SCRANTON, Pennsylvania (CNN) – The most powerful couple in Democratic politics came out to campaign with Joe Biden on Sunday - the first joint rally the Clintons have done for the Obama-Biden ticket, and the first time Bill Clinton has campaigned with either of the nominees.
Both Clintons sung the praises of the Delaware senator to a crowd of 6,000, pointing to his accomplishments in his 35-year Senate career and to his roots in this hardscrabble Pennsylvania town that has become synonymous with the blue-collar working class electorate.
“If you had a secret ballot of all the Republicans and Democrats in the Congress,” said former President Bill Clinton, “and you asked them to put two or three names down of the people in the entire Congress who know the most about the economic, political and security challenges of America and the world, his name would be on every single secret ballot.”
Missing from much of Clinton’s eight-minute introduction was Barack Obama himself, the latest in a series of lukewarm statements of support from the former president. Clinton said he would spend the rest of his life thanking those who supported his wife in the primary, and said that she had done more to support Obama than any of the other Democratic runner-ups combined.
Praise for Obama came in the last sentence of his remarks, when he said Obama is the best candidate in the race.
“If you ask yourself who has the best ideas, who’s got the best instincts, who’s got the best ability to understand these challenges, who’s got the best supporting cast, the answer is Barack Obama,” said Clinton. “And that’s why Hillary’s here, that’s why I’m here, that’s why you’re here.”
Senator Hillary Clinton made her message clear in the first minute of her remarks, saying “we must elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden on November 4th.”
“This election is too important to sit on the sidelines of history,” she said to applause from the crowd. “I haven't spend 35 years in the trenches fighting for universal health care, for children, for families, for women, for middle class people to see another Republican in the White House squander the promise of our nation and the hopes of our people.”
She continued to slam Republicans for the country’s economic downturn and accused them of thinking the middle class “isn’t fundamental, it’s ornamental.”
“That's why,” she continued, “sending the Republicans to solve this economic crisis is like sending the bull to clean up the china closet. They broke it and we're not buying it anymore.”
Both Sens. Clinton and Biden have roots in Scranton. Biden spent his early childhood here. Clinton’s father was born in Scranton; growing up, she spent summers in the area.
Biden stuck mostly to his stump speech, but played up those northeastern Pennsylvania roots, telling the crowd that before the speech he visited his childhood home in the Green Ridge part of town. He joked that he wasn’t sure whether “it came from this valley,” but the thing he admires most about Hillary Clinton is her lifelong fight against the abuse of power.
“One thing I find about this city is what we learned in our faith and our family. There is the one most serious abuse a man or a woman or a government can engage in, is to abuse power,” said Biden. “Everything she's devoted her life to has been on the side of people who have been on the other side of power.”
Aides say the Clintons will be more visible on the trail in the final few weeks of the campaign. President Clinton was expected at two rallies in Virginia later Sunday afternoon so he left the stage as soon as he was done speaking. Sen. Clinton will spend time in Pennsylvania, Ohio and other swing states. Biden campaigns in New Hampshire on Monday before embarking on a two day bus tour of Ohio.