Former President Bill Clinton on Friday warned Georgia Democrats that anger is a powerful emotion and it is how their opponents hope to win Tuesday’s election.
Don’t let it, Clinton told several hundred fans of U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn and gubernatorial hopeful Jason Carter packed into Paschal’s Restaurant in Atlanta.
The strategy of Republican Senate candidate David Perdue and Gov. Nathan Deal, he said, is to “get people mad so they can’t think. Get everybody torn up and upset, blame someone else. … Don’t be fooled.”
Perdue has built his entire campaign around President Barack Obama, Clinton said. On Friday, Republicans asked why Clinton was appearing in Georgia for the Democrats’ big closing rally instead of Obama.
Clinton called the tactic a scam.
“The other guy wants you to give him a six-year job for the courtesy of a two-year protest,” he said, repeating a line he’s used in other states this year to refer to Obama’s term ending in 2016, two years into the next Senate term.
“One guy wants you to cast a protest vote. She wants you to cast a progress vote,” he said. “One guy wants you to vote angrily. The other wants you to vote on the promise of our future. You can send America a message.”
Georgia’s political rhetoric, Clinton said, has turned “poisonous.”
“If you think about it, it’s kind of a clever scam, though,” he said. “Republicans say, ‘I don’t want to talk about universal pre-k because I’m not for it and she is. I don’t want to talk about student loan reform. I’m not for it and she is. I don’t want to talk about outsourcing jobs anymore.’ ”
Instead, Clinton said, the only message is: “Let’s just put the president on the ballot. We’ve seen this movie before.”
While most of his message was aimed at the Senate race, Clinton gave Carter a bump, too.
“I believe you need a governor who will bring the unemployment rate down,” Clinton said, referring to Georgia’s jobless rate as the highest in the nation. “Georgia ought to have one of the lowest unemployment rates with all the assets you have here.”
Before the main event, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed cranked the crowd into a frenzy.
From the minimum wage to health care to equal pay for women, Reed said Democrats have fought for everyone, not just the rich.
“Jason’s ready,” Reed said. “Michelle’s ready. The big dog is in town. He’s definitely ready.”
Their Republican challengers, meanwhile, both tried to use Clinton’s visit to keep the focus on Obama.
Perdue dodged a question about Clinton’s visit, but former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was with Perdue on Friday and said, “The fact that Bill Clinton is coming in for David’s opponent is very interesting because she’s not going to be working with Bill Clinton if elected.
“My question is why doesn’t she bring Barack Obama down? That’s who she will have to stand with if she goes to Washington.”
Deal, too, said the wrong president is coming to town.
“Well, that’s fine with me. You would think (Carter) would want the current president, since he’s the face of the Democratic Party,” Deal said at a campaign stop. “I would think he would want President Obama to come and be his spokesperson, since he embraces Obamacare.”
Carter supports expanding Medicaid, though he hasn’t said exactly how he would push such a change through in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Carter started his day meeting with former Mayor Shirley Franklin for coffee in southwest Atlanta. Then he spoke to a political science class at Clayton State University, hitting his main campaign themes about investing more in education and boosting the economy. He mentioned Clinton’s visit, telling the students they were in the “epicenter of what is happening in our politics.”
“Nobody has built a better and more dynamic, innovative economy than Bill Clinton,” Carter said. “We are excited about that.”
Yvonne Robinson of Stone Mountain waited an hour and a half in line to get into Paschal’s and see Clinton. Robinson, the secretary-treasurer of the Georgia State AFL-CIO, recalled fondly how she attended one of his inaugural celebrations. She was excited to see him speak again.
“It will energize the campaigns and maybe sway some undecided voters,” Robinson said. “This is the last push until Election Day.”
Next to Robinson stood Yolanda Pickstock of Clayton County. She waited an hour to get inside and picked out a spot where she could get a clear view of Clinton.
“He is a very charismatic individual,” said Pickstock, a legislative and political organizer for the American Federation of Government Employees AFL-CIO. “I hope that (his appearance) energizes the Democrats.”
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Staff writers Greg Bluestein and Nicholas Fouriezos contributed to this article.