Clinton headlines GOTV rally in Oxford

OXFORD — Former President Bill Clinton says young people will be committing “malpractice” if they sit out the midterm elections and let Republicans win this fall.

The former president said Thursday that young people need to turn out and vote for Democrats in congressional races. He said the party has worked to create jobs and make student loans more affordable during the tough economy.

“You’re committing malpractice if you sit this election out,” Clinton told about 2,000 people at the University of Mississippi, where he stumped for Democratic congressman Travis Childers.

Clinton also said Republicans and tea party activists are egging on Americans’ anger, making emotional appeals that blame Democrats for all of the country’s woes

“Right now, it’s not a thinking election,” Clinton said of the fall campaign’s tenor.

Clinton said Republicans “repealed arithmetic” and ran up the national debt during the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency.

Clinton appeared at Ole Miss to try to provide a boost to Childers, a north Mississippi Democrat who was first elected to the U.S. House in 2008. Childers faces Republican Alan Nunnelee and seven independent or third-party candidates in the Nov. 2 election. It’s a tight race, and Republicans have targeted Childers as a vulnerable Democrat.

Childers stood on stage with Clinton but made only brief remarks before the former president spoke for about 30 minutes. With sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s, a slight breeze wafted through the oaks of the Ole Miss Grove. Childers, an alumnus of the university, led the crowd in the school cheer, “Hotty Toddy.”

A few protesters were visible, including two young men who held up pieces of notebook paper with handwritten words: “Vote for Nunnelee” and “Monica Lewinsky.” A man in a rainbow wig and clown makeup wandered through the crowd holding a sign that said: “Travis Childers is a Tax and Spend Clown.”

Clinton said his appearance for Childers was his 75th or 76th on behalf of Democratic candidates this fall; he stumped this week for Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway and Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln. Clinton said young people were instrumental in electing President Barack Obama and Democratic majorities to the U.S. House and Senate two years ago.

In the hometown of William Faulkner, Clinton quoted from the Nobel Prize acceptance speech the novelist delivered nearly 60 years ago. Faulkner talked about “a general and universal fear,” which at the time was a fear of nuclear annihilation. Clinton said the current political climate is dominated by fear and uncertainty about the economic future.

Ole Miss sophomore Breion Mason, 19, said she wanted to vote for Obama in 2008 but was too young. Mason lives in Olive Branch, in Childers’ district. She said she has not registered to vote.

“I didn’t feel the need because there weren’t any big elections,” Mason said.

George Boone, a 24-year-old student from the south Mississippi city of Petal, listened to Clinton’s entire speech but said he was turned off by the “finger pointing.” Still, he said he’ll vote for Democratic U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor in November, but not because he considers himself a Democrat.

“Gene Taylor’s one of the few (politicians) that transcends party lines for me,” Boone said.

Taylor faces Republican Steven Palazzo, Libertarian Kenneth “Tim” Hampton and the Reform Party’s Anna Jewel Revies.

Read more in the NEMS Daily Journal Friday.

Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press; Photos by Deste Lee/NEMS Daily Journal