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Jimmy Carter finds a renaissance in 2020 Democratic scramble

Monday, May 20, 2019

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ATLANTA (AP) — Jimmy Carter carved an unlikely path to the White House in 1976 and endured humbling defeat after one term. Now, six a dministrations later, the longest-living chief executive in American history is re-emerging from political obscurity at age 94 to win over his fellow Democrats once again.

A peanut farmer turned politician then worldwide humanitarian, Carter is taking on a special role as several Democratic candidates look to his family run campaign after the Watergate scandal as the road map for toppling President Donald Trump in 2020.

“Jimmy Carter is a decent, well-meaning person, someone who people are talking about again given the time that we are in,” Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar said in an interview. “He won because he worked so hard, and he had a message of truth and honesty. I think about him all the time.”

Klobuchar is one of at least three presidential hopefuls who've ventured to the tiny town of Plains, Georgia, to meet with Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, who is 91. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, also have visited with the Carters and attended the former president's Sunday school lesson in Plains.

Carter had planned to teach at Maranatha Baptist Church again Sunday, but he is still recuperating at home days after hip replacement surgery following a fall as he was preparing for a turkey hunt.

“An extraordinary person,” Buttigieg told reporters after meeting Carter. “A guiding light and inspiration,” Booker said in a statement. Klobuchar has attended Carter's church lesson, as well, and says she e-mails with him occasionally. “He signs them 'JC',” she said with a laugh.

It's quite a turnabout for a man who largely receded from party politics after his presidency, often without being missed by his party's leaders in Washington where he was an outsider even as a White House resident.

To be sure, more 2020 candidates have quietly sought counsel from Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama. Several have talked with Bill Clinton, who left office in 2001. But those huddles have been more hush-hush, disclosed through aides dishing anonymously. Sessions with Carter, on the other hand, are trumpeted on social media and discussed freely, suggesting an appeal that Obama and Clinton may not have.

Unlike Clinton, impeached after an affair with a White House intern, Carter has no #MeToo demerits; he and Rosalynn, married since the end of World War II, didn't even like to dance with other people at state dinners. And unlike Obama, popular among Democrats but polarising for conservatives and GOP-leaning independents, Carter is difficult to define by current political fault lines.

He's an outspoken evangelical Christian who criticises Trump's serial falsehoods, yet praises Trump for attempting a relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Carter touts his own personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, another Trump favourite. “I have his email address,” Carter said in September.

For years, Carter has irked the foreign policy establishment with forthright criticism of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians.


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