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Monday, October 29, 2012

With Obama Tending to Storm, Clinton Campaigns for Him in Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. - With Hurricane Sandy barreling towards the Northeast on Monday, former President Bill Clinton played stand-in for President Obama at a campaign rally here at the University of Central Florida.

Mr. Obama had canceled his appearance to return to Washington, but Mr. Clinton easily (and happily) became the event's headliner, rescuing a potentially disappointing turn of events. Revving up the crowd of several thousand students who woke up early and waited hours outside on the state's first crisp autumn morning, Mr. Clinton talked about jobs, higher education and rising tuition costs. He was joined by Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, and Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor turned independent who incensed Republicans here in August by backing Mr. Obama.

“I'm supposed to be the warm-up man for President Obama today, but that storm on the East Coast had other ideas,” Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. Clinton told the students that univers ities must focus more on teaching science and technology. This will allow America to better compete for jobs, he said.

“We have a demand every year in America for 120,000 jobs in computer science, and we're only educating 40,000 computer scientists in the whole country,” Mr. Clinton said. “We can do better than that. President Obama wants to do that.”

Mr. Clinton also praised Mr. Obama's efforts in expanding student loans, a crowd-pleaser here at the university.

“On this issue alone, every person within the sound of my voice should vote for Barack Obama,” said Mr. Clinton, who added that Mitt Romney supports reducing funds for Pell Grants and higher education.

One of the biggest cheers from Obama supporters came when Mr. Clinton praised the president's health care law and its provision allowing children to remain on their parents' insurance policies until age 26.

Mr. Crist, the onetime Republican who became an independent in 2010 for his unsuccessful Senate run against Marco Rubio, praised Mr. Obama for his willingness to work across party lines.

“He didn't care about parties, he only cared about people,” Mr. Crist said, reflecting on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “The president was here day after day after day, just like he's fighting for people in the Northeast now.”