"I'm ready to lead," Clinton says at state party event
Seattle Times chief political reporter
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton worked to boost her less-than-front-runner status among state Democrats Monday night by declaring that "there is no reason for our country to be backsliding away from the progressive tradition that came out of the state of Washington."
Clinton trails Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in the money race in this state, though she has out-raised him nationally and dominates the polls.
At Benaroya Hall, Clinton won sustained cheers from the crowd of Democrats at the state party's Magnuson Awards Dinner. They applauded her for talking about health care and for promising that on her first day in office she'd overturn President Bush's ban on stem-cell research and tell the world, "The era of cowboy diplomacy is over."
And they liked the New York senator's direct shots at the Bush administration the best.
"Are you ready for a president and vice president who respect the Constitution of the United States?" she asked, rousing the crowd to its loudest ovation. "And are you ready to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home?
"Well, if you're ready for change, I'm ready to lead."
Clinton painted a fairly dire picture of America. It's a place where people feel "invisible" and fear they are one step away from a "trap door," she said. That would sound familiar to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire who have seen Clinton's television commercials called "Invisibles" and "Trapdoor."
"We do not want to be the first generation of Americans that leave our country worse off than when we found it," she said.
"Too many Americans feel today invisible. ... They wonder if anybody sees their struggles. ... They are working as hard as they possibly can, yet they don't have health insurance. The cost of college is beyond their reach. They can barely figure out how to pay for gas to commute to and from work."
She mixed such talk with a sort of inspirational and even maternal message. (She said she gets distracted during campaign appearances by "adorable" children.)
"I am extremely proud of the idea that I could be the first woman president of the United States of America," she said. "[But] I am not running because I am a woman. I am running because I believe I am the most qualified person."
Some Democrats here have been slow to embrace Clinton because she was slow to evolve on the Iraq war. Congressman Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, introduced Clinton and used his anti-war bona fides to try to firm up the candidate's support among anti-war Democrats who dominate the state party.
Inslee reminded people that he "was one of the most stalwart opponents of the Iraq war."
"I would not have endorsed any candidate for this position unless I knew they were committed to ending this debacle in Iraq," he said. "After long discussions, I can tell you, you can place your confidence in Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton."
Clinton is here on a two-day fundraising trip. Monday she made three appearances, and today she is scheduled to hold a fundraiser with high-tech company executives and visit Microsoft's Redmond campus.
Jim Kainber, a consultant helping to organize Clinton's caucus strategy here, said the candidate might raise as much as $750,000 during her visit.
Monday's dinner raised $150,000 for the state party, which Chairman Dwight Pelz said made it the most successful event ever for Washington Democrats.
Pelz set the tone for the night with the first after-dinner speech. "These Republicans in Washington, D.C.," he said, "are truly evil and need to be replaced."
Republicans had urged people to protest Clinton's appearance. A small crowd showed up, mostly to support Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, a Texas congressman.
"There happens to be a lot of TV cameras here and we want to get in front of them," said Paul backer Colin Cagney, of Seattle.
Clinton fans also came out to show their support on the street, though in smaller numbers than the Paul crowd.
Seattle Times staff reporter Brian Alexander contributed to this report. David Postman: 360-236-8267 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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