Bill Clinton rallies West Virginia Democrats on eve of Election 2010

As one of the most popular politicians in the nation, Clinton is using his credibility to help his party.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 1, 2010; 11:16 PM

BECKLEY, W. VA. - With hours to go until West Virginians head to the polls to elect a new senator, former president Bill Clinton knocked Republican John Raese and the national campaign organizations running television attack ads against the Democratic candidate, Gov. Joe Manchin.

"These people who are hiding their names, these contributors, they're doing it for a reason," Clinton warned about 500 people Monday outside a convention center. "If you knew who was paying for those ads against Joe Manchin, you'd know they were a bunch of bull, and you'd know they were trying to get some financial advantage out of it."

The former president then picked up on attack lines delivered by Democrats against Raese. The businessman runs his media and mining companies from Morgantown, W. Va., but owns a second home in Palm Beach, and his wife is a Florida resident.

"Vote for me, because I don't live here," Clinton said, mockingly delivering bits of a speech he thought Raese might give if - in his words - the Republican businessman stuck to the facts instead of spreading lies about Manchin. "Vote for me, because my wife can't, she's registered in Florida. Vote for me, because I think you're hicks, and I didn't even hire West Virginians to prove it." The last line of attack references ads financed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee that used out-of-state actors to portray West Virginians.

Turning from bomb thrower to lecturer, with wire-rimmed glasses perched on his nose, Clinton delivered a detailed 10-minute rebuttal to the economic proposals in the GOP Pledge to America, the campaign manifesto few Republican congressional candidates are touting on the stump.

"Unfortunately for them, I have a wife who's a traveling salesperson, so I'm home alone a lot, I actually study this stuff," Clinton said. "I spend about an hour a day studying the economy." He proceeded to knock Republican proposals to cut education funding and the GOP's refusal to embrace pay-as-you-go budgeting.

"We need somebody that comes from a place like West Virginia, where people have a really good nose for this fishy business, who's had practical experience solving real problems," Clinton said of Manchin.

Recent polls give Manchin a slight edge against Raese, but the race remains a tight, closely watched contest that could help tip the Senate's balance of power toward either party.

For his part Manchin, who's in the middle of his second term, said he hopes to pick up where former Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D) left off.

"If I can follow in that man's footsteps, I'll be a good man," Manchin said.

He then bragged about his most talked-about TV ad, which shows him shooting through a copy of cap and trade legislation with a rifle. Though it caused headscratching among outside political observers, the governor and his aides consider the ad an attempt to beat back Raese's charges that Manchin would be a rubber stamp for Obama administration policies.

"I really did shoot and I really did hit it," Manchin said. "It wasn't quite the first shot, but I did get it. The cap and trade thing, I just respectfully disagree with this administration and our president."

Clinton's appearance with Manchin was the former president's fourth stop on Monday as he spent the day rallying for Democrats with mixed prospects. Clinton began with two stops in upstate New York for vulnerable Democratic House incumbents Scott Murphy and Bill Owens, who face tough challenges after winning special elections to replace Republicans.

Clinton then flew south to Pennsylvania to rally with gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato (D), who's expected to lose to Republican Tom Corbett. After West Virginia, Clinton was to appear in Kentucky with Democratic Senate candidate Jack Conway before ending the day in Florida with the state's Democratic gubernatorial and Senate candidates, Alex Sink and Kendrick Meek.

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