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Clinton Carpools in Indiana

By Perry Bacon Jr.
South Bend -- Like any hardworking, environmentally conscious American, Hillary Clinton carpooled to work this morning in South Bend, stopping by a gas station on the way to purchase some gas at $3.65 a gallon.

Or maybe she is not like most other Americans. In what increasingly is a contest of which millionaire lawyer can better show he or she identifies with middle- and working-class Americans, Clinton's staff arranged for her to join a local man here on his morning commute to work.

Jason Allen Wilfing, a 33-year-old field foreman at Deluxe Sheet Metal, where Clinton was holding an event, drove to the Marriott Hotel in a pick-up truck to meet Clinton. But the white Ford 250 was not his own; he borrowed his boss's car for the event, as he needed a truck with enough room for the other passengers: a Clinton political aide and one of her Secret Service agents.

Wilfing's boss had asked whether he would drive Clinton. "How could I say no?" Wilfing said.

Clinton met Wilfing's family at the hotel before the drive started, although they rode in a separate car during the "commute." Wilfing's wife, Bobbie, said high prices had forced them to stop having their daughter Alexis, 7, take gymnastics lessons or taking the whole family on a trip to Lake Michigan.

The truck Wilfing drove was in the middle of Clinton's motorcade, surrounded by Chevy Suburbans carrying the rest of Clinton's security team and staff, and right in front of them was a news crew taping the entire appearance. After the short drive, at the gas station waiting for Clinton was not only dozens of reporters, but also a member of the staff that gathers video for her campaign commericials.

At the Marathon gas station, Clinton stood beside Wilfing as he filled the tank of the borrowed car, while she spoke softly about her plans to reduce gas prices as more than a dozen reporters watched. (The total for the gas was $63.37 for a little under a half a tank; Clinton paid for it with campaign funds.)

Asked by one of the reporters when she had last pumped gas herself, Clinton said she did not know. Her staff was not only not sure when the last time the former first lady drove a car (it's not clear she's allowed to as the the Secret Service takes her everywhere for security reasons) but had to check to make sure that she actually has a valid driver's license.

On the way to the gas station, Clinton and the man chatted throughout the ride, but on the way back Clinton was interviewed by an Indianapolis radio station.

Once she arrived at the plant, she greeted workers and spoke briefly to them and reporters. She again touted her plan to suspend the gas tax for the summer and criticized Barack Obama for not endorsing a similar proposal.

She promised to push the issue in Congress, even as congressional Democratic leaders have said they are not on board with the idea.

"I want this to be a voting issue," the former first lady said. "I'm willing to give you a little more relief on a short-term basis."

Meanwhile, her husband was touting the idea in North Carolina.

"There's a difference between the two candidates here," former president Bill Clinton told a crowd in Apex, N.C., in one of his seven events in the state today, according to ABC News. "Her opponent says, 'Well, she's just pandering to voters.' That's not true. Look, folks, there are people out here who are choosing every week now between driving to work and having enough food for their kids, between driving to work and paying their medicine bills."

"She just disagrees with her opponent on this," he added. "Hillary has got a long record as an environmentalist. But to say that giving people a little slack on these gas prices is going to discourage us from switching to higher mileage cars is just factually wrong. We're dealing with people here that cannot pay their bills. And it's going to be a tremendous drag on the economy if we let this situation continue. So she believes that we should suspend [the federal gas tax], get people through the summertime, the high driving months."

By Washington Post Editors  |  April 30, 2008; 2:14 PM ET
 
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