DETROIT - Former President Bill Clinton praised Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero as a top urban leader during a Sunday campaign appearance in Detroit, but his speech to mostly committed Democrats seemed unlikely to make a difference in a race where independents appear to favor Bernero's opponent.
Bernero, mayor of Lansing the past five years, has been trailing Republican businessman Rick Snyder among independents and Republican voters in polls leading up to the Nov. 2 election.
Clinton told about 500 people at Detroit's Renaissance High School that Bernero was the only candidate with an economic plan to turn around Michigan's battered economy, and he mocked Snyder's platform as empty ''mom and apple pie'' rhetoric.
Bernero has created jobs despite the hard times and balanced Lansing's municipal budget by making tough decisions, including taking a personal pay and benefits cut, the former president said.
His message was well-received by the crowd, most of whom appeared to be ardent Democrats. Many sported stickers and buttons endorsing the party's candidates and spoke about how much better Michigan's economy ran while Clinton was in the White House.
Josephine Huyghe, 84, a retired nurse from Detroit, said she had already cast an absentee ballot for Bernero.
''I voted straight Democrat,'' Huyghe said.
While she didn't expect Clinton's visit to change the outcome of the governor's race, she said it was still good to see him come show his support for the party's candidates. She thought disappointment in President Barack Obama might discourage some Democrats from going to the polls.
''They say, 'He hasn't done what he's supposed to do,''' Huyghe said. ''I say, 'He's done what he could.'''
Heideh Rivera, 31, of Detroit, and her husband, Robert, 35, said they also planned to vote for Bernero but were dismayed by what they saw as apathy among many people they knew. The two are studying criminal justice at Wayne State University and said that was particularly true on campus.
''Being an older student, it's a shame younger people aren't engaged,'' Heideh Rivera said.
Robert Rivera, a Navy veteran, said he thought the recent scandal involving former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick could depress turnout. Kilpatrick pleaded guilty in 2008 to obstruction of justice, admitting he lied at a civil trial to conceal an affair with his chief of staff.
''It creates distrust in government,'' Rivera said. ''They just don't care because of incidents like that - certain corrupt politicians.''
Still, the two were looking forward to hearing from Clinton - even though he's suffered from his own scandals. They described the former president as ''very admired'' and ''very popular.''
Clinton also had campaign stops planned for U.S. Rep. John Dingell in Ann Arbor and U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer in Battle Creek.
Associated Press Writers David Goodman in Detroit and Martiga Lohn in Blaine, Minn., contributed to this report.