Clinton visits; Candidates plan Philly debate

March 7, 2008 4:08:10 PM PST
The city's Democratic ward leaders on Friday postponed a decision on whether to take sides in the presidential nomination race until they can hear from Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama in person. U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the Democratic chairman in Pennsylvania's most populous city, said both campaigns support the idea and that he is working with them to firm up the details. He said he envisions scheduling both candidates' appearances and the city committee vote on the same day.

"After this weekend they have nowhere else to go but the state of Pennsylvania and I'm sure they're going to be in the city of Philadelphia a moment or two," he said, referring to the fact that no other primaries or caucuses come between Mississippi's primary on Tuesday and Pennsylvania's primary six weeks later.

Brady also said both candidates agreed to attend the Philadelphia Democrats April 14 Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner and that, if they decide to hold a debate in Pennsylvania, it will take place in Philadelphia. He said he has reserved the dates between April 15-17 to stage the event at the National Constitution Center.

Brady spoke with reporters after the ward leaders heard presentations from surrogates for both candidates. Former President Bill Clinton spoke on behalf of his wife and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a freshman congressman from suburban Philadelphia, spoke for Obama.

The meeting was closed to the public and the news media. Reporters waited on the sidewalk outside the city committee's downtown headquarters, across the street from small but noisy groups of supporters for the two candidates.

Mark Nevins, a Clinton campaign spokesman, said the former president was "warmly received" and that he wanted to "let people vote the way they want to vote."

Murphy told reporters he urged the city committee to hold off on any endorsement, at least until Obama can address the group personally.

Political analysts expect Obama, D-Ill., to have the advantage in Philadelphia in the state's April 22 primary.

Clinton, D-N.Y., did not speak to reporters after addressing the committee. But later Friday, he spoke to hundreds of supporters during a half-hour speech at Penn State's Brandywine campus in suburban Philadelphia.

Calling her a "changemaker," Clinton touted his wife's plans to improve the country's education and health care systems and push for more environmentally friendly technology. He also said she has maintained valuable diplomatic ties that she created as first lady.

"She is a changemaker," he said. "The fact of change is even more important than the feeling of change."

Clinton's campaign also said she will be in Pennsylvania next week, starting with an event at a high school in Scranton on Monday. On Tuesday, she is scheduled to hold events in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

--- Associated Press Writer Kathy Matheson contributed to this story from Media, Pa.


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