- Former President Bill Clinton says Democrats have a shot of holding Congress in 2022.
- But Clinton warned Republicans will “scare the living daylights” out of swing voters.
- Clinton told CNN Republicans “made critical race theory sound worse than smallpox” in 2021.
Former President Bill Clinton said Democrats can retain control of Congress in the 2022 midterms, but warns Republicans will “scare the living daylights out of swing voters” in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
Zakaria asked Clinton if Democrats, who have seen encouraging signs about their midterm prospects in recent weeks, can break the decades-long trend of the president’s party losing control of Congress in midterm elections.
“Absolutely we could hold both these Houses, but we have to say the right things,” Clinton told Zakaria in the interview, which aired Sunday. “And we have to know the Republicans always close well. Why? Because they find some new way to scare the living daylights out of swing voters about something. That’s what they did in 2021 when they made critical race theory sound worse than smallpox.”
In 2021, Republicans swept the top three statewide offices in Virginia, which had previously been trending towards Democrats, and put up an unexpectedly strong showing in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race partly by mobilizing voters, especially parents, over both the teaching of race in schools and COVID-19 induced school closures.
“They just scare people,” Clinton added. “And in the end, the breakpoint in American politics is not that much different than the 90s. You still have to get those people, it’s just that there’s so many fewer of them, because as the parties have gotten more ideological and clear and somehow psychically intolerant, they pull more and more people towards the extremes.”
—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 18, 2022
Increased polarization and partisanship since Clinton held office in the 1990s means fewer persuadable swing voters and fewer willing to cross party lines. The 2020 election, for example, saw record-low numbers of voters splitting their tickets between elect. But Clinton still argued that “there’s some people who are hanging on there and trying to think, and trying to understand what’s going on.”
Zakaria also asked Clinton about the recent death of Ken Starr.
The hard-charging special prosecutor, who died at age 76, doggedly investigated the Clintons first in the Whitewater probe, over their real estate dealings in Arkansas. The investigation then zeroed in on Clinton’s extramarital affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which became the biggest scandal of his presidency and led to his impeachment.
“Well, I read the obituary, and I realized that his family loved him, and I think that’s something to be grateful for, and when your life is over that’s all there is to say,” Clinton said of Starr.“But I was taught not to talk about people that I — you know. I have nothing to say. Except I’m glad he died with the love of his family.”