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Now the Clintons Have a Local Campaign Headquarters

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The Barack Obama campaign may have been first with its establishment of a local headquarters last week, but the Hillary Clinton campaign has now caught up, and a goodly crowd of Clinton supporters turned up on Wednesday night for the opening of a temporary campaign HQ at 5100 Wheelis.

That property belongs to businessman/investor Rudy Scheidt, who said it was on loan through February 5th, the date of the Super Tuesday primary elections in several states, including Tennessee. Two young organizers, fresh from recent service in New Hampshire, were on hand for the event, as were numerous local Democrats, both newcomers and veterans like Rep. John DeBerry, who delivered a stemwinding speech on candidate Clinton's behalf.

Conversations with Memphis college students at the event suggested that Senator Hillary Clinton could be the beneficiary of growing doubts concerning the viability of former Senator John Edwards' campaign.

Said 23-year-old Kate Mauldin, a history major with a double minor in political science and communications, "I came out of the gate a major John Edwards supporters, and I feel, frankly, it was just be throwing my vote away to go that way."

Her choices came down to Clinton and Obama, though she specifies, "The more research I've done, the more undecided I've become." She leans to Clinton, however, because she became disillusioned with Barack Obama, whom she found "impressive" but whose campaign for the presidency she regards as "presumptuous" and somewhat skimpy on concrete plans.

A reading of Senator Obama's book, Dreams from My Father, convinced her that Obama was a self-absorbed type who would become "another president who would have trouble admitting mistakes," and "that's the last thing we need after George W. Bush."

Another Edwards apostate is Charlie Laster, a 20-year-old UM junior and political science major and a veteran of numerous local campaign efforts, including that for Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. in 2006. He had supported the North Carolinian in 2004 but found Edwards' populist approach this year to be "a little too rough and angry. He, too, was impressed by Clinton's hands-on experience and added,"It's great to finally have a chance to have a woman who can win. Equality is important to me, giving everybody a fair shot."

Yet another Clinton supporter, Christina Swatzell, 30-year-old and also a UM senior, majoring in political science, was frank about acknowledging the gender element. I think Hillary's made a lifelong commitment to women's and minority rights. She's a champion of women's rights, and, obviously, I'm a woman. And I just think she's the experienced candidate in the race."

As for Obama, Swatzell said, "I don't think he's genuine, maybe even a bit sophomoric."

Obama, of course, has his own local supporters, who see things differently. One such is Butch Breckenridge, a 21-year-old-sophomore and marketing major at UM. Though an African American, Breckenridge, who was contacted by telephone, said that race factors had been "incidental" in his choice of a candidate. "He's really fighting for a change in D.C. I just don't like the way things are run right now."

Breckenridge has been involved since the beginning of the year as an intern, and, while, he, like the young Clinton adepts, will be focusing on canvassing, phone banking, and other Get-Out-the Vote efforts (like some which the Clinton campaign calls "visibilities"), Breckenridge has organized an innovation of sorts. On February 1st, several local musicians, playing styles ranging from hip-hop to blues to rock, will appear in a "Barack-the-Vote" concert at the Hi-Tone, a popular local club.

--Jackson Baker

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