Bill Clinton touts wife as a ‘change-maker’ for workers, women at S.C. campaign rally

MAYA T. PRABHU/STAFF President Bill Clinton speaks to a crowd at Allen University in Columbia on Wednesday during a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton.

COLUMBIA — An enthusiastic crowd braved rain and tornado warnings Wednesday evening to hear former President Bill Clinton tell them why his wife Hillary is their best choice for president.

During a rally at Allen University, Bill Clinton acknowledged he probably was preaching to the choir of more than 800 people who filled the gymnasium at the historically black school.

“As I have grown older — and hopefully a little wiser — I try to spend a little more time explaining things to people and a little less time trying to convert the already converted,” he said.

Clinton walked the attendees through his wife’s — and the Democratic frontrunner’s — resume, beginning with her work with the Children’s Defense Fund in South Carolina up until her time as Secretary of State for President Barack Obama.

“He made a strong case for her credentials,” said Jenifer Barnes of Jenkinsville. She and her wife Julie Brendell said they have been strong supporters of Hillary Clinton since she ran for president in 2008.

“He explained some things that we didn’t even know,” Barnes said of Bill Clinton’s anecdotes from his time as governor of Arkansas.

In his address, Clinton touted the plans and platform that Hillary has proposed, covering issues ranging from foreign affairs to equal pay.

“So Hillary should be president, I think, because she’s the best change-maker I’ve ever known,” he said. “Because of her ideas for creating more jobs and raising incomes and including everybody. Including getting more women in the workforce. Equal pay, paid leave, child care — don’t say that’s a women’s issue. It’s a family issue.”

Allen University student Asia Murray said she is excited that her first time voting will be for Hillary Clinton in the Democrats’ Feb. 27 primary and was impressed with what Bill Clinton had to say about his wife.

“He gave a lot of good information and background on what she’s done and what she’s going to do,” Murray said.

The stop kicks off a campaign push for blacks and women before the vote — a push that includes plans for daughter Chelsea to make three stops across the state on Saturday.

Black voters make up more than half of those registered in South Carolina, and most of those voters are women, according to The Associated Press. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll showed Clinton ahead of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, her only remaining opponent in the Democratic race, among black voters 74-17.

Hillary Clinton struggled to get black voters’ support in 2008, when Barack Obama soundly defeated her by nearly 30 points in the South Carolina presidential primary.

That fight also created a rift between the Clintons and some black supporters of Obama’s after Bill Clinton brought up the issue of race in his wife’s South Carolina defeat that year. In one comment, he compared Obama’s victory with the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 1988 primary victory in South Carolina. Some saw the statement as a bid to minimize Obama’s surge and appeal, angering many black voters.

But that was eight years ago, and the comments have not surfaced as an issue so far in 2016.

Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.