Thousands of people gathered on the UC Davis quad Tuesday morning to watch former President Bill Clinton endorse four northern California congressional candidates.
The crowd was estimated to be about 8,000-12,000 deep, and signs for candidates John Garamendi (CA-03) and Ami Bera (CA-07) were scattered throughout. The other two candidates endorsed Tuesday were Jerry McNerney (CA-09) and Jose Hernandez (CA-10). All four are in tight races.
The star the show, though, was Clinton himself.
Congressman Garamendi, the last of the four candidates to speak, introduced the former president, who stepped to the lectern amid a swell of cheers.
“I want to do something that is sort of atypical for political rallies,” Clinton began. “Something rather different from that last debate, let’s go back to facts.”
A swell of laughter ran through the crowd as Clinton turned his attention to the four candidates on the stage.
“When you look at these guys, you see what America is about,” Clinton said. “We have four people who believe for four very different reasons that a country of ‘We’re all in this together’ works way better than a country of ‘You’re on your own.’”
He took turns praising each candidate, starting with Garamendi, who was Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of the Interior.
“He protected the environment for you,” Clinton said. “And his wife worked over at the Peace Corps to promote service around the world so people could see America’s best face.”
He then turned his attention to Ami Bera, who is running a tight race against incumbent Dan Lungren. Clinton called Bera a “product of the American Dream.”
He ran down Bera’s resume and segued into a discussion about healthcare, saying Republicans are busy trying to control women’s choices rather than ensuring that everybody has access to healthcare -- something Clinton said Bera has made a priority, not only in his campaign but in his career as a doctor.
In discussing the qualifications of the four Democratic candidates, Clinton regularly took jabs at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, routinely questioning his “arithmetic,” just as he did in his popular Democratic National Convention speech.
Davis resident Jennifer Seger saw Clinton when he spoke at UC Davis in 2008 to endorse Hillary Clinton. She was excited to see him pass through Davis a second time.
“It was amazing,” she said. “He’s one of the most articulate speakers I’ve ever heard.”
Clinton wound down his speech by saying that Republican candidates, both presidential and congressional, are trying to influence these elections with large amounts of money (thanks to Citizens United). He called it the "fog of war," and said that "there's a lot of it being spread around" by the Republican Party in the current election cycle.
He left the stage to a roaring crowd and spent some time shaking hands before hitting the road. He has campaign stops scheduled in Nevada and Arizona as well this week.
Is Clinton's endorsement a big deal for these candidates? How much will his support factor into these elections?
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