Former President Clinton speaks at an event at the University of New Hampshire… (Darren McCollester / Getty…)
DURHAM, N.H. -- If Paul D. Ryan had “brass,” then Mitt Romney has “gall.”
That’s the Clintonian take on Mitt Romney for seeming to dismiss 47% of Americans who don’t pay income tax when the Republican hopeful has made use of tax shelters to minimize his own federal burden.
“A guy with a tax account in the Cayman Islands is attacking other people for not wanting to pay income tax?” Bill Clinton asked Wednesday. “That’s like Congressman Ryan attacking President Obama for having the same Medicare savings he did. When you really bust somebody for doing what you did, it takes a lot of gall.”
The former president is shouldering the burden for Obama’s reelection campaign on the day of the first head-to-head presidential debate, appearing on his Democratic successor’s behalf at a college campus in New Hampshire.
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Clinton, who declared himself the “comeback kid” after a second-place finish in the state’s leadoff presidential primary in 1992, sprinkled his remarks here with allusions to that past campaign, most notably when he discussed the national debt.
As a candidate two decades ago, Clinton reminded the crowd, he often talked about the fact that the debt had “quadrupled” under 12 years of Republican rule. During his eight years in the White House, “I gave you four surplus budgets,” Clinton said.
“And then the next eight years it doubled again in times of economic growth. Because trickle-down economics doesn’t work. It doesn’t add up. Arithmetic works better,” he continued, reprising the signature refrain of his Democratic National Convention speech.
Clinton mocked Republicans for harping on the growth of the national debt under Obama, particularly given that Romney has proposed additional tax cuts and refused to specify alternative revenue sources.
“So their debt plan is to make it $7 trillion worse!” he said. “How can you take this seriously?”
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Clinton said the race was only as close as it remains because Americans are impatient, and wanted to see the economy shored up “a day before yesterday.”
“I am telling you, nobody could have fixed this much damage in four years. But the president’s economic plan is better in the short run, better in the long run, and a vision of ‘we’re all in this together’ is a heck of a lot better than ‘you’re on your own,’” he said. “There is no ‘you’re on your own’ country in the world succeeding like those who have a good, ‘we’re all in this together strategy.’”
Wednesday marked the second public event Clinton has held for the Obama campaign since the convention in Charlotte, N.C., last month, the first being in Florida. He’s slated to appear with Obama at a fundraiser Sunday in Los Angeles, and will probably hold additional rallies as the campaign winds down.
Obama has not campaigned in New Hampshire since Sept. 7, when he traveled here from Charlotte. A new poll released this week showed him with a whopping 15-point advantage over Romney; one of Romney’s top surrogates here dismissed the survey as “a piece of garbage.”
With a sizable percentage of voters not registered with either party, and no early voting as other states now employ, New Hampshire could become a major battleground if the race remains tight in the closing days.