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Clinton campaigns for Obama in Virginia

Sue Lindsey and Bob Lewis

RICHMOND, Va. — President Bush’s response to the nation’s financial crisis is helping Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, former President Bill Clinton said on Sunday.

“The administration keeps plowing an Uzi’s worth of bullets into the McCain-Palin ticket every time they have something else go wrong,” Clinton told an evening rally of several hundred people gathered at Roanoke’s downtown Market Square. “It’s good politics for us.”

Clinton praised the Democratic candidate’s plan for financial recovery and his proposals for health care reform, an issue that he said nobody has taken on “since Hillary and I got our brains beat out trying to fix it.”

Clinton said Obama is positioned to be able to make more changes in the way the nation is run than he was able to as president.

“When I was elected, people blamed my predecessor, but not the ideas on which their whole deal was founded,” Clinton said. Now, he said, people see that the country “in a ditch” after having both a Republican president and a GOP majority in Congress.

He continued the theme later Sunday in a 30-minute address to about 4,000 people crammed into the commons at Virginia Commonwealth University, praising Obama’s positions on health care, the economy and energy, and taking pains not to attack the Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain.

In his first campaign swing through Virginia since Obama routed his wife, Hillary Clinton, in the state’s February primary, Bill Clinton made a point to lay the nation’s financial crisis at the feet of President Bush and a Republican Congress. He said the election is not a popularity contest, but rather a referendum on GOP leadership that he blamed for “the biggest increase in inequality since the 1920s.”

“In six of the last eight years, we have seen what happens if they do everything they want to do,” Clinton said. “This is not about good people and bad people, this is about good ideas and bad ones.”

Clinton, who campaigned aggressively for his wife during the Democratic primaries, began stumping for Obama only recently. He headlined two events in Florida earlier this month, and has appeared at fundraisers in that state and in Georgia.

His appearance also kicked off a busy week of presidential campaigning in Virginia in the final three weeks of the race in what has become a battleground state. McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, campaigned together Monday in Virginia Beach before Palin split off for a rally in Richmond.

Clinton acknowledged the state’s new clout and the novelty of Virginia possibly voting for a Democrat for president for the first time in 44 years, even as he noted Richmond’s distinction as the seat of a secessionist government 143 years ago.

“Richmond, cradle of the old Confederacy, with an African American mayor who was the first elected African American governor and is going to help elect America’s first African American president,” Clinton said.

Mayor L. Douglas Wilder was narrowly elected Virginia’s governor in 1989 and is not seeking re-election to his four-year term as mayor this fall.

(Associated Press)