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Clinton stumps for McCaskill in St. Louis

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Former President Bill Clinton and Senate candidate Claire McCaskill wave to supporters at a fundraiser Saturday at the Chase Park Plaza (UPI photo/Bill Greenblatt)

By AP/KWMU

St. Louis, MO – Former President Clinton appeared in St. Louis on Saturday on behalf of U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill, the Missouri state Auditor who is challenging incumbent Senator Jim Talent in the November election.

The former president told a crowd of Democratic party faithful that McCaskill would be a "proud successor" to Harry Truman, who rose from Missouri's U.S. senator to national prominence after daring to challenge the status quo during war time.

Clinton, in his first formal visit to Missouri in nearly six years, spoke for nearly an hour at a rally that drew 2,000 to the Pageant in St. Louis. He then delivered a slightly shorter version of his message at a fundraising brunch at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel.

Clinton recalled that during World War II, with national security hanging in the balance, Truman and his Senate committee exposed corruption and waste in the military, earning him national fame and respect, and an invitation to be Franklin D. Roosevelt's vice president.

"FDR didn't want a toady on the ticket. He wanted a patriot who would find the truth in times of war," said Clinton, who said McCaskill would be a senator similar to the plain-spoken Truman.

The event raised more than $1 million for McCaskill's challenge of incumbent Republican Sen. Jim Talent. Talent's campaign raised $600,000 at a fundraiser in Kansas City Friday the featured President Bush.

Saturday's rally and fundraiser included appearances and remarks from the state's senior Democratic leaders including former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and former Sen. Jean Carnahan and one of its rising stars, state auditor candidate Susan Montee. But it was Clinton who electrified both audiences. "There's a narrow band of the Republican Party controlling the White House, and the House and Senate, that is the most right-wing, special-interest-dominated segment of the party," Clinton said.

"They have certainly shown us what they're capable of, and we should show them the door."

Clinton predicted McCaskill would prevail in the Senate race if she has enough money to compete and stop the Republicans from transforming her from a "three-dimensional human being into a two-dimensional cartoon.

"You've got a choice," he said. "You can vote to perpetuate the control of the narrow strip of Republicans or for a proud successor to Harry Truman."

McCaskill, beaming as she introduced her children, mother, sister and husband, said she could "smell change" in her travels around Missouri, which she believes wants to return to a time of balanced budgets, national security, health care and prosperity for the masses, "not just for Paris Hilton and the CEO of Exxon Mobil."

Clinton also said the Republicans are infusing their election-year campaign with fears of terrorist attacks. But Clinton said if the GOP was serious about national security, it would implement the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission.

"They've trotted that dog out for the last three elections, and it's got mange all over it," Clinton told the crowd.

Paul Sloca, communications director for the Missouri Republican Party, said that during the 1990s, the terrorists took the war to America by attacking the USS Cole and U.S. embassies.

"Now, we're taking the war to the terrorists," he said, adding that terrorist surveillance under the Bush Administration has prevented attacks. He also said Bush's tax cuts have boosted the economy and created jobs.

Talent has a better than 2-1 advantage over McCaskill in the money race so far, but the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has pledged to spend about $6 million on TV ads in Missouri from late August through the Nov. 7 election.

Carnahan said Talent had voted with President Bush 94% of the time in support of a Republican world view that stands for "unquestioning presidential authority, illegal wiretapping, secret prisons, religious belief as policy, and global warming is just a joke."

The crowd at both events said they were inspired and energized by Clinton. "His message was there's hope, and we deserve a better government, that there are important social issues like unemployment and minimum wage and just being a better country," said Mary Beth Conlon, 40, of St. Louis County, an administrator at Boeing and former Overland City Councilwoman.

Kennett, Mo. native and Grammy winner Sheryl Crow also headlined a fundraiser for McCaskill in St. Louis on Sunday.

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