WASHINGTON • In an election year when Mr Bill Clinton's policies and personal indiscretions have faced intense scrutiny, Mrs Hillary Clinton is beginning to shape the role her husband would play in her administration, zeroing in on economic growth and job creation as crucial missions for the former president.
Mrs Clinton told voters in Kentucky on Sunday that her husband would be "in charge of revitalising the economy, because you know he knows how to do it", especially "in places like coal country and inner cities".
On a campaign swing this month before the West Virginia primary, she said her husband has "got to come out of retirement and be in charge" of creating jobs.
She has not provided details about how a former president would fit into a policymaking role in an administration led by his wife, a scenario never before seen in American politics.
Asked on Monday whether Mr Clinton would hold a Cabinet position, Mrs Clinton shook her head and said: "No."
Aides said Mr Clinton's role would be narrowly defined to focus on economically hard-hit areas of the country, such as the Rust Belt. They rejected any implication that Mrs Clinton would outsource a central part of her administration to her spouse.
But even a passing promise that a former president would be put in charge of a significant part of a sitting president's portfolio raised questions about how such an arrangement would work in a White House that has long relied on an appointed Treasury secretary and National Economic Council.
The declaration about Mr Clinton's potential place in a Hillary Clinton administration comes as her campaign is preparing to battle the likely Republican nominee, Mr Donald Trump, and widening its efforts to win the support of white working-class voters.
Those voters hold generally favourable opinions of Mr Clinton, but view her with more scepticism.
But for all the benefits of relying on Mr Clinton, and touting the economic prosperity he oversaw, the strategy could open Mrs Clinton up to further attacks by Mr Trump, who has outspokenly criticised Mr Clinton's personal indiscretions.
Mr Trump, who has campaigned as an economic populist, has also attacked Mrs Clinton over her husband's trade policies, including the North American Free Trade Agreement that Mr Clinton signed into law in 1993, which many voters believe hurt US workers.
Mrs Clinton's advisers said the upside of using the former president, particularly in the general election, would far outweigh any potential personal baggage that he brings - and which Mr Trump plans to exploit.
Polls show that voters have a better opinion of Mr Clinton than either Mrs Clinton or Mr Trump, with 56 per cent of registered voters viewing him positively, according to a CNN/ORC poll in February.
"What we've seen for decades is that the broader electorate thinks the 1990s went pretty damn well," said Mr Matt Bennett, a former aide to Mr Clinton and senior vice-president for public affairs at centrist think-tank Third Way. "Did they love every single thing? Of course not."
NEW YORK TIMES