With his wife sidelined, Bill Clinton fills void
The Associated Press
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — When Hillary Clinton was sidelined this week with pneumonia, her campaign didn’t rush to cancel a busy slate of events out West. The presidential candidate’s husband simply stepped in to take her place.
Former President Bill Clinton hobnobbed with wealthy donors at a pair of Beverly Hills fundraisers, including a $100,000-per couple dinner at the home of designer Diane Von Furstenberg. He snapped selfies with fans during a surprise stop at a trendy coffee shop in Los Angeles. And he rallied supporters in swing state Nevada.
“I’m glad to have a chance to stand in for Hillary today,” he told voters in Las Vegas on Wednesday. “She did it for me for a long time. It’s about time I showed up and did it for her.”
Having a former president on standby is an unprecedented luxury for a White House candidate. It’s also a reminder to voters that, when it comes to the Clintons, the couple is a package deal, for better or worse.
That’s been less overt in the 2016 campaign than in some of the Clintons’ previous political endeavors, when they actively pitched themselves as a “two for the price of one” proposition. Other than a prime-time speech at the Democratic convention, Bill Clinton’s general election schedule has been purposely low-key, reflecting the Clinton campaign’s desire to keep him from overshadowing his wife or creating unnecessary distractions.
But those concerns became secondary this week. Hillary Clinton tried to campaign through a bout of pneumonia but was sidelined by her doctor after getting dehydrated and dizzy while attending a 9/11 memorial in New York on Sunday.
Campaign aides quickly called Bill Clinton’s chief of staff to see if he could step in for a few days. The timing wasn’t ideal. His schedule was packed with interviews and other events in New York ahead of next week’s last-ever meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, a wing of the family’s philanthropy.
But aides said he quickly agreed to clear his schedule and fly to California. He’s been calling his wife multiple times a day to check on her health and report back on conversations with donors and other Democrats.
“She’s married to the best surrogate in the world,” said Jerry Crawford, an Iowa Democrat and longtime Clinton ally.
For all his political gifts, Bill Clinton has been an imperfect messenger on his wife’s health this week. He volunteered in an interview that she’s had episodes like this before, and on Wednesday he said she had flu, not pneumonia. A spokesman said he misspoke and meant pneumonia, but such moments provide grist to conspiracy theorists who think Hillary Clinton is hiding health issues.
Hillary Clinton’s aides have spent the general election warily waiting to see if Republican Donald Trump makes good on his promises to turn the former president’s martial affairs into a campaign issue. Trump has steered clear of those issues in recent weeks, but she is still preparing for the possibility he could raise them in the upcoming presidential debates.
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