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Lessons from history: playing hardball with local politics

By Michael SmerconishLet me finish tonight with a great example of Hardball.Bill Clinton may be retired, fit and tan, but he still seems to relish mixing it up

By Michael Smerconish

Let me finish tonight with a great example of Hardball.

Bill Clinton may be retired, fit and tan, but he still seems to relish mixing it up in the arena and settling a few old scores. A case in point happened just last night. 

Here is today's front page of my hometown newspaper, The Intelligencer, in suburban Philadelphia. It tells the story of Clinton campaigning Thursday in a high school before a crowd of 750 assembled in support of a state attorney general candidate named Kathleen Kane.

Clinton told the crowd that Kane was "the only candidate you can vote for" and said she was best suited to put away murderers, keep kids out of jail, or help senior citizens victimized by financial scams.

What he didn't mention was Kathleen Kane's opponent is former Congressman Patrick Murphy, for whom Clinton had campaigned just 6 years ago. The closest he came to mentioning Murphy was when he said, "You don't have to say a bad thing about anyone else running. Just ask yourself who can do more to help more people in the job. The answer is easy: Kathleen Kane."

Three days before Clinton's campaign event for Kane, David Axelrod made his own campaign appearance, only his was in support of Patrick Murphy. One clue as to why Axelrod got involved in this state attorney general's race, he said, "I dont think Barack Obama has had a better friend in politics."

So what's going on here? Why is Bill Clinton getting involved in a state attorney general's race, and on the opposite side of the President's top advisor?

Answer: history.

In 2008, Patrick Murphy gave an early endorsement to Barack Obama who was then locked in a battle with Clinton's wife, the now Secretary of State. Meanwhile, Kathleen Kane was a Hillary Clinton organizer.

And then, in 2010, it was Murphy--an Iraq veteran--who introduced the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell implemented by Bill Clinton back in 1993.

Kathleen Kane said it was easy to get Clinton to campaign for her. She said she Googled his office, got the phone number, and asked him. A reporter named Phil Gianficaro pointed out that there is no phone number listed on the Clinton Foundation website.

Makes you wonder if the Big Dog even had to be asked.   

Oh, and the event last night? It was held a short distance from Murphy's house.  

Pollster and professor Terry Madonna said it best: "It goes to show not all politics is local. All politics are personal."

And that really is Hardball.