From David Wright and Sunlen Miller: In their first official joint campaign stop, Bill and Hillary Clinton appeared together in Des Moines tonight at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The couple came out on stage hand-in-hand after being introduced — and endorsed – by Ruth Harkin, wife of Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).
The presence of Bill Clinton on the campaign trail had the crowd buzzing. People sold “Bill Clinton: First Husband” buttons along side the standard “Hillary: First President” ones.
Bill Clinton, wearing a bright yellow shirt contrasting drastically with his wife’s peach outfit, spoke for just seven minutes. He pointed out a man in the crowd with a sign, and said, “There is one guy back in the back that represents a group that I belong to. It says ‘Husbands for Hillary’.“
But the former President also admitted, “I would be here tonight if she asked me to if we were not married.”
The comparison between the Clintons was the elephant in the room. Bill sat on a stool awkwardly by Hillary’s side, sipping water uncomfortably and clapping almost on cue. Hillary Clinton opened up her remarks highlighting one difference she has from her husband: the Iowa caucus, “We did not get the great pleasure of being actively involved back in 1992 because Tom Harkin was running, “she said, “ And I am thrilled to finally find something in politics that I am doing that my husband did not do so this is very special occasion for me.”
Speaking for 27 minutes, almost three times longer than her husband, Senator Clinton touched upon the cornerstones of her campaign: universal quality health care, energy independence, education, bringing troops home from the Iraqi “civil” war, national security, and education.
But she also used the opportunity to respond to President Bush’s decision to commute the sentence of Scooter Libby, garnering her largest applause for the night, “You heard what the president did today, didn’t you? Now, as I recall, the President said that if anybody in his White House were found to have any part in disclosing the identity of Valerie Plame, they would be fired. Well, apparently, that is another one of those statements by the president that just doesn’t holdup, does it? What we saw today was elevated cronyism over the rule of law. What we saw today was further evidence that this administration has no regard whatsoever for what needs to be held sacred.” Watch the video HERE.
Opening up more on the Bush administration Senator Clinton says the presidency will come with extra challenges, “It will have some special challenges following President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. I am not even sure we know all the damage that has been done.”
Speaking to her role in the race as the only woman, Senator Clinton insisted that she is not running as a woman, but rather the best qualified candidate. She made a thinly veiled reference to a woman’s traditional role (of housekeeper/cleaner) when she joked about the one advantage she does have as possibly being the first woman president, “There is probably one advantage, because we are going to have a lot of cleaning to do. So there will be more than enough work to go around.”
Ending her comments over a boisterous applause, Senator Clinton made one last reference to the Clinton team, gesturing and smiling to her husband who was sitting diligently on stage beside her, “I will have some good help along the way.”
The Clintons continue on their joint barnstorm throughout Iowa on Tuesday and Wednesday with stops in seven more cities.
More from David Wright in Iowa tonight on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. EDT.