Clinton presses for votes in Ohio

March 2, 2008 3:22:09 PM PST
Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton argued Sunday that her campaign is "about solutions," not feelings, as she swept through Ohio on an intense push two days before the state's presidential primary. She told more than 2,000 cheering backers that she wants to solve the economic troubles facing the industrial Midwest.

"For some people this election is about how you feel, it's about speeches," Clinton said. "Well, that's not what it's about for me. It's about solutions."

The former first lady opened an Ohio campaign marathon, sweeping across the state on a series of appearances lasting until the wee hours of Monday. Her first stop, in suburban Columbus, was aimed at firing up canvassers who were manning phone banks and knocking doors for her.

"Ohio is once again the center of attention, for a reason," Clinton said. "It truly does represent America, the hopes and aspirations, the challenges and opportunities, they are all right here in Ohio. It is a picture of America."

Clinton has lost the last 11 nominating contests to rival Barack Obama and was looking to primaries in Ohio and Texas for a campaign boost. Those states, and Rhode Island and Vermont, vote Tuesday. Polls show tight contests in Texas and Ohio.

"The last days leading up until Tuesday are ones where we really need you," Clinton told cheering supporters.

Clinton focused on her promise to provide health insurance for all, as well as her opposition to trade agreements that she said have drained thousands of jobs from the nation's industrial heartland, including Ohio.

"It's time we looked around and saw what's going on in the rest of Ohio," she said. "We cannot go on like this. It's morally wrong and economically stupid."

Clinton sharpened her focus, both on the industrial economy and Obama, during a stop in Youngstown, one of the hardest-hit cities in the Rust Belt, by hammering trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement with the United States, Canada and Mexico. That deal was signed by her husband when he was president, but it would be hard to tell that from her rhetoric.

"We're going to start having trade deals that are actually good for America," Clinton told 1,000 backers in a school gymnasium.

"Unlike my opponent I put forward a very specific plan about what we ought to be doing about it."

Clinton said she's the "only candidate" left who has a plan for universal health care and, throughout the swing she sought to contrast her record with Obama's rhetorical flourishes.

"I'm not interested in just talking, I'm interested in action," she said.

Also in Youngstown, her campaign added a sporting note as she collected the endorsement of middleweight boxing champion Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik, a native of the city. "Hillary Clinton is my kind of fighter," Pavlik said, playing into her campaign theme of being a scrappy competitor.

At a rally in Akron, Clinton vowed to carry through on her campaign promises. "Ohio has heard a lot of speeches, you've heard a lot of promises and somehow it never happens," said Clinton.

After stops in Cleveland on Sunday, and Toledo on Monday, Clinton was returning to Texas late Monday for rallies in Beaumont and Austin. She also planned a televised town hall to be broadcast statewide in Texas on Monday night. Aides said she would await Tuesday's election returns in Ohio.

Her goal Sunday was to fire up supporters with a populist economic message, arguing she can make a difference for working families. Most polls have shown Clinton with a fragile lead in the state and she was tailoring her message for its struggling industrial economy.

"We need a president who gets it," said Clinton, whose campaigned here just a few hours before Obama arrived for his own event. "The price of everything has gone up and the middle class is under tremendous pressure."

Clinton was betting that her experience would assure voters that she can see through her campaign promises, and she referred to a White House "I know very well." She argued that her accomplishments there and in the Senate mean far more than mere speeches, a reference to Obama.

"That's just words," Clinton said. "Our job is to make a difference."