THE BLOG

Bill Clinton: Flashing Star Power On The Hoosier Heartland

05/10/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

LEBANON, IND. -- In a pair of middle schools on opposite sides of Indianapolis, in the proud little cities of Greenfield and Lebanon, former President Bill Clinton continued his whirlwind stumping tour in support of his wife late Friday.

In suburban Greenfield, the seat of Hancock County -- located about 10 miles east of Indianapolis -- almost 900 students, parents, teachers and community members crowded into a muggy gym to hear Clinton speak on behalf of his wife.

A little hoarse, sunburned and with bags under his eyes, Clinton looked tired, but was clearly in his element as he detailed Hillary's policy positions.

In the audience was Mary Etta Ruley, a Democrat running for U.S. representative in the 5th District. She was on hand to do some politicking of her own, but was impressed by Clinton's talent for campaigning.

"He still has star power," she said.

Ruley, a businesswoman and entrepreneur who has experience as a congressional staffer, was excited to be in the thick of a pivotal primary battle, not only in her district race against two other Democrats, but also state-wide.

"Indiana matters this time," she said. "Never in my life did I think I'd see anything like this. The energy level, the people I've met, it really says how great our country is."

Several frenzied hours later, in another middle school gym in the more rural Lebanon, some 10 miles northwest of Indianapolis, voters in largely Republican Boone County turned out to see the first president to visit these parts since Lincoln.

"We're very Middle America," admitted Mark Smith, a Ron Paul fan who came out, nonetheless, for the chance to see Clinton.

"It's just an honor to see any president," he said, echoing the consensus of other Republicans in the crowd, who couldn't pass up a chance to see a bonafide Democrat of Clinton's stature.

But Smith said his community has not been hit as hard in terms of jobs lost in to the collapse of manufacturing, and that Clinton's appeal to working-class voters may not have such a ringing appeal here.

One young voter who was impressed by Clinton's speech was Macy West, a senior at Lebanon's high school. Having just turned 18, West is excited about the prospect of voting for the first time in Tuesday's primary, especially at this juncture in presidential politics.

As for Bill: "I think hearing him talk ... will help her here," she said, referring to his appeal to Boone County Dems to vote for his wife.

Her topic-of-interest was the No Child Left Behind Act; she agreed wholeheartedly with Clinton's plan to abolish or at least severely curtail it.

"It's a horrible system," she said.

An editor at the school paper, West said that she's still undecided, along with her Democratic mom and Republican dad.

"I'm probably going to spend the weekend on the Internet" researching the minutiae of both candidate's positions on policies.

This time, she said, Indiana's vote will make a difference.

For more original reporting from the Indiana primary, check out seattlepoliticore.org.