Clinton Targets Poor Voters in Appalachia
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And for Hillary Clinton yesterday was all about Ohio. Today she'll spend more time there visiting Appalachian communities that have suffered poverty and loss of jobs. She's trying to stir the passions of white voters there who tend to be less educated. They represent a voting block that's delivered for Clinton in previous states.
NPR's David Greene is traveling with the Clinton campaign.
DAVID GREENE: Hillary Clinton yesterday flew from Cleveland down to Columbus then started driving east towards the foothills of the Appalachians and into Zanesville.
Mr. GARY STRAUSS (Zanesville Resident): Zanesville's a great community to live in. It's a quiet community, it's small, whatever. It's a great place to raise kids.
GREENE: That's Gary Strauss. He was waiting in the snow to get into the Clinton event. Strauss says he's had it rough.
Mr. STRAUSS: Right now I'm one of them unemployed workers. So I'm looking for a job.
GREENE: What were doing before you…
Mr. STRAUSS: I was selling carpet at Lowe's Home Improvement Centers and they terminated me in November. So right now I'm out trying to find a job. I will.
GREENE: But Strauss said he's frustrated with his government. He said he doesn't feel like President Bush had policies that helped workers like him. He said he'll vote in Tuesday's Democratic primary and he said Clinton gives him more confidence than Barack Obama.
Mr. STRAUSS: W. come in with no background 'cept being a governor. He's coming in with no background. We need somebody that's been there for a while. Just plain and simple. Somebody that knows what they're gonna do.
GREENE: Strauss is the kind of voter Clinton needs here. She has a lot of support among white working class voters around Appalachia. And while there are fewer people here than in the big cities, the campaign is hoping that by having Clinton here, she can nail down supporters who could make a big difference in a tight race.
The event in Zanesville was a bit confusing. The Clinton Campaign announced it was invitation only, then later opened it to the public. The line wasn't all that long. Volunteers were going after every last person.
Unidentified volunteer: Have you signed in yet? Can we get you to sign in and get you a sticker? Everybody has to have a sticker to get in.
Unidentified Woman #1: Oh, okay.
Unidentified Volunteer: Great.
Unidentified Woman #1: All of us need a sticker?
Unidentified Volunteer: All of us need a sticker. We need all the help that Hillary can get.
GREENE: Inside campaign staffers were still pointing people to empty chairs when things got started.
Unidentified Announcer: Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the governor of the great state of Ohio, Ted Strickland, and Senator Hillary Clinton.
GREENE: When Clinton walked onto the stage, she didn't deliver a speech, but instead led what was a really a panel discussion. The format gave her a chance to talk much more about policy and her campaign's acknowledged that's when she's at her best.
Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): You know we hear a lot about the problems and they are serious. But I believe, for every problem, there is at least one solution. We just have to start acting like Americans again and roll up our sleeves and actually solve our problems.
Unidentified Woman #2: That's right.
Senator CLINTON: No more whining, no more finger pointing, let's get to work.
(Soundbite of applause)
GREENE: Clinton was sitting at a table with a dozen or so people, some local officials, some Ohioans with problems Clinton hoped to highlight.
Senator CLINTON: You know, I'd like to welcome Robert Landry and Beth Dlabay.
GREENE: The couple had one nightmarish Christmas when they lost their house in a foreclosure. The Senator asked the couple to talk about their experience.
Mr. ROBERT LANDRY (foreclosure victim): And you feel alone. The bottom drops out of your whole life, you know, you think you're doing the right thing and then it's all over.
Senator CLINTON: Beth, do you want to add anything to what Robert said?
Ms. BETH DLABAY (foreclosure victim): It was just really difficult because in the meantime, our granddaughter that was living with us had to undergo open heart surgery.
GREENE: Clinton said she wants to fight in the White House for people like this couple.
Senator CLINTON: Change does take consistent, concerted effort, but the real question for us is not whether change will happen. Change is gonna happen whether we want it or not. Change is a part of life. It's whether progress will happen.
GREENE: That's a message Clinton will take to other Appalachian communities this morning before going on to Texas tonight. Even though southeast Ohio isn't the most populous part of the state, it's full of voters Clinton will need on Tuesday to carry Ohio.
David Greene, NPR News, with the Clinton Campaign.