Gallup released a poll yesterday confirming what seems obviously true: former President Bill Clinton is really popular.
Looking at an image like this, I can't help but think about the "Reagan Legacy Project," launched in 1997, to convince public officials nationwide to start naming streets, schools, highways, and airports after the nation's 40th president. Reagan left office relatively popular, but Republicans were afraid his stature and reputation might dwindle over time, so they needed a coordinated public-relations effort to encourage the public to support him.
Clinton didn't need a similar effort -- Americans just like him on their own and remember his terms in office fondly.
In 2012, it sets up a rather remarkable contrast. At the Republican National Convention this year, both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney won't even bother showing up. It's the first time since Nixon resigned in disgrace that a president didn't attend the first convention after leaving office.
At the Democratic National Convention, meanwhile, Bill Clinton will have a starring role, and will very likely hit the trail for the Obama/Biden ticket in the fall. While some Democrats were reluctant to be seen with Clinton during his presidency, they'll be tripping over one another to beg for his support now.
Some of the younger readers in the audience may not remember the 1990s very well, but it's worth noting that these circumstances were not easy to predict. Republicans didn't just hate Clinton, they were driven by a blinding rage. GOP lawmakers -- who ultimately launched an unjust impeachment crusade -- woke up every morning with a simple thought during that era: what can I do to undermine the Clinton presidency today?
More than a decade after leaving office, Clinton is not only one of the most popular political figures in the nation, he also remains one of the most well-liked and well-respected people on the planet. Mitt Romney has even tried to use Clinton's successes as a wedge, suggesting President Obama isn't similar enough to the last Democratic president.
Will the Obama team take full advantage of Clinton's unrivaled standing? Count on it.