ORLANDO, Fla. — The Barack and Bill show last night drew 35,000 in Kissimmee.
Bill Clinton gave a nearly identical argument he’s been making on the trail for Sen. Barack Obama for weeks, but had a few good jokes and a nice defense of the Democratic nominee over the whole socialism debate.
“America works from the ground up not from the top down,” the former president said. “They talk about redistributing the wealth, they presided over the greatest redistribution of wealth upward since the 1920s and we all know how that ended.”
He also warned voters, “Don’t you be fooled by these oil prices going down” because it was an attempt to “sucker us into” thinking energy independence wasn’t needed.
Obama fawned all over Clinton, appearing with him for the first time ever on the trail.
“In case all of you forgot, this is what it’s like to have a great president,” he told the crowd. He said he’d learned from Clinton and his wife and gave effusive praise beyond his normal stump speech of the last Democratic administration.
“I know how much we’ll need both Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton for … years to come,” he said, not offering any hints as to if he would put Hillary Clinton on the Supreme Court if he’s elected. (Read my story on how voters are buzzing about that possibility here.)
He said Clinton did well to “reconfigure” the Democratic party and “restored a sense of community coupled with responsibility.”
He said he wished the “last 8 years” would have looked more “like the Clinton years when he was in the White House.”
Obama trotted out a few of his jokes from earlier in the day, and Clinton laughed out loud a few times.
Obama said John McCain’s adviser said if the Republican talks about the economy he will lose, so “That’s why I’m going to keep talking about the economy.” Obama has used the line several times but Clinton laughed as if he was hearing it the first time.
He also laughed when Obama riffed on the McCain socialism claim: “When I was in fourth grade, I split my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I gave it to my friend and he said, ‘Look he’s a redistributionist!’”
Clinton had his own laugh line when taking the stage.
“Look at this crowd! It’s not only big it is highly diverse,” he said. “You’ve even got a few old gray headed white guys like me you haven’t shut my demographic out yet. This is America’s future … Barack Obama represents America’s future and you’ve got to be there for him next Tuesday.”
Here’s some video I shot:
“Florida loves Bill Clinton,” Sen. Bill Nelson told us on the plane this morning.
He said the enthusiasm he saw at the rally the night before gives him a major indication the polls showing Obama with a lead are more than accurate: “It feels awfully good.”
He said the unprecedented high turnout is stunning. He also drew a contrast between this year and Kerry’s race in ‘04, when he spent almost all of his time in South Florida. “Obama and Biden are all over the state,” he said, adding that Michelle Obama drew her largest crowd yet in Gainesville last week.
Actor (one of many stars getting involved in the ‘08 race) Jimmy Smits rallied the crowd before Obama and Clinton took the stage, so the reporters in the traveling press didn’t get to hear him speak. But he was staying in our same hotel in Orlando, and made fun of the press as we trudged in around 1 a.m.
“The troops are here,” he said. Later, I asked what he thought of the rally. His response? “35,000 people!”
In other star news, Gwyneth Paltrow will be canvassing for Obama tomorrow in Richmond and Arlington.
—Christina Bellantoni, national political reporter,
The Washington Times
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