Bill Clinton to visit MU on Saturday

Friday, February 1, 2008 | 7:14 p.m. CST; updated 7:06 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Former President Clinton, who has taken on a central role in his wife’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, is expected to speak at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the MU Student Recreation Complex. The event, which is timed to reach voters before Missouri’s primary election on Tuesday, is free and open to the public.

Carly Lindauer, press secretary for Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign in Missouri, predicted that the former president would probably speak for about an hour.

Previous high-profile visits from politicians, such as Vice President Dick Cheney in 2004, have required cooperation from MU police, campus officials and the individual’s own security. In this case, MU police and the Secret Service met Friday to discuss details of the event, said MU spokesman Christian Basi. The Columbia Police Department refused to disclose any details about added security measures.

Some MU students are excited about Clinton’s stop in Columbia.

“It’s not every day that the former leader of the free world comes to speak,” said Caitlin Ellis, president of the MU College Democrats. “I think people who aren’t even politically involved will come out.”

Ellis said Clinton will be speaking on a small platform on the basketball courts to a standing audience. The doors will open at 4:30 p.m.

Providence, a band composed of MU students, will entertain before Clinton’s speech, Ellis said.

MU political science professor Marvin Overby commented on the unique nature of a former president campaigning for his spouse.

“He’s the biggest draw among Democratic surrogates. But he’s not to everyone’s taste,” Overby said. “He reminds them there were things about the Clintons they didn’t like. He brings both positives and negatives.”

After receiving heavy criticism from the Democratic Party for his harsh rhetoric against his wife’s opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Clinton has toned down his message. Still, Overby noted the delicacy of the Clinton dynamic: “It’s a balancing act the Clintons have to maintain. He has to be careful he doesn’t overshadow his wife.”

The former president will be the second Clinton to swing through Columbia in a week, after daughter Chelsea stumped for her mother Monday. Sending out her family members may be part of Sen. Clinton’s tactic to cover as much ground as possible, Overby added.

“Candidates themselves are going to be in places where they get media coverage. Candidates conduct ‘air war’ now and surrogates conduct ‘ground war,’” he said.

The last time the former president visited Columbia was during his presidency to promote a health care plan. Saturday’s event, titled “Solutions For America Rally,” is hosted by Missouri For Hillary. The MU College Democrats helped reserve a spot on campus.

“For all presidential candidates and their surrogates who want to speak on campus, you need a campus organization to reserve a space,” said Nate Kennedy, president of Missouri College Democrats, which is a separate group from the MU College Democrats.

The MU College Democrats reserved the spot for Clinton at the MU rec complex, along with a space at the Black Culture Center at 10:30 a.m. Saturday for Sen. Claire McCaskill to speak on behalf of Obama.

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