Democrats Take Sides in Ohio

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are focusing on Texas and Ohio, which hold primaries March 4. An Obama supporter and a Clinton supporter in Youngstown, Ohio, illustrate what the two sides are looking for in a president.

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STEVEN INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

The Democratic presidential candidates have been shuttling between two big states that vote soon, March 4th. Texas is where they debated last night, and the other state is Ohio, where both candidates stopped in the same city for separate events this week.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): Well, hello, Youngstown. How are you tonight?

(Soundbite of cheering)

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): Well, I am thrilled to be here at Youngstown State University. Thank you, everybody, for taking the time to be here today.

(Soundbite of cheering)

INSKEEP: Youngstown, Ohio has another visitor who's thrilled to be there. NPR's David Greene, who stuck around in that city to meet some voters. And David, who'd you find?

DAVID GREENE: I actually found two women who I want to tell you about. And they - they gave me a much better understanding of what Obama supporters are looking for in a president and what Hillary Clinton supporters are looking for, because it's really not exactly the same thing.

INSKEEP: Although they certainly seem to have similar policies, these two.

GREENE: Certainly. I guess I'm talking more stylistically. You know, we keep hearing how these candidates have such different styles. And these two women, they just got to the essence of it. I had coffee with them and I'll tell you about them. One is Allison Cuklah(ph). She's 21. She's a junior at Youngstown State University and she is behind Barack Obama. She thinks he's shown through drawing these huge crowds around the country that he would be an inspiring leader.

And then there's Jan Pinz(ph). She is 57. She teaches social studies at a high school, and she's planning to vote for Hillary Clinton and really believes in Clinton's experience.

And so we were sitting at this great little restaurant. It's called the Golden Dawn, and Jan told me that it's right around the corner from her house.

Ms. JAN PINZ (Teacher): This is a place - this is like Cheers. You walk in and people know you, you know. They say hi. They've got what you drink up on the bar before you sit down.

INSKEEP: Okay. So David, what happened when you got this Clinton supporter and this Obama supporter sitting together at this pleasant restaurant?

GREENE: Wait until you hear this. I mean, they really started engaging each other. And I'll play this conversation for you and you'll hear that one of our producers has dropped in a little sound of Obama and Clinton in a few moments as the women are talking. And so Allison started out - she was telling me all about Obama's visit. He came to her campus, Youngstown State.

Ms. ALLISON CUKLAH (University Student): The line started about 9:00. People were just really, really excited. I talked to a lot of my friends that were waiting in line, and they didn't mind waiting in the cold because it was just kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

GREENE: Now, Jan Pinz, she's totally behind Hillary Clinton and went to see her speak at a high school in Youngstown. But she said she also tried to go to see Obama's speech as well. So give this a listen.

Ms. PINZ: My daughter and my son-in-law and I were in line trying to get in, and we said, no, this is too cold and too long. So we went to Inner Circle, which is a bar on campus and watched it on the big screen and had some refreshments while we watched it.

GREENE: Like beer refreshments?

Ms. PINZ: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. PINZ: You betcha.

GREENE: So what was the scene in there when Obama was speaking? People...

Ms. PINZ: Everybody was listening. Everybody was listening. Very close. There wasn't any, like, rowdiness or anything or boo or - but there wasn't any hooray either. So everybody was really intent. They're really listening to him. And I listened too, but I don't hear anything. I just hear like buzz words. Like...

GREENE: What are some of the buzz words you remember?

Ms. PINZ: Oh, like change and like people said that we couldn't do this. People try to say that - ask me why I was running, you know, why am I running now.

Senator OBAMA: I'm not running because I think this is somehow owed to me, because I think it's somehow my turn. I am running because of what Dr. King called the fierce urgency of now.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Sen. OBAMA: The fierce urgency of now.

Ms. PINZ: You know, with you and me helping, we can do it. Those kinds of things. Just nonspecific, cheerleader, coach-type stuff.

GREENE: Allison, was there substance in the speech? I mean, Jan is saying that, you know, she wants more meat from Obama. Did you hear some?

Ms. CUKLAH: I felt there was. Like for specific issues that are important to specifically my generation, like education for college tuition, especially, and then for healthcare. I'm off my dad's insurance when I'm 23. With the jobs I work, I'm not going to be able to support that.

Sen. OBAMA: That's why I've put forward a plan that says every American will be able to get healthcare that is at least as good as the healthcare I have as a member of Congress.

Ms. CUKLAH: So hearing, like, his plans, I did feel, like I said, that there was substance and all of that.

Ms. PINZ: I disagree. I really do. We went through healthcare with Hillary in '92, '93, '94. And Republicans really tore up on it and they kind of just buried it. So she's already tried this once.

Sen. CLINTON: You know, and finally, one of us has faced serious Republican opposition in the past, and one of us is ready to do it again.

Ms. PINZ: When somebody's done it once and was unsuccessful, they know how they were unsuccessful. They're not going to make the same mistake.

GREENE: Is it a valid point, though, that Obama is just a different kind of candidate than Hillary Clinton? I mean, his speech is more, you know, about inspiration and so forth? I mean, do you see that distinction?

Ms. CUKLAH: I do see that distinction, but I think it's because he has more charisma and so he can get the crowd excited. Which, I mean, she can get a crowd excited as well, but just his stage presence, I believe, compared to hers - like, she sometimes seems a little more cold.

Ms. PINZ: How's charisma going to help govern? How's charisma going to help foreign policy in the debacle that we're in now? We're a mess in foreign policy. How does charisma translate into good government?

It's like any woman who's worked all her life and has attained a certain level. They're usually attacked - if they're attacked at all, they're attacked for their physical appearance. They're not warm. They're too warm. They're, you know, they're too this, that or other. Come on, you're falling for it.

Ms. CUKLAH: Now, I wasn't implying that, you know, charisma is going to get the job done, but you do need that stage presence and personality with it to get people excited and want to get involved and to relate to people. I mean, she comes off just, like I said, like cold and just kind of stone-faced, I guess you can say. And I mean she does give a good speech, but it just doesn't seem all that friendly and...

Ms. PINZ: I don't find her warm or cold. I find her competent. I have confidence. I - she engenders confidence in women my age.

Sen. CLINTON: I have served on the Armed Services Committee. I've been to more than 80 countries, worked with world leaders, stood up to the Chinese government to declare that women's rights are human rights.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Ms. PINZ: I just wish everybody would just like pay attention to the contents.

GREENE: Allison, do you ever hit a moment where you're - you kind of pause and say - just kind of a reality check, you know? I mean, this movement has kind of captured the country, Obama's winning states. Do you ever kind of wake up and say, you know, are we sure here? Just make sure this isn't a popularity contest? You know, should I be thinking about Hillary? You know, is this the right guy? Is he too young? Is he too inexperienced?

Ms. CUKLAH: I've stopped and thought about that before, especially when it all started and when I was choosing who I supported. I've done my research on both candidates.

GREENE: So Jan, Obama packs a house. I mean, he draws huge crowds. Does that - I mean, does that start making you think at all, like, you know, if this many people are coming out to see him, maybe there's something going on?

Ms. PINZ: No. I mean, it's - we - I teach something in social studies called - when I teach propaganda - and it's called the bandwagon effect. And I think what you're seeing now is the bandwagon effect, where everybody just, you know, wants to jump on, which is the same thing as when CNN, when they talk about his rising, his swell, his rising. And I think that's what you're seeing.

GREENE: But it looks like it's turning into votes in some states.

Ms. PINZ: Oh, it does. You're right. It does.

INSKEEP: NPR's David Greene has been talking with some voters in Youngstown, Ohio and letting us listen into the conversation at a restaurant there. And David, Jan Pinz, the Hillary Clinton supporter, really had an incisive critique there of Barack Obama, but also sounds a little resigned to Obama's success.

GREENE: She does. She says that she thinks, you know, Hillary Clinton will still win her state, Ohio. But you did hear sounding resigned. And I also think you heard something you're hearing from other Clinton supporters right now, a level of frustration about all of Obama's recent wins.

But I'll tell you this, Steve. Both Jan and Allison made very clear while they really are behind their candidates, they're going to vote for whichever Democrat wins this thing and is in the general election this fall.

INSKEEP: NPR's David Greene is in Youngstown, Ohio, one of the key primary states coming up. David, thanks very much, as always.

GREENE: Thank you, Steve.

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