Bill Clinton Touts Hillary's Energy Plan

Former President Bill Clinton said Monday that his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, is the presidential candidate best equipped to reshape the nation's economy as the U.S. strives for energy independence.

"She got a vision for America," Mr. Clinton told a crowd at an exposition center in this early voting state. "She's got good plans to implement the vision."

Mr. Clinton said the need for alternative energy in the face of global warming creates opportunity for jobs. The nation can train a generation of "green-collar workers" who don't have to have college degrees, he said.

"I'm telling you, this is the greatest opportunity we've ever had," said the former president, who planned a day of events in the state.

Several recent polls show Hillary Clinton, a New York Democrat, with a solid lead over rival Sen. Barack Obama here although a Mason-Dixon Polling and Research survey out earlier this month had the two essentially tied.

The former president was to meet briefly with civil rights activist Al Sharpton in Columbia later in the day, the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton confirmed.

Sharpton spokeswoman Rachel Noerdlinger said Sharpton will meet with Mr. Clinton to talk about hate crimes and civil rights issues and the former president mentioned Sharpton during his morning speech. Mr. Clinton also was to meet with ministers and business leaders and work on efforts to turn out black voters in the Jan. 19 primary.

Sharpton has not endorsed a candidate in the primary and a spokeswoman for Sharpton's National Action Network said that wasn't expected Monday. During the 2004 primary in South Carolina, Sharpton turned in one of his best primary showings, and this week he was scheduled to hold two days of meetings that include get-out-the vote efforts with black residents.

The black vote is critical to a Democratic primary win in South Carolina and in 2004 comprised nearly half the ballots cast. An Associated Press-Pew Research poll last month showed Hillary Clinton breaking even on the black vote with Obama, an Illinois senator who earlier this month toured early voting states with media mogul Oprah Winfrey.

Mr. Clinton started his campaign day in Sumter, home to an Air Force base, before heading to Orangeburg. Both cities have large numbers of black voters. In Orangeburg, he told a crowd of about 200 people that his wife has been able to work well in the U.S. Senate with South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham. The former president described Graham as the man "who tried to run me out of town when I was president."

Mr. Clinton was to wrap up the day at a reception and banquet honoring former Gov. Richard Riley, who served as his education secretary.

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