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Clinton: Beware of rabid right-wing ideologues

By PHILIP ELLIOTT
October 27, 2013

Former President Bill Clinton campaigns in Virginia for Terry McAuliffe. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Former President Bill Clinton campaigns in Virginia for Terry McAuliffe.
(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Conservative ideologues are reliable voters who could threaten Democrat Terry McAuliffe‘s political chances, former President Bill Clinton warned Sunday as he joined his longtime buddy’s campaign for Virginia governor.

With little more than a week before Nov. 5’s Election Day, McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli each have sought to energize their strongest supporters, by inspiration or fear. McAuliffe has opened a lead in polling and is heavily outspending Cuccinelli on television ads, but turnout is expected to be low and the result could be decided by a few thousand votes.

“Political extremism does have one political virtue,” Clinton said. “Once you get people all torn up and upset, steam coming out of their ears, people will show up and vote.”

It was a shift in roles. For decades, it has been McAuliffe championing the personal and political futures of Bill Clinton and, later, his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Now, the former president is here to pitch in during the campaign against Republican Ken Cuccinelli during its final week.

“Terry’s gotten so good on the stump, I don’t think he needs me anymore,” Clinton said to laughter at the pair’s first stop.

Clinton planned other stops throughout the state with his longtime pal and fundraiser during the coming day. Former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is considered a strong contender for 2016’s presidential nomination, used her first political event after stepping down as secretary of state to endorse McAuliffe earlier this month.

Bill Clinton predicted that Cuccinelli’s supporters, who are deeply conservative and align to the tea party, would vote and he urged Democrats to be just as motivated.

“Just remember, the people who aren’t here today, who go to the other fella’s rally, they will be there on Election Day,” he said. “I’ve dealt with it all my life.”

That “other fella,” as Clinton called Cuccinelli, sought to turn one of the Democratic Party’s stars into another way to build enthusiasm among his conservative supporters. Even before the pair arrived at the veterans’ hall here in northern Virginia, Cuccinelli’s campaign had sent reporters a memo recounting the years of Clinton-McAuliffe collaboration for Democrats.

“As Terry McAuliffe spends the next few days traveling the state with Bill Clinton, Virginia voters should remember the troublesome space McAuliffe occupied as the middleman between the dangerous intersection of big-dollar special interest donors and high-ranking elected officials,” the memo said.

What Republicans called “the McAuliffe-Clinton baggage” — questions over the Clintons’ finances, Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern and his subsequent impeachment — seems to have faded for many voters.

And between Clinton’s first and second stops for McAuliffe, Cuccinelli organized a conference call with reporters to again raise separate questions about McAuliffe’s finances. Cuccinelli has run TV ads that accuse McAuliffe of preying on terminally ill individuals to make a profit and pointed to published reports that outlined a complicated investment in annuities.

Cuccinelli acknowledged the investments were not against the law but also said McAuliffe needs to explain the details of the investment to voters and why the holding did not appear on his financial disclosure forms when he ran for governor in 2009.

“I’m tripping over myself to be as open as humanly possible with the voters of Virginia, and Terry McAuliffe is taking every step possible to hide, to bury and obfuscate and lie, let’s face it,” Cuccinelli said. “He knows how dirty it is.”

McAuliffe says he was a “passive investor” and was never aware of the details. Much of what Cuccinelli raised had been out there for weeks, campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin said.

Bill Clinton’s approval ratings have improved since he left the White House in 2001 and voters have not lost interest in Hillary Rodham Clinton since she stepped down as President Barack Obama’s top diplomat earlier this year.

Clinton made only one passing mention of his wife, nothing that he was holding up a signup sheet to show voters because “Hillary did it” when she appeared with McAuliffe.

Every step Hillary Rodham Clinton has taken since leaving the State Department has been examined for its 2016 implications. And Bill Clinton’s return to full-time campaigning — even if for only a few days — was sure to add to speculation about whether a Clinton could call the White House home again in 2017.

Democrats have been relentless in painting Cuccinelli — who is known outside the state best as the first to challenge President Barack Obama’s health care law — as a political ideologue and someone who is unwilling to compromise.

Clinton happily added his voice to that message.

“If we become ideological, then we’re blind to evidence. We can only hear people who already agree with us. We think we know everything right now, and we have nothing to learn from anybody,” said Clinton, who as president sometimes bucked his party and worked with Republicans.

Clinton predicted that Cuccinelli as governor would impose his own deeply conservative views on the state at a time when compromise should be employed to build the economy.

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Follow Philip Elliott on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/philip_elliott

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