Raleigh, N.C. — Comparing himself to an old racehorse being sent around the track during every election cycle, former President Bill Clinton urged a Raleigh crowd Friday to head to the polls and vote to carry fellow Democrat U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan down the homestretch and push her across the finish line first next Tuesday.
"Too many Americans for too long have felt it's enough for them to vote in presidential elections," Clinton told several hundred at Broughton High School. "We have to show up (in this midterm election).
"I am trying to get around this track for Kay Hagan because I believe in her. I believe in the promise of North Carolina. I believe in the promise of the young people here. But you have to vote. Are you going to vote?" he said as the crowd roared. "Bring her home."
Clinton was the latest in a line of high-profile politicians to visit North Carolina in recent days to turn out the vote for Hagan or her Republican challenger, state House Speaker Thom Tillis.
Clinton's wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, campaigned in Charlotte with Hagan last weekend, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry was at a Smithfield barbecue with Tillis a week ago, and former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was in Raleigh with Tillis on Wednesday.
The race is one of the most fiercely fought nationwide, topping $100 million in spending. Hagan has a narrow lead in most polls.
About 110,000 ads have aired statewide in the Senate campaign, almost all of them negative. In the past month, they've saturated the airwaves at a rate of about one ad per minute.
Hagan highlighted major differences between her and Tillis for the Broughton High crowd: She wants a higher minimum wage, equal pay for women, lower interest rates on student loans and increased access to health care, while he opposes all of those things.
"The idea of the weak growing strong and the strong growing great is on the line in this election," she said, referring to North Carolina's state toast.
Hagan told supporters that their votes would show Tillis and his backers that "grassroots efforts can triumph out-of-state billionaires who are trying to buy this seat," calling out conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch by name.
She then led the crowd in a cheer, "North Carolina is not for sale."
Clinton said Hagan backs the idea of growing together, while Tillis favors "growing apart" through trickle-down economics.
"If we grow together, it helps everybody," he said, citing U.S. economic growth during his two terms as president. "This is not rocket science. It's obvious what works."
Hagan represents "what every poll says you want," Clinton said – someone who works on bipartisan solutions to problems and who has a good economic and a good educational platform. Faced with that, he said, Tillis has chosen to run against an unpopular President Barack Obama instead of against Hagan.
"All of these people are paying for these ads to create that protest mentality. Where are they going to be Wednesday morning?" Clinton said. "If you vote right, they're going to be home with their tails between their legs. But if you don't vote, they'll be in Washington, D.C., trying to collect on the investment they just made."