To a crowd of roughly 200 at Wilbur Cross High School Monday evening, former President Bill Clinton LAW ’73 retold the story of his first date with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton LAW ’73. The couple, law students who first met in the Yale Law School library, wandered through a Mark Rothko exhibit at the Yale University Art Gallery.
In his second Elm City appearance in five days, Bill Clinton emphasized that Yale and New Haven were the backdrop to his first few years with Hillary Clinton. The rally, which featured the former president alongside former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, Giffords’ husband — retired astronaut Mark Kelly — and Mayor Toni Harp, focused on Hillary Clinton’s strong stance on gun control, her ability to resolve political gridlock and her ties to both New Haven and the state. Bill Clinton also stressed his wife’s political expertise, running through a laundry list of her accomplishments from her time as a law student to her four years as secretary of state.
“I can tell you being president’s a job,” Bill Clinton said. “She speaks more than well enough to handle the communications part of it, but she is the best changemaker I’ve ever known.”
Bill Clinton and Giffords are only two of a few Democratic establishment figures who have campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the state in the days leading up to the Connecticut primary. In what is expected to be a close race with opponent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who spoke to an audience of thousands on the New Haven Green Sunday evening, the Clinton campaign has relied on local leaders, such as U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, and Harp, alongside figures such as Sen. Cory Booker LAW ’97, D-New Jersey. Clinton herself spoke with DeLauro at an event held in Orangeside On Temple Saturday.
Harp described the event as a “homecoming” for Bill Clinton, reminding the audience of the Clintons’ “special connection” to New Haven.
“We know they first met here,” Harp said. “We know they fell in love here. We know they began their collective careers in public service, building on all they know here.”
Harp called for the audience to repay the commitment the Clintons have made to both New Haven and Connecticut by propelling Hillary Clinton to the Democratic nomination.
Accompanied by Giffords on stage, Kelly recounted greeting grieving parents after the 2012 shooting of elementary school students in Sandy Hook Elementary School, before calling for stronger regulations from Congress to reduce gun violence. Kelly told the audience that Hillary Clinton would take on powerful corporate interests, such as the national gun lobby.
“Come January, I want to say these two words,” Giffords, herself nearly assassinated by a gunman near Tucson in 2011, said. “Madam President.”
Giffords and Bill Clinton also campaigned for the former secretary of state in Hartford on Monday.
In a Monday interview with the News, Booker predicted a close race between Hillary Clinton and Sanders in Connecticut, adding that Clinton would need to work hard to earn each of her votes in the state on Tuesday.
The former mayor of Newark also spoke in Meriden and Waterbury for the Clinton campaign Monday. Booker told the News he did not need to tailor Clinton’s message to audiences in Waterbury — a city with some of Connecticut’s highest poverty and unemployment rates — as she speaks directly toward the challenges of American cities, especially on issues of affordable housing and criminal justice reform.
Booker discredited a statement made by Sanders to Meet the Press earlier in the month, that the Vermont senator has lost primaries because “poor people don’t vote.” He pointed out that if more low-income individuals voted, Hillary Clinton would have a greater lead, especially given her strong support in African-American and Latino communities.
“Frankly I’m frustrated because I come from an American city that has a lot of poor folks, and my city votes,” Booker said.
Likewise, Booker pointed to the lead of over 2 million votes that Clinton currently holds over Sanders as proof of nationwide enthusiasm for the candidate. He highlighted a desire from many voters for a political leader who could “actually move the ball out of the field,” citing Clinton’s ability to make practical change on issues like paid family leave and student debt.
In a poll released Monday by Public Policy Polling, Clinton had a minimal lead over Sanders at 48 to 46 percent in Connecticut, attributed to significant support among African-Americans.
Booker, who has repeatedly been mentioned in the last few months as a contender for Clinton’s running mate in the general election, told the News he found the possibility unlikely.
“I’m really loving being a U.S. senator,” he said. “That’s where I’m intending to stay.”
Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island will also hold primary elections Tuesday, when voters will determine which candidates will receive an aggregate 462 delegates.