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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

In this part of the program, we're going to check in on the presidential hopefuls. By week's end, Hillary Clinton's campaign had become less and less visible. From the very beginning, women have been the backbone of her support and now that a Clinton victory seems unlikely, many are angry. They think one reason, if not the reason, for her troubles is plain old-fashioned sexism - as NPR's Ina Jaffe reports.

INA JAFFE: The charge that sexism has been a barrier on Hillary Clinton's road to the White House has come right from the top. Clinton herself discussed the issue in a recent interview with Lois Romano of the Washington Post.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York, Presidential Candidate): The press at least is not as bothered by the incredible vitriol that has been engendered by the comments and the actions of people who are nothing but misogynists.

JAFFE: Television commentators have compared Hillary Clinton to a scolding mother, a nagging wife and to the relentless and homicidal Glenn Close in the movie "Fatal Attraction." MSNBC's Chris Matthews was especially well-known for playing hardball with the New York senator's image, like on this broadcast with Micah Bryzynski(ph).

Mr. CHRIS MATTHEWS (TV Host, "Hardball"): Let's not forget - and I'll be brutal - the reason she's a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a frontrunner is her husband messed around.

Ms. MICAH BRYZYNSKI: Yeah, but...

Mr. MATTHEWS: That's how she got to be senator from New York. We keep forgetting it. She didn't win there on her merits, she won because everybody felt, my God, this woman stood up under humiliation.

JAFFE: Comments like that are the reason there were demonstrations outside on NBC offices around the country this week.

(Soundbite of chanting)

Unidentified Woman: Hillary, Hillary, Hillary, Hillary...

JAFFE: Sophie B. Hawkins was outside of NBC studios in Burbank.

Ms. SOPHIE B. HAWKINS (Protestor): We're here to say we're not asleep. We hear this, we don't like it. And, by the way, she's not losing.

JAFFE: The demonstrations were organized on a Web site of a new group called Clinton Supporters Count Too. It was founded by Ohio Democratic activist Cynthia Ruccia. Betrayal, says Ruccia, has come from many sources besides the media - the Democratic Party, for instance.

Ms. CYNTHIA RUCCIA (Ohio Democratic Activist): We feel very strongly that Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, any of them could have stood up at any time and denounced the sexism that was going on. But this election, to many of us, has seemed very much like open season on Hillary Clinton and on women.

JAFFE: The anger runs so deep, Ruccia says, that if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, she and her followers will abandon the party and work for presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain.

Ms. RUCCIA: There are bigger issues at stake than all the beautiful things that a Democratic president could bring to us. Because what good is any of it if we are looking into a future where we have all these wonderful things but 50 percent of the members of our society are allowed to be denigrated?

JAFFE: Clinton's diehard supporters haven't given up on her campaign, and they don't want her to either. Not until every vote of every delegate is counted at the party convention in August. Marcia Herman is the founder of a Los Angeles-based political action committee that's been raising money for Democratic female candidates for more than 30 years. She points to a history of male candidates - Ted Kennedy, for instance, and Gary Hart - taking their long-shot challenges all the way to the party convention.

Ms. MARCIA HERMAN (Founder, Los Angeles-Based Political Action Committee): Never was a question that these men had the right to follow their instincts to continue their campaign until as long as they felt they needed to. But for Hillary Clinton, they're calling for her to get out of the race; the race is over.

JAFFE: Marcia Herman acknowledges though that there are reasons besides sexism why the Democratic presidential nomination is slipping from Hillary Clinton's grasp.

Ms. HERMAN: Disappointingly, there didn't seem to be a plan after Super Tuesday, February 5th, and she was very loyal to some of her campaign staff that made those decisions.

JAFFE: Herman didn't mention the basic pitfall of electoral politics. Someone's got to lose.

Ina Jaffe, NPR News.

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