Clinton makes case locally

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 26, 2008

PORTSMOUTH — Right on cue the cheers soared to the rafters of the James A. Rhodes Gymnasium as Bill worked the noontime crowd Monday for Hillary.

The two-to-three hour wait, much of it in the damp cold on the Shawnee State University campus, seemed only to invigorate those who came to hear former President Clinton say why Senator Clinton should be the next leader of the United States.

About an hour late for the 11:30 a.m rally, Clinton strode onto the platform accompanied by Ohio first lady Frances Strickland and Todd Book, Representative for the state’s 89th District.

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“Scioto County, look what I brought home with me,” Strickland joked with the crowd. “This country is more than ready for Hillary Clinton.”

As the cheers quieted down, Clinton first thanked the numerous sign-carrying unions like the AFSCME sharing the dais with the politicians.

“Thanks to the union, who want America given back to the working class,” Clinton said. “This election is about your future.”

Next week is about Hillary’s future. Experts say Clinton must take sizeable victories in the Ohio and Texas primaries March 4 if she is to stop the recent powerhouse momentum of Sen. Barack Obama as he churns forward toward the Democratic presidential nomination.

“There is still a lot of play in this election,” the former president conceded. “We need to get out the vote volunteers. Where we have had the biggest registered support, Hillary wins.”

After the primary stakes next week comes an equally vital contest in Pennsylvania. A week ago, the delegate count gave Obama a lead of 74 —

a shock for pundits who had predicted Clinton would have the nomination wrapped up by the Super Tuesday primaries on Feb. 5.

“If Hillary wins these three, I believe she will go on,” Clinton said. “She has the best solutions … to getting us back to cooperate with the rest of the world. She has been on record as a change maker.”

Referring to the campaign slogans of Obama, who had blasted Clinton’s candidacy as a vote for the establishment, the president Monday contended mastering the lessons of history a necessity for the future.

“The only way to begin again is to study the past,” he said, then cited a litany of statistics to showcase the accomplishments of his tenure over the Bush administration.

Unemployment during the 1990s was at five million, compared to 22.7 million now needing jobs, Clinton said. Five million have gone from the middle class to the poverty level, he stated.

Drawing on Obama rhetoric Clinton pushed the need to get the special interest groups out of the government, again playing on a campaign refrain of Obama.

But the major focus of the half-hour long speech was health care.

“For the economy, we need to provide affordable health care to all Americans,” he said. “Everybody has to be covered.”

Detailing his wife’s proposal, individuals could keep their current plans or buy into the program that insures members of Congress costing “a low percentage of their income,” he said.

“But everyone has to be covered if we want to get control of costs. Businesses will go out of business if we don’t get a hold of health care costs.”

Next on the Clinton platform was education.

“We have to get rid of No Child Left Behind,” the former president said. “We’re teaching the test and dumbing down the curriculum.”

The crowd demographic Monday partially matched

the Clinton voter base: older women and labor. But just as many were obviously first time voters, including 30 from the senior class at Coal Grove High School.

“She’s awesome. She and I have the same stand on things,” Simon Hall, 18, said of candidate Clinton as he tried to keep warm standing in line outside the gym waiting for the doors to open.

Next to him was Kelsey Crabtree, also 18, who said she believed it is Clinton’s time.

“I like her views,” she said. “She would make a good president. There should be a girl president.”

The only visible protester inside was Joni Fearing of Portsmouth who carried an orange cardboard sign stating “Pray for Ohio Children. No Nukes,” a demonstration against the French-based Areva uranium plant proposed for Piketon.

However, a 40ish man wearing a clerical collar and carrying an anti-abortion sign was turned away at the press entrance and didn’t appear in the crowd.

Most at the rally were from Portsmouth, especially high school and Shawnee State students.

Exceptions were Clinton fans like Dana Clark, who came up from Dayton to add the presence of the IUPAT painters’ union at the event.

“I support Hillary … to get a fair handshake out of government.”