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Hillary Fever Skips a Generation

The youth vote? Maybe in 2016 or 2020. (By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

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By Dana Milbank
Thursday, June 7, 2007

It is not every day that the words "moon bounce" and "Madeleine Albright" appear in the same press release, but Hillary Clinton achieved just such a feat in her promotion of last night's "block party" in a parking lot in downtown Washington.

The event, with the hip name "Club 44," was meant to inspire women in the 18-to-24-year-old set to support Clinton's presidential campaign. "Wear your jeans!" said the invitation. Comedian Caroline Rhea was brought in to be the emcee. Katharine McPhee from "American Idol" was recruited to sing. A "carnival theme" was promised.

It was, in other words, an attempt by middle-aged Washington to be young and hip. Predictably, it did not turn out quite as planned.

McPhee tried to get the crowd going with her song "Love Story." The Clinton partisans declined her invitation to clap and wave. "Let's hear it!" she said when she finished, to lackluster result. "In the back? I know you're out there!" she pressed, earning the sort of applause that follows a weak lounge act.

McPhee gave an awkward chuckle. "That was kind of lame, I have to say," she told the middle-aged hipsters.

The crowd much preferred the act preceding McPhee: Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who drew a huge ovation for lifting from FDR: "We have today a rendezvous with destiny!"

Only in Washington would a 4-foot-11-inch senator be treated as more of a rock star than an actual rock star.

Alas, Mikulski ignored the instructions to wear jeans, opting for a red business suit. And Albright eschewed the moon bounce in favor of a backstage holding room. She emerged in a brown "Hillary" T-shirt and informed the crowd: "This is America!"

The elements for a youthful event were all there: a juggler, face-painting (a custom Hillary heart design was available), blow-up Uncle Sam dolls, the vendor selling Red Bull and, of course, the "United We Stand" moon bounce. The campaign even handed out a Hillary crossword puzzle and word-search game (quick, kids: Find "Strategic Energy Fund," "Modern Progressive" and "Universal Pre-K").

But where were all the young women?

When Ellen Malcolm, the 60-year-old head of Emily's List, solicited cheers from the "30 or under" crowd, she got a smattering of applause. When she tested for the "over 30," she got far better results.

Even Rhea, relatively youthful at 43, sounded decidedly uncool when she tried to give instructions for mobilizing supporters by cellphone. "Does anybody know how to do a text message?" she asked. "Can you teach me?"


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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