Watching Democrats Debate in a Texas Taco Bar
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
After losing 11 straight contests to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton has a lot riding on the outcomes of the Texas and Ohio primaries next month. She's counting on the support of female voters.
In the states where she has won, so far, Clinton has also won the majority of women's votes. And in Austin last night, women at a Clinton campaign debate-watching party showed no signs of wavering support despite her string of recent losses.
NPR's Ina Jaffe reports.
INA JAFFE: It may be too simple to say that women support Hillary Clinton just because she's a woman, but the identification that they feel when they see her and hear her is really very profound, says former Texas state lawmaker Ann Kitchen.
Ms. ANN KITCHEN (Former Democratic State Representative, Texas): I see in her something of myself, because she understands what I deal with everyday because she has dealt with it, too. I want a leader like her.
JAFFE: Kitchen's friend, businesswoman Ally Gallagher(ph), said women support Clinton because of the issues, too, and her understanding of the special impact on women.
Ms. ALLY GALLAGHER (Businesswoman): The economy is the problem, but still women are earning 77 cents on the dollar. If it's a recession for them, believe me, it's The Depression for us.
JAFFE: Gallagher and Kitchen were at Guero's Taco Bar with about 200 other die-hard Clinton supporters. There were a lot of men among them, but they were outnumbered. The crowd focuse on the big screen TVs, swig margaritas and beer from the bottle as if they were watching the SuperBowl, not a sober discussion of health care and diplomacy. And they treated Clinton's accusation that Obama had cribbed some lines in his stump speech from one of his endorsers, like it was the play of the game.
Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): If your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words.
JAFFE: The crowd cheered on Hillary Clinton and attempted to chat when Barack Obama spoke. During the break, two attorneys, Janet dela Cruz(ph) and her sister, Nelly Orera(ph), gave their assessment of the Illinois senator right from the Clinton campaign talking points. He is not ready to be president. She is.
Ms. JANET DELA CRUZ: Just pick the person that you think is going to be doing it right on the first day. And to me, it's just not him. It's just not him.
Ms. NELLY ORERA: Eventually, perhaps, it may be his time, but this country cannot afford to waste any time for someone to get used to the job.
JAFFE: Though as much as they admire Hillary Clinton, dela Cruz and Orera said they know there are some men who just aren't ready to vote for a woman for president.
Ms. DELA CRUZ: I think that's very threatening to a lot of males, whether they want to admit that or not. I still think that's the case.
Ms. ORERA: OH, I think I agree with what my sister said. I think it's unfortunate because they can't get past that feeling of - feeling threatened to listen to the message, to listen to the solutions that she's proposing. And that just hurts.
Ms. DELA CRUZ: The bottom line is it just hurts.
JAFFE: The debate ended, but the views in this room were unanimous. She was brilliant, of course. Ann Kitchen still thought Clinton could recapture the momentum in the race.
Ms. KITCHEN: I don't think you could count this as the number of contests she has lost. You know, that's the thing about a race like this - people forget the whole picture. She did fabulous on Super Tuesday.
JAFFE: And Ally Gallagher was betting that Clinton would win Texas.
Ms. GALLAGHER: If I had to pick which side I'd like to have right now, I'd take her side.
JAFFE: If Hillary Clinton does win Texas, it will be partly because of the efforts of the people in this restaurant. And about an hour after the debate, the candidate herself came by to show her appreciation.
(Soundbite of cheers)
Sen. CLINTON: I want to thank you for your support. I want to thank you for your commitment.
Unidentified Woman: Thank you.
Sen. CLINTON: We can do this. We will do this.
(Soundbite of cheers)
JAFFE: And as the crowd pressed against the tiny stage, a chant went up.
Unidentified Group: Madam president, madam president, madam president.
JAFFE: Madam president, they shouted, words more sweet and intoxicating than the margaritas they raised to toast to her.
Unidentified Group: Madam president, madam president.
JAFFE: Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Austin, Texas.
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