CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Campaigning in Iowa for Hillary Clinton, former president Bill Clinton told a packed room of Iowa voters that the former secretary of state would protect the Obama administration’s economic gains while finding ways to advance them.
“We got jobs back, but we don’t have incomes back,” Clinton, who stood in front of a large Iowa flag, said. “But we can. We can. We just got to know when to find common ground and when to stand our ground. Not to give up the gains of the past, but to build an inclusive future.”
He promised progress on the economy — headlined by requiring paid family leave, enforcing equal pay for women, subsidizing childcare, and cracking down on Wall Street.
The former commander-in-chief said that his wife’s foreign policy experience, including securing Russian and Chinese support for Iranian sanctions that led to the nuclear agreement, demonstrated her ability “to keep America safe in an uncertain time.”
Closing his speech, he told the audience: “You’ll never have a chance to vote for a better candidate.”
The event at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library was the first of two events by Clinton in his first solo campaign jaunt to the state since 2008. He’s scheduled to make a second appearance in Dubuque this evening.
The former president has become an increased presence in the campaign — whether he wants to be or not — thanks to regular attacks from Donald Trump this month over his sexual misconduct, which the Republican has said demonstrates a pattern of “abuse of women.”
Clinton, for his part, refused to take the bait when asked about Trump’s attacks before his speech in Cedar Rapids.
“I don’t have a response,” Clinton told NBC News. “If he wins the Republican nomination, we’ll have plenty of time to talk about it if Hillary wins.”
During his speech, he offered an extended retelling of how he first saw his wife at Yale Law School in the library and “just kept kind of ogling her,” afraid to say anything, until she walked up and introduced herself.
“[She] said ‘Look if you’re going to keep staring at me, and I’m going to keep staring back, we ought to at least know each other. I’m Hillary Rodham, what’s your name?’” Clinton recalled.
The direct approach was an example of her “early leadership,” Clinton said.
Clinton’s appearance came a day before his wife’s top rival Sen. Bernie Sanders is scheduled to tour the same part of the state, including multiple appearances in Cedar Rapids. Polls show Clinton holding a solid lead over Sanders in Iowa with three weeks to go until the caucus.
The former president made no mention of Sanders in his speech, but alluded to the importance of electability — a key part of Clinton’s closing argument — by stressing the dangers of losing the White House. Among the risks under a GOP president, he mentioned Supreme Court appointees, repealing the Affordable Care Act, reversing Obama’s climate change regulations, and pushback on gay rights.
“We cannot afford to allow the other party to be in control of the presidency,” Clinton said.
This article first appeared on MSNBC.com.