CLEVELAND - Employing folksy metaphors, former President Bill Clinton rallied Democrats here Tuesday in support of Gov. Ted Strickland's re-election bid and the Democratic Party in general.
A crowd of more than 800 - students, party and candidate volunteers, and local Democratic dignitaries - filled Cuyahoga Community College's recreation center gymnasium in downtown Cleveland in this Ohio Democratic stronghold.
Mr. Clinton acknowledged apathy among the electorate and said he couldn't blame people for being angry but said they shouldn't blame the wrong political party.
"The Democrats are saying something like this: 'We found a big hole that we did not dig. We didn't get it filled in 21 months, but at least we quit digging," Mr. Clinton said. "Give us two more years. If it doesn't work, vote us out.'•"
Mr. Clinton said two-thirds of the 2009 $787 billion stimulus plan was spent just "to help you tread water and not drown in that big hole you were in."
"It did work. It just wasn't enough to dig us out of the hole," Mr. Clinton said. "The Republican argument is this stimulus was obviously a failure because we're not out of the woods. To believe that, you've got to be so mad you can't think."
Mr. Strickland, a Democrat who is seeking a second term in a state where the economy is one of the hardest-hit in the nation, is trailing Republican opponent John Kasich, a former Congressman from the Columbus area, in polls.
Ryan Tronovitch, a Republican National Committee spokesman, said Mr. Clinton's visit reminds Ohioans of "the Democrats' big-government, tax-and-spend agenda that led to 10.3 percent unemployment and failed to jump-start the economy."
Mr. Strickland was preparing for a debate last night against Mr. Kasich and did not attend the rally, but his running mate, Yvette McGee Brown, did.
She referred to President Obama's visit to the Parma area of Cuyahoga County last week.
"You've had two Presidents here in seven days because they know Cuyahoga County matters," Ms. Brown said.
The former president said Mr. Strickland had earned awards for Ohio's economic development program and said the governor would direct resources to colleges to train people for job vacancies that he said outnumber the number of people being hired.
"The other party wants to cut back on spending for education and everything else," Mr. Clinton said. "The answer for Ohio is Ted Strickland."
Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Mr. Kasich, said that most Ohioans would find it "fairly offensive" that Governor Strickland is citing awards for his management of the economy, given that 380,000 lost jobs during his tenure and 614,000 are unemployed in the state.
"Ohioans have moved on and are ready for new leadership," Mr. Nichols said.
Among those attending the event was Cuyahoga Community College student Damon Howard, 35, of Cleveland, who said someone at the college suggested he go to the rally. He said he came out because of admiration for Mr. Clinton.
"Some of the best times in my life were during the Clinton administration," said Mr. Howard, who said he's studying to be a record producer. He said he was "leaning toward" Mr. Strickland.
Murray Evans, 67, a veterans' services officer for the county and a self-described longtime West Cleveland Democratic activist, said he came to the rally inspired and left that way, certain that the rally would have a ripple effect among voters.
"Here you're preaching to the choir," Mr. Evans said. "It's a question of who we talk to when we leave the room."
The former president headlined a morning fund-raiser in Cleveland where supporters paid between $500 and $1,000 for the privilege.
After the rally at Cuyahoga Community College, Mr. Clinton traveled to Columbus for a fund-raiser costing between $100 and $5,000 a ticket.
In Columbus, Mr. Clinton reiterated that Ohioans are right to feel angry about the weak U.S. economy, but shouldn't let that cloud their judgment when voting in November.
He put the blame for the economy on Republican polices before Mr. Strickland took office in 2007. He says Mr. Strickland has laid the foundation for a recovery in Ohio with strong economic development programs and deserves to be re-elected to a second term.
Mr. Strickland briefly joined Mr. Clinton on a stage set up in front of a riverside park in Columbus before heading to the debate.
In the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, Mr. Strickland was a strong supporter of Mr. Clinton's wife, Hillary Clinton, in her presidential bid.
Mr. Clinton alluded to that support, but said his wife, as secretary of state, is barred from political activity.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Contact Tom Troy at:
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Employing folksy metaphors, former President Bill Clinton rallied Democrats here Tuesday in support of Gov. Ted Strickland's re-election bid and the Democratic Party in general. A crowd of more than 800 - students, party and candidate volunteers, and local Democratic dignitaries - filled Cuyahoga Community College's recreation center gymnasium in downtown Cleveland in this Ohio Democratic stronghold.