Politics & Government

Bill Clinton’s message in Raleigh: It’s still the economy

Former President Bill Clinton focused on economic issues at a rally for U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan at Broughton High School on Friday afternoon.

Clinton’s visit brought some Democratic star power to the final days of the hotly contested U.S. Senate race, and the crowd’s cheers occasionally drowned him out.

Clinton said Tuesday’s election is a choice between the “trickle-down” economics advocated by Republican Thom Tillis and Hagan’s record of supporting bipartisan efforts to create jobs. Citing statistics, he contrasted the economic growth during his presidency to the growth under Republican President Ronald Reagan.

“If you think we ought to grow together, if you think we ought to work together, you’ve got to vote for Kay Hagan,” he said. “You can’t stay home.”

Clinton criticized the out-of-state spending and negative ads that have been a hallmark of the race.

“Here we are in the most expensive Senate race in the country, where you are being invited to tell yourselves whether you’re going back to being the state of the future … or whether you choose to go back to being a trickle-down where we grow apart and fight,” he said.

The former president touted Hagan’s support for a higher minimum wage and equal pay protections for women. “Nobody should work 40 hours a week and have kids in the house and have to raise them in poverty,” he said.

Clinton also took a jab at the Tillis campaign, which has repeatedly sought to tie Hagan to President Barack Obama’s policies. “He’s trying to take her off the ballot and put the president on,” Clinton said of Tillis.

Republicans were quick to point out that Hagan hasn’t appeared with Obama on the campaign trail.

“Why is Sen. Hagan, who voted with President Obama 99 percent of the time, scared to campaign with President Obama before the election?” said Rob Lockwood, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, in a statement issued about the Clinton rally.

Obama is scheduled to campaign this weekend far from North Carolina. He’ll be in Detroit Saturday with Michigan candidates, but he hasn’t ventured into the South – where Democrats have relied on Clinton to make roughly 20 appearances this election season.

Tillis, meanwhile, wrapped up a 36-hour, nearly 900-mile drive to his campaign “victory centers” around the state with a return to Lake Norman on Friday afternoon.

“I love it when I get to finish my day at home,” said Tillis of nearby Huntersville, drawing laughter from the crowd.

In Cornelius, he voiced optimism to 75 hometown supporters. “It’s the fourth quarter, it is tied and we have momentum,” he said. “And we will win this.”

Tillis reminded the crowd of the high stakes in Tuesday’s election, which could create a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.

“What’s at stake in this election is the future of this nation, making it a great nation again,” he said. “It’s a different vision for America.”

Back in Raleigh, Hagan urged her supporters to bring at least three people to the polls – an effort she says can bring victory. “We are going to show our state and we are going to show our nation that grass-roots efforts can trump out-of-state billionaires that are trying to buy this seat,” she said.

As one of the last big Democratic rallies of the campaign season, there were several warm-up speakers: former Gov. Jim Hunt and Reps. David Price and G.K. Butterfield. All stressed the importance of volunteering to get out the vote.

“This could be a very tight election – don’t you think we’ve got it made,” Hunt said. “It may well be decided by what happens between now and Tuesday morning.”

Clinton, however, was the speaker who had Democrats most fired up, despite arriving in Raleigh just hours after another campaign stop in Atlanta.

“I can’t believe I’m still doing this,” Clinton said of his schedule. “I’m kind of like a retired race horse. ... I am trying to go around this track for Kay Hagan because I believe in her.”

North Carolina could be seeing more of Clinton in the next couple years if Hillary Clinton runs for president in 2016. A table outside the Broughton gym sold “Hillary 2016” T-shirts and buttons – although the former secretary of state has not yet committed to running.