What’s the Marketing Value of a Political Spouse?

How, exactly, is the irrepressible William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd President of the United States, factoring into his wife’s own campaign for the nation’s top job? As Patrick Healy and Amy Chozic of The New York Times reported last March, that’s an enduringly touchy subject for Team Hillary:

Mr. Clinton is hungering once again to play a central role in his wife’s presidential campaign. And Hillary Rodham Clinton’s advisers are once again grappling with how to deploy Mr. Clinton, a strategic imperative that was executed so poorly in 2008 that it resulted in some of the worst moments of her campaign.

Last month, Healy offered an update on the campaign-husband dynamic with a story titled « Bill Clinton, the Subdued Spouse, Makes His Campaign Debut. » But the clearest picture yet of how the 2016 Clinton campaign hopes to deploy Bill has been quietly emerging on Hillary Clinton’s official YouTube channel.

On Jan. 5, the channel posted a video titled « ‘We need you’ says President Bill Clinton to volunteers » — a gentle pep talk that ended with this line from Bill: « The proof is in the voting. We got to be out there every single day. »

On Jan. 30, the campaign uploaded a video titled « President Bill Clinton on why Hillary is the greatest changemaker he’s ever known. » In it, Bill is pictured working the campaign trail and speaking before rapt audiences in high school gymnasiums and the like. « Here’s what I know about Hillary: She’s the single best changemaker I’ve ever met in my life, » he says. « And we need a changemaker. Not a changetalker, a changemaker. »

That « changemaker » messaging is back in a new Hillary Clinton YouTube channel video, titled « President Bill Clinton on Hillary’s leadership in addressing Flint’s water crisis, » that went live on Monday. « She is the ‘What can I do?’ candidate, » he says. « She is a walking changemaker. »

It’s worth noting that none of these videos are reaching wide audiences. As of this writing, Monday’s video has yet to crack 4,000 views, while the Jan. 5 video is at 14,638 and the Jan. 30 video at 26,842. Then again, they’re probably not meant or expected to go viral. It’s perhaps best to think of them as low-profile laboratories for helping Bill Clinton to hone his message, and his role, in a way that serves his wife’s campaign instead of getting in the way of it.

At any rate, even if Bill feels like he’s being managed or contained by his wife’s campaign team, at least he’s not in the position of Melania Trump, who was prompted by her husband to « say something » at a Spartanburg rally after his South Carolina win, ending her months of silence on the campaign trail. Politico captured her speech in its entirety:


UPDATE: Melania has spoken again.

Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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