The feeling around South Bend on Monday as former President Bill Clinton campaigned for his wife reminded some people of 40 years earlier when Robert Kennedy brought his presidential campaign to the city the day after Easter.
"Everyone was ginned up - or beered up - and you could feel the excitement," former Gov. Joe Kernan said at Dyngus Day, a traditional Polish holiday that celebrates the end of the Lenten season. "When there was excitement and enthusiasm because we were going to participate in the process and make a very important decision. It is terrific."
For the first time since Kennedy's visit in 1968, Indiana will play a role in deciding who the Democratic presidential nominee will be. That's why Mr. Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, made campaign stops across Indiana on Monday, including appearing together at two events in South Bend.
Robert Kennedy's name was brought up Monday almost as often as New York Sen. 's as Kennedy's oldest daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, joined the Clintons at the South Bend campaign stops. The memory of Kennedy was brought up both by Bill Clinton and former Rep. Tim Roemer, who spoke on behalf of Illinois Sen. .
"For the first time in 40 years, since Bobby Kennedy walked these streets, your vote matters," Roemer said. "For the first time in 40 years, we have real excitement in our home state and cities."
Townsend, who campaigned with her father in Indianapolis in 1968, said the visit brought back memories.
"It makes me feel happy that 40 years later people still remember my father and his influence and what he tried to do," she said.
At the West Side Democratic Club, Mr. Clinton repeated his stump message that his wife has the best ideas for solving the nation's problems if she becomes president.
"I think she'd be the best to get the economy going and rebuild the middle class and plan the future for our kids," he said.
Chelsea Clinton also spoke at the event and at an evening rally at the Indiana University Ballroom in Bloomington. The former president also attended rallies in Rochester, Logansport and West Lafayette.
Mr. Clinton told crowds around the state that Hillary Clinton, who is locked in a tight race with Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, has a plan to jump-start the nation's economy.
That plan includes using new energy sources such as solar power and biomass, he said. That would not only open up new energy sources but would create new jobs building the alternative energy infrastructure, he said.
He asked crowds how many knew someone without health care. And when many people raised their hands, he said the United States was the only wealthy nation on Earth where that was true, and touted Hillary Clinton's plan that he said would provide affordable health care for everyone.
"It will be illegal for health insurers not to insure somebody," he told a crowd at Westlake High School in West Lafayette.
Earlier, he sounded similar themes when he spoke at Solidarity Day at the Elks Club, an event organized by black leaders in South Bend as their answer to Dyngus Day.
Kathy Liggett of Mishawaka, who teaches at Brown Mackie College, stood outside the Elks Club holding a sign saying she loves the Clintons but is voting for Obama.
"I'm here to let the Clintons know that we love them, we welcome them to our community, but we have a huge number of supporters in this community for Barack Obama," she said.
Ken Deitchley, 61, of South Bend, a retired middle school history teacher, said he regularly attends Dyngus Day, a time for politicians to informally meet, talk and shake hands with their constituents. He said he was there 40 years ago when Robert Kennedy spoke.
"I don't get too excited about candidates, but that was inspiring," he said. "It was probably the biggest disappointment in my life. It was my first election to vote in and he was killed."
As for this year, Deitchley remains undecided. But he knows what he's looking for.
"I'm looking for big changes," he said.
Hillary Clinton has toured the state once and is expected back this week. She and Obama are battling for Indiana's 72 delegates in the May 6 primary.
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