Hillary to supporters: Don't quit

May 8, 2008 1:39:21 PM PDT
Her voice raspy, her tone determined, Hillary Rodham Clinton urged her supporters on Thursday to ignore the political pundits who have declared her toast. The former first lady raced into a long West Virginia-to-the-West Coast campaign day, declaring she would move forward with her presidential effort and insisting anew that she, not rival Barack Obama, would be the stronger Democratic candidate to face Republican John McCain in November.

At a rally under the dome of the West Virginia Capitol, Clinton dismissed calls for her to drop out as "deja vu all over again."

She said she had faced similar pressure before going on to win in New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania.

She made her case for pressing on, even as she thanked her supporters for doing the same.

"A lot of you have stuck with me; you've been through all the ups and downs in this campaign, the biggest victories and toughest moments," Clinton said. "I think it is because you understand that you've got to have a president who gets up every day and fights for you, who never gives up on you."

Her fading chances didn't diminish the loyalty of Evelyn Smith, 78, one of hundreds of supporters who jammed into the Capitol and waited nearly two hours to hear Clinton speak.

"It's going to take a miracle for her to get the nomination, which I could sit down and cry about because I think she really deserves to be president and the first lady president," Smith said.

Whatever the odds, Smith said Clinton should stay in the race until the final contests June 3. She said, "I'm a lot like she is, and I would go to the finish line even if I came in last and took a fall. I'd make it to the finish line, and I think she should, too."

Jim Duffield, 64, agreed.

"We don't have a winner yet. Of course she should keep going until we get a winner," Duffield said.

Said Clinton as her audience cheered: "I'm running to be president of all 50 states. I think we ought to keep this going so the people of West Virginia's voices are heard."

In contrast to her confrontational comments in speeches leading up to recent primaries, Clinton's only mention of Obama was to say next Tuesday's election would be a test for both her and the Illinois senator. She did highlight her strengths with various voting blocs through the primaries, an implicit comparison with her Democratic foe. She said the states she has won and the voters she has attracted are essential if the party is to beat McCain and claim the White House.

"We need to bring back hardworking people to the Democratic Party," the New York senator said. "I'm winning Catholic voters and Hispanic voters, blue-collar workers and seniors. People Sen.

McCain will need in the general election."

She added, "Some call you swing voters. I call you Americans."

Exit polls in Indiana and North Carolina on Tuesday showed Clinton continuing to dominate Obama in attracting support from whites, particularly white men, and voters who lack college degrees. An average of 57 percent of whites have backed the New York senator in Democratic primaries since Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.

In an interview with USA Today published Thursday, Clinton said, "I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on." She cited an Associated Press article "that found how Senator Obama's support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

"There's a pattern emerging here," she said.

West Virginia's demographic makeup of white, older voters favors Clinton. During her appearance Thursday, she offered the same populist pitch she began making in the closing days before Indiana and North Carolina.

She renewed her call for a summertime holiday for the federal gasoline tax, with oil companies making up the difference, a proposal that many economists - and Obama - have dismissed as a meaningless pander.

The West Virginia rally was the first event in Clinton's exceptionally busy campaign schedule Thursday. She also planned appearances in South Dakota and Oregon, which have primaries in coming weeks.

She is favored to win West Virginia's primary but has fallen further behind Obama in delegates won in primaries and caucuses.

Her hopes for the Democratic nomination rest on strong showings in the remaining contests to convince more than 200 party elders and other "superdelegates" to support her.

Obama was in Washington talking with superdelegate members of Congress, telling them it was now time to declare for him.


Load Comments