RALEIGH, N.C. - Bill Clinton arrived an hour and 15 minutes late to his last campaign stop of the day in Raleigh, N.C., but he arrived to cheers. It was his ninth stop of the day, and his 15th in two days, stumping for his wife in mostly rural areas of a state where she continues to trail by 5-7 percentage points.
“This is my 49th town in North Carolina, and I thank all of you for helping Hillary,” Clinton told a crowd of several hundred outside Hillary headquarters in the state’s capital. His voice rasped slightly in what was either a genuine manifestation of his dedication or a calculated aural reminder of another last-minute push he made through traditionally Republican territories when he famously lost his voice on the way to a 1992 victory.
Bill Clinton evoked the Comeback Kid of old Monday, urging the people of North Carolina to carry his wife to a surprising win on Tuesday. His manner, the crowds he’s pulled, and the sheer number of his stops suggests Clinton may have, at long last, become the asset he was meant to be on the trail—tireless, cheery and charming in the face of substantial odds. Indeed, 49 stops in N.C. without saying something counterproductive and off-message is an accomplishment in itself for the politician formerly known as a master communicator.
He stopped in Sanford, a Sandhills town that hadn’t seen a president since Truman. He stopped in Roxboro, where he reportedly spoke to 2,000 in a town of only 9,000. They are the places where Hillary’s base lives, in Appalachia and along the so-called “Poverty Belt” of southern North Carolina where mill closings and hard times make Hillary’s bread-and-butter message more palpable than Obama’s lofty rhetoric.
Bill’s regained aplomb on the trail combined with Barack Obama’s “bitter clingers” remarks have given rural Tarheels something to turn out for. Voters in Asheville called the president “very exciting,” and one churchgoer noted, “I’m shocked he’s coming.”
In Boone, N.C., thousands of college students and local residents waited two hours to see Clinton speak. The crowd wasn’t short on enthusiasm:
“I love Bill and Hillary,” she said. “I’m a longtime Bill Clinton fan. Our family has always been fans of Bill Clinton, and we’ve always supported Bill and Hillary.”
Student Maggie Hindsman said, “A lot of us came whether we support Bill and Hillary or not. It’s not often we get people of that stature here, and it’s nice to get the recognition. It makes us feel better about ourselves.”