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Politics drives candidates chauffeur

Moses Ross thrilled to be behind the wheel for Clinton entourage
by: ©2008 BARBARA KINNEY, After squiring around part of Hillary Clinton’s entourage during her recent visit to Oregon, Moses Ross had his picture taken with the presidential candidate.

Ordinarily, Moses Ross' day job is orchestrating thousands of campaign 'robo calls,' recorded phone messages designed to make politicians sound good - or bad.

Ross played a new campaign role the last two weeks: volunteer chauffeur for Bill and Hillary Clinton's swings through Portland, Hillsboro and Eugene.

Ross, a pledged Hillary Clinton delegate from Portland's Capitol Hill area, begged for the chance to drive for Bill Clinton's entourage. After a rigorous security screening by the Secret Service, Ross plunked down $50 of his own money to lease a 2008 Buick LaSalle. 'It had to be American-made,' said Ross, who owns a Kia Optima.

When Hillary Clinton followed her husband to town last weekend for a two-day visit, the campaign outfitted him with a Dodge Grand Caravan.

The two Clintons always drove with Secret Service agents in an SUV rigged with dark, bulletproof windows. Ross followed behind with campaign aides, including Hillary Clinton's Oregon campaign director, policy advisers and campaign photographer.

Ross picked up Clinton aides from Portland International Airport and drove them to and from the Benson Hotel, where they spent the night. He coached them on how to pronounce Oregon and Willamette, and briefed them on key terms such as 'Rip City.'

Ross gave a lot of thought about something weighty to say when he finally met Bill Clinton. But when the chance arose after Clinton's speech at Oregon Health and Science University, Ross was tongue-tied. 'I said nothing at all,' he said.

Ross was struck by the crowds that formed spontaneously on the sidewalks whenever the motorcade waded through downtown Portland or Eugene, with children riding atop parents' shoulders. 'I didn't see any protesters, although I did see some occasional Ron Paul signs.'

Ross never got to hear the Clintons' speeches, aside from a couple of minutes during Hillary Clinton's Hillsboro appearance. 'They required that I stay with the cars,' he said, in case they had to leave quickly in an emergency. 'That part of it was definitely not glitzy.'

On the ride from Hillsboro to Eugene, Ross tried to share lore of Oregon politics and history. The Clinton aides were intent on checking their BlackBerries. Then two of them dropped off to sleep.

When Ross made his final trip to the Eugene Airport, Hillary Clinton asked to meet the three volunteer drivers, to thank them and pose for pictures. Ross said he told Clinton how his mother, who is Hispanic, admires her. Clinton told him it was that kind of comment that helps her get through each day of the campaign gauntlet.

Ross couldn't resist using the occasion to promote his political robo call company, which operates nationally. 'I gave a card or two - to staff, not to Hillary.'

Ross said he's drawn to Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama by her experience. 'I know if Hillary becomes president, all Americans will have health care,' he said.

The small-business owner doesn't have health insurance for himself or his 3 1/2-year-old daughter. 'She had to go to the emergency room the other day and I was stuck with at least a $2,000 bill for it.'

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