Rejuvenated Hillary Clinton wows crowd on home turf

  • Anirudh Bhattacharyya, Hindustan Times, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
  • Updated: Feb 29, 2016 15:43 IST
Hillary Clinton speaking at a rally in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, on Sunday. (Anirudh Bhattacharyya/HT Photo)

Less than 24 hours after a resounding victory in the South Carolina primary, Hillary Clinton was back on familiar ground.

She was again the undisputed frontrunner for the Democratic party’s nomination to contest the presidential elections, and back in Arkansas, a state where she spent 18 years, and where her daughter Chelsea was born.

Clearly rejuvenated, Clinton was confident, if hoarse, as she spoke at a packed arena atrium at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, about 70 km from Little Rock, the state capital where her husband Bill had occupied the Governor’s mansion prior to becoming the 42nd President of the US.

Watch | Hillary Clinton’s supporters join her for Arkansas rally

She referred to her overwhelming primary win as she said, “We had a great victory in South Carolina.” And if African-American primary voters had been a major reason for her thumping margin of nearly 50 points over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the venue in Arkansas – a historically black university – appealed to a similar constituency.

Clinton’s theme for the evening was to “break down the barriers”, of race, gender, inequality. She appeared to be already looking beyond the primary season as the bulk of her attacks focused on the Republican field.

That Clinton was reinvigorated was also evident from the fair amount of time she spent in the selfie scrum after her speech.

Read: Clinton sails towards Super Tuesday after emphatic win in South Carolina

She never mentioned any opponents by name except in one instance, when she indirectly criticised Bernie Sanders’ plan for free college education for all, which she said would be too expensive and on the taxpayers’ tab. She quipped, “I do not want you to pay for Donald Trump’s youngest child to go to college.”

But Trump was definitely her principal target, even as he appears to be emerging the most likely Republican candidate for President. Taking a swipe at the New York real estate mogul, Clinton said insulting Islam and Muslim-Americans was “not only offensive, it’s dangerous”.

But she also attempted to woo young voters who have overwhelmingly sided with Sanders, particularly on the issue of college debt, as she promised to make “college affordable again”.

After close contests in Iowa and Nevada, and a huge defeat to Sanders in New Hampshire, the relief among Clinton’s supporters after South Carolina was palpable. Classie Green, an African-American community worker, said, “South Carolina was a boost.” That, she said, added to the excitement of the evening.

Hillary Clinton supporter Classie Green at a rally in Pine Bluff on Sunday. (Anirudh Bhattacharyya/HT Photo)

Randall Allen, a gay activist who travelled to Pine Bluff from Russellville for the rally, echoed that: “Honestly, it put a smile on my face and extra pep in my step.”

He felt the win in South Carolina put Clinton on “cruise control” heading into Super Tuesday on March 1, when several states, including Arkansas, hold their primaries.

Read: No barrier too big: Clinton takes South Carolina primary by a storm

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