May 5, 2008


Bill Clinton, Right Where He Oughta Be: Selling the product in small-town North Carolina (Byron York, 5/05/08, National Review)

If she is going to do well in North Carolina, if she is going to put a scare in Barack Obama in a state he should win pretty handily, it will be because of Morganton, population 17,310, and a lot of other places like it. So let the commentariat lament, or laugh, about Bill being sent out into the sticks; for Hillary, the sticks are where the votes are. Just look at the electoral map of any state she has won, with Obama winning a few big counties and Hillary Clinton taking the rest.
“We started having these front-porch rallies in Pennsylvania, as soon as it got warm enough to do it,” Clinton tells the crowd, “and in every place I did a front-porch rally, on Election Day, Hillary got more than 60 percent of the vote in those counties.” Bill isn’t on the outs in the campaign. He’s on the cutting edge.

You can also put aside the conventional wisdom you’ve heard about the former president being rusty. Yes, he was a bit creaky when he first started campaigning for his wife. But now he’s selling the product as slickly as he ever did. And he’s pushing hard. Morganton is his second of six stops today — not counting two morning church visits — in the western part of North Carolina. On Monday, he’ll make nine stops in the east, starting at 7:30 A.M. and ending at 10:00 P.M. Nine events — nine speeches — is a lot for anybody. The Clintons think they are closing fast in this state, and it is Bill who is doing most of the work.

When he was at peak form in his own campaigns, back in the 1990s, Clinton could at times sound like a televangelist. Today, he’s a car salesman — literally. “I grew up in the car business,” Clinton tells the crowd at his first rally of the day, at the train station in Marion, population 4,943.

He mentions his stepfather, Roger Clinton, who sold cars in Arkansas, as he launches into a story about the time two months ago when “Hillary called me and said, ‘Bill, I just met a guy who swears he’s driving a car that gets 100 miles per gallon. I sure would like to talk about it, but I don’t want to be embarrassed. You call him and find out if he’s telling the truth.’” So Clinton, drawing on his life in the car business, checks it out and tells the crowd that it’s all true. The only problem is that batteries for the car cost $10,000. But guess what? “Hillary’s energy plan would give a $10,000 tax credit, dollar for dollar, for everyone who bought one of these plug-in vehicles.” You can get the whole thing at no extra cost! But only if you vote for Hillary.

The crowd likes the idea — a lot. They also buy Clinton’s pitch about a gas-tax holiday. You know all those people who say it’s bad economics? They’re the same bunch of elitists who snicker about Bill and the Wal-Mart greeters.

After that shaky early campaign, where Ms Clinton ran way too far Left, it's remarkable how much this has become a classic Republican vs. Democrat argument within the Democratic Party, even if only by accident. On the big issues of the moment, you've got Senator Obama defending taxes and her opposing and him defending Iran from her bellicosity. Sublime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 5, 2008 7:41 AM
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