Former President Bill Clinton rallied an enthusiastic crowd of about 250 people in Baton Rouge Thursday night, urging them to vote for his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and touting several planks on her campaign platform.
Clinton drew several laughs with his trademark self-deprecating humor.
“Having lost it, I can tell you youth matters,” he joked after stressing the importance of having a young workforce.
His speech touched on Clinton’s plans to make college more affordable, reduce the prison population and focus on investments in domestic infrastructure and energy. His central theme was unity and diversity that he heavily implied would be key to a Hillary Clinton presidency.
“We are going to rise together again,” Bill Clinton said. “If we are going to live together and grow together, we have to be citizens together.”
Louisiana voters head to the polls Saturday to cast their ballots in the presidential primaries. Only registered Democrats will be able to vote in the Democratic primary, and only registered Republicans can vote in the GOP race.
Political experts have predicted that Clinton holds a significant lead over Democratic rival U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in Louisiana, thanks largely to her support among African American voters, who make up a major block of the Democratic base in Louisiana and other Southern states.
Thursday’s event, held at a local laborer’s union headquarters on Government Street, was announced mere hours before it took place, but drew a diverse group of laborers and other supporters. Bill Clinton took the stage more than an hour past schedule, which he attributed to delays in Jackson, Mississippi, from a campaign stop there earlier in the day.
Clinton’s appearance marks the start of what’s shaping up to be a quick rush on campaigning in Louisiana, following the delegate-rich Super Tuesday earlier this week that had voters in 12 states heading to the polls.
Bill Clinton will also hold a rally in New Orleans at Ashe Power House Theater on Baronne St. at 10:30 a.m. Friday.
On the GOP side, Republican front-runner Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz also are scheduled to be in the New Orleans area for campaign events Friday. Trump will hold a rally at New Orleans’ Lakefront Airport, and Cruz will rally supporters at the Castine Center in Mandeville.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was scheduled to be in Baton Rouge Friday, but his campaign abruptly cancelled that appearance this week to refocus his efforts on other states. Instead, he’s now lined up several appearances in Kansas.
Bill Clinton referenced the GOP primary, and the near daily headlines of fighting over Trump’s bombastic comments and his emergence as the frontrunner, as “shenanigans on the other side.”
But he said that he understands the frustrations that are driving Trump supporters. He said too many people feel as if they aren’t part of America’s economic recovery.
“That’s what this election is about,” he said. “Hillary is running for president to get everybody in that picture.”
“People feel like the system is rigged against them and in many ways it is,” he added.
Bill Clinton said that Hillary Clinton’s plan would be to build the economy “from the middle up and from the bottom up.”
“We need to invest in things that will create good jobs here that can’t be exported,” he said of opportunities for infrastructure upgrades for roads and utilities, as well as energy opportunities, like solar panels.
Several high profile Louisiana Democrats attended Bill Clinton’s rally, including Democratic state Party Chairwoman state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson and former Congressman Cleo Fields.
Hillary Clinton held a campaign pep rally at the Louisiana Leadership Institute in north Baton Rouge last fall that drew a crowd of about 1,200 people. During that event, she defended the federal Affordable Care Act and took jabs at then-Gov. Bobby Jindal, who was running his own campaign for the GOP presidential nomination at the time.
Sanders also held rallies in Louisiana in the fall that drew thousands. His grassroots Louisiana operation has had regular phone banks to urge supporters to head to the polls.