From NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli
PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. -- Bill Clinton told voters on the Gulf Coast yesterday that a Clinton-Obama ticket would be an "unstoppable force" in the general election, and that his wife is certainly considering it.
All three remaining White House hopefuls were off the trail yesterday, so the former president couldn't help but be back in the spotlight. On top of that, Clinton decided to take questions for the first time in more than a month, and perhaps not surprisingly, a voter asked this question -- would the two Democratic candidates join forces as a ticket.
"I never talk to her about this, because I think if you ever look past the next election you might not get past it," Clinton cautioned. But he pointed to his wife's recent comments on the matter, saying he believed she "was very open" to the idea. "I think she answered explicitly yes yesterday," he said. "I heard he also said no, but I think she said yes."
Clinton said that Hillary believes that if there was a way to "unite the energy and the new people" that Barack Obama has attracted with the appeal he said his wife has shown in "small town and rural America, they'd "be hard to beat."
"You look at most of these places -- he would win the urban areas and the upscale voters, and she wins the traditional rural areas that we lost when President Reagan was president," he said. "If you put those two things together, you'd have an almost unstoppable force."
Clinton moved then to take another question, before he returned to the subject, saying he didn't blame either candidate for not wanting to put the matter on the table now. "Nobody wants to give up the top spot until the voters get done voting," he said. "[But] if you got the assurances of ultimate unity, then it's a great mistake for other people to try to shut this process down early. I mean, the last primary is June the 7th. I didn't get the votes in '92 to be nominated until June the 2nd. We don't need to be in any hurry, let everybody vote."
Later in the day, in Ellisville, Clinton revisited the topic. "She believes when this is over, if we can unify the Democratic Party, then we will clearly win because there is so much energy behind what is happening," he said. "Nobody has ever seen anything like this."
But given the Clinton camp's implicit argument that Obama is not ready to be commander-in- chief or handle a 3:00 am phone call, Clinton was asked why then would she consider Obama for the No. 2 spot. "That's politics," Clinton said, not taking the bait, as he would put it. "I think she would be the best president for the reasons I say at every stop... But, you know, he is an immensely talented man. He's brought a lot of energy and a lot of excitement to this race and I don't know who is going to win. It's not over yet, we've got a long way to go."