Bill Clinton, the sex-impeached former president who made a spectacle of himself in his wife’s failed bid for the presidential nomination, is now the most popular politician in America.
He’s one of the very few politicians benefiting at the moment from having more people approve of him than disapprove. There are only three, actually, and one of those is within the margin of error.
This is according to a poll released midweek for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, which makes clear four things.
One is that there’s never any keeping Clinton down.
Two is the thinking behind Clinton’s heightened role lately in campaigning for the imperiled Democratic cause in November. These numbers aren’t news to Democratic strategists, I’m sure.
Three is that the best way to be the most popular American politician is to be a former American politician.
Fourth is how poorly contemporary American politicians are regarded, especially the Republicans who have the most celebrity, which is to say notoriety.
Republicans may well rack up in the forthcoming midterms.
After that, though, they really need to find somebody new for the presidential contest two years hence.
Let’s run down these leading political figures and their numbers, then analyze a bit:
Clinton — He was liked by 55 percent of the respondents and disliked by 23 percent. This reflects, most likely, that his foundation does noble work globally, that the job of a former president is easier than that of the current president and that there is a burning American nostalgia for a better, happier time.
The differences may be that Congress did Clinton the favor of not enacting his and Hillary’s health care reform bill and that our economy was not bankrupt when Clinton took office.
Obama — He’s at 47 percent positive and 41 percent negative. Those numbers aren’t all that bad, actually, considering the stormy sounds of the political climate.
He can wend his way to a second term with those numbers. He can turn into Jimmy Carter with them, too.
Mike Huckabee — He’s the only other politician in positive numbers, and the lone Republican, but it’s nothing to brag about. Nearly half the people are without an opinion. Of those with an opinion, 26 percent are favorable and 25 percent unfavorable. Considering the poll’s 3 percentage-point margin of error, Huckabee could be south of the popularity line, actually.
I think he’s finished with politics, gone over to the worlds of entertainment and cable television gab.
The other interesting point is this one: Only three major American politicians show positive ratings in this survey, and two of them come from a tiny burg in southwestern Arkansas called Hope.
Mitt Romney — The former Massachusetts governor has only a 21 percent favorable rating and a 30 percent unfavorable one. It’s because he comes off as unctuous and willing to adapt himself to the momentary political whim.
Newt Gingrich — He is viewed favorably by 24 percent and unfavorably by 35 percent. The shock is that the former number isn’t much lower and the latter much higher.
Sarah Palin — Her numbers are the highest among Republicans. She has a 30 percent favorable rating but an astronomical 48 percent unfavorable one. Take two people. One of them won’t like her.
So to conclude: There are two major projects to be undertaken. One is Obama’s rehabilitation. The other is the Republican search for some national figure people can stand.
John Brummett is an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock and author of “High Wire,” a book about Bill Clinton’s first year as president. His e-mail address is jbrummett@ arkansasnews.com.