The former president's visit raised more than $250,000 for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
CLEVELAND -- Former President Clinton urged his fellow Democrats to send financial contributions to Tim Hagan's campaign because the gubernatorial candidate needs at least $2 million to have a chance to beat Gov. Bob Taft.
"If you get your friends and family to donate $10 to $1,000, you can raise several million dollars," Clinton, the last Democrat to serve as president, told a partisan Democratic crowd Friday at the Cleveland Convention Center for a Hagan fund-raiser and rally. "If you raise enough, you can win. It doesn't matter if the other side has more money as long as you've got enough."
Clinton pegged that "enough" figure around $2 million.
The former president did his part.
Clinton's presence at a private $1,000-a-ticket fund-raiser for Hagan before the free campaign rally raised $257,000, said Jerry Austin, Hagan's campaign manager.
Before Clinton's visit, Hagan's campaign had $586,107, compared with $8.42 million for Taft. A Taft fund-raiser with President Bush earlier this year raised more than $1 million for the Republican governor.
Austin disagreed with Clinton's assessment about raising at least $2 million, saying that might be the case in a traditional race, but the Hagan campaign is anything but traditional.
Hagan has defied conventional wisdom, which is to focus most of the money on TV advertising. Hagan has vowed not to advertise on television and instead will use his money for direct mailings, yard signs, bumper stickers and other old-style campaigning methods.
Also, the Clinton appearance attracted much statewide media attention that didn't cost Hagan's campaign any money, Austin said.
Some Democratic candidates in other parts of the country have avoided Clinton, concerned that being connected to the former president, who's known as much for his controversial private life as anything else he's ever done, would hurt their campaigns. But Clinton was warmly embraced in Ohio with every Democratic statewide candidate on hand Friday to get some face time with him.
Clinton is speaking at about 80 events for Democratic candidates nationwide.
The former president agreed to stump for Hagan after running into Bill Hagan, one of the gubernatorial candidate's brothers, at a Hartford, Conn., event. Bill Hagan and Clinton have known each other since 1980 when they first appeared on a national television program to discuss the 1980 presidential election.
About 1,000 people attended the free rally, with several screaming, "We love you" and "We miss you" to Clinton as he delivered his 28-minute speech. The speech focused primarily on national issues, and the importance of voting and being politically active.
Clinton said that Ohio is a microcosm of politics in the United States and that Republicans, who have ruled the state for the past 12 years, are vulnerable.
Clinton and Hagan said there are a lot of similarities between Clinton in 1992 when he beat President George H.W. Bush -- or as Hagan called him, "old Bush" -- and Hagan in this year's campaign.
Both were not given much of a chance to beat the incumbent Republican.
"I have a sense of kinship with him," Hagan said of Clinton. "I face 12 years of one-party rule like Clinton. There are very clear similarities between us."
Hagan joked that both have gray hair and like to "stop for doughnuts" at times. Also, Hagan said they both are "thinner than Ted Kennedy," a comment that caused Clinton to laugh out loud and turn his face red.
The event had a distinct Mahoning Valley flavor to it.
State Sen. Robert F. Hagan, the candidate's brother and a Youngstown Democrat, served as the event's master of ceremonies. He entertained the crowd minutes before the rally dancing on stage -- a combination of the Twist, the Swim and the Jerk -- to music played by a middle-aged rock/Muzak band's version of "Hang on Sloopy," the state's official rock song.
Also, several Valley Democratic politicians attended the event, including some at the $1,000-a-ticket private fund-raiser, including state Sen. Timothy J. Ryan, who is running for Congress; Mahoning County Commissioner Ed Reese; Mahoning Democratic Chairwoman Lisa Antonini; Bob Wasko, a member of the Mahoning County Board of Elections; and Michael Sciortino, the elections board director.
Antonini made a pitch to Clinton during a brief conversation asking the former president to visit the Mahoning Valley. Clinton told Antonini to contact his scheduler to see if it could be done.
"He was sincere about coming to Youngstown," Antonini said. "I told him it was a new day in Mahoning County, and if he came to Youngstown, it would show his commitment to that change."