In the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections, many Democrats are focused on embracing the #MeToo movement and therefore see former President Bill Clinton as "too toxic" to campaign for Democratic candidates.
The party has recognized the inherent conflict with embracing Clinton, who has faced multiple sexual assault allegations, while also embracing the #MeToo movement and working to rally women against President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress. Despite Clinton having had an active role in campaigns in the past, many Democrats do not want him getting involved in competitive races across the country, according to Politico.
"I think it’s pretty tough," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), vice chair of the House Progressive Caucus and one of the leading voices in Congress speaking out against sexual harassment. "[His presence] just brings up a lot of issues that will be very tough for Democrats. And I think we all have to be clear about what the #MeToo movement was."
After Democrats forced out Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) and Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.) because of sexual misconduct allegations, they wanted to make sure they could draw a clear contrast with Trump, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct. Several Democrats acknowledged that creating such a distinction would be difficult if they invited Clinton to campaign with them.
"I value the assets of what the Clintons can bring. He did a lot for Georgia when he was president," added Georgia Democratic Chair DuBose Porter, treading delicately. "He carried Georgia. The personal side that is now being highlighted, we’ll have to measure."
Jayapal and Porter went on-the-record about Clinton, but several Democrats wanted to remain anonymous and therefore spoke more candidly and harsher about the possibility of Clinton campaigning. The were unwavering on the fact they did not want the former president to go to their states or discuss their campaigns. Many Democrats expressed the fear that if they did appearances with him while making the #MeToo movement a staple of their campaign, Republicans would call them hypocrites.
Clinton made over 100 appearances during the 2010 midterms and was very active during the 2014 midterms, despite having more than twice the amount of losses as victories among Democratic candidates he endorsed. Two years earlier, former President Barack Obama nicknamed Clinton his "explainer-in-chief."
With many Democrats already planning ahead for 2020, Clinton's likely absence from the campaign stump will increase the demand for high-profile surrogates like Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, who has been floated as a potential 2020 presidential candidate, and other 2020 hopefuls. Two-time failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will also participate in some targeted campaigning since her political action committee, Onward Together, will be involved in the 2018 midterms.
A source familiar with Bill Clinton's plans pushed back against the narrative that Democrats are distancing themselves from the former president, noting he has received several preliminary requests from campaigns for advice and events later in the year. The source said Clinton has had a few conversations with candidates but hasn't initiated calls or confirmed events because he wouldn't start evaluating political stops until late-summer or the fall, according to Politico.
"President Clinton has been diligently working on his book. He’s also been focused on the work of his foundation," the Clinton source said. "So beyond a few requests for support and advice from a few candidates, he hasn’t spent much time on the midterms."
"People call me all the time [to ask] if I can talk to him, put [their] requests in," said James Carville, the former Clinton strategist who remains close with him.
Carville said he believes the former president will do some campaigning, but given Clinton’s age — 71 — and other factors, "it can’t be like it used to."
But "there are people who want him, I promise you," Carville said.
Several Democratic campaigns have already polled Clinton’s popularity in their races, weighing whether to take the risk of inviting him out. Others say they’d love to see him chip in, so long as he sticks to New York, at closed-door fundraisers for them where no photographs of them together are taken.
"Depending on the audience, there will definitely be people … [who] will be uncomfortable," said Rep. Grace Meng (D., N.Y.). But there will also "definitely be people who want to see him."
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), a longtime friend; financial beneficiary of the Clintons; and potential 2020 candidate, said in November that Clinton should have resigned from the White House in the 1990's following his extramarital relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.