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President Bill Clinton draws small crowd in Sioux Falls

SIOUX FALLS -- If crowd size is any indication, Sen. Bernie Sanders will win South Dakota's Democratic primary. President Bill Clinton made an appearance Friday in Sioux Falls to speak to between 200 to 300 people at The District event center in ...

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Friday in Sioux Falls. (Christopher Reistroffer/Reuters)
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Friday in Sioux Falls. (Christopher Reistroffer/Reuters)

SIOUX FALLS - If crowd size is any indication, Sen. Bernie Sanders will win South Dakota's Democratic primary.

President Bill Clinton made an appearance Friday in Sioux Falls to speak to between 200 to 300 people at The District event center in support of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's campaign, drawing significantly less interest than the Vermont senator did when he touched down in South Dakota one week ago.

While Hillary Clinton didn't make an appearance herself, the two-term Democratic president attracted about 4,000 fewer people than Sanders and spoke to the audience for about 30 minutes compared to Sanders' 90-minute speech.

Despite the relatively small crowd, Clinton roused his wife's supporters after they chanted his name in anticipation of his arrival.

Once he arrived, Clinton told the crowd there's only one person ready to take the reins as president and guide the United States in the right direction. He said Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who can bring the right policies to the White House, push those policies through Congress and keep the county safe.

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"There is no question that she is the only person that can meet all three of those tasks," Clinton said.

When Clinton was finally introduced at about 11:30 a.m., he was greeted with a warm welcome from the pro-Hillary crowd, and he returned the favor by correctly referring to the city as Sioux Falls, unlike Sanders who called it "Sioux City" at one point last Friday.

After some welcoming words from Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether and fellow South Dakota Democrats State Rep. Paula Hawks and former U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Clinton spoke of his wife's decades of commitment to the American people.

And Clinton himself was looking forward to the potential opportunity to return to South Dakota to help guide the state through any of its economic challenges.

"I ask you to support her, and for personal and very selfish reasons," Clinton joked. "I'd like you to support her so I'll have the duty to come back here and see you again."

While Clinton spoke of optimism for his wife's campaign, Sioux Falls resident and Hillary Clinton supporter Dan Smith is starting to worry about the rising popularity of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and the growing division within the Democratic Party.

"Once she's on the job, she's going to get something done," Smith said while waiting in line to enter The District. "But it's not a given anymore. Polls tightened up."

Smith said Trump's "checkered past" is worrying, while Clinton's experience in the State Department and Senate is admirable. Despite what Smith sees as a troublesome past from the GOP's presumptive nominee, he thinks South Dakota will support the Republican candidate like it has every presidential election since 1964.

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But Smith, a retired school teacher, hoped Bill Clinton's visit would rally South Dakotans around Hillary Clinton's campaign and quiet the Sanders camp.

"I wish Bernie would just go take a nap," Smith said.

Without mentioning Sanders' name, Clinton also said it's time for the party to unify.

"As Democrats, our job is to come together and say, 'We're about the future, not the past,' " Clinton said. "We want a future we can all share."

While in Sioux Falls, President Bill Clinton was also scheduled to appear at a fundraiser in the afternoon before heading off to Fargo and Billings, Montana for other scheduled events.

If all goes well with the campaign, Clinton hoped to be back in South Dakota in the future.

"I believe we are very close to being able to all rise together, and I would be happy to come back here and work on that," he said.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016
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