First Posted: 1/15/2009
PEMBROKE — Bill Clinton, the nation’s 42nd president who retains tremendous popularity but has been sullied by his own comments during Hillary Clinton’s presidential pursuit, will be in Pembroke on Friday to try to energize his wife’s campaign for the White House.
He is scheduled to speak at 8:30 a.m. at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke at the Jones Athletic Center. A question-and-answer period will follow his address, which is open to the public.
Scott Bigelow, public communications specialist for the university, said only about 100 chairs will be set up in the gymnasium, which has previously held as many as 3,000 seats. Bigelow said he’s not sure how many people will the standing-room format will accommodate.
“It’s going to be more like a town-hall setting,” Bigelow said. “He’s not going to be up preaching from a platform, but down with the people.”
Bigelow said the university is excited about Clinton’s appearance.
“We’ve had Bill Cosby once, a different kind of celebrity,” Bigelow said, “but this is probably the biggest one we’ve had.”
Barry Burch, the Student Government Association’s president, said the club is proud to sponsor the former president’s visit to UNCP.
“This event is the first of its kind in the history of the university,” Burch said.
Clinton is also scheduled to speak on Friday at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, the Union County Agricultural Conference Center in Monroe and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. All of the events are open to the public.
The former president has been criticized in recent months for comments about his wife’s opponent, Barack Obama, saying that the public’s fascination with the Illinois senator is based in large part on his race and not substance. According to the campaign office for Hillary Clinton, the former president will speak on a “variety of topics.”
“The President rarely speaks from prepared remarks at these types of events,” said Carly Lindauer, communications director for the Hillary Clinton campaign. “I expect that he will touch on a variety of issues that are important to voters during this election including the economy, restoring our national standing, and making health care accessible and affordable.”
His speech is titled “Solutions for America,” but many local officials expect the topic of federal recognition of the Lumbee Tribe to surface. When Hillary Clinton visited Fayetteville last month, she said she would support the tribe in its recognition efforts.
According to the most recent USA Elections poll, Obama has a lead of 50 percent to Clinton’s 40 percent in North Carolina. Nationally, according to the most recent Gallup poll, Obama leads 52 percent to Clinton’s 42 percent.
Obama has a substantial lead in delegates, but experts don’t think he can garner enough before the Democratic National Convention in August to clinch the nomination. In recent weeks, some Democratic leaders have asked Hillary Clinton to withdraw from the race so it can unify in its effort to win back the White House.
John McCain appears to have a clear path to winning the Republican nomination for president.