Gov't union front groups pollute Iowa politics

Republicans may hammer Hillary Clinton for being “polarizing,” but it’s simply a strategy to block independent voters from supporting her, former president Bill Clinton said today.

“You become polarizing not because of what you do (but) because of what people say about you. That’s all that’s going on here. She can win this race.” He continued: “I believe, I would draw on today’s facts: all of our people could probably win.”

On the campaign trail in West Des Moines and Boone today, the former president tossed out words that his wife’s campaign staffers don’t like to even speak: “cold,” “calculating,” “polarizing.”

But he used them lightly, using humor to try to convince Iowans that his wife is the opposite.

“Now when people say how calculating she is and how she had a decades-long strategy to be president,” he told an audience in Boone, “I thought, ‘If that’s true then she ought to get 100 percent of the votes.’ Because she’s the only person in history to ever figure it out, that the best way to become the first woman president is .. not to run for office, but to go to small town in the Arkansas Ozarks, in a state that had never produced a president, and marry a guy who had lost his only election for public office, who was making $26,000 a year and was $42,000 in debt.”

If she was smart enough to figure that out, he said, she deserves to be president.

On a holiday weekend with a looming winter storm, Bill Clinton drew about 460 people in Boone, and about 600 people in the Republican stronghold of West Des Moines, who cheered for so long when he strolled on stage that the former president had to wave them to sit down.

“I must say you’re like an early Christmas present for me ‑ there’s so many here and you’re in such good humor and it’s so early in the morning,” he told the audience.

Rival Democrat Barack Obama’s campaign staff, after reading a news report about Bill Clinton’s glowing recommendation of his wife, sent out a statement about outside groups slamming Obama on Hillary Clinton’s behalf.

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said the campaigns for both Hillary Clinton and Democrat John Edwards “are having millions of dollars spent on their behalf by powerful Washington insiders.”

Three outside groups have spent over $2 million on Clinton’s campaign - $730,000 by the American Federation of Teachers, $486,000 by the women-friendly political action committee EMILY’s List, and $907,000 by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, he said. Some of that has been for positive advertising.

But the pro-Clinton AFSCME forked over $34,000 to send negative mail pieces explicitly against Obama, Vietor said. The mailer said Obama’s health care plan would leave 15 million Americans without health insurance, and quoted Edwards criticizing Obama.

“This deceptive health care attack is exactly the kind of politics Iowans are tired of,” Vietor said. “Barack Obama is running to change this politics and has a plan to provide affordable health care to every single American.”

Clinton campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee responded: “Just this week, Barack Obama sent out a misleading and negative mail piece in New Hampshire attacking Senator Clinton’s character. The truth is, Senator Clinton has a health care plan that covers every American, while experts say the Obama plan would leave 15 million uncovered. His attack mail can’t change that fact.”

Meanwhile, it is not surprising in the slightest that Bill Clinton is gushing about his wife, but die-hard Hillary Clinton fans and some undecided voters in the room leaned in to hear his strategy of persuasion.

He said “grizzly old Republicans” in Upstate New York voted for Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate race, saying “she was the only person who’s ever done anything” for them.

He said: “One area that Hillary’s more conservative in than the Republicans is the budget ... and she’s got a good economic plan.”

He clicked through other points in his wife’s stump speech, saying she has “a good vision” to rebuild the middle class, reclaim the future for children, and restore America’s standing in the world.

After going into detail about one of the topics he’s most passionate about - clean energy - Bill Clinton said his wife’s plans for health care, job creation, education and also have “that level of meat on it.”

“Everything she proposes to do is fully paid for,” he said.

At the end of his talk, Bill Clinton said he hoped Iowans would sign a card pledging to caucus for his wife, “otherwise this becomes a highly academic discussion.”

Obama supporter Marie James, 54, was in the cafeteria at Valley Southwoods freshman high school in West Des Moines, sitting right below a red-white-and-blue “Ready for change! Ready to lead!” banner.

Her husband, Leo James, 65, a serious Hillary Clinton fan, convinced her to come. “He’s trying to convert me,” Marie James said. “We’ve been together 30 years and we’ve never, ever been split like we are on this.”

The first time Marie James saw Obama, at her church, “I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’” she said. But then her husband told her he thinks the reason Bill Clinton was a successful president was because of Hillary Clinton.

“So I’m open,” said Marie James, who lives in West Des Moines. “And so is he.”

Leo James intended to go to his first Obama event today.

Afterward, Marie James, who had never been to a Clinton rally before, said: “I was very impressed, especially the way he talked about the universal heath care and Hillary’s support of the middle class. But I’m still on the fence. But I’m going to be pursuing more about Hillary. I definitely could be persuaded, I can say that.”

West Des Moines is Republican territory “by a good margin,” said Michael Mauro, the state official who oversees Iowa’s election system, and who endorsed Hillary Clinton Friday night.

Later in Boone, although his mission was to talk about his wife, Bill Clinton couldn’t resist sharing some anecdotes about himself, although he was careful to say “she believes” or “we believe” instead of “I believe,” as he has said on the campaign trail in the past.

Chuckling at the name of the Boone venue, an old grocery store that’s being converted into a restaurant called the Gigglin’ Goat, Bill Clinton told the crowd that when he was six years old he was nearly killed by a ram, and still has the scars on his head.

“It gave me a very high pain threshhold,” he said. “It was probably the best preparation I ever had for becoming president.”

Hillary Clinton may not always inspire the rock-star-shrill screams her husband was greeted with by some Iowans today, but her campaign was quick to point out that when she appeared at the same Boone venue in October, the fire marshal had to shut people out of the overcrowded room. The campaign pumped audio into the street so about 200 people could listen.

“I could keep you here till tomorrow morning,” Bill Clinton told the Boone audience before leaving without taking questions. “I left out a bunch of stuff.”


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