Politics & Government

Ahead of primary, Bill Clinton rallies crowd for Hillary in Charlotte

Former President Bill Clinton speaks at JCSU

Former President Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte.
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Former President Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte.

With eight days to go before the North Carolina primary, former President Bill Clinton rallied supporters of his wife Hillary Clinton’s campaign in Charlotte to cap off a daylong tour through some of the state’s major cities.

A crowd of several hundred students, faculty and community members greeted the former president in front of Biddle Hall at Johnson C. Smith University. Carrying signs that read “African Americans for Hillary,” the crowd showed her strength with a key constituency in the Democratic primary against her opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

But not everyone in the crowd had made up their mind to vote for Hillary Clinton. Several students said Sanders’ message of economic populism and fighting the growth of wealth inequality appealed to them.

Our friends in the Republican Party look like they’re having a sixth-grade food fight in these debates.

Bill Clinton

“Some of what he says, I like a lot,” said James West, a 19-year-old JCSU freshman. West said he’s still deciding between Clinton and Sanders. “He seems like he gets it.”

Bill Clinton’s continuing popularity was evident as soon as he took the stage to shouts of “We love you Bill!” The former president, sounding slightly hoarse, excoriated his wife’s potential Republican rivals and attempted to position her as the most pragmatic candidate, one who would work to expand President Barack Obama’s signature programs.

“She’s a change-maker. That’s what you want as president,” saidClinton, a description he used forhis wife a half-dozen times in his closing.

He didn’t mention her potential Republican rivals by name, but he said the Republican primary has degenerated to “a sixth-grade food fight” and said they believe in “economics by theology” instead of evidence.

Hillary Clinton has a comfortable lead over Sanders in North Carolina, with almost 52 percent of Democratic voters saying they choose her, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polling. Sanders had the support of 33 percent of likely Democratic voters polled.

The Republican National Committee put down Bill Clinton’s visit.

“Fresh off a week chock-full of damaging developments in her email scandal, Hillary Clinton’s campaign is now sending in Bill Clinton to push false talking points to North Carolina voters,” said spokeswoman Kara Carter, in a press release. “No amount of spin will change the fact that voters don’t trust Hillary Clinton.”

Bill Clinton also made stops Monday in Raleigh and Greensboro, aiming to encourage North Carolinians to vote early. In Charlotte, he touched on topics that are traditional Democratic strong points: stricter gun control laws and expanded background checks, access to health care, reducing student loan debt by allowing borrowers to refinance, regulating Wall Street and investing more in solar panels and other renewable energy.

He also said Obama should appoint a Supreme Court justice to fill the seat of Antonin Scalia, who died last month.

“I hope he gets a person confirmed,” said Bill Clinton. “We cannot have a Republican Congress, a Republican president and a Republican Supreme Court. The country will never get over it.”

And Bill Clinton forcefully rejected calls to single out Muslims for increased monitoring or travel bans from the U.S., which Republican front-runner Donald Trump has suggested.

“You can’t just cut this or that group out,” said Clinton. “And, particularly for national security reasons, it’s a mistake to demonize our fellow Americans who are Muslims because we need them to help beat those terrorists on the social media.”

JCSU President Ron Carter also endorsed Hillary Clinton during his introduction of the former president. He said she would follow Obama and “smash the mold” of the Oval Office being occupied by white males.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo