If political payback against 1992 presidential rival Jerry Brown had anything to do with Bill Clinton's support of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for governor, the former president fought hard Monday to convince Californians otherwise.
Clinton didn't mention Brown's name as he announced his support for Newsom, Brown's rival in the Democratic primary for governor in June 2010.
Instead, Clinton spoke for nearly 20 minutes about protecting the environment and followed that up with a nod to Newsom as a man dedicated to the cause.
"San Francisco may be the greenest community in the entire country, and it's because of his leadership," Clinton said of the beaming mayor in a library at Los Angeles City College. A solar panel stood nearby as a display prop.
Clinton took no questions, lest he be reminded that during the 1992 primaries Brown had trashed him and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, for alleged misdeeds in Arkansas.
Newsom, too, avoided any reference to Brown. Instead, he condemned Republican gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman for arguing that suspension of California's greenhouse gas restrictions would create new jobs.
"It couldn't be further from the truth," Newsom told invited guests before heading downtown for a campaign fundraiser featuring Clinton.
California, he said, "should lead the world, not just the nation, in terms of the green economy."
It is highly unusual for a former president to endorse a candidate in a seriously contested Democratic primary for governor of California. Newsom advisors hope that Clinton's high standing among Democrats will play well with primary voters who are more familiar with Brown, a former governor and Oakland mayor who is now the state attorney general.
They also hope Clinton can help Newsom overcome Brown's huge fundraising advantage. At the end of June, Brown reported $7.4 million in the bank; Newsom had $1.2 million.
Clinton sandwiched the Newsom events between paid speaking appearances in Thousand Oaks on Sunday and Pasadena on Monday night.
Senior Brown advisor Steven Glazer shrugged off Clinton's support, saying it came as no surprise.