They call themselves the Catoctin Crones — Catoctin for the green mountains that surround their hometown of Frederick, Md., and "crones" meaning wise women.
The group of politically active, Democratic women met years ago, while working on Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's unsuccessful presidential campaign. Now, a common goal once again brings them together twice a month for lunch at a local Elks Club: to work on getting more Democrats elected in conservative Frederick County.
And with the first stage of the 2008 presidential race in full swing, the Catoctin Crones are eagerly watching the competition for the Democratic ticket play out.
National polls show New York Sen. Hillary Clinton gaining ground against other Democratic presidential candidates. Still, the former first lady faces stiff competition from Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards in Iowa. And the race is closer than national polls indicate in New Hampshire, the first state to hold primaries.
The Catoctin Crones all say that they are still undecided. Some express support for Obama. Edwards, too, has several fans, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich also attract attention.
But the experience of Maggi Hays, a former deputy sheriff, echoes that of most of the group. Hays says that she started out supporting Edwards, but watching Clinton in debates has pushed her into the Hillary camp.
"She always has good answers. She doesn't fumble. She doesn't stumble," Hays says.
The other women, like Hays, appear to be confident that if Clinton gets the job of commander in chief, she will do it well. They say they're not concerned about a woman leading the country in wartime, nor are they worried about her ability to handle the war on terrorism.
Their main concern: whether Clinton can survive the general election. These women remember the rough treatment that Kerry received in the 2004 campaign, and they expect that the Republican Party has similar bruising in store for the Democrat's 2008 nominee. They wonder: Will Clinton be tough enough to take it?
Maggie Cisar, a realtor and Democratic Party activist, is confident that Clinton can cope when the race heats up. Living in the White House during President Bill Clinton's administration, Cisar says, was "OJT — on-the-job training."