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Published: Saturday, 2/23/2008

Clinton rallies late night Toledo crowd

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Hillary Clinton blasted the Bush Administration in a blistering speech last night that was targeted directly at the heart of a labor town.

About an hour and a half late to a packed rally at Whitmer High School, she served up red meat to the crowd, suggesting the Democratic presidential candidate plans to step up the attack to hold on to her lead in Ohio and continue to fight for her party s nomination.

Acknowledging the hour, she said, I don t know how many of you ever thought that you d be at a rally at 11 o clock. I thank you for staying up so late because we ve got to work around the clock to take our country back.

I need you to be with me to make it very clear that Americans have never lost hope. What Americans need is help, Mrs. Clinton said. The reference to hope was an apparent dig at her Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama.

We re going to end each and every tax break to any company that ships a single job out of Ohio, Mrs. Clinton said to loud cheers. And we are going to change the tax code away from George Bush s emphasis on helping the wealthy and well-connected. They ve had their president. Their time is ending.

The senator from New York touched on declining wages, health care, the war in Iraq, neglect of veterans, the price of college, green technology, and the loss of manufacturing in Midwestern cities such as Toledo.

More than 3,000 people packed the gym, and several hundred more were in overflow space.

Mr. Obama is scheduled to speak tomorrow at the University of Toledo, which holds nearly 9,000 people.

Mrs. Clinton mentioned her opponent only once by name, but repeatedly emphasized her record as one of action. She claimed authorship of bills that doubled the rate of child adoption and that provided health care to military reservists and National Guard members.

Other people can talk about these issues. I am tired of people running for office, coming to talk to you, giving you pretty promises and nothing ever changes, a revved-up Mrs. Clinton said.

I figure that George Bush has doled out about $55 billion in tax breaks and giveaways and one of my highest priorities upon becoming president is to take that money back and give it to you so you ve got more cash in your pockets, Mrs. Clinton said.

There was no hint of a campaign that was losing steam or faltering, which is the perception of Mrs. Clinton s campaign nationwide.

Mrs. Clinton, who started her day in Texas and spoke at a rally in Columbus, was delayed more than an hour.

Faces in the crowd slumped when, just before 10 p.m. Whitmer Principal Brad Faust announced that her plane was still being de-iced in Columbus. The comment triggered a flood of people out of the stands, but many were going either to rest rooms or to make phone calls.

Mrs. Clinton expressed grief at the death of a Dallas motorcycle policeman who died in an accident involving her motorcade in the morning.

Recent polls show she leads Mr. Obama in Ohio by as much as 7 points, but that the gap has narrowed in the past two weeks.

Joining her on stage was Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, who is considered a serious contender as her running mate, should she get the nomination. Mrs. Clinton expressed thanks to Democratic state lawmakers Rep. Peter Ujvagi, Sen. Teresa Fedor, Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, and Rep. Matt Szollosi of Oregon, as well as Francine Lawrence, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers union.

Victory in the Ohio and Texas contests, both set for March 4, are considered crucial for Mrs. Clinton, who trails Mr. Obama approximately 1,319 delegates to 1,250.

The nominee will need 2,025 to cinch the nomination at the convention in August.

Staff Writer Joe Vardon contributed to this report.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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