By Melissa A. Conrad
CNHI News Service
About 4,000 Democrats welcomed former President Bill Clinton to the North Central High School gymnasium Friday for a “Hoosier Common Sense Rally” in support of U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly in his race for U.S. Senate.
Clinton brought his “A” game to thunderous applause and foot-stomping enthusiasm in support of both Donnelly and John Gregg, the Democratic candidate for governor.
“This is what I know,” said Clinton, “Everywhere in the world and everywhere in America that people are doing well, it’s because government and business work together.”
Clinton opened and closed with the belief that, “Cooperation and honorable compromise work better than constant conflict — they just work better.
“This deal that’s being presented to us by the group that now controls the Republican Party doesn’t work very well,” he continued. “Every time they’ve run it out in the last 20 years it hasn’t worked very well, and I frankly resent the fact that it’s called conservative because it’s not. I promise you, the four people on this stage, we are way more fiscally conservative than the people they’ve got running for president, vice president ...”
The applause and cheers briefly drowned out the former president’s words. Clinton stood with former Sen. Evan Bayh, Donnelly and Gregg.
Clinton had tough words for Donnelly’s opponent, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who filed a lawsuit to stop auto industry restructuring that nearly cost thousands of Indiana auto workers their jobs.
Clinton was critical of Gregg’s opponent, U.S. Mike Pence, for not supporting the auto industry, and he challenged Mourdock’s questioning the constitutionality of Social Security and Medicare.
Clinton spent several minutes on the importance of changes made to federal student loans and also questioned Pence and Mourdock for again challenging those changes.
Hoosier Democrats began assembling with free tickets for the 10:30 a.m. start to welcome their fiery former president and state candidates. Also speaking were Indianapolis City-County Councilwoman Maggie Lewis, lieutenant governor candidate Vi Simpson and Congressman Andre Carson. Fifth District congressional candidate Scott Reske led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Clinton’s presence in Indiana is a sign that much might still be undecided here. In a state where splitting tickets is nothing out of the ordinary and solid red turned blue in 2008, the home stretch to election day has begun, and Democrats called for common sense and working to get folks out voting.
Clinton stole the show at the Democratic Party’s national convention and his presence Friday in Indiana was a notable encore. A new Pew Research Center poll found that 29 percent of those surveyed said Clinton’s speech was the highlight of the convention. A Gallup poll released in early September showed Clinton was viewed favorably by 69 percent of Americans, including 43 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of independents.
Speakers Friday challenged those attending to reach out to their neighbors, friends co-workers and others and to take the time to talk with them about how crucial this election and each vote is.
Clinton hammered on Donnelly’s opponent for criticism of U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar for working with the president on national security.
“Do you really think it’s a Republican or Democratic issue whether Osama bin Laden and all the leadership of al-Qaida are gone now or not?” Clinton said. “I thought it was an American issue.”
He also criticized Mourdock’s reluctance to compromise.
“What is this idea that it’s my way or the highway? I was raised to believe that nobody’s right all the time,” said Clinton.
Donnelly met with the media at 9:30 a.m. to preview the Hoosier Common Sense Rally, saying early voting numbers had exceeded 2008 levels and he saw that as a good sign. What he says he also sees as positive and what this election is about are the 5,000 workers heading to their jobs at a transmission plant in Kokomo that he says his opponent didn’t support.
On Thursday, Donnelly’s campaign responded to Mourdock’s effort to label his lawsuit to liquidate Chrysler ending more than 100,000 Hoosier jobs as anything other than a partisan power grab.
“Richard Mourdock has stooped to a new low: lying about the fact that he sued to receive less money for Hoosier police officers and teachers than he would have received in settlement,” said Elizabeth Shappell, Donnelly’s communications director. “Richard Mourdock pursued the lawsuit against
Chrysler to increase his own tea party credentials, not because he had Indiana’s best interests in mind. He spent over $2 million of our taxpayer funds on New York lawyers and a lawsuit that lost at every level to try to kill over 100,000 Hoosier jobs, all the while knowing that it was a financial loser even if he succeeded. The only candidate in this race who stood up The only candidate in this race who stood up for and will continue to fight for Indiana workers is Joe Donnelly.”