Former President Bill Clinton and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez at a rally Friday in downtown Santa Ana. (Photo by: Norberto Santana, Jr.)

Former President Bill Clinton, who was in office when the Democrats endured the worst midterm drubbing in modern history, came to Santa Ana on Friday as part of an all-out effort by his party to keep history from repeating itself.

Clinton — as is his custom — was a half-hour late to the rally held on the steps of Santa Ana’s old county courthouse. But he didn’t disappoint those who waited.

“We may not be out of the hole, but at least we’ve stopped digging,” Clinton told a partisan crowd of about 500.

Over and over, Clinton told the assembled that as Democrats they couldn’t afford to not have Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez in Washington, D.C.

The event, organized by Sanchez, turned into a political access battle with virtually every local Democrat in town trying to stand next to Clinton.

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido was the big winner, apparently winning a negotiation to stand next to Clinton and Sanchez during Clinton’s entire speech.

Clinton said Sanchez’s main challenger, Republican Assemblyman Van Tran, had a uniquely American story and life. But his policies are all wrong.

Tran supporters stood outside the event with signs criticizing Clinton and Sanchez.

Clinton used his folksy appeal to tell the crowd that Sanchez had done a good job of steering resources from the stimulus bill to Orange County. He also criticized Republicans for opposing the stimulus and the health care bill, saying both had gone a long way toward stopping the bleeding of the economy.

— NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.

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