March 13th, 2008
04:43 PM ET

Bill Clinton the campaign star

Bill Clinton on the campaign trail.

The best known person on the presidential campaign trail is not one of the candidates for president.

Bill Clinton in many ways is larger than life.  We followed him this past week in Pennsylvania and Mississippi as he campaigned for his wife.  What we found out firsthand is this: Most people come to his rallies because they support Hillary Clinton for president.  But Bill is the star they want to see.

Yesterday, we were backstage with the 42nd president at a high school gymnasium in Erie, Pennsylvania.  He had the flu, so he wasn’t feeling very good.  But as he came from behind the curtain, walked on the stage, and heard the cheers of the packed gym, it seemed to reinvigorate him.

Yes, Clinton praised his wife and did what was expected of a presidential surrogate.  But when a heckler started criticizing him personally, he sounded like he was the candidate.  He raised his voice, spoke emotionally, and defended his administration’s accomplishments.  The crowd went nuts, and for a little bit, it felt like the 1990’s again.

Clinton received negative press earlier in the campaign when he criticized Barack Obama and downplayed Obama’s success.  That controversy may have softened his edge.  He told the crowd in Erie that he “(loves) all the Democrats. I even miss the ones who are no longer in the debate.”

When his speeches end, he dives into the audience and signs autographs and poses for pictures. Just like during his presidency, he is generally quite late for campaign appearances. But he showed up right on time for an appearance last night.  It was a private fundraiser at a museum in Philadelphia.

Keeping donors waiting is not a good idea.  He told the attendees that his wife is the candidate with the momentum.  He left Philly and headed back home to New York to rest up and recuperate.  Next week will likely be another busy week in Pennsylvania.

– Gary Tuchman, 360° Correspondent

Filed under: Bill Clinton • Gary Tuchman • Raw Politics
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. PCM01

    Answer to K noon...very cute but neither the peace, nor the affluence were Mr. Clinton' s accomplishments.

    Facts and History are darn things

    March 18, 2008 at 6:26 pm |
  2. Eveng

    We need people like Hillary and Bill. They really goin to help this country to go out of the problems. No OBAMA hi is not real. Look what hi has been learning from his pastor.

    March 17, 2008 at 8:52 pm |
  3. AB

    I agree, ML. My life was certainly in much better condition when Bill was President. My husband and I made great financial strides during his time in the WH. I'm confidant Hillary possesses the intelligence as well as the experience to do us just as well if not better.

    March 17, 2008 at 8:15 pm |
  4. Jessica

    Why are people excited to see Bill? Does everyone forget the DISGRACE he brought to our country and the democratic party? How easily Americans forget these things when they like someone, these are probably the same people who are voting for Hillary thinking they will get her "husband". Our country was not "great" with the Clintons, the 90's were a different time. After Bill came Bush. Under Bill we were funding Osama Bin Ladin and we allowed for millions to die in the Genocide of Rwanda.

    Please people remeber your history!

    March 17, 2008 at 7:33 pm |
  5. Deborrah Hable

    I was for Hillary for President before I was for Bill even 🙂 She was an excellent First Lady of Arkansas, but to give Bill credit, he was the first Governor & later President to allow his wife so much power. I admire both of them. I think President Bill Clinton was the greatest president this country has ever had and I think Hillary will be an even greater president because she will have had to have struggled harder to get there. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that she will not let us down. Bill was from the town of Hope, but HILLARY IS HOPE!

    March 17, 2008 at 6:00 pm |
  6. Wolffan

    Bill Clinton is without a doubt, a real leader. And it's too bad he is not the one running for president again.

    March 17, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  7. pj

    i miss the big dog.

    March 17, 2008 at 3:31 pm |
  8. Damian

    Bill Clinton just loves to campaign. Unlike Hillary or Obama, Bill Clinton genuinely loves to be out on the campaign trail. He will always be "Bubba" at heart.

    March 17, 2008 at 1:53 pm |
  9. Desire - Michigan

    Bill Clinton is best we had in more then two decades. People should not forget the good times we had during his presidency. Just because his wife is running for a president he doesn't deserve all the criticism he is getting, specially for being called racist. Shame on black people in America for that.

    March 17, 2008 at 1:00 pm |
  10. ML

    Love Clintons, they have a class – no matter what other might say, they did greatly for this country, Hillary has a vocabulary, class and poise of a lady, sheis smart, intelligent and strong woman.
    Mr. Clinton has charisma, intelligence, class, he is wonderful speaker..
    Hillary will make this country more respected in the world – as her husband did.

    March 16, 2008 at 9:21 pm |
  11. Mary Simmons

    I think Hillary is acting like a spoiled brat. When things are not going her way she looks for dirt but when Obama answers back he accused of attacking her. She knows she isnt going to answer the phone at 3 am any morning the ad was very stupid. She cries when the camera is on her and also kisses and holds babies when the camer is on her.I think she should stick to the issues and not to dig up things on Obama . She showed pictures in African clothes. Found a statement from some one in Canada which claimed the sratement was made by Obama. now they dig some statement from the minister of the church Obama attends. which was made in2003. I feel sorry for Bill with a wife like her no wonder he had affairs. He was a a very good looking man, and he looks as if he has aged ten years. People always will come to see Bill when speaks, because he is a likable person and not her. Hillary GROW UP

    she knows she isnt going to answer any p

    March 16, 2008 at 8:24 pm |
  12. Wil Smith Jackson, MS

    Well what can I say, I have followed this man for a very long time and I must say He is a man that many want history to give a bad taste to but history will be very kind to this man. He is one person in this country that we all trust and feel more secured then anyone. For all the Years the republican tried to do damage to him and yes even some things that he did wronghimself, the American people stood strong and felt safe with him. So yes history will find itself very kind to my old friend. I support anything with Bill Clinton name on it.......its call Loyality and loyality for ever.

    March 16, 2008 at 2:14 am |
  13. Jimmy, Montana

    Don't worry Bill. I think that Hillary like you understands that we the middle and lower classes run the engine of this country. The reason Hillary gets my republican vote is because She will make it happen. Thats the difference. Hillary reminds me of Bill and Borock reminds me of Jimmy Carter and we can't do that again. The stakes are just to high!!!!


    March 15, 2008 at 8:09 pm |
  14. Donald Williams

    I like Bill Clinton, but where was he at 3 A.M was he with Monica? I think this election is nonsense and has turned into a circus. I hope John McCain wins so we wont have to wait longer for our economy to go rock bottom! Bill was booted say what you want he was wrong... Ignorance is no excuse for our laws! Obama has good intentions but please be realistic. Only God can save us at this point.

    March 15, 2008 at 7:57 pm |
  15. Jennifer - ATL

    Everyone comments on President Clinton defending his spouse, but Mrs. Obama defends her spouse just as forcefully and strongly and the media never pick it up as they do him. What is that???? such obvious favoritism and bad journalism.

    March 15, 2008 at 7:12 pm |
  16. Jon

    I love me some Bill Clinton! I hope we have another 8 years of Clinton administration.
    Hillary '08!!!!!

    March 15, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  17. k noon

    What part of the Clinton 90's didn't you like, the peace or the prosperity?

    March 15, 2008 at 6:22 am |
  18. ls

    GLOBAL economy screw up USA thanks to clintons ,but most people VERY short memory they are lier about healthcare but people buying their lie

    March 15, 2008 at 1:47 am |
  19. Sherri

    Without a doubt, the Clintons are GOOD for this country. I put my trust in their more than capable hands. This is one vote that will back the Clintons, any Clinton, to run for President. And as a woman, I would like to see a female role in the Presidency in my lifetime. Hillary is the only woman that I see as being capable of handling such a daunting task. I would also like to see an African American as President, but someone who could handle the job. That man is not Barak Obama. It would be a step forwarded for this country to have a man such as Colin Powell to run for Presidency, someone of stature and proven ability.

    March 15, 2008 at 12:51 am |
  20. Rodney Giles

    That's my president, i love the clintons.. They are so good at what they do. Sink or swim i am for Hillary all the way. He knows strategy to win elections it has never been personal against anyone. It's just what you have to do in elections. He is not a racist and i would invest my money in Mr. Clintons book called giving before i spent for Audacity of Hope. I have no desire to read it, but i respect obama.

    God bless you Mr. President great job

    March 14, 2008 at 11:52 pm |
  21. Sian

    Nice to see Bill on the campaign trail again. He's allowed to come out and court the black vote.
    Where was Bill last week when voters were being reminded of NAFTA and other policies that came into existence during the Clinton White House. I am a huge fan of Bill and would vote for him ina heartbeat. His wife is another story altogether

    March 13, 2008 at 7:26 pm |
  22. Goodheart

    Remember after Bill Clinton's second term. Even despite his scandel, he was tremendously popular. If he couldn't ran for a third term, I think many would agree he would have been re-elected. I wonder what a Bill Clinton (instead of Hillary) vs. Barrack Obama campaign would be like?

    March 13, 2008 at 7:25 pm |
  23. Sonya of Lawrenceville Ga.

    Bill Clinton Has really shown his true colors over recent months. At least it does appears he keeping his promise to do everything he can to get his wife elected. As black woman over 40, I am shocked but not surprised. The "Clinton Machine" is a mighty machine and will not be easily beaten, however it can be beaten and Senator Obama is "The One" to make it happen.
    I only hope Bill Clinton and the other Clinton team members don't cause such hurt feelings and anger in the hearts of all democrats and independents that people start to think the party cannot unite when the time comes. Sure the politicians will pull it together, but what about the people.
    Play nice, stick to the issues, gender, race are in our face no need to talk about either.

    March 13, 2008 at 5:55 pm |
  24. Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA

    While many people like Bill Clinton and want to see him when he makes appearances, many of those same people don't want to see him back in the White House with Hillary Clinton as President.

    If our government is ever to get back on track, we have to pull away from the "business as usual" Washington politics which both the Clinton and Bush families have created in Washington over the past two decades.

    March 13, 2008 at 5:49 pm |
  25. Lisa

    Gov. Spitzer incident brings back ugly memories of Bill Clinton's affairs with Monica Lewinsky, Gennifer Flowers, and Paula Jones. Can we get someone in office that we can trust?

    March 13, 2008 at 5:45 pm |
  26. TundraVision

    I am going to vote for Obama in the General Election.
    If the Clintons manage, through their characteristic Dirty Tricks, to steal the nomination, I'm going to WRITE IN BARACK OBAMA.

    I would fear for Barack's life were he to accept the 3rd slot on Hill-Billy ticket. Remember Vince Foster?

    March 13, 2008 at 5:42 pm |
  27. Cindy

    I think that Bill may be a big distraction for Hillary. I don't see it as a good idea that he is out stumping for her. People are there just to see him and hear about his life. Are they really listening to anything he says about Hillary? Plus he has gotten in trouble a lot with the things he has said. I think it best to send him home.

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    March 13, 2008 at 5:16 pm |
  28. mary

    Bill Clinton deserves so much better than he is getting from the American people. We were better off when he was the president.

    March 13, 2008 at 5:06 pm |