Former President Bill Clinton stopped in Del Rio, north of Modesto, on Sunday to raise money for his wife's run for the presidency.
He arrived about 2:20 p.m. after speaking earlier in the day on behalf of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton at the California Democratic Party convention in San Jose. The former president came to California to court the superdelegates who are likely to settle the close race between his wife and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
Clinton spoke at the Bing Way home of Dr. Amarjit Dhaliwal and his wife, Rupinder. Dhaliwal met Clinton in Stockton when the former president campaigned for his wife the day before the Feb. 5 California primary.
It's rare for presidents or former presidents to stop in Stanislaus County.
"It's good for Modesto," Dhaliwal said. "Folks are very excited."
About 170 guests were expected at the fund-raiser, the Modesto oncologist said. Many of them are doctors in the Modesto area, although a few guests came from Fresno and the Bay Area, he said.
Dhaliwal would not say how much was raised, referring that question to Sen. Clinton's campaign. Campaign officials did not respond to an e-mail request.
Some neighborhood children set up a lemonade stand and other neighbors rode around in golf carts decorated with U.S. flags while waiting for Clinton, who was about two hours late. Residents clustered on their lawns hoping for a glimpse or a wave from the former president.
Jordan Dickson said his friend Katie Mussman told him Clinton was coming.
"I thought she was joking," the 17-year-old said. Jordan sat on the front lawn with several other Davis High School students eating strawberries and egg rolls while waiting for the entourage.
Clinton arrived to scattered cheers and neighbors running along the street to get a closer look. Most of the onlookers were too busy trying to take photos to clap, but there was a definite enthusiasm as Clinton stepped out of his sport utility vehicle.
"You really see that crop of white hair," said Elaine Eisenberg from across the street.
Davis High seniors Jordan, Katie, Amy McLaughlin and Lindsey Freeland said they had hoped to get inside the fund- raiser to hear Clinton. They brought press passes from Davis' school newspaper just in case.
"We were going to try to find a way to jump over the fence, but (the neighbors) have three German shepherds," Jordan said. The teens settled for watching the speech from an incline in Katie's back yard.
Katie is a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom program.
Clinton leaned into the microphone after walking into the back yard with Dhaliwal.
"Just testing," he joked before Dhaliwal introduced him. Clinton spoke for about 10 minutes about the importance of the upcoming Pennsylvania, Oregon, Montana, North Carolina and Indiana primaries and urged supporters with influential friends in those states to get their friends to rally behind his wife and donate to her campaign.
Clinton was relaxed, joking with the crowd and apologizing for keeping everyone waiting. He said supporters who couldn't afford to be at an event such as Sunday's private fund-raiser could go online and make small donations. Clinton mentioned the success of the Obama campaign with this strategy.
"We do not have to have the most money," Clinton said. "We just have to have enough."
He made several remarks geared toward an audience with many Indian and Sikh supporters, referring to the Clintons' work in the White House to repair the United States' relationship with India, and stressing that Sen. Clinton had been proud when Obama referred to her in June as "the senator from Punjab," a state in northwest India. The comment was based on her contributions from and work for Indian constituents.
Clinton joked about being a campaigner for and husband of Sen. Clinton.
"(People say) 'He's married to her. He has to say that or he can't go home tonight,' " Clinton said. "Maybe there's some truth to that. ... (But) I would be here for her if we never were married. ... She will be a magnificent president if we can get her elected."
Bill Clinton visited Stockton in February, but it's rare that presidents or former presidents make the trip to Modesto. President Bush rode a train through Manteca, Tracy, Stockton and Lodi as a candidate in 2000. His father, the first President Bush, and Democrat Michael Dukakis campaigned in Modesto in 1988.
In California's Feb. 5 primary, Sen. Clinton carried Stanislaus County with 58.82 percent of the vote and Obama garnered 31.78 percent. Arizona Sen. John McCain took 39.12 percent of the county's Republican vote.
Marsha Davis had watched Clinton's cars pull into Bing Way, stopping across the street from where she stood.
"I wish they'd told more people so the public could have seen him," said Davis, adding that she had fond memories of seeing President Nixon at the airport in the 1970s. "(Clinton) is a past president. We have to share him with everybody. It's a part of history."
Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2235.