Bill Clinton to rally for Rep. Dingell on campus Sunday

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Congressman John Dingell at the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary held on the steps of the Michigan Union on October 14, 2010. Buy this photo

BY JOSEPH LICHTERMAN
Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 21, 2010

Former President Bill Clinton will be coming to campus on Sunday to speak at a rally in support of U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.), who is running for re-election on Nov. 2.

The rally, called “Get Out the Vote,” will be held at 2 p.m. at Rackham Auditorium, according to a press release issued by Dingell's campaign last night.

Betsy Barrett, communications director for Dingell’s campaign, wrote in an e-mail interview last night that campaign officials chose to host the rally at the University because of its politically active atmosphere.

"U of M is a great institution with an energetic student body and a first-rate faculty and staff,” Barrett wrote. “It is also a fun place to hold a rally."

Barrett added that Sunday’s event will be one in a long history of Dingell campaigning with national political figures.

“Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and many others have campaigned with Congressman Dingell in Michigan,” Barrett wrote.

Interview requests to Clinton’s communications staff went unanswered last night.

Though the 84-year-old Dingell is the longest-serving member in the U.S. House of Representatives — having held his seat since 1955 — his re-election campaign hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing.

An Oct. 4 poll conducted by the Rossman Group, which identifies as nonpartisan, showed Dingell’s opponent, Rob Steele, the Republican candidate and an Ann Arbor cardiologist, leading Dingell by a 43.8-percent to 39.5-percent margin.

But in an e-mail interview last week, Barrett wrote that the Rossman Group has ties to the Republican Party.

“This is a GOP poll conducted by a firm with GOP ties masquerading as an independent poll, but it’s too early for trick or treats,” she wrote.

A new Detroit Free Press-WXYZ TV poll released yesterday, however, revealed that Dingell holds a 17-point lead over Steele, who’s apparently trailing Dingell at 36 percent compared to Dingell’s 53 percent, according to an Oct. 21 Free Press article.

In 2008, Dingell beat Republican challenger John Lynch by a 70-percent to 25-percent margin, according to the article. The last time Dingell received less than 60 percent of the vote was in 1994 when the GOP took control of both chambers of Congress — he garnered 59 percent of the vote that year, according to the Free Press article.

Brendan Campbell, chair of the University’s chapter of College Democrats, said in an interview last night that he hopes Clinton’s visit will encourage students to vote for Dingell and other Democrats so that the party “(keeps) moving this country forward.”

“Clinton recognizes that Ann Arbor and especially the University of Michigan campus is a stronghold for Democrats across the state, so turning up Democrats in this area and making sure that students are specifically excited for this election has deep ramifications for the entire state,” Campbell said.

Campbell added that his group is excited that an “icon in the Democratic Party” will be coming to campus to speak directly to students about their role in this year’s midterm election.

“We know that two years ago students and young people came out in a huge way for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party and we really need to do that again in 2010 to make sure that we continue moving this country in the right direction,” he said. “So I expect that he’s going to talk about why this election is important, but also, and more specifically, why students are important to this election.”

Sunday’s event is open to the public, but tickets are required for admittance. Tickets can be reserved online on Dingell’s campaign website and can be picked up before the event at the Rackham Auditorium box office.

In addition to visiting the University, Clinton will also travel to Detroit and Battle Creek, Mich. on Sunday with several Democratic candidates — including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Virg Bernero. Currently the mayor of Lansing, Bernero is expected to speak with Clinton at Fellowship Chapel in Detroit, according to The Associated Press.

— Daily Staff Reporters Bethany Biron and Mike Merar contributed to this report.