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Clinton backers patience pays off

New York senator, late to state's presidential primary party, still gathers dollars, supporters on local visit
by: CHASE ALLGOOD, In her speech Saturday at Hillsboro’s Liberty High School, Sen. Hillary Clinton impressed supporters with nuts-and-bolts policy matters, from “green” building to health care and energy issues to the Bear Stearns rescue.

In any other election cycle, Hillary Clinton's history-making campaign would be a phenomenon.

The New York senator drew 4,800 people to Hillsboro on a drizzly morning Saturday, including throngs of enthusiastic women and a surprising number of younger people. She's raising money at a rapid clip compared with the Republicans.

But Clinton is being upstaged in many respects by the Barack Obama juggernaut.

Obama, an eloquent speaker often compared to John and Robert Kennedy, is shattering fundraising records and attracting waves of volunteers and new voters.

By the time Clinton opened her Oregon campaign headquarters Monday evening in Portland's Old Town, Obama already had opened five Oregon offices and mobilized scores of volunteers to knock on doors in Portland, Bend and elsewhere. A sixth Obama office is scheduled to open Saturday in Salem.

Polls show Obama is ahead in Oregon's May 20 presidential primary, though there's still a month to go before ballots are mailed.

'It's pretty clear that Sen. Obama starts this state with a lead,' said Josh Kardon, chairman of Clinton's Oregon steering committee and chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Clinton has secured endorsements from veteran Oregon politicians such as Gov. Ted Kulongoski and U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley, D-Ore. Obama has gained endorsements from many up-and-coming politicians, including numerous young state legislators, women and moderates who ordinarily would tilt toward Clinton. That includes Oregon's superintendent of public instruction, Susan Castillo, the state's highest-ranking Hispanic politician.

When former Sen. John Edwards pulled out of the presidential primary, his entire Oregon steering committee shifted to support Obama, said Portland attorney Bob Stoll, former co-chairman of that campaign.

'Obviously, supporting Sen. Obama may look like a good bet because he's got a good lead in Oregon,' Kardon said. The Clinton campaign soon will announce more Oregon endorsements, he promised.

'It feels that Obama has captured more accurately the mood of the nation,' said Stacey Dycus, a Bend-based political consultant who supports Obama. He has charisma and 'intangibles' that Clinton can't match, she said, adding, 'Hillary made the mistake of thinking that change is about policies; in fact, it's about attitudes.'

Speech showed smarts

Among the thousands who journeyed to Hillsboro's Liberty High School on Saturday morning, Henry Finn might have been the youngest Hillary Clinton fan.

Henry, almost 6 months old, was nestled in a front infant carrier strapped to his mother, wearing a onesie labeled 'Tiny Democrat.'

'This is pretty momentous, the first viable female candidate,' said his mother, Christie Glynn of Portland's Sellwood neighborhood, waiting in a line that snaked around the school's parking lot. 'I want him to experience it, even if he won't remember any of it.'

Clinton didn't disappoint the fawning audience in her first appearance of Oregon's presidential primary.

After an overnight stay at Portland's Benson Hotel, she peppered her 45-minute stump speech with Portland and Oregon references, pushing all the right buttons on environmental themes.

Then, in a 20-minute question-and-answer session, Clinton demonstrated her public policy prowess, a staple of her issues-based campaign style.

She highlighted her opposition to the Bush administration's energy bill - supported by Obama - that removed states' authority to site liquefied natural gas facilities.

Then Clinton passed the microphone to Gales Creek organic farmer Anne Berblinger, a vocal opponent of a proposed LNG line that might slice through her property.

'I'm the only candidate in this race who voted against Dick Cheney's energy bill,' Clinton said.

Bear Stearns move rankles

The former first lady, briefed before her speech by outgoing Portland City Commissioner Erik Sten, praised Portland's green-building initiatives and other efforts to curb greenhouse gases. She promised to force utilities to provide more renewable energy, modeled after mandates enacted by Oregon and other states.

She criticized the Bush administration for supporting a bailout of the Bear Stearns investment bank while failing to help homeowners facing foreclosures.

Clinton boasted that her health insurance plan is the only one to bring 'truly universal health care,' a dig at Obama's proposal. But she mentioned his name only once, in the context of what she termed a 'campaign of firsts.'

'When our Constitution was written, neither Barack nor I were in it,' she said.

Before her second Oregon appearance Saturday in Eugene, Clinton met with several officials to talk about resuming federal payments to timber-dependent counties in Oregon. 'Her position is it shouldn't wait for her to be president,' Kardon said.

Obama got a head start in Oregon's presidential primary, drawing 13,000 people to Portland's Memorial Coliseum last month. Now, Oregon is being treated to a Clinton family trifecta as the primary heats up.

Former President Clinton visited Oregon Health and Science University last week. Former 'first daughter' Chelsea Clinton comes to Eugene on Saturday, with a possible stop in Portland.

Clinton campaign spokesman Isaac Baker said the campaign will open offices or send paid staff to all five Oregon congressional districts.

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Clinton promises big 'green economy' push