Former president Bill Clinton championed his wife Hillary, the embattled front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president, Wednesday as a “change-maker” who can get things done.
That theme came as the former two-term president sought to firm up support for Hillary Clinton during a rally at Columbia’s Allen University before South Carolina’s Feb. 27 Democratic presidential primary.
Clinton described Hillary Clinton as someone who “made things happen” as a former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state, adding she is in touch with the concerns of everyday Americans, and a skilled advocate for economic and social change benefiting families.
She also understands how to get results with bipartisan support, he said.
“If anyone knows how to stand her ground and not close the door to common ground, it is Hillary,” Clinton told an enthusiastic crowd estimated at 600.
The former president’s comments — touting a change-maker who pragmatically gets things done — come as the Clinton campaign attempts to contrast the onetime prohibitive Democratic presidential favorite with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist from Vermont, virtually tied Hillary Clinton in Monday night’s Iowa caucuses and holds a double-digit lead in Tuesday’s primary in New Hampshire, where the two debate tonight.
Bill Clinton’s message resonated with his Southern audience Wednesday.
“He showed she’s done things before and is ready to do that for us,” said Peggy Platt of Red Bank. “Hillary will find ways to get things done.”
Bill Clinton also chided the Republican candidates for president for their calls for limiting immigration, particularly of Muslims.
“We’ve got to work with more partners and fewer adversaries,” said Clinton, who previously referred to recruitment efforts by Islamic State terrorists. “We can’t demonize people because of their religion.”
Clinton’s 34-minute speech at Allen followed private State House meetings with supporters, including former S.C. Govs. Dick Riley and Jim Hodges along with about 50 state legislators.
Clinton stopped before one session to chat with University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley about her trip to Africa and congratulate her on her team’s success.
Both Clintons are seeking to deliver an emphatic win in the Palmetto State over Sanders. Polls show Hillary Clinton with a nearly 2-1 lead in the Palmetto State. However, Sanders’ campaign has produced enthusiastic crowds, responding to calls for a political revolution.
The former president’s appearance will be followed by one by daughter Chelsea. Meanwhile, the candidate, expected in South Carolina later, is in New Hampshire, trying to cut into Sanders’ lead there.
“She is in great shape here, but you never take an election for granted,” Hodges said of Hillary Clinton’s S.C. campaign.
The S.C. primary is shaping up to be the contest where Clinton cements her front-runner status for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hodges said. “It is her firewall.”
Much of Hillary Clinton’s S.C. support is rooted in the state’s African-American voters, who will cast almost 60 percent of the votes in the Palmetto State primary. That support is based on decades of interaction with the state’s Democratic voters, including Bill Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns.
However, that relationship was strained by the state’s 2008 primary, which pitted then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton against then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. The former president campaigned for his wife during that hard-fought primary, which Obama won in a landslide, propelling him to the Democratic nomination and the presidency.
In the wake of the S.C. primary, Bill Clinton was accused of diminishing the importance of Obama’s win, noting he was African-American and another black presidential candidate — the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a Greenville native — won S.C. presidential primaries in 1984 and 1988.
In his 2014 memoir, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, wrote Bill Clinton called him on the night of the 2008 S.C. primary, blaming him for his wife’s loss. Clyburn quoted the former president as saying, “If you bastards want a fight, you damn well will get one.”
Wednesday, that was all in the past, said one Democratic politician.
Any lasting hard feelings are “overly exaggerated,” said state Sen. Darrell Jackson of Richland County.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483
The Democratic race in SC
Hillary Clinton has an almost 2-to-1 lead in South Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary, according to average of polls compiled by Real Clear Politics