HERNDON, Virginia (CNN) – To hear Bill Clinton tell it, Terry McAuliffe is destined to become the 71st governor of the commonwealth of Virginia.
“He was born to lead at this moment,” Clinton said of McAuliffe at a campaign rally in northern Virginia on Wednesday. It was the former president’s third appearance on behalf of his friend and longtime political ally, who is now in the final weeks of a tough three-way primary battle for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
The winner of that contest will face Republican Bob McDonnell, the state’s former attorney general, in the general election.
Clinton praised McAuliffe from all angles, making sure to plug the former Democratic National Committee chairman’s apparent mastery of Virginia issues. McAuliffe has struggled with the perception that he’s a newcomer to Virginia politics, while his two Democratic rivals have labored in the trenches of state government for more than a decade.
The former president even said that if every child were raised as McAuliffe’s five children were, “this country would have about half the problems it’s got.”
Clinton and McAuliffe made their pitch to about 200 voters at a park in the northern Virginia town of Herndon, standing on a stage just downwind of a ripe-smelling pig sty. They held a second, larger rally later in the day a few miles away in the Washington suburb of Annandale.
Clinton stressed that if elected, McAuliffe will be “socially progressive” but also fiscally responsible. “Everyone knows that this guy raised a lot of money for me,” Clinton said. “What I want you to know, every nickel he raised, he also talked to me about how to be careful spending it.”
He also said that McAuliffe has the work ethic to help President Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan achieve its goals.
“I think it was a good package and I supported it,” Clinton said of the president’s $787 billion stimulus bill. “But how well it works will vary from state to state, depending on the leadership the vision and the ability to follow through of the governor.”
The candidate himself spoke after Clinton and outlined his plans for renewable energy, transportation, education and job creation. He promised to bring a fresh perspective to the state house in Richmond.
McAuliffe said McDonnell - who is framing himself as pragmatic, solutions-oriented conservative - has “an ideological agenda” and criticized him for having campaigned with national Republicans like John McCain and Rudy Giuliani.
“They just announced they’re bringing Sarah Palin in,” he added, a claim that drew boos from the audience.
However, a spokesman for McDonnell denied that the Alaska governor will be campaigning in Virginia.