Clinton Urges Party to Seek GOP Voters, Independents

Former president Bill Clinton called on Democrats to focus on retaking Congress.
Former president Bill Clinton called on Democrats to focus on retaking Congress. (By Steve Pope -- Associated Press)
By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 15, 2006

DES MOINES, Oct. 14 -- Former president Bill Clinton urged Democratic activists on Saturday to spend the final weeks of the midterm-election campaign appealing to independent and disaffected Republican voters, saying the Bush administration and Congress have been captured by the GOP's most ideological extremists.

In a speech that was as much a tutorial as a political call to arms, Clinton said at a Democratic fundraising dinner that Democrats must respond to public dissatisfaction with a positive agenda of their own on national security, the economy, energy and health care.

"We've got to go out there and look for all the Republicans and all the independents who are troubled," he said. "They know something is wrong, and they want to change."

Clinton said Democrats should not blame the whole of the Republican Party for the problems of the country.

"The entire government of the United States -- the Congress, the White House and increasingly the courts -- for the last six years has been in the control not of the Republican Party but the most ideological, the most extreme, the most right-wing sliver of the Republican Party," Clinton said at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, the Iowa Democratic Party's biggest annual fundraising event.

He said Republicans have three governing priorities: concentration of wealth among the nation's richest individuals and biggest corporations; unlimited and unaccountable executive power; and painting opponents of their agenda as morally and politically inferior.

While attacking the Republican record, Clinton stressed that Democrats "believe in evidence and argument, not assertion and attack."

The former president made scant reference to the 2008 elections and the possible presidential candidacy of his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), instead calling on Democrats to focus their energies on taking back Congress this fall.

"Don't give up on any of these House seats," he said. "We've got to get things back in order."

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