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Chelsea Clinton Finds Her Voice

Chelsea Clinton speaks to University of Utah college students in a question and answer session Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008, in Salt Lake City. (AP).

By Joel Achenbach
SALT LAKE CITY -- Chelsea Clinton can talk! And here's the big news, sure to be ominous for those who abhor political dynasties: She can talk very, very well. Ms. Clinton speaks in complete paragraphs, and can weave the multiple threads of a complex issue into a coherent and reasonable answer. You'd think it was in her genes or something.

Ms. Clinton stumped for her mother yesterday in Salt Lake City in the student union of the University of Utah, saying right up front that she's never spoken to a crowd from a stage before. "I'm feeling a little intimidated about that," she said.

But she didn't show it. After all these years of being a silent figure on stage with her parents, Chelsea, 27, still doesn't seem to savor the spotlight. Nor does she go for the soaring flights of rhetoric. At first blush, she's more like her Mom than her Dad -- comfortable with the subtleties of policies, but remaining somewhat reserved.

She didn't bring a prepared talk, but, after saying of her mother "there's no one I love and respect more and believe in more," went straight to questions from the audience, numbering about 200 or so (her father spoke in the same place a few months ago). She demonstrated fluency in her mother's positions on health care, Iraq, the mortgage crisis, on down the line.

To a question on the economy, she said, "We're confronted with multiple problems similar to what my Dad did see when he took office." Asked about immigration, she referred to "the demagoguery of immigration. People say things like we're going to kick everybody out. How would you do that? At a time when we're strapped for resources, is that what we want to spend tens of billions of dollars on?"

A man in the audience asked why he should vote for Sen. Clinton rather than Sen. Barack Obama. Chelsea cited her mother's long experience handling such issues as education. "I do think experience matters. I think what she has articulated around education is more comprehensive and nuanced" than what any other candidate has put forward.

She fielded a pointed question from a woman who wanted to know if her mother will change her strategy now that she's lost in South Carolina and didn't get the endorsement of Senator Kennedy. Ms. Clinton answered, "I don't think my Mom or her campaign has had a different strategy at any point over the last year," and moved efficiently to the next question.

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 30, 2008; 10:16 AM ET
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