On ropes, Clinton works to hold Ohio
Days before the March 4 primary, Clinton retains an average 6-point lead.
HANGING ROCK, Ohio
Marissa Wilson originally supported John Edwards for president. But now the Ohio University student in early childhood education is on Hillary Rodham Clinton's team, making calls for her when her busy life of work and study permits. And when Senator Clinton appeared at the child development center here late last week in this poor, remote corner of Appalachian Ohio, Ms. Wilson was pleased.Skip to next paragraph
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"She's made an impression just by being here," Wilson says.
On the eve of crucial March 4 primaries in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, and Vermont, the New York senator's decision to spend precious time in the village of Hanging Rock (pop. 279) raised eyebrows – especially as it was her only publicized event of the day in this must-win state. Furthermore, the town-hall meeting with about 300 people was not open to the public. The guests, mostly women and many with tales of hardship, came by invitation only. The name of this hamlet, with its large rock outcrop from the cliff above, only served to reinforce the perilous nature of Clinton's campaign.
Her advisers maintain that her geographically diverse mix of larger rallies and smaller gatherings reflects her desire to reach out to the whole state – not just the populous Democratic strongholds. Southeastern Ohio is also the home turf of the state's popular governor, Ted Strickland, who is throwing his weight behind Clinton. And with just a day to go until the latest Super Tuesday, Clinton is hanging tough. The average of major polls gives her a 6 point lead over Democratic nomination rival Barack Obama.
Support from the traditional base
Longtime observers of Ohio politics are not surprised that Clinton is holding on to critical elements of her traditional base – women, Catholics, low-income voters. David Wilhelm, an Ohio native who managed Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992 but who is backing Senator Obama, says there's a "stickiness" for the Clintons in Ohio. The state voted for Bill Clinton in both his presidential campaigns, and is conservative when it comes to change, he says.
"Except for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame [in Cleveland], this is not a state that gravitates toward celebrity," says Mr. Wilhelm. "And it's not [Obama's] fault he's become a celebrity, but I think there's a certain level of skepticism in a state like this which has seen tough times. They need to be convinced. They're not going to move there overnight."