Sitting in Nick Tahou’s on West Main Street in Rochester Friday night, I looked up at Heather and said, “If Bill Clinton had asked those people to jump off a cliff, a lot of them would have.”
She and I had just covered a rally at the Main Street Armory where the former president had stumped for Congresswoman Kathy Hochul and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.
Slaughter referred to Clinton as a “national treasure.” Hochul, meanwhile, alluded to Clinton’s widely regarded stature as a “rock star.”
Whether he’s a national treasure, a rock star or just a former president, people love Bill Clinton. And really, what’s not to love? He comes across as both intelligent and compassionate. He is incredibly energetic. And somehow he manages to transfer that energy to anyone he’s talking to.
Everyone has seen or heard Clinton speak on television. And some of that charm comes across through the boob tube. But being there in person is similar to the difference between watching an NFL/NHL/NBA game on TV and watching it in the flesh. There’s something about the experience of “being there.”
For his part, Clinton mostly served in the role of an Obama surrogate. He spent the largest portion of his nearly one-hour speech talking about why people need to vote for President Obama’s re-election, trotting out facts and figures as well as personal stories and accounts.
Bill Clinton knows he’s popular. Not just in liberal Democrat circles either. Many independents look back on the 42nd president in a way that some guys look back on their high school sweetheart. There’s a feeling of longing for a bygone era and a disbelief that we ever let that era slip away.
“I hope I have some credibility with you on what’s good for the economy,” the former president said to the crowd, breaking into the portion of the speech where he derided what he referred to as Mitt Romney’s “hide-and-seek” budget.