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Jan 4, 2016 11:52 PM

Steinhauser: A restrained Bill Clinton tries out new supporting role; avoids mentioning Donald Trump

NH1 Political Director -

NASHUA – Bill Clinton didn’t take the bait.

During a day long swing through the first-in-the-nation primary state, the former president kept to script, touting his wife for the job he once held. But Clinton made no mention of Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump, who has sought numerous times over the past week to make the former president’s past sexual infidelities and allegations of misconduct an issue in Hilary Clinton’s White House bid.

The trip, with stops in Nashua, Manchester, Exeter, and Dover, was Clinton’s first to New Hampshire since he headlined a major Democratic Party dinner one month before the 2014 midterm elections, and it was his first solo campaign swing on behalf of the former secretary of state and front runner for her party ‘s presidential nomination.

At his first stop, a rally at Nashua Community College, a somewhat subdued Bill Clinton told the crowd of more than 700 that “in all probability the next president of the United States will make between one and three appointments to the United States Supreme Court and I know who I want doing that.”

Clinton spoke in the same gymnasium where his wife headlined a major Democratic Party rally the Sunday before the 2014 midterms.

"I do not believe in my lifetime anybody has run for this job at a moment of great importance who was better qualified by knowledge, experience and temperament to do what needs to be done now to restore prosperity, to deal with these human issues, to make us as safe as possible,” Clinton said as he trumpeted his wife’s commander and chief credentials.

Clinton also highlighted the Granite State’s acute heroin epidemic, saying “New Hampshire has one of the most difficult problems in the country with the opioid addictions.”

“Three children of friends of mine have died,” Clinton shared, before highlighting his wife’s efforts on the issue.

“This is a very big deal and I was proud that Hillary was the first person to speak up on it and propose a $10 billion plan to deal with it,” he said.

Clinton: ‘I’m not mad an anybody’

What the former president didn’t do was respond directly to Trump.

During his speech Clinton said that “America is the place that welcomes all people who are willing to treat other people the way they'd like to be treated, willing to follow the law.” The line, which drew an applause from the audience, appeared to be in response to Trump’s controversial proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

But he made no mention of Trump’s slights, saying “I'm a happy grandfather and I'm not mad at anybody.”

Following the event, Clinton avoided answering questions about Trump from NH1 News and other organizations as he walked the rope line. But he did tell reporters from NBC New and ABC News that “the Republicans have to decide who they want to nominate. How I feel is only relevant once they pick a nominee.”

Hours before Clinton’s arrival in the Granite State, he came under attack in new materials put out by the Republican National Committee and America Rising, the top Republican opposition research shop, which aimed to weaken his surrogate status by highlighting his top dollar paid speeches and his proximity to donors with deep pockets. America Rising released a video showing critical media reports regarding Bill Clinton over the past year, and in a release said that the former president “had lost a few miles per hour from his fastball.”

New supporting role

As noteworthy as Clinton’s keeping his well-chronicled temper in check on Monday was his new role as supporting actor in his wife’s starring role as presidential candidate. Clinton kept short both his speech and the time he spent shaking hands, signing autographs, and taking pictures, with supporters after the event.

After his rally at Nashua Community College, Clinton made the pilgrimage to the Puritan Backroom in Manchester, where he spoke with scores of people at the famous restaurant for lunch. Clinton greeted almost everyone seated at the bar and stopped by nearly every table, and spoke with leading Democratic politicians such as state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester, a major backer of both Clintons, and Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, whose family owns the Puritan Backroom.

Clinton spent nearly 45 minutes in the restaurant before heading to Exeter to headline another rally for his wife.

Clinton ended his Granite State visit with a stop at the Clinton campaign’s field office in Dover.

He told the crowd assemble that Dover holds a “sacred position” in Clinton family lore.

“Til the last dog dies,” a woman shouted from the back of the room.

“I’m still with you but that last dog hasn’t died yet,” responded Clinton.

The reference was to a famous line Clinton made during a speech in Dover in February 1992, as then Arkansas governor and presidential candidate told a crowd that he wanted people to see him “working hard, reaching out to them and fighting until the last dog dies.”

Beset by numerous controversies, Clinton pulled out a strong second place finish in the 1992 New Hampshire primary. He quickly dubbed himself “the comeback kid” and the momentum from the Granite State helped propel him towards capturing the Democratic nomination and then the White House.

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