ABC News' Sarah Amos reports: In case the people of Oregon weren't entirely sure how badly Sen. Hillary Clinton wants another chance to debate her Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, President Bill Clinton was in town Friday to remind voters about just that fact. Campaigning in the small coastal community of North Bend, the former commander in chief pointed out how badly Hillary wants not just one, but two Oregon debates.
"I wish that we could have debates on all this," Clinton told the crowd during one of his long policy discussions. "And Hillary has proposed that Oregon should have two debates, one on the issues generally and one on you, on rural life in America today and what should be done. And if you agree you oughta make your feelings known, either on her Web site or some other way," Clinton said.
The push for another debate is just the latest in a long line of subtle, and not so subtle, hints Hillary, Bill and every other surrogate they can find have been laying down on the campaign trail. Sen. Clinton has put forth debate challenges in North Carolina, Indiana and Oregon, for those keeping count.
The former president spoke to a packed high school gymnasium in the coastal Oregon community. It had been more than 40 years since anything related to presidential politics had rolled through their neck of the woods, and the crowd was clearly excited to be a part of the never-ending presidential story line.
Clinton has been accused of many things during the course of this campaign season, but not knowing his audience rarely leads the list of charges. Friday night was a perfect example of why Clinton can connect with almost any American, as he launched into an in-depth discussion on the fishery issues that plague the Northwest.
"Now the administration has taken a curiously hands-off position on this while the salmon population keeps going down. I don't know if you remember this, but this started eight or nine years ago when I was president. There was a weird coalition of salmon fishermen in Washington and Oregon and Canada against Alaska because the population was moving so far north. We gotta bring back the population, it's gotta be the product of a stakeholder decision that you make. If you can get everybody together, which she will try to do, and convene people, she will support whatever comes out of involving all the stakeholders to bring the population back. This is a worldwide problem. Ninety percent of the world's fishing centers are understocked today. And fish are the main source of protein for poor people all over the world. This is a global crisis that you have a bad local case of. And she is determined to work with you to resolve it and reverse it," said Clinton, earning a thunderous applause from the audience.
But perhaps the loudest applause of the night came not from Clinton's words, but from his actions. The combination of Clinton's hour-long speech and a gym packed full of warm bodies was more heat than many in the room could handle -- former president included.
"You won't be offended if I take my coat off, will you?" Clinton asked the crowd as he tossed off his suit coat in the middle of his speech. The audience erupted into a mixture of applause, laughter and inaudible catcalls that only Clinton himself seemed to hear.
"You oughta.... That's not good," a chuckling Clinton said in response.