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Published September 15, 2010, 08:09 AM

Clinton: New-look GOP makes Bush look liberal

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that the Republican Party is embracing "ideology over evidence" and pushing out pragmatic voices that would make even his White House successor seem like a liberal.

By: BRIAN BAKST, Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that the Republican Party is embracing "ideology over evidence" and pushing out pragmatic voices that would make even his White House successor seem like a liberal.

Clinton, speaking at a Democratic fundraiser in Minneapolis, said there was no mistaking that Republicans have tacked hard right and questioned whether former President George W. Bush would fit in among the party's candidates this year.

"A lot of their candidates today, they make him look like a liberal," Clinton told an enthusiastic crowd at a downtown hotel as he campaigned for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton.

"It used to be that Republicans were evidence-based, not dogma-based," Clinton said, citing the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower. "They have thrown all that overboard. This is about dogma and big special interest under the guise of the tea party.

"The Boston Tea Party was protesting abuse of power. This is now trading public power for the abuse of private power. Don't kid yourself," Clinton said, just as a tea party-backed candidate was declared the winner Tuesday night in Delaware's hotly contested Republican primary for U.S. Senate

The former president was in Minnesota to support Dayton, the Democratic nominee for governor. Dayton served in the U.S. Senate with Clinton's wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and supported her for president in 2008.

Organizers of the event sought campaign donations of between $100 and $1,000. Dayton faces Republican state Rep. Tom Emmer and Independence Party nominee Tom Horner.

Clinton ran down Dayton's biography, saying the former senator was more than qualified to lead the state.

"I feel like I know this man. He has a good heart and he has a good mind and what he'll do is predictable," Clinton said.

Clinton has stepped up his campaigning in recent weeks, making appearances on behalf of Democratic candidates in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. On Wednesday, he'll head to Las Vegas to support Nevada's Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

On Tuesday, Clinton sprinkled his 35-minute speech with references to brighter economic times during his tenure as president. He didn't sugarcoat the sour voter mood this year, but told the audience not to get discouraged.

"There's a lot of voter anger out there and that anger is legitimate. Millions of Americans feel disempowered," Clinton said.

"To those voters, we should honor their anger. Tell them we're mad, too. But the question is, when you're mad, what do you do with your anger? You have to channel it to something positive," he said. "Honor the anger but tell people not to let it cloud their judgment."

In a statement before the event, Minnesota GOP chairman Tony Sutton mocked the Clinton-Dayton pairing, noting that Clinton as president famously declared "the era of big government is over."

"But former Senator Mark Dayton has spent his entire 30-year political career calling for more government, higher taxes and more of the status quo," Sutton said in the statement. "The Bill Clinton who was president wouldn't have cozied up to Mark Dayton, and Minnesotans won't either."

A Democrat hasn't been elected governor in Minnesota for 24 years.

Clinton was the first of two big-name Democrats coming to Minnesota to support Dayton. Next month, Vice President Joe Biden will be in the state to campaign for Dayton.

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