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Clinton Puts Up A New Fight

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Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) speaks with The Post's Lois Romano following church services in Bowling Green on Sunday. Clinton addresses what she refers to as the "sexist" treatment she has endured at the hands of the pundits, media and others. Video by Lois Romano/Post; Edited by Ed O'Keefe/washingtonpost.com

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By Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

MAYSVILLE, Ky., May 19

Women of all ages and nationalities push against the rope line carrying books and T-shirts, posters and stuffed animals -- anything for her to autograph. They tote huge signs that shout "Hillary Cares About Me"-- and they tearfully grab her hand to implore her to stick it out, to take her trailing campaign all the way to the Democratic convention in Denver.

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They say they have come to show support for Hillary Clinton not merely because she is a woman or because her campaign is breaking historic ground, but because she speaks to them about their real problems and they are furious at the way she has been treated.

In an interview after church services in Bowling Green on Sunday, Clinton for the first time addressed what women have been talking about for months, what she refers to as the "sexist" treatment she has endured at the hands of the pundits, media and others. The lewd T-shirts. The man who shouted "Iron my shirt" at a campaign event. The references to her cleavage and her cackle.

"It's been deeply offensive to millions of women," Clinton said. "I believe this campaign has been a groundbreaker in a lot of ways. But it certainly has been challenging given some of the attitudes in the press, and I regret that, because I think it's been really not worthy of the seriousness of the campaign and the historical nature of the two candidacies we have here."

Later, when asked if she thinks this campaign has been racist, she says she does not. And she circles back to the sexism. "The manifestation of some of the sexism that has gone on in this campaign is somehow more respectable, or at least more accepted, and . . . there should be equal rejection of the sexism and the racism when it raises its ugly head," she said. "It does seem as though the press at least is not as bothered by the incredible vitriol that has been engendered by the comments by people who are nothing but misogynists."

An energetic Clinton has stormed Kentucky's middle-class communities for the past four days, shoring up her support before Tuesday's primary, which she is expected to win overwhelmingly. She's attracting some of the biggest and most intense crowds she's seen in weeks, such as the 2,000 who attended her rally in Lexington on Monday night, where she was joined by her husband. And while there are plenty of men in the stands, it's the women who are most passionate.

And so as her Democratic opponent refers to her politely in the past tense, and the likely Republican presidential nominee simply ignores her, and the pundits snicker that she's delusional and should just step aside already, she is a woman definitely not preparing her remarks for a graceful exit anytime soon. And that's what her supporters want to hear.

"I'm real tired of the pundits telling me the race is over -- telling America what it should think," said Dorinda Perkins, 63, a lab technician. "I do not want her to quit."

"I love her because she's a helluva fighter. She's tenacious and I like that," said Pat Parker, a night-shift worker at Hardee's in Bowling Green. "She cares for everybody, for people like me. . . . I'll tell you, she's been treated pretty shabby."

Naila Alam and four of her Pakistani relatives -- all women and all voters -- drove from Virginia to Kentucky over the weekend to see if they could help the campaign. "Hillary: She is going to take care of women all over the world," Alam declared. "She is our best hope. She cares about protecting the family with good health care and lower gas prices."

Andrea Steagall, 20, also made a long trek, rising at 3:30 a.m. Monday to drive across the state to Maysville to catch Clinton's remarks. "My husband was deployed to Afghanistan, and I know she's all for making sure our veterans are taken care of," said the young woman, a cashier at a convenience store.


CONTINUED     1        >

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