Hillary Rodham Clinton
Like Father, Like Daughter? Hardly.
By Perry Bacon Jr.
AKRON, Ohio -- As Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton spent Saturday in Texas, Sen. Barack Obama still found himself still outnumbered in northeast Ohio by Clintons.
Clinton's 28-year-old daughter, Chelsea, praised her mother's candidacy to college students at Case Western Reserve University and the University of Akron, while her father finished a two-day, seven-city tour of Ohio yesterday with stops in two Cleveland suburbs.
Their styles couldn't be more different. Bill Clinton, arriving more than 90 minutes late to address a crowd of more than a thousand in Kirtland yesterday morning, spoke for nearly 40 minutes without interruption and left without taking any questions. Chelsea was a few minutes late, but her "stump speech" lasted for less than sixty seconds. She thanked the students who came to see her in a chapel at Case Western (a university spokesman said it was the only room available on campus), and then declared she was ready to take questions.
"I just want to hear you from you," she said.
The former president's speech was full of laugh lines, but he also emphasized points by pointing his finger; Chelsea Clinton clinically but precisely answered almost a dozen questions while barely raising her voice or smiling until she posed for pictures with the students at the end. Neither used Obama's name, referring instead to Hillary Clinton's "opponent."
Many who came to see the former president are already supporting his wife: A woman in the crowd Friday was even wearing a shirt that read "Meet Me in Ohio," the fiery declaration Hillary Clinton issued to Obama in the Buckeye State last week ahead of last Tuesday's debate. Bill Clinton admitted that his job was to fire up the supporters and give them what he called "talking points" they could use to encourage friends to back his wife. Before and after each event, he signed autographs for campaign volunteers and other supporters of his wife.
"I want you to go try and make the sale," he told the crowd in Kirtland.
His daughter had a tougher job: Chelsea was trying to woo college students, a group that has been among the strongest backers of Obama. Hillary Clinton was endorsed by the New York Times a few weeks ago, but the endorsement she mentions constantly is her nod two weeks ago from the Daily Texan, the campus paper at the University of Texas in Austin.
Chelsea is leading the effort to win the youth vote, but in Ohio, several students told her they were still deciding between Clinton and Obama, and they weren't easily swayed.
They questioned Chelsea Clinton sharply on a variety of topics, including on why her mother had voted for funding the war in Iraq. (She explained it was important to fund the troops even if the war was being mishandled by the Bush administration.)
She didn't seem intimidated, as she was almost eager to take a question from a student wearing a Ron Paul hat (dubbing him "Ron Paul Guy" when she called on him). He asked her why Hillary Clinton had voted for the Patriot Act. Clinton said, "My mom, you're, right, voted for the Patriot Act. She has also voted for and pushed for greater oversight of the way the Patriot Act is being implemented."
Looking at "Ron Paul Guy," she urged students to go to "hillaryclinton.com, not ronpaul.com" to learn about her mom. She said it so dryly that it took a few seconds for the students to realize they should chuckle.
Chelsea Clinton veered from policy points only when a male student said he felt her mother was suffering from sexism in the campaign.
"Admittedly, as a young woman, I didn't really get it until a couple of guys in New Hampshire shouted at my mom [to] iron their shirts," she said. "They weren't kidding. They were serious. Or having people who say things to me like, if only she were a man. I'm grateful that she isn't; I wouldn't be here."
Like her father, Chelsea doesn't take questions from reporters on the road. Chelsea Clinton famously told a 9-year-old "reporter" from Scholastic News in December she wouldn't answer her questions. Her father, meanwhile, has effectively been banned by his staff from speaking to the press after some controversial statements last month. At several events Friday and Saturday, campaign aides put steel barriers around the media area and said reporters could not leave until Bill Clinton left first. Anyone could approach the former president except for journalists, thereby removing from Clinton the temptation to respond to shouted media questions.
The former president did have dinner Friday night with three television network reporters who have followed him full-time, but the dinner was arranged on the condition that the reporters could not use their discussion in stories.
Both Chelsea and the president are changed figures on the stump over the last month. The former president is now almost all positive, while Chelsea appears more confident, encouraging her mother's supporters to help the campaign in a way her father does not.
"You heard everyone here talk about how important it is to talk to as many people as you can," she said to a crowd of several hundred at an event where several female leaders, such as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, praised Hillary Clinton. "Knocking on doors, calling people, texting people, putting YouTube videos online."
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