When it comes to convention speakers, Bill Clinton is in a league of his own—he even gives the incumbent president a run for his money this week. By a huge margin, Democratic Party operatives in Charlotte and those watching the show back home say that of all the headliners who are addressing the Democratic confab—excluding the one who works in the Oval Office—Clinton’s remarks are the ones they are most looking forward to. And Republicans agree.
Those are the findings of the National Journal Convention Insiders Poll—an anonymous survey of Democratic and Republican elected and party officials, grassroots activists, consultants, fundraisers, lobbyists, and interest-group leaders conducted over the weekend.
Convention Insiders were asked which of five prime-time speakers in Charlotte they were “most looking forward to hearing”—Vice President Joe Biden; Clinton; San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro; first lady Michelle Obama; or Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of the 140 Democratic Insiders who responded said the former president was their man. More than half (57 percent) of the 145 GOP Insiders concurred.
Democratic Convention Insiders positively gushed in anticipation of Clinton’s scheduled address on Wednesday night. “He is always amazing,” said one. Another swooned, “He is still the bomb! Balanced our budget and left a surplus.” Added a third: “Everybody loves Bubba. Right now, the best surrogate in either party.”
Some Democratic Convention Insiders are almost reverential toward Clinton. “We are fortunate in more ways than one to have the most credible political figure in America on our side,” declared one. “Ronnie’s gone, Bush One is outdated, Bush Two is discredited: Isn’t it ironic that the elder statesman of American politics is Bubba?”
Even Republicans extol the ex-president their leaders in Congress tried to impeach. “He is twice as smart, twice as eloquent, and twice as effective as any other Democrat,” said one GOP Convention Insider. “Bill Clinton is the only Democrat at this convention that Republicans both respect and fear.” And another pronounced that Clinton was “still the best in the business at making a political argument.”
Among the Democratic Insiders, Warren—seeking to unseat Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.—was a distant second. Only 11 percent said that they were most looking forward to hearing her speak, while 10 percent named the first lady, 6 percent said they were anticipating Castro’s keynote address, and 4 percent said they most looking forward to Biden’s remarks.
Almost one-fifth (19 percent) of the Republican Convention Insiders said they were most looking forward to Biden’s speech set for Thursday night, but that was because they hoped Biden would veer off script and perhaps produce a gaffe. “Need the entertainment of seeing if he sticks to the teleprompter,” cracked one GOP Insider.
Given Clinton’s sway over Democrats, a follow-up question was posed on Sunday to Convention Insiders in both parties: “Whose convention speech are you most looking forward to hearing, Bill Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s?” More than half (56 percent) of the 164 Democratic Convention Insiders who responded said Obama, while 44 percent still said Clinton.
But many Democrats who gave the nod to the president seemed to be doing so more out of necessity than love. “Obama needs to make a better case for four more years,” said one Democratic Convention Insider. “This is as good a chance as any.” Another echoed, “While I look forward to Clinton, I need to hear a good—really good—speech from the president.” And a third noted, “Clinton will always be the man, but Obama is the one up for reelection.”
Republican Insiders still rated Clinton No. 1: Almost three-fourths (72 percent) of the 145 GOP Convention Insiders who responded said they most looked forward to his speech, while only 28 percent said they wanted to hear from Obama.
See a list of the Insiders here.