MANCHESTER – Former President Bill Clinton at once likened himself to an “old race horse” taken back out on the track for another run, and spoke of the interdependence of the nations of the world, during a vintage 40-minute speech to more than 1,200 fired up New Hampshire Democrats at their annual Jefferson Jackson fundraiser.
“If you like what happened when I was President, it can be a lot better than that,” Clinton said at the Radisson Hotel to party faithful who were at one moment clapping thundersticks, and then the next listening quietly as if at a college lecture. There was no outward reference to his wife, likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who will be in the state campaigning for Sen. Jeanne and Gov. Maggie Hassan on NOv. 2, but the message was quite clear.
Urging Democrats not to stay home during the mid-term elections, as many did in 2010, Clinton pitched for the reelections of Shaheen, Hassan, Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster and the party’s entire ticket.
Clinton stirred memories of his 1992 second place finish in the first-in-the-nation primary, where he gained the nickname “The Comeback Kid,” saying, “When I first came here, I was looking for somebody to shake hands with.” He thanked New Hampshire, as he often has, for being supportive of him and Hillary Clinton over the past more than two decades.
“I love it here,” he said when he took the stage. “No family in American public life owes more to the people of New Hampshire than Hillary and I do, and we both know it. Not just because of how you voted but because of how you treated us, and the opportunity you gave us to learn and listen and see.”
To the Stevie Wonder classic, “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” – which was President Barack Obama’s campaign theme song — Clinton took the stage with Shaheen and Hassan.
Clinton recalled visiting factor floors and American Legion halls, “and I figured there was a new way of bowling when I came her,” a reference to candlepin.
Clinton said, then joking, “I’m quite comfortable being here campaigning for women and taking orders.
“There’s nothing new in politics,” Clinton said. “I feel like an old racehorse in a stable and people take me out and take me on the track and slap me on the rear to see if I can run around one more time.”
While talking about the Ebola outbreak and ISIS, Clinton, tried to reach beyond the Democrats in the room, saying New Hampshire needs “people who will stand up and talk to you and make good sense, rather than those who speak in slogans, especially, he said, out of staters who air attack television ads and then leave the state.
Ads against the Democrats, he said, “are not trying to get you to think. They’re trying to get you to stop thinking. They want you to cast resentment votes.”
Clinton said that Republicans have tried for five presidential elections to profess “trickle-down economics” and have been “undeterred by evidence.”
At one point, he said, “I’m not really making a political statement. I’m trying to explain something.”
Urging an end to “this horrible income gap,” Clinton said he is now one of those “at the top” of the economic scale. “The difference is, I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be on the other end of the totem pole.”
Defending Shaheen, Clinton said she “saved the Portsmouth Naval Yard” and was a key part of the bipartisan solution to the Veterans Affairs scandal.
He did not mention Shaheen opponent Scott Brown by name, but said that on support for the minimum wage, equal pay and student loan reform, “she was right and he was wrong. He was wrong in Massachusetts and he’s still wrong when he crossed the border.”
Earlier, Hassan called for the Democrats to work through “long days and nights in these final days.”
“We can’t turn back now,” she said.
Hassan said there should be “no going back” to the “(Republican former House speaker Bill) O’Brien legislature….We cannot afford to go backward.”
Without mentioning Republican Walt Havenstein by name, she said her opponent wants to return to a “Koch brothers, Tea Party agenda.”
She also called for “restoring and improving the minimum wage.”
Shaheen ripped into Brown, insisting he “is not for New Hampshire.
“This election raises a fundamental question, which is what kind of future do we want for our country, what kind of future do we want for our state,” Shaheen said.
She pressed for income equality, not for candidates who would “give more and more to the people at the top while everyone else falls behind.”
“I don’t care how many ads Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, those people from Chicago run against me, I am never going to stop fighting to make sure that everyone in New Hampshire has access to quality affordable health care,” Shaheen said.
Brown, she said, “has gotten so much big oil money he should have run for the Senate from Texas. We don’t need to import and senator who will export American jobs.”
Kuster said, taking the stage, drew a loud ovation when she said, “I have one thing to say, you all look beautiful!” – a reference to remarks made about her appearance this week by Republican state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt.
“Granite Staters are not asking too much,” Kuster said. “They want to a decent job…to send their kids to college…and want to retire with dignity.”
Without mentioning her by name, Kuster called opponent Marilinda Garcia “nothing more than a Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin wannabe.”
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter said the “Democrats have a plan to jump start the middle class…we support unions, working men and women.”
“Citizens should practice self-protection and vote for Democrats.”
State Democratic Chairman Buckley said that the 1,226 people in the room should “take responsibility” for 25 people. He said that would result in more than 31,000 vote and “we win everything.”
The crowd clapped thundersticks provided by the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire.
The Jefferson-Jackson “Celebration” as it is now no longer a dinner.
It is more like a pep rally, with the Democrats seated threat-style in each equipped with a sign, saying “Ready for Jeanne,” “Ready for Maggie,” “Ready for Carol,” and “Ready for Annie.”
The party’s annual grassroots award went to Graham Smith of Amherst.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Award went to lifelong Democrat and former candidate for governor Paul McEachern, a Portsmouth attorney.
The Eleanor Roosevelt Award for social justice went to former state Sen. Katie Wheeler.
The Kathy Sullivan Award for “courage” went to David Lang, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire for his court fights against the Local Government Center.