Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2007 | 7:01 a.m.
Campaigning in Iowa this summer, Bill Clinton was asked by a reporter whether he and his wife were "yesterday's news," particularly given the field of vital Democratic contenders such as Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards.
His response has become a refrain in Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House: "Yesterday's news was pretty good." Implicit in the remarks is a promise to return the country to the Clinton years - something that, according to recent polls, an overwhelming majority of Democrats and an increasing number of independents favor.
Bill Clinton left the White House in 2001 with the highest approval rating of any postwar president (65 percent), and that popularity has remained largely steady through the past six years. For its part, Hillary Clinton's campaign recognizes the former president is a potent weapon - and uses him sparingly, largely out of concern that his charismatic personality will overshadow "the politician in the family," as he calls her.
His effectiveness was on display Monday in Las Vegas at two events, during which he repeatedly invoked the memory of his time in the White House.
A recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found that seven in 10 Democrats, and about half of all voters, said they would welcome an advisory role for Bill Clinton. He also is attractive to independent voters, who identify with Democrats this cycle but view Hillary Clinton unfavorably. According to the poll, 53 percent of independents say it would be a "good thing" if he were a White House adviser.
Another finding: Two-thirds of Democrats and nearly half of all voters see Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful effort to reform health care as first lady as an asset, something that equips her to better handle the reform effort now.
And so it was that, at Monday's All-Craft Conference of the American Postal Workers Union in the Hilton Las Vegas, 3,000-some union members were feeling the nostalgia.
"I don't know about you," said Myke Reid, the union's legislative director, introducing Clinton , "but the eight years Bill Clinton was in the White House were very good years for American Postal Workers Union members and their families."
And then the payoff: "And if things go well for his candidate, he may get to spend another eight years in the White House."
The line brought the crowd to its feet. After a short introduction, Clinton was greeted with raucous applause as he took the stage to the sounds of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down."
Clinton peppered his speech with bits of his legacy, parts of which, he noted, the Bush administration had worked hard to undo: passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, pro-labor appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, increases in college aid, the creation of high-paying jobs.
At one point, he started with, "When Hillary and I left office ..."
Clinton did not criticize President Bush by name and refused to throw his crowds partisan meat - even when they called for it, as they did at an evening rally of about 3,000 Hillary Clinton supporters at the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy.
The former president recalled her time as first lady, noted that world leaders "know her," pointed to her position as a member of Senate Armed Services Committee and said "she knows more about health care than anybody else."
Clinton also pointed out his wife's tenacity - thus, electability.
"Next November will look a lot different," he said. "The other party will exercise their well-known proclivity for performing reverse plastic surgery on candidates. She can take the heat."
Clinton started the day with an unannounced closed visit to the Culinary Union hall, addressing about 100 members of the negotiating team pressing for a new contract with Mission Industries, the laundry that provides most of the linens used by tourists.