- Associated Press - Saturday, November 1, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Former President Bill Clinton rallied Iowa Democrats to get out the vote in the competitive Senate race Saturday, proclaiming that “Bruce Braley is the only choice and thank goodness he’s a very good choice.”

Clinton appeared at the Saturday afternoon rally in downtown Des Moines for Democrat Braley, who is locked in a tight race against Republican Joni Ernst. Clinton, who was also scheduled to attend a Braley event in Waterloo later in the day, has been touring the country on behalf of struggling Democrats. During a fifteen-minute speech before about 600 people, he said Braley would help move the country forward.

“This is about who will help us grow together, who will help us work together. This is not a close call,” said Clinton, who also offered support for Democratic congressional candidate Staci Appel.

Braley, 57, a four-term congressman from Waterloo, is competing against Ernst, 44, a state lawmaker and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin. Recent polls have shown the race too close to call. Millions of dollars have poured into the state as Republicans drive for the six-seat gain they need to win the Senate.

Clinton said Ernst’s policies were too conservative for Iowa, citing her support for eliminating the federal Department of Education. He also mentioned a now-famous Ernst television ad in which she boasted about castrating pigs on the farm where she grew up and said that if elected she would make Washington “squeal” by cutting pork.

“You’ve got to know the difference between pork and people. I don’t want to hear a minimum wage worker squeal. I don’t want to hear a middle class working family squeal. I don’t want to hear a college student squeal. I don’t want to hear seniors squeal,” Clinton said.

Singer-songwriter James Taylor performed several songs for the crowd, including “America the Beautiful” and “Shower the People.”

“Have you heard enough attack ads?” Taylor asked the crowd before saying he was happy to support Braley and Appel and encouraging people to vote. “Our future is at stake. Good government is at stake.”

After the rally, Clinton and Braley stopped at a coffee shop in Ames, where they posed for photos and encouraged students to vote.

Ernst was spending Saturday touring the state, with stops that included Ames, Cedar Falls and Dubuque. Her campaign announced Saturday that former President George H.W. Bush had endorsed her candidacy. In a statement offered by the campaign, he called Ernst an “independent leader” and said she “will continue fighting for those who have worn our nation’s uniform.”

Responding to Clinton’s remarks, Ernst spokeswoman Caitlin Conant said in a statement: “During Congressman Braley’s 8 years in Washington, we’ve seen nothing but gridlock and the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression. Joni will bring what’s working in Iowa to Washington.”

The crowd at the Clinton event in Des Moines was calm, but Braley supporters said they were feeling good about their chances going into the election.

“I got more optimistic as the week got later,” said Braley volunteer Scott Thompson, 52, of Des Moines, who said he has been calling and door-knocking to get out the vote for weeks. “There seems to be an attitude that is supportive of Braley in a very practical way.”

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