One day from progress

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One day after appearing on CBS’ “60 Minutes” with Katie Couric—one of UVA politics professor Larry Sabato’s first students—Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sat before a whole class of Sabato’s, in a nearly full auditorium at Old Cabell Hall. With only a day to go until Virginia’s primary the New York senator was here to rally the college vote.  “Politics is good,” Clinton initially explained from her seat beside the professor. “We have to get back to believing in our mission as Americans.”


Hillary Clinton answered questions from Larry Sabato’s American Politics students in Old Cabell Hall on Monday.

As this was first and foremost a class session, Clinton then submitted to the queries of students, most of which touched on familiar themes, such as universal health care, biofuels, and, of course, bringing the troops home. “I’m thinking of ending the war in Iraq,” she said to applause and laughter. Of hydrocarbons, she endorsed the use of corn ethanol fuel but only for the time being. “We need to move to more efficient biofuels,” she said, citing the use of sugarcane in Brazil. “I’m willing to make a new energy future a centerpiece of my administration.”

As FOX News and CNN cameras whirred from their perch, Clinton revealed that the most influential person in her political career was Nelson Mandela who taught her to “give up whatever hate you have.” As for her faith and religion, she was raised a Methodist, and is still a praying person. Still, “I believe totally in the separation of church and state,” she said to whoops and hollers from the crowd.

How will she fare against Republicans? “I know what it will take for any Democrat to win,” she said, pointing to her support among women and Latino voters. No stranger to war with the other party, Clinton argued that her experience would pay off. “I can withstand that better because I’ve been through it.”        

Of course, her experience in fighting the “Republican machine,” as she calls it, has been her trump card over the younger Obama, but as of this weekend Clinton’s chief rival was 16 points ahead in one state poll and a FEC report showed he has had greater success raising money in the region. “We are the result of all of the changes that have occurred for several generations,” she said, a tight smile at the corner of her lips. “Both of us have made a great contribution in changing [what] people around the world think about the American presidency.”

By the time this is published, Clinton will already be in another state trying to make her case for the Democratic nomination. “Running for president of the United States is the most demanding political undertaking in the world,” she said as she neared the end of her hour with Sabato’s students. If the whirlwind of constant campaigning is getting to her, it did not show except perhaps in a moment of vulnerability when she admitted earlier that she never foresaw herself running for office. Yet, she was always “fascinated by this lumbering American democracy” and wants us to return to our chief objective as a nation. “Our common purpose is progress,” she said.

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