Chelsea Clinton campaigns for her mom in Lexington

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
LEXINGTON ó Chelsea Clinton, continuing her family’s all-out coverage of North Carolina before Tuesday’s N.C. primary, told a living room crowd Friday evening that “my mom” would be the best president for Americans on any issue, no matter what their ages.
Fielding questions for more than 40 minutes, the 28-year-old Chelsea spoke to the perception that it’s Democratic rival Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton, who has inspired record numbers of first-time voters this year.
“I would dispute a little bit the media narrative of how the young vote’s going in only one direction,” Chelsea said. “I’ve met a lot of really young, enthusiastic supporters of my mom.”
Clinton said record numbers of young Republicans are voting this year, too.
“I think that’s great,” she said. “I think it’s great that young people are enfranchising themselves in the process and making their voices heard.”
The more the discussion focuses on issues, the more people support her mother, whether they’re “28, 18 or 88,” Chelsea said.
She tells the people she has met campaigning that “there’s too much at stake in this election to vote on a feeling.”
Clinton said she is not arrogant enough to tell people what they should feel, but she will ask them what they care about. Then she talks about her mother’s record and positions on those concerns.
“I do believe my mom would be the best president on any issue, and I think that’s true whatever age you are,” Clinton said.
Hillary Clinton, a U.S. senator from New York, has eaten into a 20 percentage point lead Obama once held in North Carolina, according to polls.
The Mason-Dixon Poll, conducted Monday and Tuesday for WRAL-TV in Raleigh and WBTV in Charlotte, has Obama holding a 49 to 42 percent edge over Clinton.
That poll shows Obama with a large lead among young voters surveyed. He leads Clinton 63-26 percent among voters under age 35, while Clinton had a 47-45 percent edge with voters over 50.
Fifty-five percent of the people polled said they were looking for a candidate “who represents change and a new approach.” Thirty-six percent said they wanted someone who “has the right experience.”
More than 50 people crowded into the living room of Marty and Tommy Younts Friday to hear Chelsea Clinton, who had appeared earlier in the day at Salem College.
Meanwhile, Bill and Hillary Clinton continued their last-minute double-teaming of North Carolina.
Hillary Clinton appeared at the Jefferson-Jackson Democratic Party dinner and a Get Out the Vote event in Raleigh. Today, she was scheduled to appear in Cary, Wake Forest, Gastonia and Mooresville (3:30 p.m., N.C. Auto Racing Hall of Fame).
Former President Bill Clinton will be in North Carolina Sunday and Monday, hitting 14 more cities. In the past month, Bill and Hillary Clinton have each made campaign appearances in Salisbury.
Chelsea Clinton said she’s “pretty sure” she will be campaigning for her mom in West Virginia on Wednesday.
To warm up “The Hillary I Know Party” before Chelsea arrived, the campaign supplied two “surrogates” ó longtime friends and supporters of Hillary Clinton.
Judy Lichtman, a senior advisor for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, said she met the candidate 35 years ago when Hillary was a law student working for the Children’s Defense Fund.
Lichtman said she and Hillary Clinton became fast friends while Clinton was conducting a nationwide census on special needs kids.
In 2004, Lichtman stepped down as head of the National Partnership for Women and Families, and she spoke of the Clintons’ work toward the Family and Medical Leave Act, the first piece of legislation that Clinton signed into law as president in February 1993.
Hillary Clinton has never stopped being an advocate for children, families and women, said Lichtman, who worked for Clinton’s U.S. Senate campaigns in New York in 2000 and 2006. She pays attention to business, even as she campaigns, Lichtman said, and she is a person who comes up with solutions.
“She’s ready to lead on day one,” Lichtman said.
Judith Hope, former chairwoman of the New York State Democratic Party, said Hillary Clinton’s life has been dedicated to public service. She spoke of Clinton’s middle-class, Methodist background, how she became “intensely engaged” with other young people during the Vietnam War, her years at Wellesley College and Yale Law School and her work with the Children’s Defense Fund and as first lady of Arkansas.
Hope also described Hillary Clinton as a problem-solver and education reformer. When her efforts at health-care reform as first lady were unsuccessful, Holt said, Clinton did not give up.
She went on to help build state child healthcare insurance programs, her friend said.
Hope may have been the first person to plant the idea in Clinton’s head to establish residence in New York State and run for U.S. senator, and Hope later campaigned with her throughout the upstate.
People forget, Hope said, but Clinton’s first election in New York was close, and she surged remarkably in the last 72 hours leading up to the 2000 vote.
“She won people over late in the election,” Hope said. “… She closes strong.”
Chelsea Clinton said she doesn’t think running for political office will be in her own future.
“As long as I can recall, people have asked me that question,” she said.
Chelsea described herself as living in New York with a job, a dog and a boyfriend.
When someone mentioned Lexington barbecue, she divulged that she is a vegetarian.
Her discussion touched on a wide range of issues and her mother’s position on those topics, from education, to Iraq, to hunger, to community policing, to bipartisanship and who could beat likely Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
Chelsea said “my mom” was the best bet to beat McCain.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or