A crowd gathered at the Community College of Rhode Island's main campus in Warwick on Thursday to hear former President Bill Clinton stump for his wife Hillary Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.
Under a sign that read “RI equals Clinton Country,” he spoke for roughly 30 minutes to a crowd of several hundred people. In his wide-ranging speech he touched on subjects as varied as energy, the economy, and opioid addiction.
He sent a message that the Democratic fight between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton is not a war of ideals, but of pragmatism.
“Look, both these candidates, they voted together 90 percent of the time,” said Clinton. “So why did the Congressional Black Caucus, and Human Rights Campaign, and the League of Conservation Voters vote for her? Because they’re all part of the political establishment?”
They backed Hillary Clinton, the former president said, because she gets things done in Washington. Clinton pointed to their different approaches to healthcare reform; Clinton wants to expand the Affordable Care Act, the initiative launched by President Barack Obama. Sanders has proposed a single-payer public healthcare program.
“I think her healthcare bill is better because it’s easier to go from 90 to 100 percent insured than to start again and try to put a single-payer system in,” said Clinton.
Sanders’ proposal, along with aggressive policies to rein in political spending, and crack down on corporations, have garnered passionate support among some Rhode Island voters. But former President Clinton said his wife’s plans were the most feasible.
She’s the only person left in either party where all the independent economists say her number add up,” said Clinton. “And in campaigns that’s not very important to people, but once you take your hand off the Bible, taking the oath of office, your numbers have to add up.”
Attendee Barbara Reinstein said she believes Clinton has the right experience to do the job.
"She’s a very seasoned person," said Reinstein. "I’m not looking for somebody who’s very exciting that wants to move in directions that I don’t think the country ought to go in."
Cllinton supporter Caroline Meyer said she's ready to see a woman president.
"I’m a fan of Hillary and even though this isn’t Hillary, it’s the next best thing," said Meyer. "Bill will have to do this time."
Hillary Clinton attended a private fundraiser in Rhode Island earlier in the campaign season. She was in New York on Thursday where she is scheduled to face Democratic rival Bernie Sanders in a debate.
Sanders has garnered a dedicated and passionate group of supporters in Rhode Island, although a February poll showed Clinton with a lead among likely primary voters. Rhode Island voters chose Clinton over future President Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential primary.
Both Sanders and Clinton have recently opened field offices in Rhode Island, ahead of the state's April 26th primary. Republican John Kasich opened a campaign office in the state earlier this week.