BILLINGS – Former President Bill Clinton emphasized the importance of each state having the opportunity to vote for the Democratic presidential nominee, telling a crowd of Montana Democrats on Saturday that he hopes they back his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“We’re down to the last few states and the last few candidates, and I think it’s very important that every state be given the right to vote,” the former president said.
Hillary Clinton has been under increasing pressure to exit the race and allow Democrats to rally behind Sen. Barack Obama, who has the lead in terms of both pledged delegates and superdelegates.
But in an appearance before several hundred at the Yellowstone County Democrats’ Harry S. Truman Dinner, the former president said the contest should continue to Montana’s June 3 primary, which is the last in the nation. At stake in the state’s primary are 16 pledged delegates.
In his speech, the former president avoided any direct criticisms of Obama, choosing instead to focus on his wife’s differences with the Bush administration. From ending the war in Iraq to restoring economic stability, he said Hillary Clinton would bring a sharp departure from the status quo.
“She’s the best change-maker that I ever knew, and I think that’s important in a president,” he said. “There’s a big difference between running for president and being president.”
Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, an Obama supporter, also addressed the crowd, saying the Illinois senator understands Western issues including energy development and public lands management.
Referring to Obama’s comment about how some people in downtrodden areas “cling to guns or religion,” Freudenthal said it was more important that a president respect than share such values.
“They have to understand our values are important, and I found that in Sen. Obama,” Freudenthal said.
The dinner featured a host of Montana’s top Democratic leaders, including Gov. Brian Schweitzer and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. A number of state Democratic candidates also attended.
Among the keynote speakers was Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who urged Montana Democrats to rally behind whichever presidential candidate prevails.
“I know there’s people here that are supporting both candidates. But you have to promise me one thing, that when it’s time, we will be united,” Klobuchar said. “It’s time to show the rest of the country how the West was won.”
Earlier in the day, Freudenthal headlined an Obama rally in downtown Billings, saying Obama was more likely to bring fundamental change to a federal government locked in partisan gridlock.
“He’s clearly more interested in reaching out to independents and Republicans than he is in fighting old wars,” Freudenthal said. “We need somebody who can think anew.”
Back in 1994, Freudenthal received an early political boost from Bill Clinton when the president appointed him U.S. attorney for Wyoming. On Saturday, Freudenthal suggested Hillary Clinton’s campaign was “wanting us to reminisce about the ’90s,” rather than look to the future.
Clinton trails Obama in the superdelegate count in Montana, with no endorsements to date versus three for Obama. A fourth superdelegate, state party vice chair Margarett Campbell, had announced her support for Obama but was prevented by party rules from making the decision formal.
Obama also appears to be outspending his rival so far in Montana, with multiple campaign offices and three rounds of TV and radio advertisements. While Clinton has opened a few campaign offices, she has yet to air any radio or TV spots.
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