DALE CITY, Va. (WJLA) – For years, Terry McAuliffe toted jugs of water for former President Bill Clinton while serving as his chief fund-raiser and later as head of the Democratic National Committee.
But early Sunday afternoon at VFW Post 1503, it was Clinton’s turn to carry and massage the message of his longtime friend who’s running for governor of Virginia against Republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli.
At the first of several appearances throughout the state in support of the Democratic candidate, this one in the particularly important Prince William County area, Clinton – as did his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a week ago – gushed while McAulilffe blushed.
With just nine days left until the election, having a popular former president make your case, albeit before a partisan throng of several hundred supporters, is pretty good stuff going into the stretch run.
McAuliffe introduced his pal and former boss with a recitation of accomplishments and background.
“He understands the struggles of middle-class families because he lived them,” McAuliffe said, referring to Clinton’s rural roots.
And as McAuliffe continued, Clinton nodded and nodded some more, solemn nods, with the hint of a proud grin – a proud father-- while often tucking the folder with his prepared remarks into his left arm to dutifully clap during applause lines.
Then it was time for official introduction. Whoops and cheers all around, as well as a sea of suddenly active cell-phone cameras.
Clinton immediately tried to turn the attention away from himself.
“Terry’s gotten so good on the stump, I don’t think he needs me anymore,” he said amid laughter.
McAulilffe – like Clinton wearing a light blue dress shirt, no tie, and a blue blazer – beamed, and did so standing a few feet directly behind the former president and in front of others assembled on the makeshift stage.
Clinton acknowledged that “I know today I’m sort of preaching to the choir.”
Even so, he felt the need to defend his friend against campaign attacks, saying – with the signature finger wag – that they “make my blood boil. . .He is a very, very good man.”
And so it went. Clinton made his case; rather, Terry’s case. Just as he quite effectively made President Barack Obama’s case last year at the Democratic National Convention.
“I believe with all my heart,” Clinton said to raucous applause, “that Terry McAuliffe will be a great governor of Virginia.”
McAuliffe briefly grinned, glanced at his shoes and then again turned his rapt attention to his former boss.
A couple of minutes later, it was done. After hugs. After an exchange of knowing glances, especially an appreciative one from McAuliffe.
Thanks, Mr. President.