- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - Former President Bill Clinton became the latest high-profile Democrat to back the re-election bids of Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, saying Tuesday that the candidates focus on issues important to voters, like jobs and health care.

“I’m here to support Dick Durbin and Pat Quinn because I think they’re about the future,” Clinton told workers at Chicago-based manufacturing company Wheatland Tube. “What this election should be about is what your lives are about … more jobs, higher incomes, better education and training, secure health care and stronger families and communities. … The rest of it is all background music.”

Quinn is seeking a second full term, but faces a tough challenge from Republican businessman Bruce Rauner. The venture capitalist trying to wrest away one of the last Democratic strongholds in the Midwest. The gubernatorial contest in President Barack Obama’s home state is one of the most competitive and expensive nationwide. Clinton’s visit was preceded by a Sunday rally headlined by Obama and fundraisers and events with first lady Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Rauner’s campaign deemed the visits by Democrats “full rescue mode.” Rauner was expected to appear with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Rockford on Tuesday afternoon, part of a nationwide tour for Christie, who serves as the head of the Republican Governors’ Association. Christie has been to Illinois for Rauner several times.

Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, is seeking a fourth term against Republican dairy magnate and state Sen. Jim Oberweis.

Clinton reiterated themes that have been prominent in Quinn’s re-election bid: That the Chicago Democrat took over and led Illinois at a time of ethical and economic crisis. Quinn, a former lieutenant governor, assumed office in 2009 in the wake of ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption scandal.

Quinn noted the drop in unemployment during his tenure. Figures released last week by state officials showed a September rate of 6.6 percent, compared to 9.1 percent a year earlier. Durbin also praised Quinn’s jobs record.

But Rauner has said Illinois still lags behind other states and isn’t growing or competitive.

Clinton told the enthusiastic crowd - including several state lawmakers - that Republicans elsewhere are “relentlessly attacking the president,” and using the midterm election as a referendum on his presidency. He said voters shouldn’t become pessimistic.

He said he’s been thinking about the future more, in part because of his nearly three-week old granddaughter, and reflected on his role in politics.

“I feel like an old racehorse that’s retired. I’m in a barn somewhere. About once every two or four years they come and bring a little extra hay,” he said. “They brush me down real good, take me out to the track, slap me on the rear and just see if I can get around that track one more time.”

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Follow Sophia Tareen at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen

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