Former president Bill Clinton mixed street-level campaigning with some digs at his wife’s remaining presidential rivals during his visit Thursday to Portland.
The former president, who likes to be known as the “explainer-in-chief,” gave a long defense of Hillary Clinton’s record — and he slipped in frequent references to why she would be more successful than Democratic rival Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump, now assumed to be the Republican nominee.
Before a crowd of about 550 people at the Left Bank Annex near the Moda Center, Bill Clinton said Trump is appealing to voters left behind by the changing economy. That’s particularly true in the coal country of Kentucky, he said, which along with Oregon has a Democratic primary on May 17.
“They’re mad and they’re longing to hear Donald Trump bash people around. And they like the bashing because they feel like they’ve been bashed,” said Clinton, “and the rest of us, their fellow Americans, don’t give a rip about them.”
But Clinton said that Trump’s tough talk won’t bring economic revival. Instead, the former president argued, the U.S. needs to focus on restoring its public infrastructure, transitioning to clean energy and improving education.
Clinton argued that Sanders’ proposal to provide tuition for public colleges sounds good but can’t be achieved. He said most states, particularly those in Republican hands, will resist helping pay for that.
“It’s not going to happen in a lot of places,” he said, adding that it is better to target aid to those who need it.
Sanders has attracted much bigger crowds on his two visits to Portland over the last year and is widely seen as the favorite in Oregon’s primary. Sanders has frequently criticized the Clinton administration’s failure to reduce the power of the big banks — and the former president spent part of his speech insisting that his wife wants higher taxes on hedge funds and other financial speculators.
Many in the crowd waited more than three hours for Clinton to speak. After arriving in Portland following a rally in Bend, Clinton first went to Portland’s Northeast Alberta Street to visit a barbershop and a coffee bar.
He posed for numerous selfies for bystanders as he ambled down the street.
“Hillary is the only candidate left in the race in either party who has a long, long record of getting things done,” Clinton told reporters during a quick visit to Case Study Coffee Roasters.
He also stopped by the Terrell Brandon Barbershop, a mainstay of the local African-American community.
At the public rally, Clinton was introduced by Gov. Kate Brown, who said she liked the ring of “first gentleman.” That would be the former president’s title if Hillary Clinton becomes president.