The White House and Bill Clinton have begun the process of gradually charting out the role the former president will play in helping Democrats maintain control of Congress in 2010.
On Tuesday morning, longtime Clinton confidant Terry McAuliffe told MSNBC that Clinton had already been in talks with President Obama's political team in an effort to coordinate his fall schedule. A person familiar with those and other conversations, meanwhile, elaborated to the Huffington Post about the extent to which the former president will hit the trail.
Clinton, the source said, would be dispatched to places where he has a proven record of being a "validator" for endangered political candidates. On the Senate side, this means trips to Arkansas, New Hampshire, and potentially California. He'll be "helpful in a place like Kentucky," the source added. He has a special relationship with Florida Democrat Kendrick Meek as well.
On the House side, the process is likely to be more improvised. At the behest of the White House, Clinton traveled to upstate Pennsylvania several months ago to campaign on behalf of Mark Critz. He ended up propelling the Democratic candidate to a surprisingly large margin of victory in the special election to replace the late Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Penn). Whether he can duplicate that effort will be determined by polling numbers and Clinton's past performance in those districts.
Finally, the source added, expect to see Clinton's participation peak closer towards November than during the dog days of summer. This is, in part, because of the former president's already exhausting schedule. Mainly, however, it's because his effectiveness could be optimized during a campaign's late, frenetic stages.
"In the closing days of the campaign he has an ability to be a little more aggressive than a sitting president could be," the source said.
Clinton and the White House have not always had a coordinated 2010 philosophy. The president caused a stir when he publicly backed the election of Andrew Romanoff, the former speaker of the House in Colorado, over sitting Senator Michael Bennet, in that state's Democratic primary. The endorsement wasn't entirely unexpected. Clinton and Romanoff share ties dating back to his administration. But it caught the White House by surprise, with no heads up offered in advance.
The two parties have worked out the miscommunication in subsequent conversations. And while the former president isn't expected to simply do Obama's bidding, he is viewed, within the administration's political team, as a valuable weapon as Election Day approaches.
"They did not want Barack Obama in Pennsylvania-12," MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said during his interview with McAuliffe. "Bill Clinton goes up, wins. Arkansas? Holy cow. Other than what happened in Massachusetts, the biggest shock of the year -- Blanche Lincoln winning in Arkansas. Bill Clinton's got the Midas touch."
Watch McAuliffe on MSNBC's "Morning Joe":