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Feminine touch

"Feminine touch" Continued...

Issue: "'Infidel'," March 3, 2007

The senator's religious references drew "amens" and applause from the crowd but shied away from explicitly Christian language. Clinton appeared most comfortable when ticking off points in her stump speech, including universal health care coverage, energy conservation, and the war in Iraq. On the last point, the senator charged Bush with waging a "reckless and preemptive" war and pledged to be "tough but smart" if she's elected president.

Clinton segued from talk of being tough to asking a question she'll have to answer over the next year: "Can a woman be president?" The query solicited the most enthusiastic cheers of the morning, with many jumping to their feet and waving campaign signs. Clinton said the great thing about America is that "anybody can be president" and asserted with outstretched arms, "I'm proud to be a woman." But, she quickly added, "I'm not running as a woman. I'm running because I believe I'm the most qualified person for the job."

The crowd cheered on all points, but the speech revealed that the senator is grappling with how to play the "woman card"-and how not to play it. She must juggle tension between three groups: those who like the idea of a woman president, those who find her too austere, and those who fear that a woman won't be tough enough to stand up to enemies who maintain a low regard for women. Early on, she's adopted a strategy that uses tough language to speak about the war in Iraq, but softer language like "Let's chat" and "I want to listen" to characterize her campaign.

For Elaine Kinlaw, the strategy is working. Kinlaw, a 29-year-old college student from Columbia, stood in the bleachers after Clinton's speech, watching the senator shake hands with a clamoring crowd. Kinlaw told WORLD that she's "definitely leaning toward Hillary" and said she likes the idea of a woman president: "It gives all women, black and white, the confidence and hope that we can stand up and meet challenges."

Outside in the crowded lobby, Cori Cantey said she hasn't made up her mind yet, but that she liked what she heard from Clinton. She added that a woman could bring unique qualities to the office, like "more compassion," but acknowledged standing up to terrorists would be a tall order: "It's just an uphill battle she's going to have to face."

Clinton is undoubtedly poised for a battle and is gaining ground with another key group of voters in South Carolina: minorities. During her recent visit, Clinton said state officials should remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds, a position popular with black voters in the state. In a January ABC News poll, Clinton led Obama among black voters 60 percent to 20 percent.

Two prominent black leaders who helped local Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards win the state's primary in 2004 have switched support to Clinton. State Sen. Darrell Jackson said he's endorsing Clinton because she's the only Democrat who can win the state. But Jackson's endorsement is tainted with controversy: Shortly after announcing his support for Clinton last month, Jackson acknowledged that his public-relations firm had signed a $10,000 a month contract with the Clinton campaign for consulting work.

Jackson, also senior pastor of the predominantly black, 7,000-member Bible Way Church of Atlas Road, insists the contract didn't influence his endorsement, saying he turned down more lucrative offers from other candidates. Clinton also denied that her campaign traded money for Jackson's endorsement.

At a Sunday morning service at Bible Way Church the day before Clinton's visit to South Carolina, an associate pastor announced that Clinton's camp had named Jackson state director of her campaign. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the congregation erupted into wild applause.

One of the state's most powerful black Democrats, Rep. James Clyburn, majority whip of the U.S. House, said he wouldn't endorse a presidential candidate for the 2008 primary. But when Clinton appeared at a Charleston, S.C., tribute to Clyburn on Presidents Day evening, the representative urged Clinton to make history as the first woman president: "Run, Hillary, run!"

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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