EXETER, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Former U. S. President Bill Clinton hit the campaign trail on Monday in support of his wife, Hillary Clinton, who seeks the nomination in the Democratic contest, touting her record in public office and dodging discussion of his own.
Speaking to a crowd of supporters in the early-voting state of New Hampshire, a soft-spoken Bill Clinton made his first solo stump for his wife in the 2016 election cycle, declining to respond to criticism over infidelities during his time in the Oval Office, and praising his wife's career both in and out of politics.
"I think she's proved she knows how to get things done,” he told a group of supporters at a town hall in Exeter.
"Everywhere she went, she made something good happen.”
Monday's stops were the first of what are expected to be many Clinton will make for his wife, with just four weeks until the first votes are cast in the nominating process for the November 2016 election.
His late-comer introduction to the campaign trail could be a strategically significant move for the former secretary of state who, despite leading in many national surveys, still trails Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire opinion polls.
But, while Bill Clinton’s lasting popularity among Democrats makes his support a sterling endorsement for any candidate, scrutiny of his past infidelities raised by Republican pack leader Donald Trump have reintroduced a sore point in his legacy to a new generation of voters too young to remember the scandal.
In the 1990's, Clinton, while still in office, admitted to a sexual relationship with a White House intern, which Trump has said demonstrates a penchant for sexism by the husband of the woman hoping to be the nation’s first female president.
Clinton shied away from addressing the controversy directly during his stump, instead admonishing "communities of collective resentment" across party aisles, and in a thinly veiled criticism of Trump, bashed Republicans for attempting to make a caricature of wife’s career.
"She’s got the proven ability to get the best out of a difficult situation,” he said to a group of volunteers in Dover.
"But the main thing is, at a time when we have been driven apart by the communities of collective resentment, she has never stepped into a room where she didn’t make something good.”
New Hampshire voters will cast their ballots for the primary nominating contest on Feb. 9.
(In Jan. 4 item, corrects in second paragraph to make clear it was Bill Clinton's first solo appearance at a campaign event for his wife)
Reporting by Alana Wise; Editing by Robert Birsel