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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 factors that might help him defeat Congressman Hammerschmidt in the upcoming election. He hopes to benefit from a "general mood" in favor of new faces, but primarily from his own skill and hard work. Already apparently attuned to the power of his charm, he knows he needs to personalize the race by meeting directly with voters. Such meetings will also motivate turnout, he hopes. Clinton bridles at the suggestion that he will be relying on substance over content, however, and insists that his campaign will be issue-oriented.

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

WALTER DE VRIES:
Okay, we don't have the campaign strategy worked out yet. Let's assume that you win it. And this is the day after election. What do you unknown as to why you won? What do you think would be the factors that would win it for you?
WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
First of all, the general mood, of course. The unknown. Get some new faces and people who seem like they have new ideas and you can forgive them if they've got a liberal past. That kind of thing. And secondly, and more importantly, a very skillful, hardfought campaign. There's no mystery to it. I'll just have. . . . I personally will have to, starting in about two weeks, literally walk the district. I'll have to see almost every voter individually if I can. And talk to them and ask them to help. And that works here. It works and I need to see everybody John Paul's written a unknown letter to.
JACK BASS:
Does it work here because this area is really not covered by any major, dominant news press.
WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
It works here for that reason and because people like to be seen. It's simply unknown. I'm not sure it wouldn't work everywhere if people would take the trouble to do it.
WALTER DE VRIES:
Well, do you see it as a unique part of the state? As a unique kind of a district?
WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
Oh yeah, in some ways it is. It's just a feeling you have, you know, at least in the hill counties, that there's a certain sort of personalization of politics that goes on. That people perceive politicians as individuals, as people they like to be foreor who they wouldn't want to be.
WALTER DE VRIES:
So what you're saying is if you won it it would be on a strictly personality basis. That is, you contacted and impressed more people than Hammerschmidt had been able to do in the last eight years.
WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
[Unclear.] unknown The mood will have to hold for me, I think. And then I'll have to do unknown. In an exhaustive way. You know, it will just be 12 or 13 hours a day every day until, from July 1 on. And then my organization will have to grow and expand to the point where I [canbe sure that] virtually, with minor exceptions, on election day, every single registered voter in the district that wants to vote for me. And we get an inordinate percentage of them to the polls. That will be very important, because this is not a presidential election. And the big—
WALTER DE VRIES:
The turn out will be effected.
WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
Yeah. It will be bigger than a lot of people think it would be, because this race will engender some interest because a lot of people, even Democrats [something about voting in November and not in the primaries.] If you look at some of our off year election returns in general elections you can see that.
WALTER DE VRIES:
Is it possible in this district to identify and get the registered voters list?
WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
Oh yeah. You have to do it county by county and it's a hard . . . it's a lot of effort. But it can be done. So we will do that [one day?] Those three factors are what's responsible for my winning the primary. I mean the extraordinary effort that was put in by just hundreds of people. I had more people than I ever had the right to expect.
WALTER DE VRIES:
So you're looking at a personality and organization oriented campaign. It's really not going to be dominated by issues.
WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
No. Let me go on.
WALTER DE VRIES:
I'm sorry.
WILLIAM J. (BILL) CLINTON:
It will be because that's the way I am. In the first place. I mean, I'll show you this little brochure that I've printed up. Maybe you've seen, I don't know. But it's fairly moderate, but it's more issue oriented by far than any other candidate who ran for office this year. Fulbright had some issue stuff, quite a bit. But you know, nobody else has even approached, you know, involving issues in things. I happen to believe that the way that I can best sell myself, and the way that I can get the best organization going, is by sticking to the issues and by speaking about them in my speeches. And with more particularity than say the governor does. The governor has to. Now Bumpers, see he has a record. People know him. They feel comfortable with him. They know what he can do. So he can go a lot further without speaking about the issues than I can. And one of the ways that I demonstrate to the people in this district that I am able to be in Congress is by having a better grasp of the issues than the people I'm running against. Knowing more about it and being able to pose constructive alternatives. Because, you see, a man like Bumpers doesn't have to do that because he's got a progressive, constructive record as governor. So he can say inflation is eating the heart out of America, or whatever, and we got to do something about it. And the average person who's voted for him and is pleased with his record can vote for him for the Senate and say Dale will do something about it because he did something about the disarray in state government. See? Well, I can't do that, you see, because I'm 27 and don't have a record and all. I also feel that people feel, inherently, more or less unknown about me than they would him. You know, he came out of Charleston as a city attorney. Had been there 20 years. unknown my record and his. And when I speak to their needs I think that's what makes them respond to me. So in a peculiar way and a delicate way, my campaign, which is issue oriented, is what sells me as a human being.