LOS ANGELES -- Former U.S. President Bill Clinton took to the stump Friday night in support of former rival Jerry Brown as the two men publicly buried the hatchet ahead of the Nov. 2 election for California governor.
Clinton and Brown, who is in a close contest against Republican Meg Whitman in the gubernatorial election, were adversaries in the race for the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination. Their relationship has at times been testy, including a jab that Brown took at Clinton just weeks ago.
But the two veteran politicians spoke warmly of each other at a rally for Brown at the University of California, Los Angeles, where they sought to energize the young voters who helped elect President Barack Obama two years ago.
"I am so grateful to Jerry Brown," Clinton, standing before the flags of California and the United States, told a crowd of about 500 people at an outdoor campus rally. "You know, we're not very far apart in age and we've both been doing this a long time, and he still cares about your future."
For his part, Brown heaped praise on Clinton's presidency despite having run against him for that job, and for his work since.
"Now let me tell you, President Clinton was not only great in office, he has been great after he left office," Brown said. "He didn't retire to Palm Springs to play golf, he's out there doing stuff. He's helping people in Haiti. He's fighting AIDS."
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Friday, Brown holds a narrow 4 percentage point lead over Whitman, a billionaire former eBay CEO.
Whitman last month released a TV advertisement featuring footage of Clinton ripping into Brown on tax policy during a 1992 Democratic primary debate.
'A NICE GUY'
Brown, when asked about the ad at a campaign stop, shot back with a not-so-subtle reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal that marred Clinton's presidency.
"Clinton's a nice guy, but who said he always told the truth? You remember, right? There's a whole story about did he or didn't he," Brown said, adding: "I did not have taxes with this state, so lets be clear about that."
Brown later said he had called Clinton's office to apologize for the jab, and the former president endorsed him in the governor's race a few days later.
The event was billed as a rally for Brown and fellow Democrat Gavin Newsom, running for California lieutenant governor. But Clinton was the star of the night, winning the most applause from the students.
"What this was was a Democratic peace conference, but it was also to blunt Meg Whitman's ad in which she used Bill Clinton against Jerry Brown," political analyst Sherry Bebitch-Jeffe said.
"And it was also to bury the hatchet so as to not allow Meg Whitman to use (again) what turned out to be a very effective ad," she said.
© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.