NASHUA, N.H. (CBS/AP) — A subdued Bill Clinton offered a deeply personal endorsement of his wife's presidential campaign Monday, telling voters that Hillary Clinton's plans offer the best chance for the country to achieve economic prosperity and a secure future.
In a wide-ranging address that took voters through Hillary Clinton's work as a young lawyer in Arkansas, ways to combat heroin addiction, the political achievements of President Barack Obama and the failings of America's fourteenth president, Franklin Pierce, Bill Clinton argued that the Democratic front-runner offers the best plan to restore "broadly shared prosperity."
The event marked the former president's debut solo appearance for his wife's campaign, part of a broader strategy to deploy Bill Clinton publicly in the run-up to early voting next month.
"I do not believe in my lifetime anybody has run for this job at a moment of great importance who was better qualified by knowledge, experience and temperament to do what needs to be done now to restore prosperity," he told several hundred New Hampshire voters gathered in a college auditorium.
His appearance comes after days of attacks over his impeachment and decades-old sex scandal by Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
"I don't really care about Monica Lewinsky other than I think that Hillary was an enabler and a lot of things happened that were obviously very seedy," Trump said in an interview with CNN Monday. "I mean, he was impeached, for heaven's sake. He was impeached over this stuff."
So far, Bill Clinton has remained silence about Trump's slams - following the lead of his wife's campaign, which believes their candidate comes across as more presidential by rising above what they see as the Republican's crass political tactics.
He spoke calmly and quietly in New Hampshire on Monday, methodically describing the issues he sees as motivating voters in the next election. Clinton warned voters that the next president could appoint as many as three Supreme Court justices and reverse the health care law and environmental programs of the Obama administration.
Hillary Clinton, her husband said, offers the best path to economic prosperity, dealing with social problems like heroin addiction and foreign policy that doesn't undermine the American character.
"I think it is the plan that offers the best chance to have the most rapid movement to broadly shared prosperity," he said.
Still, some of Trump's attacks seem to have struck a nerve.
At a campaign event in New Hampshire on Sunday, Katherine Prudhomme O'Brien heckled Clinton about her husband's sexual history, accusing her of enabling him to mistreat women.
"You are very rude and I'm not going to ever call on you," Clinton snapped at O'Brien, after repeated shouted interruptions by the New Hampshire state senator.
The former president, too, has been known to become heated when he feels his wife is under attack, as he did during the 2008 primary with remarks about then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama that angered black voters in South Carolina.
Clinton supporters believe the attacks will backfire, particularly in the general election. Hillary Clinton had some of her highest approval ratings in the wake of disclosures about her husband's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
The supporters told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Doug Cope they liked what they heard.
"He was terrific," said one man. "He's a master communicator to say the very least."
"It was a great speech," says one woman. "I was so happy to see him again."
After months of having her husband focus on private fundraisers, Clinton said in a December debate that she would turn to Bill Clinton for advice should she win the White House, particularly on economic issues.
Their schedules on Monday showed the degree to which the ubiquitous political couple will be able to blanket the early primary states in the next two months as Democrats hold contests in Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina.
While the former president was drumming up support for his wife in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton was starting a two-day "river-to-river" tour of Iowa, holding town hall meetings and organizing events across the state.
Bill Clinton's longstanding ability to raise money will also be an asset in the weeks ahead, with fundraisers on the calendar in New York, Seattle, Phoenix, Albuquerque, N.M., Cleveland and Fairfield, Conn. The finance events will allow Hillary Clinton to spend more time on the ground in Iowa and also in New Hampshire, where polls have shown her trailing Sanders, who represents neighboring Vermont.
The couple's daughter, Chelsea Clinton, was also getting into the act, headlining fundraisers of her own in Boston, Atlanta and Chicago next week.
Thomas reported from Davenport, Iowa.
Follow Lisa Lerer and Ken Thomas on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/llerer and http://twitter.com/KenThomasDC
WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Doug Cope reports
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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