Clinton Focuses on Matchup vs. McCain

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) spoke to a crowd in Arlington, Va. Thursday with just five days to campaign before the state's primary elections.Video: Nancy Donaldson/washingtonpost.comEditor: Jacqueline Refo/
By Bill Turque and Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 8, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, making her first appearance in Virginia yesterday before Tuesday's regional primary, matched herself up not with opponent Sen. Barack Obama, but Sen. John McCain, who is on the verge of the Republican presidential nomination.

Speaking to about 2,000 students and supporters in the gym at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington County, Clinton mentioned her Democratic opponent from Illinois only once. She said that it appeared McCain, who benefited from the withdrawal yesterday of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, had sewn up the race.

As Virginia Democrats choose between Clinton and Obama on Tuesday, their decision could hinge in part on whom they see as the candidate most able to beat front-runner McCain in November. Clinton appeared to have this in mind yesterday as she took on McCain.

Although Clinton called her Senate colleague from Arizona "a friend of mine," she said McCain offered little in the way of change.

"I believe he offers more of the same," Clinton said.

She cited McCain's prediction that U.S. troops could be in Iraq for as long as 100 years and said that if elected, she would commission a plan for withdrawing U.S. forces within 60 days.

"Senator McCain has said, well, he doesn't know much about the economy and has the same policies that haven't worked for the last 10 years," Clinton said.

Her sole mention of Obama came regarding health care, renewing her contention that unlike his blueprint, her plan would guarantee health coverage for all Americans.

She was greeted warmly by the crowd. Many people had waited as long as three hours in the bleachers for the New York Democrat, who was running behind schedule. Her national campaign headquarters are in Arlington.

Washington-Lee students got no time off from class for Clinton's visit -- it was only a half-day because of teacher training -- but they were still enthusiastic.

"I like her health-care plan the best," said Phillip North, 16, a sophomore. "My mom likes Obama. She thinks he's intelligent."

The former first lady also drew a heavy contingent of women 45 and older, a segment of voters that has helped buoy her bid for her party's nomination.

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