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Clinton Pressed on Electability

Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., listens to a question from the audience during a town hall forum Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008, in Bridgeton, Mo. (AP).

By Dan Balz
ST. LOUIS -- With the competition for states and delegates heading toward its conclusion on Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton talked readiness and electability during a question-and-answer session at a Machinists union labor hall in St. Louis.

One woman put it to Clinton directly. "I just want reassurances that we're not going to shoot ourselves in our own foot this time," she said. "I think you're the best person to lead the country quite frankly. But I'm just really scared about your electability."

It is the question that follows Clinton wherever she campaigns -- and the question that Sen. Barack Obama plays on wherever he campaigns. She first told her questioner that she ought to vote her beliefs and vote for whomever she thinks would make the best president. "You have to believe I can demonstrate that to the rest of the country," she said.

She also drew an implicit contrast with Obama, although she didn't mention him by name in her answer. She has been through tough campaigns and has weathered every possible accusation that Republicans can throw at her, she said.

"This is going to be open season once again and we need to nominate somebody with the experience and the fortitude and know-how to take what they send our way and send it right back," she said.

The New York senator often talks about how she has tried to be a work horse in the Senate and not a show horse. In St. Louis, she suggested that she does not have her head in the clouds as a presidential candidate but is instead listening and learning from the problems of real Americans.

Again, without mentioning her rival, she said, "You know, politics can be conducted at 30,000 feet, lookin' down, pointing, waving -- or you can get down where people live."

As in her morning appearance before an African American audience, she talked about the history-making potential of the Democratic nomination battle, but pressed further her argument that shattering barriers isn't the question that Democrats must answer now.

"We have two candidates left after a vigorous and intense year of campaigning. Either one of us will change history," she said to applause. "That is not the question. The question is who will change America and who will deliver results for Americans. Who can on Jan. 20th, 2009, walk into the Oval Office, begin turning the economy around, be the commander-in-chief to bring our troops home safely and responsibly and get our country moving again."

Although the audience was friendly and enthusiastic, Clinton had to field a number of tough questions about the mandate that is part of her health care plan and why Democrats had not done more to end the war. Why not just filibuster and stand firm against President Bush, one person asked.

"We're trying to get something done," Clinton said. She tried to explain that the rules of the Senate require Democrats to get 10 Republican votes to do anything and that's been hard because GOP senators have generally stuck with Bush on Iraq.

"As long as the Republicans in the Senate stick with George Bush, we're not going to be able to move as quickly as we need to," she said. "That's why this election is not only about electing a president, but about electing more Democrats to be in the Senate."

From St. Louis, Clinton flew to Minnesota for a rally and to watch the Super Bowl. She is rooting for the New York team to win Sunday -- and Tuesday -- she told her St. Louis audience.

By Web Politics Editor  |  February 3, 2008; 5:37 PM ET
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The advantage that Hillary has is women. Women are not a minority of voters. Some (not all, but enough) republican women will vote for her. My mom said that she will--and she has voted republican for the last dozen elections. Another advantage is Florida and Michigan. The democratic committee has kind of snubbed their noses at Florida by saying that their votes don't count. However, Hillary has gone against that trend and said they do matter. We know how close Florida was last time. Hillary can turn that red state blue.

Posted by: lorihebel | February 6, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Errr... Obama is clearly the one with the electability problem.

Once the shine from his marketing campaign wears off, people will begin to question his policies and rhetoric.

What they will find is someone who is incredibly naive on national security and far left liberal on immigration -- THE wedge issue in this election.

How can someone possibly hope to win the general election who recently said this about illegal immigrants?

In a 2003 forum on health care, Mr. Obama said he supported the children of illegal aliens' receiving the same benefits as citizens, "whether it's medical, whether it's in-state tuition." Asked specifically whether he included "undocumented" people, Mr. Obama replied, "Absolutely."

Posted by: ghokee | February 4, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

"She first told her questioner that she ought to vote her beliefs and vote for whomever she thinks would make the best president. 'You have to believe I can demonstrate that to the rest of the country,' she said."

Talk about "false hopes."

Posted by: staxnet | February 4, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Hotnuke2008, along with all your bean-counting, you have stated that Barack Obama is not fit to shine your shoes. Science fiction, both ways, and extremely disgusting, as you must know. I have my own thoughts on what should probably happen to your footwear, but won't spell them out. What I will be frank about, however, is that you sound like an absolute train wreck of a human being, and Hillary herself would be embarrassed by your support. Occasionally in the blogosphere, one meets people who need to be Republicans and don't know it. I wish you'd go beg them to take you. Alas, they're smart, and would send you back to us.

Posted by: elatia | February 4, 2008 12:15 AM | Report abuse

Hilary will win the super Tuesday! Why do you tell us, that the race is very close? I think this is an ellusion for the media who loves Obama. We the voters are ahead than you. Why the media post only endorsement for Obama, for more free ads for Obama?
Hilary is the most qualified, have the experience to be an effective President, the best programs for universal health care, the vision for prosperous America and the best way to end the war, etc.

Posted by: reevangelista | February 3, 2008 11:43 PM | Report abuse

I would wish for Mrs. Clinton to be the next president just as much as I would wish for a migraine headache. Pointless, painful, but above all, incapacitating.

Posted by: sbcharya | February 3, 2008 11:16 PM | Report abuse

A Clinton victory in the Democratic primary would ensure a Republican victory in the general election, because they will mobilize against her. Unlike Obama, Clinton would not attract enough independent and disenchanted Republicans. In fact, her only support base is from the Democratic party, and Obama is already eating away at two groups that had been solidly behind Clinton: women and moderate Democrats. The longer the Democratic primaries last, the better it will be for Obama. Clinton has reached her peak level of support and has maximum name recognition. The trend in this race has been for Obama to gain on Clinton when voters become more aware of his agenda (which is very similar to Clinton's, but he, unlike Clinton, has the charisma and tact to get the bipartisan support he would need to get things done). With McCain becoming more likely to be the Republican nominee, the issue of electability will determine support (unless Democrats screw it up yet again). Obama is clearly more electable in the general election. Even though he will surely face a firestorm, Republicans hate the Clintons with a passion (not that I blame them). Go Obama, you have my independent voter support!

Posted by: Quino | February 3, 2008 10:10 PM | Report abuse

"She has been through tough campaigns and has weathered every possible accusation that Republicans can throw at her, she said."

This is simply not true. The Clintons continue to engage in information hiding, Bill blocks the release his presidential papers, they will not disclose the donors to the Clinton Library or foundation (lest we see the crossover to her campaign). What are they trying to hide? Also, the attacks haven't even started. Now that Bill has placed himself front and center in her campaign, often overshadowing her, all of his wonderful post-presidential adventures, like the $31 million dollar gift recently uncovered by the investigative reporting at the New York Times would have been old news - it happened in 2005 and we are just learning about it.

Her claim that she knows how to beat Republicans is just plain bogus. If winning an election as a democrat in a northeast state qualified for "knowing how to beat republicans, then we could now talk about the Dukakis and Kerry presidencies. Aside from the fact that we should tired of deceit, tired of the underbelly of politics that characterize The Clintons, we should also accept a simple fact . . . they are the easiest target ever presented to the GOP. She CANNOT win the General Election. Meanwhile Obama is winnning rural voters, polling strongly in the red states and pulling in independents and cross-over republicans. I know why Hillary is feeding us this pap, but I don't know why some are buying it!

Posted by: brooksofsheffield | February 3, 2008 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Hillary cannot win the General Election. She barely beat uncommitted in a democratic primary in Michigan! What's going to happen when the GOP goes to town on her and Bill? We all know that Bill's been busy since shamefully pardoning Mark Rich. The story that broke in the New York Times about the $31.3 "gift" to Bill is just the beginning. The Democratic Establishment is just starting to understand that the Democratic Party has been very good to The Clintons, but that The Clintons have been very bad for the Democratic Party.

Hillary's support is quickly dwindling down to two camps; older white women like my mother-in-law that are supporting her no matter what (hmmmmm) and the GOP that knows the specter of The Clintons is one of the few things that will allow them to unite them and allow them to win the White House yet again. Stop the pain already. If you are an older voter, face facts: baby-boomers have been foisting presidents on this country for 30 years and it's been a miserable experience. It is time to question your generational wisdom. Think about your children, think about your grand kids. Do you really want to foist The Clintons on them again? Please enough with the lying and deceit and partisanship that characterizes The Clinton. It degrades us all.

Vote Obama.

Posted by: brooksofsheffield | February 3, 2008 8:23 PM | Report abuse

hotnuke!!! why do you keep posting the same balooney in every section!!! you must bill undercover or something

Posted by: azeezwale | February 3, 2008 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Work horse vs. show horse - perfect! Obama takes credit on the campaign trail for passing legislation that did NOT pass at all! He fabricated how many blacks there are in prison for dramatic effect in front of a black audience. He did very shady dealings with Rezko . . . and these are things that have only been revealed in the last year when people finally learned his name!

Clinton has faced her critics for years and continues to stand strong despite their mud-slinging. This capacity, coupled with her superior intellect and experience, makes her the obvious choice for the thinking voter.

Posted by: Susan9 | February 3, 2008 8:08 PM | Report abuse

"You know, politics can be conducted at 30,000 feet, lookin' down, pointing, waving -- or you can get down where people live ..." -Hillary Clinton

Was she "getting down where people live" as a corporate attorney sitting on the board of Wal Mart? Did she take more lobbyist money than any other candidate because she thought lobbyists best represented the interests of "the people"? Is anyone heartened by this stale vacuous rhetoric that we've heard from the Clintons year after year after year?

Posted by: katefranklin60 | February 3, 2008 7:44 PM | Report abuse

As a life-long liberal Democrat, my memory of the Clinton years is of a President who was impeached by the House of Representatives for lying under oath and for having sex with a 22 year old intern in the Oval Office while conducting official business on the phone. Moreover, the Democrats lost control of Congress under Clinton, and the National Democratic Party was left in great disarray which partially lead to Gore losing in 2000.

This is the Clinton legacy that Hillary is touting. If nominated, she will likely lose in November. We do not want another eight years of Neo-con Republican rule.

Posted by: Munir1 | February 3, 2008 6:55 PM | Report abuse

At the Michele Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy rally in LA this afternoon, Maria Shriver endorsed Barack.

Posted by: Trumbull | February 3, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

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