re-evaluation of Bill Clinton by Republicans in the years since he left office.

Two recent books have helped me come to this new perspective. In “Clintonomics: How Bill Clinton Reengineered the Reagan Revolution,” political scientist Jack Godwin found that as president, Clinton was not hostile to “Reaganomics.” Indeed, Godwin argues that Clinton embraced Reaganomics and sought to “perfect” Reagan’s policies by making them more appealing to middle voters.

Clinton made great strides in doing just that. Working with congressional Republicans led by Newt Gingrich, he enacted welfare reform, shrank government bureaucracy, slashed capital gains taxes, and not only balanced the budget, but ran budget surpluses for three years in a row.

In foreign policy, Richard Sale’s “Clinton’s Secret Wars: The Evolution of a Commander in Chief” lays out the case that here again Clinton embraced and improved upon Reagan’s approach. And, since leaving the White House, Clinton, advised by his counsel Doug Band, has redefined the office of post-presidency as no other, crafting a new role for himself largely through the establishment of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative. Today, Clinton uses this bully pulpit to tackle policy issues including health, poverty, economic empowerment, and the environment in more than 180 countries.

What does all this have to do with Mitt Romney?

They were once called “Reagan Democrats” and now these swing voters have morphed into “Clinton Democrats” who still like Bill Clinton and are nostalgic for the 1990s.

Pollsters say this group is largely made up of white, blue-collar voters — also described as white, non-college voters — who helped Reagan win two election victories in the 1980s and then supported Democrat Clinton in the 1990s.

After being distant from Clinton during most of his first term, Obama has obviously woken up. He now recognizes the need to attract Clinton’s voters. Smartly, Obama bestowed on Clinton the No. 1 prime-time slot of the convention, asking the former president to officially nominate him at the Democratic National Convention.

Political analyst Michael Barone recently wrote of Romney’s need to bring these Reagan/Clinton Democrats into the Republican fold in November. He pointed to estimates that Romney must capture two-thirds of white, non-college voters — a very high bar to attain.

The reason Romney must do so well is that white non-college voters are a much smaller part of the electorate now. Back when Reagan won his 1984 re-election landslide, these voters represented 61 percent of all voters. Today, they are just 39 percent of the electorate.

Demographics have been moving in favor of the Democrats due to their support among growing numbers of ethnic minority voters.

Romney faces an uphill battle for sure, but he can still win by stressing his common sense, non-doctrinaire conservatism that appeals to these voters.

Romney should remind these voters that he will govern like Clinton, reminding them of the ’90s when the president and Congress worked together on welfare reform, debt reduction, and other issues.

By doing this, he contrasts himself to Obama, who has proven to be too doctrinaire on domestic policy to get the job done.

Obama has had four years, and as Romney often points out, his promises have not been achieved.

But a negative campaign alone won’t win this election. At the end of the day Americans want a positive agenda.

Romney can show how we can use free-market solutions to deal with poverty, healthcare, jobs, and the economy.

In short, he can adopt the kinds of Reaganesque policies that appealed to Clinton voters, and gave Clinton the highest end-of-office approval rating of any president since World War II — a popularity he retains today.

Christopher Ruddy is CEO and editor of Newsmax Media Inc. Read more Christopher Ruddy Insider articles — Click Here Now.

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