A raspy Bill Clinton stumps for Obama to 2,000 in St. Pete

11/05/12 Janelle Irwin
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Former President Bill Clinton stumped to 2,000 Obama supporters in one of the last campaign pushes in Florida. , Clinton’s voice was worn and tired at the Coliseum in St. Pete during his fourth stop in Florida on Friday. But the two-term president rallied voters by dismantling Republican claims that Barack Obama hasn’t done enough to boost the struggling economy.

“I am far more enthusiastic about him this time than I was four years ago and you should be too.”

Clinton’s enthusiasm came on the heels of the last jobs report before Election Day. It showed that more than 170,000 jobs were created and that unemployment had remained below 8%, even though it inched upward from September’s numbers. Clinton highlighted the accomplishments as an overall improvement during Obama’s term.

“The score is Obama, 5.5 million, Republicans in 7 years, 2.6 million. So, I think we’re coming back.”

The focus on the economy is a calculated effort to push aside claims by the Mitt Romney campaign that Obama has done little to improve the nation’s economy. Romney has criticized Obama for failing to deliver on his 2008 campaign promise to bring unemployment below 4%. But Clinton cited a book by economist Kenneth Rogoff to discredit the GOP presidential nominee’s claims.

“I called him and I said, I read the book, I read all the chapters on America twice, I have one question: could anybody have repaired all this damage in four years? He said, ‘goodness no, everybody knows that.’ He said, when something gets hurt this bad ‘normally it takes ten years to get over it.’ I said, ‘this is America, can we beat ten years?’ He said, ‘yes we can, we can do it in eight, maybe even seven, if we do the right thing.’ Barack Obama is doing the right thing, that’s why I want him to be president.”

President Clinton spoke for nearly an hour – interrupting his speech at one point to ask Secret Service to help a woman who collapsed in the crowd. From the back of the room it was difficult to make out much of what he said over thunderous cheers and an obtrusive echo. But the Clinton charm worked anyway as he praised President Obama for garnering support from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the warm affection of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – both Republicans.

“There’s no Republican or Democratic way to deal with the aftermath of a flood. Florida has been through enough hurricanes to know that. When you’ve got a natural disaster, everybody all of the sudden wakes up and says, ‘you know, we’re all in this together, that works a lot better than you’re on your own.’ The problem is, we’re all in this together works a lot better than you’re on your own every single day. The most successful countries in the world, the most successful communities in America have created cooperation, not constant conflict.”

The devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy in parts of the northeast have drawn attention to the importance of early voting. Saturday was the last day for Floridians to vote early before Election Day. New York extended theirs to accommodate displaced voters, but some Tampa Bay area residents think early voting should be expanded everywhere. Obama supporter Jessica Hellman said what happened with Super Storm Sandy explains why.

“Because there’s going to be problems with people being able to vote in their own polling districts because they don’t exist right now. Especially with the fires and the neighborhoods that have been lost – there’s going to be a lot of people who are going to be wondering what to do if they weren’t able to vote early.”

Bill Clinton was welcomed on stage by former Republican Florida Governor Charlie Crist. Crist ran unsuccessfully as an Independent against U.S. Senator Marco Rubio in 2010 and is now flirting with Democrats as one of Obama’s biggest campaign supporters in the state. He rallied the crowd just minutes before Clinton spoke.

“Optimism is up. Pessimism is down. Jobs are up. Unemployment is down. Equal pay is up, discrimination, down. Home sales – up. Interests rates – down. Domestic energy – up. Foreign dependency – down…..”

Crist highlighted times when Obama has come to the rescue in Florida like the 2010 Gulf oil spill. He told voters it was their time to support him. And member of Congress Kathy Castor, a Democrat, encouraged people to take advantage of the final days of voting.

“I’m a little bit concerned here in Pinellas County. How many of you have voted already? Alright, that makes me feel a little better. Who has not voted yet? Uh-oh, that’s too many. That’s way too many.”

As of Saturday only 36,000 Pinellas County residents had voted early; compare that to 153,000 in Hillsborough and Castor was right to worry. Obama supporters in the crowd had a lot of reasons to cast their ballots this election. Many women said they were concerned about Romney’s stance on women’s healthcare issues including funding for Planned Parenthood which provides preventative care for low income women. People with families said they were worried about the rising cost of eduction. Janet Kincaid, a woman with a disability, said to her it was all about human rights.

“Whether it’s blacks or Hispanics or gay people wanting to be married like heterosexuals can be, it’s really where the heart is.”

She said Romney has continually championed policies that she thinks directly contradict basic human equality.

“He doesn’t think there is marriage equality among gays. I happen to be heterosexual, but that means I don’t want to marry a woman, so I don’t have to.”

President Bill Clinton traveled to Tallahassee after leaving St. Petersburg. Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama had full campaign schedules over the weekend with stops in key swing states like Ohio and Wisconsin. According to Romney’s campaign website, he will be in New Hampshire on election night for what he has long referred to as a “victory rally.”

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