Bill Clinton rallies Michigan Democrats

Gary Heinlein
The Detroit News

Flint – — Former President Bill Clinton rallied with about 1,000 area residents Wednesday to urge Democrats to treat Nov. 4 as a presidential election, which traditionally favors their party in Michigan.

"A different America usually shows up at these mid-term elections," said Clinton, adding presidential elections draw voters "who look more like us." He said an America coming back from recession should rebuild "from the middle class out," not return to a Republican formula of "trickle-down economics" that don't help working people.

The transplanted Arkansan, now a New York resident, visited staunchly Democratic, industrial Flint to whip up support for the statewide ticket — especially gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer of Battle Creek and U.S. Rep Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township, who is running to succeed 36-year U.S.Sen Carl Levin of Detroit.

Schauer, a former congressman, told the crowd he and Gov. Rick Snyder are in a dead heat, though several recent polls show a wider margin in favor of the Republican incumbent. He said Clinton was there "to finish the job and propel us to victory. Change is coming and we're going to deliver it."

Ticket holders lined up at least two hours early at Flint's Riverfront Banquet Center to see Clinton, who remains a draw for Democrats. He entertained with anecdotes and joked that party leaders periodically send him out "like an old saddle-horse" thinking, "I wonder if he can get around that track just one more time."

Others there included Debbie Dingell, running to succeed her husband, 58-year U.S. Rep. John Dingell of Dearborn, in the 12th Congressional District. Her Republican opponent is Terry Bowman, a United Auto Workers union member.

Former President Bill Clinton, Michigan gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer, left, and Michigan Democratic Senate candidate Gary Peters raise their arms after a rally in Flint, Mich. on Wednesday.

"Working men and women can win if they get out the vote!" said the former General Motors executive who described herself as a "GM girl, born, bred and proud of it."

Michigan's election has drawn such high-profile politicians as Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, as well as Clinton's wife, ex-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. President Barack Obama is scheduled to make a pre-election stop in Metro Detroit.

The Republican Party described Clinton as "another out-of-touch Washington Democrat." His visit was an effort to hide the fact Schauer and Peters "have supported policies that have hurt our economy, schools and health care," said State GOP Chairman Bobby Schostak.

The campaign of Peters' Republican opponent, ex-Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land of Byron Center, claimed Peters and Clinton are at odds over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. A Land spokesewoman cited quotes from a 2012 Politico interview with the ex-president.

Peters voted against several majority U.S. House Republican efforts to end Obama's long deliberation and get the pipeline approved. But he recently told The Detroit News there's no reason to oppose the pipeline if environmental concerns about its proposed route are cleared up.