Former N-B-A superstar Magic Johnson and Bill and Hillary Clinton created a stir this morning in Des Moines when they walked into a Hy-Vee deli. About 45 people were gathered in the small deli area, with a hoard of media surrounding the space.
The trio milled about shaking hands, signing autographs, posing for pictures and chatting with the sometimes star-struck crowd. Then the three stood in front of the media and Hillary Clinton started speaking. "I’m thrilled he could take time out of his extraordinary schedule to spend a day with us in Iowa and I just want to thank you, Magic," Clinton said.
"I’m happy to be here," Johnson replied. "I haven’t been here since the Hawkeyes kind of beat us at Michigan State, but it’s always good, in a sense, coming home." Johnson called the Clintons friends and offered a testimonial for Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. "I’m happy to be out on the campaign trail with a good friend and a person who I think is the best candidate to bring us back to the country we once were," Johnson said. "And I think she has the experience which is the key."
Johnson, who — when asked — swatted down the idea he would run for mayor of Los Angeles, talked about his friendship with Bill Clinton and a recent trip they took to Mexico. "I love the Clintons and I just know that Senator Clinton is the best candidate to move our country forward," Johnson said.
A reporter asked Johnson why he wasn’t backing Clinton’s rival, Barack Obama and Johnson began by citing Clinton’s "30 years of experience" in public life.
"This country right now needs a leader with experience because this is not going to be (an) easy job. This is not going to be (an) easy job and the only person in this race on either side that has the experience, the knowledge…the work ethic is Senator Clinton and so I’m happy I’m that I’m endorsing her," Johnson said. "But also, too, she’s going to have a lot of work to do and so (we’re) all going to have to help her repair this country and get this country moving forward."
On the way out, a reporter quipped to Clinton that it appeared as if she was "in a groove." "You think so? You mean I’ve got my groove back?" Clinton said, laughing along with Johnson and her husband.
"Are you feeling that way?" the same reporter asked. "I feel great," Clinton said. "You know, I love campaigning. I like getting out and meeting with people and this is the time that Iowans start making up their mind so there’s an intensity and sense of seriousness that is palpable."
Fifteen minutes before the Clintons and Johnson arrived, Moses Allen of Des Moines was standing outside the Hy-Vee store when someone approached him and told him the basketball player would be visiting the store, so Allen came in the deli to catch a glimpse of the former athlete. He wasn’t that interested in meeting the politicians, however. "I’m neutral, you know," Allen said, laughing.
Another woman came into the store to mail a letter and was surprised by the receiving line waiting to greet the Clintons and the ex-NBA star. "I came in I said, ‘Oh, did I win the big prize?’ I thought, you know, maybe they’d jump up and say, ‘You’re the millionth winner,’" she said. "…And then they said Hillary Clinton…and Michael Jordan and I said, ‘Oh, I ain’t going to work.’"
The man standing next to cleared up the confusion, telling her it was Magic Johnson, not Michael Jordan who’d be there with the Clintons. Basketball players from a couple of local schools were invited to the event and 14-year-old C.J. Bambron brought a purple and gold Los Angeles Lakers jersey with the number 32 — Johnson’s number.
Someone on Clinton’s campaign produced a magic marker and Johnson autographed it. Bambron says he recognized Johnson because he’s watched a few of the old Lakers versus Celtics games on ESPN Classic.
Click on the audio link below to listen to Bill Clinton speak with reporters, then hear Hillary Clinton and Johnson speak.