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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 >>

Voters respond to issues

Clinton reflects meanderingly on his campaign against Hammerschmidt and the tactics Hammerschmidt had already begun using against him, including criticizing his primary victory. (This passage puts Clinton's share of the vote at 69%, but it appears as 59% earlier in the interview.) Clinton is trying to clarify his belief on the role of issues versus personality, and concludes that his stance on the issues tends to build a broader picture of him as a person.

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

You think the Republican party, both at the state and perhaps the national level, or at least the campaign committee, are going to put a lot of money against you. Hammerschmidt is THE one Republican Congressman.
They will if he gets in tight. Now he seems to be worried. Maybe he's got some polls which indicate he's [in trouble]. Certainly I thought it was a tactical error for him to attack me on the day after I'd won the Democratic primary with 69% of the vote. Well, if I were running against me I'd say "Well, he's a nice young man but I've done a good job."
Well, he not only attacked you, he tried to explain the election. Which is not only absurd but it's certainly presumptuous to say that he won because organized labor supported him. Isn't that what he said?
Yeah. [Something about the labor input.] And I had some Republicans vote for me in that primary. There's a young guy who, president of this northwest Arkansas underwriters association that had me there to speak yesterday. He's a Republican and never taken an active part in politics. And he's going with me all the way. And that infuriated him. He said "Hell, I had a lot of my friends tell me that they didn't give a damn for labor and they voted for you." You see, that's another peculiar thing. I can't tell you what my constituency is. If you look at my vote in Ft Smith I get the same percentage in every district. There's a few hard core Republican precincts and they voted for Rainwater in the first time and probably the second time. There's a few black precincts and they voted for me. unknown. And every other precinet, whether it's a lower class area or an upper middle class area, I got the same percentage of the vote, almost. With some variations for where I had friends. You know, so that they could carry the thing.
That's why I asked you if you'd done any polling. unknown after elections study to find out what happened.
Yeah. Well I had done that, studied it box by box. So the conclusion that I draw from that is that people are not all that different in the way they vote in this district. They don't align up into bloos very well. Now I think that I will get a high percentage of the labor vote. But even now, if you had the election today, a lot of people who belong to labor unions who voted for me in the primary might go for Hammerschmidt because of the letters he sends, you see.
Are you saying, in so far as issues are concerned, you find that people are less concerned with specific stands on specific issues than they are on the fact that you take a stand. Or not?
No, I didn't mean that. I didn't mean to downplay the issue thing. I meant that they would vote for Bill Clinton. . . . If you asked somebody. . . . I sat out there and talked about issues. . . . I had a 30 minute tv program which got me a whole lot of votes and I just did it off the cuff. I sat down and talked for 30 minutes. I made notes for five minutes, ran over them in ten and then just talked off the cuff. And I talked about agriculture. And made some very specific ideas about what I though ought to be done with the tax code. And what the government ought to do to fight inflation. And you know, just on and on. And probably took 25 stands on things. Nothing awfully liberal or even . . . except my stand on taxes and stuff like that vis-a-vis the unknown. But solid, you know, sort of progressive stands and in considerable detail. But if you asked the people who saw the damn program, who wanted to vote for me, why are you going to vote for me? "Because that Bill Clinton is going to go up there and stand up for us. Get rid of the mess in Washington. Turn the thing around." That's what I'm saying. I'm saying that my presentation of the issues is something that the voter, the average voter just distills into his general perception of me as a person. I do it because I think it's the responsible thing to do and because it's the only way I know to sell myself. I can't get up there and say a lot of general pap about how I'm an honest person. . . .