Bill Clinton rakes in Minnesota money for Hillary's campaignby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
Former President Bill Clinton was in Minneapolis Tuesday to raise money for his wife's 2008 presidential campaign. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York is leading in both the money race and the polls among all candidates here in Minnesota.
Minneapolis — More than 2,000 people filled the State Theater in downtown Minneapolis to hear former President Clinton speak. Tickets to the event ranged from $25 to $100. Earlier in the evening, supporters paid up to $2,300 to attend a private reception.
Clinton is in an unprecedented role campaigning on behalf of his wife. But he insisted Hillary Clinton would be his candidate -- even if they weren't married.
"Hillary is the best-qualified, most well-suited person to be president at this moment in history of any non-incumbent that I've ever had a chance to vote for, including me in 1992," he said.
Speaking for more than 45 minutes, Clinton made a case for his wife's readiness to tackle the nation's biggest challenges. His list included reforming health care and education, restoring the nation's standing in the world and strengthening the military. Clinton said his wife can be the first woman elected president.
"According to all the polls that came out in October, she was running ahead of all the other Democrats, ahead of all the Republicans, and the only person beating all the Republicans and getting enough electoral votes to win on today's facts," he said. "Now, these polls can change a lot, but they sure prove she's electable. Probably the most electable person."
Clinton said Hillary is also the only candidate who's faced what he callS "the right-wing attack machine." He said that machine will go after whoever wins the Democratic nomination.
Minnesota Republicans seized on the Clinton surrogate campaign visit to take some partisan shots. State GOP Spokesman Mark Drake said Republicans would look forward to facing Clinton next year.
"Hillary Clinton certainly appears to be pulling away from Barack Obama, who has run a real lackluster campaign," he said. "And nothing unites and energizes Republicans like the Clintons. So if she's the candidate, I think that's going to really unite Republicans and get Republicans excited."
Results of a recent Star Tribune poll showed Clinton's support at 47 percent among Democrats in Minnesota. Support for Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois was 22 percent. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was third with 16 percent.
Joe Kunkel, a political science professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato, said preference polls aren't a good prediction of the state's precinct caucuses, which are scheduled for Feb. 5. Kunkel said he thinks Obama could do better than his poll numbers suggest.
"There's only going to be about 1 percent of the population that's going to go to these caucuses," he said. "So, it really doesn't matter how popular you are among the general public, it's the people who are actually going to show up on that Tuesday night. And so getting good lists and then working over the lists and building a grassroots organization is really important."
Obama has at least one edge over Clinton in Minnesota. Earlier this month, he became the first Democrat to announce a state campaign organization and staff. Chris Miller, state director of the Obama campaign, said much of the effort is geared toward getting supporters to their precinct caucuses.
"We've got a candidate here who we believe has a message that engages voters," he said. "And that's the campaign we're trying to build. Our strategy in Minnesota, as in the rest of the country, is a very simple one, and it's just about getting out that message to as many voters as possible."
The Obama campaign is also relying on the candidate's spouse to raise money and drum up support. Miller says Michelle Obama is scheduled to make an appearance Nov. 7 in Minneapolis. Details of the event have not been finalized. Miller says its unclear whether Sen. Obama himself will campaign in the state anytime soon.
- Morning Edition, 10/24/2007, 6:24 a.m.