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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William J. (Bill) Clinton, June 15, 1974. Interview A-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Personal connections will determine votes

Clinton describes the dynamics of his upcoming contest for the House of Representatives against Republican incumbent John Hammerschmidt. Anti-Nixon sentiment, anti-Congressional feeling, and each politician's connection with voters will play a role, Clinton thinks. This interview reveals Clinton's knowledge of Arkansas politics and the political process.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William J. (Bill) Clinton, June 15, 1974. Interview A-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
Probably will not because of the electorate there is a little different. They perceive the issues there a little differently. It's mostly Little Rock and the alternative is not as strong. But anyway, let's see. Those two major things he had against him at first. And it was interesting to me that they did all the publicity in the Fulbright canvas completely backwards in order. Because at the end you had a very effective ad with about ten different people in ten different walks of life in Arkansas. Just folks off the street explaining why they were for Fulbright. After all this stuff Fulbright's done standing up to Nixon on all these issues. Well, it's just the reverse. They should have run all that for three months ahead of time trying to break into this resistance that the average Arkansan felt towards him. Because if they don't feel comfortable with you they won't vote for you. Now the reason for Hammerschmidt's great strength is they feel comfortable with him. Because he writes them all letters. Sends these questionnaires. Answers their own letters, promptly. Calls a lot of people on the phone. Comes home a lot. And so people don't even perceive him as a Congressman. He's that fellow who handles their problems up there. They don't even think about his record. Don't even know his record exists. But running against him, you see, is a tricky deal because if I were to go out tomorrow and call a press conference and lay bare what I think is his pretty bad record for all the people. Here, in that just a sort of definite way. It would hurt me. Or it wouldn't help any. Because even though I've just won a very impressive run off victory, the numbers weren't that great. Just proves that I've got an organization that controls [voters?]. At least in part that's what you can attribute it to if you want to. And the people of this district have got to feel just as comfortable with me as they do with him. And then these other ties, the anti-incumbency and the anti-Congressional feeling, anti-Nixon feeling, which is underneath on that, will begin to take over and begin to help me in this campaign. Nixon I'd say is still fairly strong in Ft Smith which is in conventional terms supposed to be one of the most conservative towns in America. One of the three places that John Mitchell wanted his trial moved to. Ft Smith and Toopaloo and Shreveport, Louisiana. And it's been voting Republican in presidential elections at least since '52 and perhaps before.
WALTER DE VRIES:
Do you think they're comfortable with you?
WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
Well, I don't know. I carried the thing. I got 59% of the vote in the run off. And nobody believed I could do that. And as I say, I don't who they were. I'll have to look. I haven't seen the box by box breakdown. It could be that there were just no votes in the Republican boxes, the upper middle class boxes and I got all my votes from labor. But I believe that the thing will run consistant throughout the town. In other words, they voted for Bumpers overwhelmingly, not just against Fulbright but [for, too? for Ford, too].