Clinton campaign hits capital region, chases youth vote
Feb 8, 2008, 16:30 GMT
New York Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton holds a press conference at her campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, USA, 06 February 2008.EPA/MATTHEW CAVANAUGH
Arlington, Virginia - With 28 state contests behind her and no end in sight to the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton turned her attention to the US capital region, which holds a key set of battleground primaries on Tuesday.
Running neck-and-neck with Barack Obama, Clinton is seeking to make inroads into her rival's wide appeal among young voters. On Thursday, she appeared in northern Virginia before star-crazed high school students, only a fraction of whom are even old enough to vote this year.
'I touched her!' squealed Ariana Tiwari, a 17-year-old who travelled from across the Potomac River in Washington to attend Clinton's rally. Election rules in Washington allow Tiwari to vote in next week's primary, because she will turn 18 before the November general election.
Virginia, Maryland and Washington, the federal city in the District of Columbia, all host contests Tuesday in what has been dubbed the Potomac primary. Obama, who was campaigning Thursday in Louisiana, will be heading to the capital for his own set of rallies this weekend.
Clinton spoke of education and referred frequently to the 'next generation' in front of a sometimes deafening crowd of more than 1,000 people in Washington-Lee High School's basketball arena in Arlington, Virginia.
The former first lady, who represents New York state in the US Senate, called for the federal government to offer low-interest education loans to university-bound students and offered to pay 10,000 dollars per year to students who first commit to two years of community service.
Tiwari said that Clinton appealed to her especially on the issues of climate change and developing renewable energy sources, which Clinton called 'the equivalent of the space race for your generation.'
The Democratic race in particular has energized young people in the United States to vote in greater numbers in the primaries, mostly in favour of the younger Obama, 46, who is vying to become the nation's first African-American president.
Clinton showed Thursday that she, too, could evoke strong passions and an interest in politics among young voters, especially among women in her own quest to become the first woman to be president of the United States.
Mariella Andrade, a 16-year-old who says she has volunteered daily at Clinton's headquarters in Arlington, was brought to tears after receiving a signed copy of the political weekly Newsweek.
Clinton targeted Obama on the issues of health care and the economy and called the now-presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain 'more of the same' for his unwielding support of the war in Iraq.
Clinton and Obama emerged roughly tied from Tuesday's voting in 22 states nationwide, while McCain took a near unassailable lead on the Republican side.
McCain's victory led his chief rival, Mitt Romney, to drop out of the race on Thursday, which potentially leaves the Arizona senator with months to raise money and unite the still-fractured centre-right Republican Party before a winner is emerges between Clinton and Obama.
While most Democrats are adamant that they will support whoever emerges the victor, a protracted battle for the nomination is a clear concern.
'We would show a little bit of weakness towards the Republicans,' said Franklin Sejas, a 34-year-old Clinton supporter at Thursday's rally. 'You have to be a decider. You've got to know what you want.'