Bill Clinton campaigns in Western Pa.

March 11, 2008 9:40:45 PM PDT
Bill Clinton urged voters to support his wife's presidential bid because of her commitment to clean energy, health insurance and a balanced budget in a three-stop campaign swing through western Pennsylvania on Tuesday. Speaking to a crowd of about 2,500 at Washington and Jefferson College, the former president said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton believes energy independence is crucial to both creating jobs and improving the environment.

"If you want to get America back on its feet again and get the middle class thriving and give poor people a fair chance to get into it, we have to do it through serious commitment to energy independence and Hillary will do it," Bill Clinton said.

Clinton said his wife wants to make college more affordable by raising the amount of federal Pell grants, increasing tuition tax credits and cracking down on private student loan companies.

She also wants a balanced budget, Clinton said.

"Hillary believes we have to go back to paying down the debt," he said.

He also carried that message to voters in Canonsburg, where he spoke to about 150 people at the town's senior center and then took questions from the audience.

Peggy Spin, 76, of Canonsburg, said afterward that she made up her mind a long time ago to support Hillary Clinton. But should the New York senator lose the nomination to rival Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, Spin said she'd vote for Republican John McCain.

"I want someone in there who knows what they're doing," Spin said. "I don't want them learning on our time. We don't have that much left."

Ruth Ann Bougher, 54, of Dormont, supported Republican Ron Paul before he dropped out of the race. She went to the Canonsburg event not knowing whom she might vote for, and wasn't persuaded by the former president.

"I don't think we have a very good choice. I think they're all talking about change but I don't see any big change coming, really," Bougher said.

She expressed her disappointment in Bill Clinton's support of the North American Free Trade Agreement and said there needs to be more production in the country.

Clinton's final stop Tuesday was a rally in Beaver County that drew about 1,500.

Ray Rapko, 59, of Beaver County, a Vietnam vet and longtime Hillary Clinton supporter, came to see Bill Clinton with his wife Sandy and daughter Kayla, a high school senior. Rapko said he's been sending Hillary Clinton e-mails of support over the last eight months.

"We need experience. We don't need a person with on-the-job training for four years," he said, referring to Obama. "I'm looking at the future, the experience."

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton attended a campaign event in Harrisburg and attended a Philadelphia rally on Tuesday evening.

Pennsylvania, which holds its presidential primary on April 22, is expected to see fierce campaigning by Hillary Clinton and Obama.

Obama toured a wind turbine plant in Bucks County on Tuesday and then met with workers.

Bill Clinton is expected to be in Erie and Johnstown on Wednesday.


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