LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Former President Bill Clinton swung through Arkansas this week for a handful of campaign stops in his home state, taking a few hard-hitting swings at Republican opponents who are attacking his old friends running for office.
On Thursday morning, Clinton joined 2nd
Congressional District candidate Joyce Elliott
for a rally in a historic ballroom in downtown Little Rock. If elected, Elliott, who is a retired school teacher and state senator, would become Arkansas' first black member of Congress.
Elliott needs all the help she can get. She trails her Republican opponent, Tim Griffin
, a former Bush White House aide who worked with Karl Rove, in polls and fundraising. Griffin said in a press release Thursday during the Elliott event that he had raised more than $600,000 in this quarter and more than $1.57 million since the start of his campaign a year ago. Elliott has not released her latest totals.
At the rally, Clinton said that Republicans, including Rove, would blanket Arkansas over the next few weeks with attacks ads against Elliott. Rove, former deputy chief of staff and senior advisor to President George W. Bush, is reportedly a founder of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, two groups that are pouring millions of dollars
into midterm races on behalf of Republican candidates.
"Karl Rove is a genius," Clinton said, telling the crowd what he believes Republicans want voters to do during the midterm elections: "Stop thinking."
Clinton added that Rove understands there is a deep "tribal" anger about the direction of the country that is fueling the midterms. Republicans like Rove are doing a good job at using talking points to tap into that anger to woo voters.
As for the race in the 2nd
Congressional District, it took off after Democrat Vic Snyder, who has represented the district since 1996, announced his retirement
in January, citing family issues. He is the father of four young children, including triplets.
That news set the stage for a five candidate Democratic primary in May, which led to an Elliott victory in a June runoff with Speaker of the House Robbie Wills. The district, which pundits say is trending Republican, encompasses seven rural counties and metropolitan Pulaski County, home to Little Rock, which is both the hub of state government and industry and home to two major military installations.
Snyder, who is famous for the bushy mustache he has had since 1969, said this week he will shave it off this Sunday at General Wesley Clark's Little Rock home if Elliott can raise $50,000 by then.
At Thursday's event, Snyder and Clinton hit Griffin hard on the issue of character.
Snyder held up a large poster that highlighted Griffin's involvement in the controversy over the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys
by the Bush administration in 2006-2007. The unusual nature of the dismissals
created suspicion that the government lawyers were sacked because they didn't see eye-to-eye ideologically with the White House.
Griffin replaced U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins, one of the nine. Some Democrats have alleged that Griffin, who had worked for Cummins from 2001-02, had been seeking the job as a stepping stone for a political career. Griffin served for six months and resigned before having to face Senate confirmation hearings. Arkansas Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln strongly questioned Griffin's appointment.
"The same time he was saying nice things about Cummins, he was trashing him in the White House to get him fired," Snyder said.
When Clinton took the stage along with Elliott, cheers and applause exploded. Clinton replayed the economics speech he gave the previous day on a campaign stop
in northern Arkansas and attacked Griffin, accusing him of lying about his caseload while he was a military attorney. Clinton also went after Griffin on job creation.
"Her opponent hasn't done one single thing to put anyone to work," Clinton said.
"Except himself," a supporter yelled.
"He tried to put a U.S. Attorney out of work, but that was so he could fill the job," Clinton said. "There was no net increase there. And some of us think it was a net decrease."
The Griffin campaign responded after the event. "It's President Obama's economy, not President Clinton's, and Joyce Elliott's false accusations and negative attacks do not create one new private sector job for Arkansas workers or take one dollar off the national debt," Kenneth Ryan James, Griffin's communications director, told Politics Daily "Joyce Elliott is campaigning to help move the job-killing Obama agenda forward -- that is why Arkansans are rejecting her campaign."
Both sides have launched TV attack ads. One Griffin ad
quotes an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial that refers to Elliott smearing Griffin's character in order to deflect her own record.
Elliott's ad shows her standing in the church
where she attended as a child holding a Bible. She says in the ad, "Thy shall not bare false witness" before adding that "It's clear Tim Griffin never learned this lesson."
Elliott accuses Griffin of lying about his record and conspiring to keep students and soldiers from voting. Democrats have alleged that Griffin was involved in the suppression of minority, homeless and service members' votes while employed by the Republican National Committee in 2004. Griffin denied the accusations in a lengthy press release