Iron Range gives Clinton warm welcome

Hillary Clinton, at a rally on behalf of the Obama/Biden ticket Tuesday in Hibbing.
MPR Photo/Bob Kelleher

The traditionally DFL Iron Range welcomed Hillary Clinton last night, in a campaign rally for Democrat Presidential candidate Barack Obama.

The former first lady campaigned for Obama a few days after an event near Duluth featuring Todd Palin, the spouse of GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Clinton's appearance drew thousands of people to a Hibbing auditorium for a spirited rally with Obama's former rival for the nomination

Last summer, Rep. Jim Oberstar told the crowd at a North Shore boat launch that Barack Obama would be campaigning on the Iron Range.

Hibbing crowd
A crowd estimated at 4,600 packed the Hibbing Memorial Arena Tuesday night for a Democratic rally featuring U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton.
MPR Photo/Bob Kelleher

With just two weeks to go in the campaign, it's clear now that's not going to happen.

But tuesday night Oberstar and a cast of the region's DFL party leaders welcomed one of the parties top stars, Democratic Presidential runner-up Sen. Hillary Clinton.

And, while the event had many themes, everyone's remarks eventually hit the faltering economy, including the opening speaker, State Rep. Tom Rukavina, D-Virginia.

"Greed has taken over this country, and if they can bail out those greedy pigs at the trough on Wall Street -- right Joe Begitch -- they can help working people all across the United States of America," Rukavina said.

There has been speculation that the Range may not be as solidly behind the Democrat's African American nominee as it might have been for the party's previous candidates.

Christen Sinnott of Hibbing protests the Tuesday night Democratic party rally with Hillary Clinton. Sinnott support John McCain for his pro-life views.
MPR Photo/Bob Kelleher

But, according to State Rep. Tony Sertich, D-Chisholm, the thousands packed into the Hibbing Memorial Arena told another story.

"Ladies and gentlemen, there's been some questions in the media how northern Minnesota is going to vote. Look around this room. I think I see the answer of how we're voting this November," Sertich said.

The warm up included 8th District Rep. Jim Oberstar and Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Senate Candidate Al Franken was there but didn't speak.

Finally, Hillary Clinton stepped from behind the back stage curtain and to the front with a welcoming roar from the crowd.

"Hello. I can't imagine any place I'd rather be than right here on the range will all of you."

Clinton's voice was a little raw; her microphone was troublesome; and much of her speech sounded well worked over after a slew of public appearances.

Just hours earlier, Clinton was rallying in the Twin Cities. The day before she was in Florida with Obama. The strain was showing a bit.

"I love coming from Orlando to Hibbing. That's what I love about America. I love you all."

And, while Clinton touched on a range of issues from infrastructure to health care, her comments also came back to the economy.

"Jobs, baby jobs. That's what it's all about, and that's why we need Barack Obama and Joe Biden," Clinton said.

Within the auditorium, Clinton was clearly in friendly company.

Former U.S. Marine Breanna Osterhoudt was there, supporting the democratic ticket.

"We'll, I'm here because I'm a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton and Obama. I served four years in the United States Marine Corps, and I think we need a change," Osterhoudt said.

She's hoping in particular for better veterans benefits.

In response to the Clinton visit, the McCain campaign blasted Obama as out of step with northeast Minnesotans. The campaign said Hillary Clinton's trip highlights the problems Barack Obama is having in convincing Minnesotans he has what it takes to lead in these challenging times.

Clinton's visit prompted a small protest near the arena.

Christen Sinnott of Hibbing was one of half a dozen anti-abortion picketers visibly posted across the street, showing support for McCain.

"Because Obama is very pro-abortion, pro-death, and we are for McCain, who's pro-life," Sinnot said.

If the rally is any indication, the Iron Range is likely to vote overwhelmingly once again for the Democratic ticket in two weeks.