BLAINE, Minn. (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton said Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann is so far right that she makes Richard Nixon and George W. Bush look like liberals, and told voters late Sunday to back Democrat Tarryl Clark in the nation's most expensive House race.
Clinton, who made a daylong swing through Michigan and Minnesota to stump for Democratic candidates, told about 500 supporters in the Minneapolis suburb of Blaine that Bachmann — who has raised $11 million this election cycle — was too extreme for the state.
The congresswoman, a tea party favorite, and the conservative strain she represents make "Richard Nixon look like a member of the Students for a Democratic Society. They make Newt Gingrich and George Bush look like garden-variety liberals, and we're laughing, but just think about this," Clinton said.
Clinton said great GOP presidents including Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower would vote for Clark, a state senator trying to unseat Bachmann in Minnesota's most conservative district.
Bachmann's fundraising is far ahead of any other House candidate, though Clark's $4.2 million still makes her one of the country's top House fundraisers. Also in their race is the Independence Party's Bob Anderson, who drew 10 percent of the vote two years ago with a minimal campaign.
Clinton's appearance capped a weekend of big-name visits, with President Barack Obama leading a rally at the University of Minnesota and holding a fundraiser with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Minneapolis on Saturday.
Bachmann, while campaigning earlier Sunday in the core of her district, said those visits show that Democrats see her as a "high-value target."
During his swing through Michigan, Clinton tied his pitch for Democratic candidates to college football. He warned that Democratic voters must prepare for the Nov. 2 election as much as unbeaten Michigan State University has to prepare for its next opponent.
"If I were in Lansing, I bet half the town, men and women, could go through the fourth quarter against Northwestern play by play," he told a crowd of about 1,000 people, referring to the Spartans' 35-27 come-from-behind victory Saturday. "In football, the facts are important and we know them."
When it comes to the economy, however, Clinton said people are too often forgetting about how deep a hole the country was in when Obama took office and how far things have come. While acknowledging that the economy hasn't fully recovered, Clinton said Obama is moving the country in the right direction.
"That is not cause for applause, but it should give people pause before they throw out the present coaching staff and bring back the coaching staff" that left the country with a losing season during eight years under Bush's administration, Clinton said.
Clinton got standing ovations at the start and end of his half-hour speech, despite talking about the No. 5-ranked Michigan State team during the event inside an auditorium at the University of Michigan, whose football team isn't in The Associated Press Top 25. He was joined on the stage at by U.S. Rep. John Dingell, who's facing a tea party-backed Republican in his 27th run for office.
Clinton also spoke to several hundred people in Battle Creek to support Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, who faces a tough re-election bid against Republican Tim Walberg. Earlier, he talked to about 500 people in Detroit to rally voters on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Virg Bernero, the Lansing mayor who is trailing Republican Rick Snyder in recent polls.
Clinton's audience in Ann Arbor had to wait three hours to see the former president, after his appearance in Detroit got behind schedule. Clinton said it was important to re-elect Dingell, who has served half a century in Congress. He is running against Republican cardiologist Rob Steele. A recent poll showed Dingell leading by 17 points in the 15th District, but Clinton wants to help firm up Dingell's prospects.
Republicans downplayed Clinton's visit, and have tried to tie local Democratic candidates to less popular Democrats, such Pelosi and Obama.
Associated Press writers David N. Goodman in Detroit and Tim Martin in Battle Creek, Mich., contributed to this report.
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