Crowds cheer Clinton
By Mark Wineka
As North Carolina looks increasingly like a pivotal state in deciding who Democrats will nominate for president, former President Bill Clinton laid out his wife’s economic plans for the country during a hourlong stop in Salisbury Friday.
Clinton has become a key figure in U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic nomination as she battles for state and super delegates with fellow Sen. Barak Obama of Illinois.
Without referring to notes, the popular ex-president spoke for almost 50 minutes at his stop next to the historic Salisbury Station.
A large crowd of at least 500 — standing in front of his podium or spread out in bleachers and folding chairs — listened to Clinton describe Hillary’s views on healthcare, the budget deficit, gas prices, energy independence, trade, foreclosures, education and Iraq.
He said this year’s election, of course, will be about change, as the country closes the book on the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush.
But Clinton said his wife will be “the best change agent.”
“All of her life, she has been good at this,” President Clinton said, describing how his wife worked for change as a young lawyer, in the state of Arkansas, in the White House as first lady and as a U.S. senator from New York.
“This woman is a changer and what you need in the next president,” President Clinton said.
Clinton said the party is nearing the end of “a fascinating campaign” in which North Carolina could make a difference.
He said even if he weren’t married to Hillary Clinton, he would have been in Salisbury Friday campaigning for her.
The tireless Clinton also made stops Friday in High Point, Kannapolis, Gastonia, Hickory and Asheville.
“He was dead on with the message,” Rowan County Democrat Larry Brown of Landis said.
The former president employed all of his familiar hand gestures, included some humor and waded through the crowd before his departure to shake hands and sign autographs.
He was the first president to visit Rowan County since President George H.W. Bush attended the Faith Fourth of July in 1992.
The Rev. Bob Freeman, president of senior Democrats in Rowan County, said Clinton had been a good president. As for the continuing campaign fight between Hillary Clinton and Obama, Freeman said he hopes the two candidates can emerge from the process without tearing apart the party.
“They have got to make peace between them,” he said. “We can’t make it for them.”
Meanwhile, Obama opened 13 campaign offices statewide and launched a television campaign focusing on a plan to help middle-class families.
For more on President Clinton’s stops in Salisbury and Kannapolis, read Saturday’s edition of the Salisbury Post.