LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton returned to Nevada on Tuesday to stump for what he called “shared prosperity,” and to support President Barack Obama and local Democratic candidates just 11 days before early voting begins in a campaign battleground state with six electoral votes at stake.
The former president, who is making a campaign speaking tour through California, Nevada and Arizona, stood with Shelley Berkley, a seven-term congresswoman from Las Vegas who is running for Senate, at an afternoon rally outdoors at the Springs Preserve nature center and history complex just west of downtown Las Vegas.
“If you want to rebuild a 21st century American middle class, and just as important, give more people a ladder into it, you’ve got to make the right choice,” Clinton told the crowd that organizers counted at nearly 2,000 people. He drew cheers when he called on voters to “send a loud and clear signal that the future of the United States of America is not for sale.”
The Obama campaign in Nevada hoped for a bump from the appearance by Clinton, who last appeared in Las Vegas at a Green Energy Summit in early August hosted by U.S. Senate Democratic Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid. Clinton carried Nevada when he won the White House in 1992 and 1996, and Obama carried the state in 2008.
Reid on Tuesday implored the crowd to recall Obama’s support for Detroit car makers, solar and wind energy, the health care law dubbed Obamacare, and action to end the war in Iraq and kill the al Qaeda leader blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
“I have seen with my own eyes how Barack Obama has changed America for the better,” Reid said.
Berkley attacked Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney as a candidate with a message for Nevada of, “Buddy you’re on your own.” She accused Romney and her opponent, GOP Sen. Dean Heller, of pursuing a “top-down, trickle-down” approach to government.
“We can’t let them win in November so they can roll back the progress we have made,” Berkley said.
But Clinton was the star of the show. He said he was supporting Berkley, Nevada Senate Democratic Majority Leader Steven Horsford and state Assembly Speaker John Oceguera. He named each of the Democratic candidates for Congress, including former Congresswoman Dina Titus, who was absent, and called for voters to support them and policies aimed at getting government and business to work together.
“The most successful societies on Earth today are not the ones which pit government against business, but where government and business work together to do what each does best,” Clinton said, “to empower everyone to succeed in shared prosperity.”
Clinton appeared earlier in the day with four California congressional candidates before thousands of students and Democratic supporters outdoors at the University of California, Davis. There, the former president said he wanted to correct the record from last week’s presidential debate and respond to criticism that Obama failed to respond to Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s claims about the economy and other issues.
“There’s old moderate Mitt,” Clinton said in Las Vegas, characterizing Romney’s debate performance as a shift from conservative policies that won the primary to centrist positions to broaden support in the election.
“He shows up with a sunny face and says, ‘I didn’t say all those things these last couple of years,’” Clinton said. “But I was paying attention these last few years.”
Horsford rallied the crowd before Clinton took the stage with an emphasis on 29 months of improvement in the national unemployment rate. The most recent jobless figure, 7.8 percent, is the same level as when Obama was inaugurated. But the Nevada state unemployment rate, which was 9.4 percent when Obama was sworn in in January 2009, climbed to a nation-leading peak of 14.9 percent in December 2010. Nevada also led the nation in foreclosures and bankruptcies during the recession.
After seven terms in Congress, Berkley is locked in a tight race for Senate against GOP incumbent Sen. Dean Heller. Heller’s campaign issued a statement pointing to criticisms she made of Clinton when he was president.
Chandler Smith, Heller spokeswoman, accused Berkley of “shifting her positions to chase her political ambitions.”
Horsford is trying to unseat GOP U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, and Oceguera is facing Republican businessman Danny Tarkanian in Nevada’s new 4th congressional district.
Clinton was scheduled to make fundraising appearances for Berkley and Oceguera, and was to give a banquet speech to the UNLV Foundation at the Bellagio resort on the Las Vegas Strip. He was due to appear Wednesday at a rally at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz.
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