HANGING ROCK, Ohio - Sen. Hillary Clinton ended her presidential campaign sweep through rural southern Ohio with a vow to concentrate on families and children - chiefly through her plan to insure all of the nation's uninsured.
"I have spent a lifetime working to help children, which is my first passion," Mrs. Clinton said to a small group on the southern campus of Ohio University. "I would like to end child hunger by 2012 and I would like to cut in half child poverty by 2020."
Mrs. Clinton reiterated her dedication to help regular, "salt of the earth" people, like those struggling to make ends meet in Ohio. She spent much of her time talking about health care and noted: "My opponent only wants your children to have health insurance. I don't think that's smart."
After the event, Mrs. Clinton responded to President Bush's criticism of plans by her and Barack Obama to alter NAFTA.
During a White House press conference, the President said: "unilaterally withdrawing from a trade treaty because of, you know, trying to score political points, is not good policy."
Mrs. Clinton fired back at Mr. Bush and also criticized her Democratic opponent.
"I find that highly ironic since President Bush has turned a blind eye toward all of the actions by China and others to dump steel into Ohio, hurting Ohio workers and the Ohio economy, and has also failed to act in the face of other imports like lead-based toys and contaminated pet food," she said.
Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Obama did not vote for a measure in the Senate that would have taken a stance against trade deficits.
The former first lady spent more than two hours in front of not more than 250 southern Ohioans packed, seated shoulder-to-shoulder, in a small gymnasium on the campus near the Kentucky border. Another 40 members of the media, some of whom have been traveling with Mrs. Clinton, lined the room.
The senator appeared at the town hall-type meeting with Gov. Ted Strickland, who has been at her side for much of her trip to the area. The two were greeted by a standing ovation and cheers.
Mrs. Clinton said she chose to spend time in rural areas to hear some of the "kitchen table issues that everyone of us has to worry about," including the cost of gasoline and loss of jobs. She pledged to address the hold oil companies and oil-producing countries have on the nation.
"I really did want to come to southern and southeast Ohio and have a chance to visit with people," she said. "Yes, we worry about the big headlines that's critically important with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan but there's also the issues that get you up in the morning and keep you up late at night."
The senator has, over the last few days, focused her speeches on the economy, her plan for universal health care, and education.
Mrs. Clinton shared with the group a story she had heard earlier in the day of a pregnant Ohio woman who was denied medical care at a hospital because she did not have a $100 fee to be seen. The baby and the woman later died, Mrs. Clinton said.
"Something went wrong with the pregnancy so she got rushed to the hospital and the baby died," Mrs. Clinton said. "She got airlifted to Columbus and, 15 days later, she died."
Mrs. Clinton called such stories an indictment of the country's health-care system.
"That shouldn't happen in America," she said. "By the time they airlifted her to Columbus hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent, for the lack of $100," which could have been used to diagnose what was wrong.
She also invited two mothers to share personal struggles with insurance and child-care issues. The senator promised to increase opportunities for early childhood education and increase the number of children eligible for Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
Mrs. Clinton fielded several questions from people attending the event, listened to personal stories, and reiterated claims that she is the best candidate for families dealing with loss of work or sick children.
Mr. Strickland said he was pleased the senator took time to visit communities in the Appalachian area of the state.
"She recognizes that life is tough, that people struggle," Mr. Strickland said. "I know that this good senator, when she becomes president, won't forget people in Lawrence County and elsewhere who need an advocate for them in Washington, D.C."
Earlier in the day, Mr. Strickland, Mrs. Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton visited a family living in a mobile home in Pomeroy, Ohio, in southern Ohio. The senator planned to be in Houston last night to stump for votes before Tuesday's primary election in Ohio and Texas.
Contact Ignazio Messina at:
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