Bill Clinton takes campaign for Hillary to New Jersey

One week until Super Duper Tuesday
January 29, 2008 9:54:28 AM PST
Stumping in New Jersey, former President Bill Clinton said his wife would strengthen the nation's middle class - as he did. "These are tough times. We can bring America back. We've done it before," Clinton told a boisterous crowd at Camden County College, where he appeared on behalf of his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, a week before the state's presidential primary election. "She will do it."

The event comes three days after Sen. Barack Obama won an easy victory over Sen. Clinton in South Carolina. There, the former president was harshly critical of Obama, a tactic that some say cost his wife votes.

Tuesday, Clinton hit issues ranging health care to energy independence to the federal budget to college loans in his half-hour talk. On student loans, he talked about how his wife's policies would echo those he implemented.

And he addressed how as a senator representing New York, Hillary Clinton was among the first politicians to realize that 9/11 rescue workers could be at risk because of toxins in the air after the attacks.

"That's the person I would be here for if we never had been married," he said.

He mentioned race early in his talk, promising that if his wife were president, no one would be excluded from opportunities because of their race.

It's uncertain whether Hillary Clinton or Obama will be in the Garden State again before Feb. 5, when 22 states, including New Jersey, hold primaries or caucuses.

Bill Clinton has a history in southern New Jersey: It was his first stop after winning the Democratic nomination for president in 1992.

He most recently visited New Jersey in December, speaking at a campaign fundraiser in New Brunswick after bad weather in Iowa forced Hillary to miss the event.

In that 20-minute speech, he made the case as to why Hillary would make a good president. He seemed comfortable that night assuming a supporting role.

After Hillary lost to Obama in Iowa, her husband became more aggressive in his criticism of Obama, angering some party leaders and prompting talk of possible voter backlash.

But the Rev. Reginald Jackson, executive director of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey and an early Clinton supporter, said the recent rough-and-tumble among the leading Democrats would ultimately toughen them up for the battle against the Republican nominee.

"While I am concerned about the whole issue of race, I think long-term this will be good for Sen. Clinton and Barack Obama. Whichever one becomes the nominee will be prepared for what will surely be an onslaught from the Republicans," Jackson said. "You can call this spring training."

Clinton has maintained a double-digit lead over Obama in New Jersey polls.

The Clinton campaign on Monday announced the formation of "Rapid Responders" in all 22 states holding primaries or caucuses on Feb. 5. The responders are "a national group of truth tellers who will respond to inaccurate or misleading attacks directed at Senator and President Clinton," according to the campaign.

Obama's New Jersey campaign formed its own "truth squad" to answer charges from rival campaigns.


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