WASHINGTON — To some partisans, it may sound jarring: President Obama talks about how he and former rival John McCain were simpatico in 2008 while Mitt Romney fondly recalls Bill Clinton’s White House tenure.
Yet lauding the prominent elder statesmen from the opposing party has become a regular feature of the 2012 presidential race, with Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, using Clinton to score points against Obama the same way the president seeks such an advantage by invoking McCain.
The primary goal of these efforts is to appeal to independent voters, said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University in Houston.
“It’s a way of showing a kind of largesse” toward the opposition while also painting your current campaign rival as an extremist, Brinkley said. “It’s a constant in politics.”
For Obama, praising McCain is “a way to say that Romney is more of a right-wing ideologue,” Brinkley said. Romney is doing “the exact same thing” when he highlights Clinton’s accomplishments — depicting Obama as overly partisan, he said.
Positive comment by Romney about Clinton also lets the former Massachusetts governor show himself as “not just beating up on all Democrats,” Brinkley said.
“And because Obama actually beat McCain,” the president’s favorable remarks about him are “a subliminal way of earmarking that he’s going to be able to beat Romney,” Brinkley said.
Obama has made positive public mentions of McCain, an Arizona senator, at least six times over the last two months, including telling donors at a June 14 fund-raiser hosted in New York City how much he had agreed with his rival on issues central to their 2008 battle.
Romney similarly has invoked Clinton, the former Democratic president, at least four times over the same period, including extolling him as a “mainstream”’ leader who worked with Republicans to shrink government and overhaul the welfare system.
Romney joins a list of Republicans who now praise Clinton, including some who tried to oust him from office after disclosure of his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. These include McCain, an impeachment supporter who recently has been praising Clinton for US intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s as a way of encouraging Obama to do the same in Syria.
Fla. appeals order blocking voter-registraion regulations
NEW YORK — Florida officials told a federal appeals court that they may seek to reverse a lower court order blocking the enforcement of the state’s restrictions on voter-registration groups.
The Florida secretary of state, attorney general, and director of division elections filed the notice with the US Court of Appeals in Atlanta in a case brought by the League of Women Voters. The ruling they are challenging bars requirements that voter-drive groups turn over registration materials to the state within 48 hours of completion or face fines of as much as $1,000.