Bill Clinton on wife's 2008 campaign, possible 2016 run
September 29th, 2013
02:56 PM ET
7 months ago

Bill Clinton on wife's 2008 campaign, possible 2016 run

Washington (CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton weighed in Sunday on the lessons learned from the 2008 presidential campaign, when his wife, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, battled then-Sen. Barack Obama through a historic Democratic primary.

At the heart of it, the 42nd president said, candidates need to be able to define themselves before the opposition does it.

"You have to have a strategy for presenting your true self to the voters, in an environment where there are unprecedented opportunities for those who don't want you to win to paint a different picture of your true self," he said in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

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If Hillary Clinton decides to run in 2016, she's well poised to become the leading Democratic contender. With that in mind, pundits and political observers have frequently looked back on her 2008 campaign, one that was criticized for a tightly knit inner circle that didn't listen to outside advice. Clinton also struggled at times with likability issues among some voters. Even Obama skewered her for it: "You're likable enough, Hillary," he said at a primary debate.

In the interview, Bill Clinton said the modern political climate makes it difficult for voters to connect with candidates.

"We have learned that it's a strategy in modern life to make - do reverse plastic surgery on people, so that people don't really know who you are," he said. "That's what I got out of 2008. … There's always, in every campaign, a storyline and a story. And the candidate should want as much as possible for the storyline and the story to coincide."

"But 2008 was way more complicated than that," he added.

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Clinton acknowledged that Obama had more experience at elections than Hillary Clinton did at the time, and Obama's grass-roots movement was more advanced technologically. He also faulted the primary season for having too many caucuses, whose rules, he said, are loosely enforced.

In a lengthy New York magazine article about Hillary Clinton last week, her top aides said the former secretary of state had absorbed the lessons of the past.

"She doesn't repeat her mistakes," said Melanne Verveer, an aide to Hillary Clinton when she was first lady, who then served in the State Department as ambassador-at-large for global women's issues. "She really learns from her mistakes. It's like, you want to grow a best practice and then always operate on that. She analyzes, 'What went wrong here?' " Verveer told New York.

Bill Clinton, though not saying anything about his wife's 2016 plans, said the next presidential election "will be better."

"It'll be different," he continued. "Whether she's in it or not, they're all different. And the main thing...is you must learn the lessons of your mistakes and your failures without becoming a general who fights the last war, because every new encounter will be shaped by different forces."


Filed under: 2008 Election • 2016 • Bill Clinton • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    You mean Bill will be Secretary of State ?

    September 29, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. Rick McDaniel

    Hillary will finish destroying whatever is left of America, after Obama has done his best to totally destroy the country.

    September 29, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  3. Jules

    Hillary Clinton would make a great president, but don't look to the GOP to treat her much different than they have President Obama. First African American President and the first female president put much more competition into the mix for all those white men dreaming of being president. Suddenly, there is a lot more competition, right fellas? Breaks my heart. Hillary 2016 and stand strong, Mr. President even if the GOP House dreams of shutting down the government. Time to implement the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) so people can start reaping the benefits. We attended an excellent seminar on the ACA. Hope that is going on all over the country.

    September 29, 2013 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  4. KW

    Hillary will finish rebuilding America from the devastation that Bush left for Obama... At that point maybe we can keep Canadians out of our government, and keep Austrailians out of our media...

    September 29, 2013 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  5. John Warren

    I want no more executives who are named Clinton, Bush, the United States has had enough of both clans.

    September 29, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  6. Richard Long

    We still have over three years left in the Obama Regime. What is CNN saying? Was Obama that much of a mistake in the first place?

    September 29, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  7. What's in that tea anyway?

    @Rick McDaniel

    Hillary will finish destroying whatever is left of America, after Obama has done his best to totally destroy the country
    --
    yeah...because Bush did such a good job bringing prosperity to this country....Take your meds Rick, lay down and give the faux news talking points a rest...geesh

    September 29, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  8. scot s

    rick mcdaniel: Don't worry about going to hell, you're already there. Enjoy!

    September 30, 2013 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  9. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "The Lunatic Fringe"

    Is it true what I heard, that one of the surviving family members of Benghazi is running for office?

    September 30, 2013 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  10. Hannah

    I would have chosen Clinton over Obama in 2008 , but in 2016 there will hopefully be some candidates that are more experienced and qualified and defianetly more middle of the road to bring unity back to the country.

    September 30, 2013 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  11. DaCarnivor

    Rise up and take back this once great nation it is being destroyed everyday as we stand by and watch like idle drones :) have a good day crackers

    September 30, 2013 07:58 am at 7:58 am |