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Bill Clinton campaigns for Hillary Clinton in Tallahassee

in 2017 by

Former President Bill Clinton paid a visit to the state capital Monday afternoon to campaign at the nation’s largest historically black college, Florida A&M University, on behalf of his spouse Hillary Clinton, who is looking to clinch the Democratic presidential primary in the face of a surging left-leaning rebellion led by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

In Tuesday’s Florida Democratic contest — as opposed to in Midwestern states like Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri also voting Tuesday night — the result is not much in doubt, as an older electorate and closed primary system appears poised to catapult former Secretary of State to an easy victory.

But a week after a stinging defeat in Michigan, the Clinton campaign was taking no chances. Bill Clinton was an effective surrogate for U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham when he stumped for her at FAMU in 2014, and is probably the most popular national political figure in Florida.

The 42nd President, by and large, gave Sanders the silent treatment, at least by name. But in praising his spouse’s extensive governmental experience and “change-making” abilities, he nonetheless attempted to draw a sharp contrast between Clinton and the 74-year-old independent senator.

Bill Clinton obviated Sanders’ criticisms of Hillary Clinton’s votes on issues like the Iraq War authorization by saying “every election should be about the future,” a motif which harked back to his 1992 campaign stop staple, “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” by Fleetwood Mac.

He adumbrated Secretary Clinton’s history of work on progressive issues like health care and criminal justice, particularly her work with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in crafting the popular Children’s Health Care Program and expanding access to the courts for rural Arkansans in forming the first legal aid program in the Ozarks region.

Clinton also continued to press his wife’s theme of binding her success to that of President Barack Obama, perhaps the only national figure more famous on FAMU’s campus.

In tacit response to Sander’s well-worn trope that it’s “too late for establishment politics and establishment economics,” Clinton said “it’s time to finish the job, not reinvent the wheel,” citing an improving economy.

Clinton also repeated criticisms Hillary Clinton leveled at Florida’s Republican-led state government, criticizing its controversial Stand Your Ground policy and rebuking their refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Most public polls show Clinton beating Sanders in the Florida primary by 25 points or more. Both candidates’ campaigns have opened field offices in Tallahassee in recent weeks.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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