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Former president Clinton on mission to rescue Democratic Party in fall elections
"More than 10 million of us are living in houses not worth as much as our mortgages, and we can't move like we used to do because our credit would be toast for a decade," Clinton said at a stop in Espanola, N.M., never betraying that he is a millionaire many times over and the owner of multiple properties.
Clinton connects with "how normal 'walking-around' folks are feeling," said Paul Begala, a confidant and former top strategist. "Both the right and the left have mocked that I-feel-your-pain empathy, but Americans have always liked it. It's the core of him, even more than the brain. It's real."
Over the past two weeks, Clinton has had one day off, Saturday, which he spent in Northern California with his close friend Terry McAuliffe. The two stayed up late, playing cards and drafting new talking points for Democrats to trot out on the trail.
"He literally sat down with a yellow legal pad," said McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, adding that Clinton told him: "Make sure, Terry, you get these talking points out to every candidate."
It was then, McAuliffe said, that Clinton confided that he has been frustrated with the Democrats' message.
"He is just baffled and bewildered about why there has not been a more coherent message talking about what the party has done, why we allowed ourselves to become human pinatas," McAuliffe said. "I think he is agitated that Democrats haven't put their best foot forward in explaining to the American public what they've actually done."
Clinton reserves time near the end of his speeches to talk about student-loan policy change, an Obama accomplishment he says isn't getting its due on the campaign trail. Clinton bemoans that the United States has fallen from first to ninth in the world in the percentage of adults with a four-year college degree - because too many students drop out for fear that they can't repay their loans.
Democrats overhauled student-loan policy to cap monthly repayments at 10 percent of discretionary income - a law Clinton says Republicans want to repeal.
"Do you know how many working families there are where people go home at night now, men and women and the children they love better than life, and they're sick with worry, they think they'll never be able to send their kids to college?" Clinton said in Everett.
"Oh, yes, you will," Clinton continued. "Do not let this bill be repealed. If the young people of America show up, we will vote for the future and the bill will be secured. That's why you've got to vote for Patty Murray. These are real choices here - real, serious choices."
Clinton, taking time off from running his global charitable foundation, is in the midst of a two-week swing that has taken him from the Mississippi Delta to the Pacific Northwest and seemingly everywhere in between. It took him across California, where he put a rivalries aside to join hands with Jerry Brown, running to reclaim his old job as governor. Aides said Clinton might return to the road next week to visit the battlegrounds of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
Some assume Democratic leaders in Washington are orchestrating Clinton's campaign activities, but he is deployed by no one but himself.