Cedar Rapids Former President Bill Clinton hit the trail for Hillary Clinton in Iowa on Thursday, weaving in personal anecdotes from his time spent campaigning in the state and touting the character and experience of his wife.
"She never touched anything she didn't make better," Clinton said. "She's the best change-maker I ever saw."
Among other stories, he detailed how his wife put "her neck on the line" to go undercover to investigate segregated schools in Alabama, highlighted the work she did as secretary of state -- especially the nuclear deal she made with Russia -- and lauded her performance in the 11-hour Benghazi hearing.
"That is what you need in a president," Clinton said of the hearing. "strong enough to stand their ground and wise enough to seek common ground."
Clinton decorated his speech with personal touches. He told the story of when he saw and met a young Hillary Rodham at Yale Law School. "I thought, boy, that is an interesting woman," Clinton explained of seeing Hillary in a class -- a class that he attended infrequently. And he talked about the uniqueness of campaigning in Iowa.
"I like this, you have to look people in the eye and talk to them," he said, gazing into the crowd of 500 at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Reminiscing on his own campaign days spent in Iowa, Clinton reflected on meeting a young white woman who had adopted a black HIV-positive child when he campaigned in the state in August of 1992. That young child "miraculously survived," and he called the story is "a symbol of how we can all do better."
That meeting happened 12 years ago -- but the impact Bill Clinton made on individual Iowans has not been forgotten.
Jimya Poisel, the young HIV-positive child Clinton spoke about, was in the audience on Thursday. How did she feel when Clinton told her story?
"Proud," Poisel said. "Normally when people talk about HIV it is a bad thing, but he makes it feel like it is not just a bad thing." She had traveled to the White House a few times with her mother when the Clintons were there, but she had never heard Clinton publicly talk about her. Though still HIV positive, 26-yr old Poisel feels good -- working as a waitress, raising her healthy eight-year old son -- and says she will caucus for Hillary.
Clinton was also confronted with questions about Juanita Broaddrick, a woman who has claimed that Clinton raped her while he was attorney general of Arkansas. The former president refused to engage.
"I don't have a response," Clinton said when asked if the controversy could hurt his wife's campaign on Thursday.
When asked whether she thought the assault allegations or Bill Clinton's sexual improprieties could hurt Hillary Clinton's current campaign, Patti Thacker, a longtime Clinton supporter, remained loyal.
"I'm going to take the high road, I am going to trust Hillary," she said at the event. She was sporting a Hillary 2008 lanyard, a 2016 Hillary Iowa sticker and a button with Bill's face on it that read, "America's First Gentleman."
"Why did Trump have so many spouses, that is what I am wondering," added Thacker's friend Mary Lou Cook.
Others wondered if they would ever have a day like this again in their life.
"I've only seen you in wax!" yelped voter Megan Abel of Cedar Rapids after she took a photo with Clinton at NewBo City Market before he made his speech. He visited with almost every vendor in the building and spoke to them about their personal stories and businesses. He also asked them to caucus for Hillary.
Jerry Zimmermann, who made Clinton a pizza with just sauce and veggies, also got a photo with Clinton and quietly spoke to him about the difference between the Democratic debates and the GOP debates by the wood fire. Zimmermann is happy that Sanders has pushed Clinton to be tougher on banks, but ultimately he will go with Clinton.
"Sure, I will caucus for Hillary," Zimmerman said. "We need an adult. She can certainly do it. And it was fun to meet Bill."
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