President Bill Clinton will be in Portland Tuesday night to deliver a speech at a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. It’s a safe bet that most Mainers know the man.
But do you really know him?
Here’s five things that might put his visit in context:
1. He makes a lot of money talking
Tons of it. In fact, one could argue that the Clinton’s oratory skills helped lift his family from certain financial abyss to the realm of the uber-wealthy. According to an analysis conducted this summer by the Washington Post, Bill and Hillary Clinton made $104.9 million between 2001 and 2013. During one stretch in 2012, the former president made $1.4 million in seven days.
The Clintons have made so much money for their speeches that apparently some Democrats are worried it will become a liability for Hillary if she decides to run for president in 2016. It’s not just the money, but some of the audiences. There are a number of speaking engagements to the financial sector, including a $150,000 speaking engagement before Lehman Brothers in 2007, just before the financial crisis. Lehman had been the fourth largest banking institution in the world, later collapsed and its dealings were the subject of scrutiny over Wall Street executives pay and accountability.
Lehman isn’t Clinton’s fault. But another Post story found that Democrats are worried that such things could undercut the party’s and Hillary’s middle class rhetoric.
2. His speeches make money for others
Monday’s speech in Portland will has been billed as a rally, and that’s what it is. However, a successful rally can serve two purposes, one of which is to generate campaign donations.
In that regard, Bill and Hillary Clinton are bonafide rainmakers.
Bill Clinton is one of the premier fundraising hosts of the Democratic Governors Association, a nonprofit group that advocates for the election of Democratic gubernatorial candidates. He has hosted a number of fundraisers for the DGA already this year, including one in Florida that targeted elite progressive donors (the event sought donations between $5,000 and $25,000). Meanwhile, Hilary Clinton’s Priorities USA super political action committee in August notified the DGA that it was sending the group $250,00, according to a report in Politico.
Bill Clinton’s speech could have an additional impact following last week’s decision by the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. While that decision was mandated by federal judge and meant to level the playing field for independent candidate Eliot Cutler, it also resulted in an unforeseen benefit to Michaud and Republican Gov. Paul LePage. The two party candidates will now be able to receive $3,000 from new, individual donors. Given the limited size of Maine’s donor pool — not to mention the one containing people who have the means to give $3,000 to political candidate — the ethics decision will likely have an impact with out-of-state donors.
Bill Clinton’s appearance here can help Michaud connect with those donors.
3. It’s ‘Mee-schew’
In 2010, Bill Clinton become one of the many that mispronounced Michaud’s last name, calling him ‘Me-shod’:
It happens. Just ask R.T. Rybak, who did it during the Maine Democratic Party convention.
Who’s that, you ask? This guy.
4. Bill Clinton supported the Defense of Marriage Act
That Clinton signed off on a law designed to “protect” the institution of marriage between a man and a woman may be used by some conservatives as a negative, which is a strange criticism considering that the Maine Republican Party adopted the man-woman definition as part of its updated party platform this year.
It’s on shaky ground even if it’s used as a contrast with Michaud, who could become the first openly gay man elected governor in the country. After all, Michaud’s self-described evolution on gay marriage is not unlike Clinton’s. Richard Socarides, a former aide and political strategist for the president, outlined the political circumstances under which DOMA was signed in this New Yorker piece. It’s worth a read.
5. Billgrimage. It’s a thing.
It’s no secret that Bill Clinton remains popular. A poll commissioned in April by the Wall Street Journal showed that 55 percent of respondents had a favorable view of Clinton. His favorability was tied with the pope.
This has been a good thing for Clinton’s home state of Arkansas, where tourists visit the former governor’s birthplace and other attractions marking his rise to power.
Some called it the “Billgrimage.”