CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Former President Bill Clinton delivered cash and inspiration to Arkansas Democrats who celebrated the 20th anniversary of his nomination for president Tuesday as part of the festivities surrounding the Democratic National Convention.
A packed house in the Westin Charlotte Ballroom waited more than 90 minutes for Clinton to emerge from a private VIP session with about 200 large-donor contributors who had their picture taken with him.
The wait was worth it to Arkansas delegates who cheered wildly for the Arkansas native as he emerged from behind a blue curtain.
Clinton, who will nominate President Barack Obama for re-election Wednesday in prime time at the convention, gave them a taste of his message.
Republicans, he said, want to return to power saying Obama has left the country in worse shape than when it was handed to him. But, the facts are against them, Clinton said.
“The facts are our friends,” he said.
Clinton talked for about 25 minutes, speaking mostly about the deficit that he blamed on Republicans who cut taxes, spent freely and borrowed heavily.
He also asserted that the economy has improved under Obama despite obstructionist efforts by Republicans in Congress.
He said that 4.5 million jobs were added under Obama’s tenure, and more could have been had Republicans agreed to send more revenues to local and state governments to hire teachers, firefighters and police officers.
Clinton also lauded health care reform, saying that costs are rising at less than 4 percent, the lowest rate in 50 years. There are also 2.5 million young Americans, 26 years old and younger, who have kept insurance because of the law and millions of seniors are receiving free preventative care, he said.
“Bill laid it out. He knows the Democratic agenda and that we are about building up the middle class in this country while the Republicans want to go back to 1880,” said Pine Bluff Mayor Carl Redus.
“It was classic Bill, telling the truth and inspiring us to do what we need to get the president re-elected,” said Maria Baez de Hicks, a delegate from Fayetteville.
“He’s got a message. He’s right on his facts,” said Thurman Metcalf, a delegate from Rogers.
The Clinton event raised about $100,000 for Democrats running for state elected office in Arkansas, according to Dawne Benefield Vandiver, executive director of the Democratic Party of Arkansas.
“I think it helps,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who attended the event.
Pryor said he spoke with Clinton for a few moments and that his mind was clearly on his nomination speech.
“He was talking about the Ryan budget and how the numbers don’t add up. And, they don’t,” Pryor said, referring to Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who crafted the House Republican budget plan this year.
Clinton brought some star power beyond his own to the event. Actress Ashley Judd, musician Will.I.Am, and actor Adrian Grenier introduced him.
Among those in the crowd were Pryor, U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, former NATO Gen. Wesley Clarke and Little Rock Nine member Ernest Green.