Mitt Romney Invokes Bill Clinton for Centrist Appeal, But It's a Losing Strategy

On Wednesday, all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, while stumping in Lansing, Michigan, invoked the economic and social prosperity of the Clinton years while praising the 42nd president as a pragmatic, successful centrist. The move comes as Romney cemented a 3-state primary sweep earlier this week, putting him in a highly favorable position where he needs just over 200 more delegates to secure the 1,144 necessary to clinch the nomination. 

Liberal strategists see Romney’s tributes to Clinton as a calculated maneuver to divide liberal and centrists Democrats, as the latter may be amenable to a Romney presidency. The former Massachusetts governor himself stated that: “President Clinton, remember, he said the era of big government was over. President Obama brought it back with a vengeance. Government at all levels now consumes about 38 percent of the economy, and if Obamacare is installed, that will rise to about half of the economy.”

Romney’s attempt to hijack the Clinton legacy to garner moderate Democrat and independent voters, however, is an abundantly misguided strategy. Most obviously, although Clinton is a centrist New Democrat with a history of embracing more conservative policies than Obama, such differences have not stopped Clinton from supporting Obama and his vision for America. Obama and Clinton have already campaigned together, and the former president’s influence may actually be far more powerful. There are reports of Clinton functioning as a campaign whisperer, imparting crucial advice pertaining to message framing and the appropriate characterization of the Republican opponent.

There is also the issue of the other Clinton. Bill’s wife and longtime political confidante, Hillary, is currently serving as Obama’s Secretary of State. She consistently ranks among the most popular public officials in the country, if not the most popular, and is potentially harboring her own presidential ambitions in 2016, although she has consistently denied such rumors.

Therefore, Romney attempting to court potential swing voters by dividing Democrats is a flawed strategy given the support both Clintons have shown Obama even after the lengthy, bitter 2008 Democratic presidential primary that ended with Obama triumphing over Hillary. Romney is clearly attempting to move back to the center in preparation for the general election, hoping to re-re-brand himself as a candidate suitable for a more moderate electorate. Using the successes of the Clinton regime appears an adroit way to achieve the necessary shift; unfortunately, usurping Clinton to bolster the GOP is impossible given the realities of Obama’s reelection campaign and current administrative makeup.