Former President Bill Clinton, sprinting through the Central Valley ahead of California’s looming primary, urged Democrats on Monday to “relax” about his wife Hillary’s general election prospects, with recent polls showing Donald Trump running even with – or ahead of – the likely Democratic nominee.
Following the primary election, Bill Clinton said, “You get to scrape the windshield clean.”
His stops in Fresno and Stockton – and later Monday, in Sacramento – came as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders rallied supporters in Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
In Sacramento, Clinton touted his wife’s policy positions on college affordability, immigration and protecting the nation from terrorism. He returned several times to Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, controversial infrastructure he said would not have thwarted the deadly terror attack last year in San Bernardino.
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“Hillary has said repeatedly that’s why we need to embrace our fellow Americans who are Muslims and love freedom and hate terror,” Bill Clinton said to applause on the campus of California State University, Sacramento.
Clinton added that a victory in California “maximizes the chances that we go into this convention and attempt to be unified ... And we come out strong. This is a very big deal. You are the biggest state in the country, and you are the face of the future.”
Earlier Monday, Bill Clinton and Gov. Jerry Brown, who feuded bitterly in the 1992 presidential race and maintained a sometimes-frayed relationship in following years, met for about 90 minutes.
Brown, a fourth-term Democrat, has not endorsed in the Democratic primary contest. But on Saturday he appeared to scold Hillary Clinton rival Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign, saying nobody “should be seeking the Democratic nomination with a scorched-earth policy.”
A Brown spokesman said the governor and Clinton discussed foreign and domestic politics, including the presidential campaign. They met in the same room at the governor’s mansion in Sacramento where John F. Kennedy and Brown’s father, then-Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, met ahead of the 1960 election, Brown’s office said.
Clinton’s remarks Monday, without citing polling worrisome to many Democrats, served to counter Sanders’ argument that he is the better candidate to oppose Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee. Clinton said his wife has faced opposition from Republicans for years and that her campaign will “get a new shot when the general election starts.”
“Just relax,” Clinton told about 800 supporters at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center in Stockton. “In the end, the American people are fundamentally fair-minded.”
A loss to Sanders in California, though not critical to Hillary Clinton’s near-certain nomination, would nevertheless deal her a blow heading into the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.
Bill Clinton cast his wife, a former senator and secretary of state, as more accomplished than Sanders or Trump in foreign policy and in efforts to abate gridlock in Washington, D.C.
“Send her into that convention with the wind at her back,” he said.
Clinton’s Central Valley appearances cap a three-day swing through the state ahead of California’s June 7 primary. In addition to the public event in Sacramento, Bill Clinton headlined a fundraiser for his wife’s campaign at the home of former state Treasurer Phil Angelides.
Hillary Clinton has elevated her husband’s status as a surrogate and said this month that, if elected, she would put him “in charge of revitalizing the economy,” especially in impoverished areas of the country.
The state was far less Democratic before Bill Clinton carried California – and won the White House – in 1992, a turning point in California politics. Before that election, Republican presidential candidates carried California six straight times. No Republican has won here since.
“I ask you to do for Hillary what California did for me then,” Clinton said.
The former president also mocked Trump for his economic proposals. For his part, Trump has used the former president as a cudgel. The New York businessman, facing criticism over his derogatory remarks about women, has raised Bill Clinton’s record of infidelity and accusations of mistreatment of women, calling Hillary Clinton an “enabler.”
Trump amplified that line of attack on Monday, posting online a video that features a photo of the former president with a cigar in his mouth and audio clips of women who have accused him of sexual assault.
“Is Hillary really protecting women?” Trump wrote on Twitter.