HARTFORD — Almost 35 years after graduating from Yale Law School, Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 returned to Connecticut on Monday to reminisce about her years in the state, discuss her platform on local issues and attempt to drum up a few last votes before next week’s Super Tuesday primary.
Clinton spoke and answered questions for almost an hour in a packed gymnasium Monday morning at the Learning Corridor Education Complex in Hartford, where a few hundred extra spectators had to be packed into an overflow space in the school’s cafeteria to watch a live video of the event. During the event, Clinton elicited cheers from the crowd as she discussed her stances on major national topics ranging from the economy to the war in Iraq — all while frequently referring back to issues specific to the Nutmeg State.
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Clinton appealed to Connecticut voters on a personal level throughout the talk, referring to her representation of next-door New York in the U.S. Senate.
“I am thrilled to be your neighbor now and work on concerns that affect our two states,” she said.
Clinton mentioned her commitment to creating local jobs in sustainable industries and her opposition to the Broadwater project, which would place a terminal of liquid natural gas on the Long Island Sound, off the coast of the state.
She also repeatedly referenced her experiences at Yale Law School — her original Connecticut connection — throughout her 40-minute speech. But the fond memories she shared with the Hartford crowd often extended beyond New Haven, as she recalled driving through the state with her husband while they were both students.
“I had so many happy hours here traveling across Connecticut,” Clinton said.
Barack Obama’s campaign has also been reaching out to Constitution State voters in the hotly contested Democratic primary. Connecticut legislators backing the Illinois senator held a press conference in Hartford yesterday, only hours after Clinton’s visit, to trumpet Obama’s electability. And late Monday, it was confirmed that Michelle Obama will be visiting Stamford on Wednesday to discuss the plight of working women.
A University of Connecticut poll released Jan. 20 showed Clinton favored by 41 percent of Connecticut Democratic voters, followed by 27 percent for Obama and 9 percent for former Sen. John Edwards. But after finishing 28 points behind Obama in South Carolina and with Super Tuesday looming on Feb. 5, the Clinton campaign announced a stop in Hartford late Saturday.
A News poll conducted in early January before the Iowa caucuses found 12.1 percent of undergraduates support Clinton, compared with 26.4 percent for Obama.
At her event, Clinton refrained from directly addressing Obama, her main primary competitor, and instead trained her fire on the current administration. She referred to both the strain caused by President George Bush’s ’68 inattention to problems at home and what she called his “cowboy diplomacy” abroad.
“The president tonight will say, as he has for the past years, that the state of the union is strong,” she said. “But I say, with all due respect, Mr. President, come out on the road with me.”
Clinton focused on what she deemed the failure of the current administration to serve those not in the top income brackets and promised to continue advocating for those below the poverty line as well as the middle class. Her condemnation of the No Child Left Behind Act and current energy policies received especially enthusiastic responses from the crowd.
“She speaks from the heart. And she speaks with specifics, not generalities,” said Bettina Braisted, a Hartford-area business owner who has volunteered by making phone calls for the Clinton campaign.
Sue Holt, a psychologist who lived in Arkansas in the late 1980s, when Bill Clinton LAW ’73 was governor, cited Hillary Clinton’s experience as first lady, senator and advocate for children and the poor as the principal motivations for her support. Holt said she respects Clinton’s record of continuing to fight for the issues she cares about and producing tangible results. At several points throughout the campaign, Obama has criticized Clinton for inconsistency on issues including the Iraq war and bankruptcy legislation.
Several of those in attendance — about two-thirds of whom were women — cited the possibility of electing the nation’s first female president as a significant reason for attending Monday’s event.
“Mostly I wanted to come with my daughter so that she could see a smart, intelligent woman,” said Kerry Labarge, who was attending with her seven-year-old daughter Avery.
Others identified with Clinton’s signature causes. Obama seemed to vault to the top of the pack after riding a wave of youth support to a first-place finish in this month’s Iowa caucuses, but Trinity College student Kelsey Correi, who was in attendance yesterday, said she is attracted to Clinton because of the work she has done on behalf of women and middle-class families.
“Not all young people want Obama,” she said.
The Connecticut primary will take place Feb. 5.