Bill Clinton pops in and out of Pittsburgh for fundraiser for Hillary
Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign fundraising machine brought out its big gun Thursday in Pittsburgh: her husband.
Former President Bill Clinton delivered a half-hour speech then schmoozed with the 100 to 150 donors in Consol Energy Center’s Lexus Club, helping to raise enthusiasm and at least $50,000 for his wife’s campaign, attendees said.
It was at least the second major fundraising event for Hillary Clinton in Western Pennsylvania this year. She attended a private fundraiser in July in Fox Chapel.
Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie and former candidate Scott Walker also stumped for cash here, while front-runner Donald Trump is headlining Saturday’s Commonwealth Club Luncheon at the annual Pennsylvania Society gala in New York, organized by the Pennsylvania GOP.
“President Clinton didn’t just give a rah-rah speech for Hillary. He really laid out why she is the best candidate,” said Allegheny County Democratic Chairwoman Nancy Mills.
Mills described the event as an “intimate gathering.”
Allegheny County Republican Chairman Jim Roddey thought the turnout was “a lot lighter than I would have imagined,” noting he expected the former president to draw 300 to 500 people.
“Maybe next year when the campaign is in full swing, he’ll draw more people. I’m sure they’ll be back,” Roddey said.
Clinton’s six-vehicle motorcade pulled up to a side entrance along the arena’s Centre Avenue side about 1:15 p.m., and he left about an hour and a half later. Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald greeted Clinton when he walked into the Lexus Club.
Penguins CEO David Morehouse, who once worked for Clinton, was supposed to help host the event, but the team said he had heart surgery this week.
Peduto, who supported Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008, said the former president spoke about a number of topics in their 3- to 4-minute encounter: from the recent shootings in San Bernardino to how Pittsburgh’s political climate has changed since he was president, becoming more progressive.
The fundraiser event cost contributors at least $500 a plate. Those who donated $2,700 — the maximum allowable contribution for a primary election — could get their photo taken with the former president, who is headlining at least 20 fundraisers nationwide for Hillary Clinton.
As of Oct. 16, Clinton’s campaign had raised $77.5 million, more than any other presidential candidate, according to Federal Election Commission data posted on the Center for Responsive Politics’ website.
A CBS News poll released Thursday showed Hillary Clinton with a commanding 20 percentage point lead over rival Bernie Sanders, while Trump is up 19 points over Ted Cruz.
“I wish I could vote right now,” Eve Picker, CEO of the Downtown nonprofit development group cityLAB, said after the Clinton fundraiser.
Picker said she told Clinton, “It didn’t really matter what you said; I was going to vote for Hillary anyway. And he said, ‘Bless your heart.’ ”
Former Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris, who supported Obama over Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary, said he would support Clinton this time. He said President Clinton’s speech “really sets the tone for the election; we’re in the game now.”
Riffat Chugtai of Murrysville, who heads the Pakistani-American Political Action Committee, said she was “on the fence a little bit” about which candidate she should support until she decided a few months ago to support Hillary Clinton. The former president’s speech, she said, “reinforces my support and makes me think I’m making the right decision.”
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.