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Politics

A nod from the Head of State rarely leads to a win in November




WASHINGTON, :  US President Bill Clinton (L) listens as US Vice-President Al Gore (R) addresses the issues of empowering small business during a Business LINC Roundtable discussion 10 August, 1999, at Powell's Manufacturing Industries in Washington, DC. Clinton recently toured impoverished neighborhoods across the US to promote economic development.           (ELECTRONIC IMAGE)  AFP Photo Paul J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : US President Bill Clinton (L) listens as US Vice-President Al Gore (R) addresses the issues of empowering small business during a Business LINC Roundtable discussion 10 August, 1999, at Powell's Manufacturing Industries in Washington, DC. Clinton recently toured impoverished neighborhoods across the US to promote economic development. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP Photo Paul J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

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Well, it's official. President Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton in her run for the Oval Office Thursday. 

The backing came in the form of a video, released shortly after the president wrapped up a White House meeting with Senator Bernie Sanders:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9W0F2mz1jc

Obama begins campaigning with Clinton in Wisconsin next week.

Throughout her campaign, Clinton has touted the President's achievements; so what will happen when he returns the favor? And what does history tell us about the effectiveness of a nod from the head of state? 

Barbara Perry is the director of presidential studies the University of Virginia's Miller Center. She gave Take Two's A Martinez a quick history lesson. 

Endorsement: Bill Clinton to Al Gore
Year: 2000
Song that best describes Gore's response: Complicated, by Avril Lavigne 

TLDR: President Clinton endorsed his vice-president before the Iowa Primary — that's pretty early. Gore smiled for the cameras, but also wanted to distance himself from several Clinton controversies including his impeachment.

Outcome: Gore loses

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hnCpJeZ1K4

Barbara Perry's take: 

"By contemporary standards, it comes so early in the process. Bill Clinton is endorsing Al Gore, which cleared the field and cleared the way for Al Gore to sweep the nomination. Only Bill Bradley opposed him, and he was eliminated pretty quickly by March. 

Gore had to walk a very fine line because he was happy to get the president's endorsement, and the president, despite all his difficulties and near removal from office because of the Lewinski scandal, actually left office as one of the top three most popular presidents of the modern age. So you would have thought that would have worked well for Al Gore, but he had to walk this tightrope because he didn't want to get tied down by this Lewinski scandal and he even told the media that President Clinton had lied to him about the Lewinski scandal as it developed in the White House. 

You might make that case that it would have helped Gore if he had let popular Bill Clinton go out and campaign for him, but he didn't and he ended up losing by a razor-thin margin. He even lost President Clinton's home state of Arkansas." 


Endorsement: Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush
Year: 1988
Song that best describes Bush's response: Tired of Waiting for You, by The Kinks

TLDR: It took Ronald Reagan until May of the election year to endorse his vice-president. Having the Gipper's endorsement didn't hurt Bush Senior, but it put him in a sticky situation. 

Outcome: Bush wins

Ronald Reagan after George Bush wins the presidency:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEAM2mHQEMQ

Barbara Perry's take:

"It was viewed as a rather tepid endorsement of his vice president. The good news for Bush 41 was that Ronald Reagan left office as a very popular president as he came to the end of his two terms, but there was also scandal surrounding the president: Iran-Contra. George H.W. Bush had maintained that he was not involved in that illegal process at all. 

It helped him because he swept to the White House with an overwhelming landslide victory over Michael Dukakis in 1988." 

Endorsement: Dwight Eisenhower to Richard Nixon
Year: 1960
Song that best describes Nixon's response: Mr. Lonely, by Bobby Vinton

TLDR: Dwight Eisenhower did not endorse his vice-president, Richard Nixon. 

Outcome: Nixon loses this one

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6sefKUBJT8

Barbara Perry's take:

"Nixon lost the popular vote to John F. Kennedy by only one-tenth of a percent. It was one of the closest elections ever in the popular vote, but Kennedy did have quite a margin in the electoral college. 

It's hard to say that that lack of enthusiasm from Eisenhower for Nixon doomed him, but it certainly didn't help him, and if he had given him a robust, enthusiastic, warm endorsement, Nixon could have won Illinois and would have put him within about seven points of winning the electoral college."

So, will an Obama endorsement help unite the Democratic Party around Hillary Clinton? 

"President Obama's endorsement should certainly help Mrs. Clinton, especially as his approval ratings are rising. They were quite up in the stratosphere of Clinton or Reagan when they left office, but the seem to be ticking up. But again, there's that two-edged sword. Mrs. Clinton certainly wanted the endorsement of the president, but she has to defend some of his policies which have been unpopular and that would include Obamacare."

Press the blue play button above to hear the full interview. 

(Answers have been edited for clarity.)