Friday, May 02, 2008

Clintons push for rural votes to keep her in race; ex-president calls himself 'ambassador,' hits elites

The Democratic presidential race may turn Tuesday on two states with many rural voters, Indiana and North Carolina. The rural vote has been a key to Hillary Clinton's survival. Here are a few excerpts of the coverage, to be updated as the weekend goes along.

In South Bend, Ind., Barack Obama discussed his rural agenda and his small-town roots as a child in Kansas, reports Jason McFarley of The Truth in Elkhart. (In Truth photo by Jennifer Shephard, Obama addresses an invitation-only audience of 60 people at the St. Joseph County 4-H Fairgrounds.)

"It is my belief that rural America represents what's best about America -- hard work, responsibility, individual initiative, a sense of community, a sense of family," Obama said during the town-hall style event. "And the fact that rural America is having such a difficult time indicates that we've lost focus on our values."

Obama also discussed his plans for helping farmers and other rural residents. He detailed his plans for "engaging farmers in the creation of biofuels and renewable energy sources that would curb dependence on petroleum-based fuels that have driven up costs in the agricultural sector," McFarley writes. "In addition, Obama called for investing in infrastructure -- roads, bridges, schools and hospitals -- that he said would improve quality of life in rural communities." (Read more)

While Obama was reaching out to Clinton's base, Bill Clinton tried to appeal to Obama's strength: young voters. The former president spoke at West Virginia University in Morgantown, emphasizing what his wife would do for them, reports The Associated Press. "In a speech that was heavier on substance than style, Clinton laid out dozens of reasons young people should help elect his wife, from promises of universal health care and a meaningful job-creation plan to her ideas for cutting gasoline prices and fighting global warming," the AP reports. (Read more) For an aidio report from West Virginia Public Broadcasting, click here.

But primarily, Bill Clinton is his wife's "designated rural hit man," as he put it last month. He put it more nicely in Elkin, N.C.: "I love my duties in this campaign because I'm basically the ambassador of Hillary's campaign to rural America, to small-town America." (AP photo by Jason Miczek: Clinton speaks from the bed of a pickup truck in North Wilkesboro, N.C.)

In Junction City, Ore., he took issue with a pundit: "I just read an article in The Associated Press that quotes a Reed College political science professor who says that my coming to see you won't work. Now listen, he said that Hillary's decision to reach out to rural Oregon was -- quote -- 'old politics'."

Rural anti-elitism is a frequent theme for Bill Clinton. Susan Milligan of The Boston Globe writes, "The former president scoffed at an unnamed 'snooty' columnist who had poked fun at his wooing of ordinary working folk." To hoots from the crowd in Dunn, N.C., he said, "They think we're dumber than we are. I grew up in a place like this. I know people here are as smart as anywhere else. They haven't figured that out yet," meaning "the political and media establishment," Milligan writes. "Rural towns like Dunn are Hillary Clinton's best hope to wrest the Democratic nomination from Barack Obama."

Milligan reports that in relatively poor Lumberton, N.C., Clinton "recalled the Southern wisteria and dogwood he so loved seeing during his childhood springtimes in Arkansas. He bemoaned the loss of jobs in the country and voiced the crowd's collective frustration over high gas prices that he said make it too expensive for employees to drive to work - a comment that wins enthusiastic applause from rural voters." (Read more) Hillary Clinton and John McCain support suspending the federal gasoline tax over the summer, which Obama opposes as a gimmick;, an independent outfit that tests candidates' campaign ads and promises, agrees with him.

Eli Saslow of The Washington Post, following Bill Clinton, notes that "He seeks laudatory local news coverage but avoids attention from the national press." North Carolina state Sen. Julia Boseman told "He has a way of instantly making the kind of connection that wins over people in towns like these. People here can't believe they're seeing or touching him. They love him just for coming." (Read more) But Tracy Russo of The Field blog writes that Clinton "represents the past at a time when people are desperately longing to move forward towards a brighter future. The Globe did a good job of capturing that dichotomy and the whole article is worth a read." Russo also notes that there are 120 superdelegates "who come from rural America that have yet to declare their support. Will Clinton do as well with them as she has done with rural voters in general?"

Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro of the NBC News political unit write on their First Read blog, citing the Globe story, "This Bill Clinton strategy of going to every small little town they can set up in has been quietly paying dividends for the Clinton campaign." The campaign appears to think so; the former president is scheduled to be in Marion, Morganton, Lenoir, Newton, Kenersville and Reidsville, N.C., on Sunday, and in Elizabeth City, New Bern, Jacksonville, Smithfield, Louisburg, Zebulon, Henderson, Roxboro, and Raleigh on Monday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On this rural NC towns tour, Bill Clinton should take with him Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Terry McAuliffe. They could talk about the Hamilton Project and promoting the Global Investor Class in an era when the truth about NAFTA has been getting out. Bill should tell those NC folks what a nice little town Davos, Switzerland is.