Clinton Taps Unexpected Weapon: Chelsea
By: Wall Street Journal
By AMY CHOZICK
ST. LOUIS — In the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination, young voters have rallied behind Barack Obama. Now, as he also makes incursions into Hillary Clinton’s core constituency — women — with support from Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy and others, Mrs. Clinton has pulled a seldom-used weapon.
Less than a year ago, campaign officials said that if there was one certainty in this race it was that Chelsea Clinton wouldn’t be coming to the microphone.
But the campaign has seen Mrs. Clinton’s lead in national polls erode and Mr. Obama score decisive victories in Iowa and South Carolina. Campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle and other top campaign officials have called on Ms. Clinton, 27 years old, to relinquish some of her privacy to help her mother soften her image and reach out to younger voters, who favor Mr. Obama by as much as three to one, according to exit polls.
Campaign aides also hope Ms. Clinton can help undo some of the damage to her mother’s campaign done by remarks from former President Clinton that helped drive African-American voters to Mr. Obama in South Carolina.
Over the past few weeks, the once and possibly future first daughter has gone from a silent presence waving and grinning behind her mother to an active campaigner. She delivers speeches, holds lengthy question-and-answer sessions and hosts her own events on college campuses throughout the country.
She speaks knowledgeably about her mother’s policies, particularly those relating to younger voters such as financial assistance for college and doing away with predatory credit-card practices. Like her senator mother, Ms. Clinton leans heavily on statistics, reciting the number of uninsured Americans and the rising unemployment rate to make her points.
During Ms. Clinton’s swing last week to several colleges in Missouri, students packed into Kayak’s Coffee near Washington University in St. Louis and other campus venues to hear her lay out her mother’s position on everything from preserving Social Security to the refugee crisis in Darfur, Sudan.
Ms. Clinton said that, as president, her mother will “get the government back into the student-loan business” and do away with the federal financial-aid forms that families must fill out, drawing nods of approval from the audience.
Without a 2% government loan to go to Yale Law School, Hillary Clinton may have had to take a job at a high-paying law firm to pay back her debt rather than going into public service, Ms. Clinton said. “I might not be here today,” she said.
Despite her more-public face, Ms. Clinton is still deeply wary of the media. She is noticeably uncomfortable in crowds in which reporters may overhear her and shuns most questions. She declined several requests for an interview for this article.
On a campaign stop in Iowa in December, a 9-year-old student reporter for Scholastic News asked Ms. Clinton if she thought her father would make a good “first man.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t talk to the press, and that applies to you, unfortunately. Even though I think you’re cute,” she told the little girl.
The decision to thrust Ms. Clinton into the spotlight now says as much about a daughter’s devotion to her mother as it does about Mrs. Clinton’s determination to become the first female president.
Mrs. Clinton has spent decades shielding her only child from the public eye.
During Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential run, the 12-year-old was so invisible from the requisite campaign stops and photo-ops that polls showed that many voters didn’t know the Clintons had a daughter, leading to a cover story about the three in People magazine.
Shortly after, when Mrs. Clinton moved into the White House as first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis gave her some advice: Protect Chelsea at all costs. Over the next eight years, Mrs. Clinton fought to keep her daughter away from the scandals and ensuing media circus that descended on the Clinton administration.
After graduating from Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., Ms. Clinton went on to lead a private life in Manhattan with a tight-knit group of friends, a position on the board of the School of American Ballet and a job as an investment analyst at Avenue Capital Group, a hedge fund run by Marc Lasry, a big Democratic donor.
She didn’t return to the limelight when her mother, now a senator representing New York, initially decided to run for president.
By contrast, Republican Mitt Romney’s sons have appeared in ads and have been campaigning for nearly a year on their father’s behalf. Arizona Sen. John McCain’s daughter, Meghan, has been a high-profile presence, traveling with her father and blogging about his events on her Web site.
It is unclear whether the recent injection of Ms. Clinton into the campaign fray translated into more young voters turning out for her mother in the 22 states that went to the polls yesterday.
But for now, her presence may have helped counter some of the attention that Mr. Obama has received from his appearances with talk-show maven Ms. Winfrey.
At a rally Mrs. Clinton held in Albuquerque, N.M., on Saturday night, Chelsea received a bigger roar of applause than her mother. Supporters lined up for Ms. Clinton’s autograph and waved signs that read “Chelsea’s mom has got it going on.”
“She’s gorgeous!” shouted Robin Sandberg when she saw Ms. Clinton on a campaign stop at the Planet Hollywood casino in Las Vegas. “I feel like she’s part of our family. We watched her grow up,” said Ms. Sandberg, 45 years old.
Write to Amy Chozick at firstname.lastname@example.org
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