Politics & Policy

Will Clinton Boost Kerry?

The faithful show up to buy the book--and promise to vote in November.

When Bill Clinton’s autobiography went on sale at the stroke of midnight this morning at Washington’s Politics & Prose bookstore, the line to receive books stretched 1,000 feet out the store, onto the sidewalk, and around a corner. Customers lined up three and four abreast to ensure that they got a copy of the book at the earliest moment it was available.

”I can’t wait,” said one woman as the clock neared midnight. “I’m going to start on it tonight,” said one woman.

“I want to read the tirade against Ken Starr,” said another, who said she agreed with the former president’s anger against the former independent counsel.

“I just like Bill Clinton,” said a third.

In all, more than 1,000 people stayed up late to buy a copy of the book. Many said they joined the line because that was the only way to reserve a chance to have Clinton sign the book when he appears at Politics & Prose on July 6. They were very, very excited at the prospect of a face-to-face signing with the former president.

The turnout surprised the store’s owners, but Politics & Prose had plenty of books for everyone. The store had stockpiled 1,600 copies for early sales, with more set to arrive today.

It was one of the largest of several such gatherings around the country. The Associated Press interviewed people who “stood in a line of about 100 people outside a Barnes & Noble near Lincoln Center in New York on Monday night. In North Little Rock, Arkansas, the former president’s home state, the AP reported that 80 people stayed up late to buy the book.

There has been a debate among commentators over whether the publication of the book will be a boost for the presidential prospects of Democratic candidate John Kerry. While it’s not possible to make any serious generalizations from the turnout at a bookstore, the scene did indicate the intensity of political feelings on the part of hard-core Democrats. When asked whether they would show up at midnight see Sen. John Kerry, many of those in line said enthusiastically that they would.

“Yes, I’m that desperate to get Bush out of the White House,” said one woman. “I would come out here to see Buddy, if he were alive, if it would get Bush out of the White House”–a reference to Bill Clinton’s Labrador retriever, who was killed by a car a few years ago near the former president’s home in Chapaqua, New York.

Politics & Prose is located in a liberal, politically active section of a liberal, politically active city. According to information compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, people living in the bookstore’s zip code, 20008, have given $3,564,527 in political contributions in the 2004 election cycle. The average zip code has contributed $24,217 in this cycle.

Of the top ten recipients of political contributions from zip code 20008, seven are Democratic causes or candidates. Those seven–Kerry, the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, EMILY’s List, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, and Sen. John Edwards–received a total of $1,440,696. The three Republicans in the top ten–President George W. Bush, the Republican National Committee, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee–received $541,410.


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