Sen. Clinton Says Bush Ignores the Middle Class

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 11, 2007; 12:54 AM

MANCHESTER, N.H., March 10 -- New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton charged here Saturday that President Bush has ignored the problems of middle class Americans and pledged as president to devote her energies to providing working families with better health care, education and economic security.

In a speech to a Democratic Party fundraising dinner, Clinton echoed economic themes from her husband's first presidential campaign in 1992. Then, Bill Clinton talked about the forgotten middle class. Under Bush, the New York senator said, middle class Americans have been ignored.

"For six long years, they have all been invisible," Clinton said. "Well, they're not invisible to us. And they're certainly not invisible to me. And when we retake the White House, they will no longer be invisible to the president of the United States. And we will being to make progress together again."

At times, Saturday's gathering turned into a celebration of the rising power of women in politics, with Clinton playing what could be a historic role should she win the presidency in 2008.

New Hampshire voters gave Democrats control of the state House and Senate last fall for the first time since the Civil War, and both the House speaker and Senate president are women, as well as one of the newly elected Democratic House members, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and outgoing state party chairman Kathy Sullivan.

"Now there are some who say America isn't ready for a woman to be elected president," Clinton told the sold-out dinner.

Recalling that many said a Roman Catholic could not win the White House when John F. Kennedy was running half a century ago, she added, "So when people tell me, or one of the pundits says I don't think a woman can be elected president, I say we'll never know unless we try."

Clinton's star power produced the most successful "100 Club" dinner in the history of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, with 1,000 tickets sold at $100 each and many other Democrats turned away for lack of capacity.

In terms of energy, Saturday's gathering did not compare with the December visit by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama as he was getting ready to enter the Democratic race. But several Clinton advisers said her appearance had produced a significant increase in the number of people who said they wanted to support her and work for the campaign.

At this point, Clinton and Obama are the leading candidates here, with former North Carolina senator John Edwards running behind them. The state long has been partial to Bill Clinton; how much of his popularity will transfer to Hillary Clinton remains one of the intriguing questions as the campaign gains momentum.

Clinton waited through nearly an hour of warm-up speeches be other elected officials, including Gov. John Lynch, who led the Democratic landslide last fall by winning 74 percent of the vote. When she took the stage, she opened with humor.

In an effusive introduction, Sullivan described Clinton as "divinely attractive." "I hope the press was listening to divinely attractive," Clinton said. "Next time somebody says you know I wasn't crazy about her hair or what on earth did she think when she put that outfit on, I'm just going to say, 'Well in New Hampshire they think I'm divinely attractive."

She fondly recalled the 1992 New Hampshire primary campaign and friends met and made in school, diners, homes, churches and at Dunkin' Donuts outlets across the state. "I think it was only fair that in return for New Hampshire making my husband the comeback kid, that he single-handedly doubled the profits of every Dunkin' Donuts franchise in the states of New Hampshire."

One of the biggest applause lines came when Clinton talked about Iraq and said of U.S. forces, "We finally have to start bringing them home and caring for them and their families."

She said she and other Democrats in Congress are working to stop Bush's troop surge plan and repeated her pledge to bring the war to an end as president if Bush hasn't done so by the time he leaves office. Earlier in the day, Clinton faced questions from reporters about whether her support for a resolution calling for troops to be withdrawn next year constitutes a change from her long-stated opposition to a timetable for withdrawal.

This was Clinton's third trip to New Hampshire since entering the presidential race in January. She and Obama are seen as the two leading candidates in the state and New Hampshire voters are likely to see both of them, and the other candidates, regularly between now and next January.

" We're going to be here week after week after week after week after week, and you're going to take a hard look at us and I think it's great because we have great, great Democratic candidates for you to take a look at.," she said.

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