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Bill Clinton Urges Young People to Rally in November

Former President Bill Clinton, left, hugs California Attorney General and Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Jerry Brown, during a rally at San Jose State University on Oct. 17, 2010. AP

SAN JOSE, Calif. - If Democrats lose the House in November, it will be because young people stayed home, former President Bill Clinton told voters on a college campus Sunday night.

The conventional wisdom predicting a strong Republican comeback is based on the presumption that "tomorrow's America voted in 2008, and yesterday's America will vote in 2010," Mr. Clinton said before thousands at San Jose State University.

The former president stopped in California over the weekend to stump for state Attorney General Jerry Brown, the Democratic candidate for governor, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is running for lieutenant governor.

"If you know anyone in America who says they can't be bothered to vote, ask them, 'What planet are you living on?'" urged Mr. Clinton, decked out in a three-piece suit. The screens above the former president delivered a simple message: "When Democrats vote, Democrats win!"

While the formula may be simple, getting Democratic voters to the polls appears to be a difficult task this year; polls consistently show Republican voters are more enthusiastic about this year's elections. Mr. Clinton acknowledged Sunday that Democrats have yet to restore the nation's economic strength, but he said the alternative was worse: "No, we didn't get out of the hole, but unlike [Republicans], at least we stopped digging," he said.

Brown leads his Republican opponent Meg Whitman in recent polls, but she remains within striking distance and has spent vast sums of her personal fortune on the race.

Mr. Clinton set aside his contentious history with Brown to rally voters behind the Democratic candidate, in a sign of the high stakes in California this year. Not only is the governor's seat in play, but Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is also in a tight race against Republican Carly Fiorina.

Mr. Clinton's rivaly with Brown dates back to 1992, when Brown ran in the Democratic presidential primary against Mr. Clinton. They frequently traded personal attacks, and after Mr. Clinton won the primary, Brown declined to endorse him.

Their dirty primary battle resurfaced in a Whitman ad earlier this year, which featured footage from a 1992 debate in which Mr. Clinton accuses Brown of having raised taxes when he served as governor in the 1970s.

Mr. Clinton's attack - and hence, the ad - have since been proven false, but Brown last month took a shot at Mr. Clinton's integrity while trying to defend his record on the issue.

Brown acknowledged their contentious relationship when he introduced Mr. Clinton at the university rally.

"He took a lot of crap from a lot of people," Brown said. "I did a little myself." He continued to say that Mr. Clinton ensured that "it wasn't just the people at the top, the people at the bottom had a chance at the American dream."

Brown, who has been in California politics for decades, slammed Whitman for her lack of experience. He said the race came down to a question of voting for someone with "know-how, versus a blank resume."

He also took a shot at her values, casting her plan to cut capital gains taxes as a plan to "take the money from you and give it to her and her friends and her contributors."

While critizing her plan to cut capital gains taxes, Brown also managed to get in a jab about the controversy over Whitman's former housekeeper, who alleged Whitman kept her as an employee even while Whitman was aware the housekeeper was an illegal immigrant.

Brown said that Whitman has said she doesn't know how much she pays in capital gains taxes herself. "Maybe somebody stole her tax returns, like they stole her mail," he said, alluding to the housekeeper.

While Clinton campaigned for Brown over the weekend, former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was also in California, campaigning for Republicans. President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Sen. John McCain will all also make stops in the state in the coming days.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Campaign 2010
California Senate Election 2010: Barbara Boxer (D) vs. Carly Fiorina (R)


Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.
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