By KELLY WILSON, Capital News Service
COLLEGE PARK (Feb. 10, 2008) - Chelsea Clinton avoided mentioning her mother's rival in a subdued and poorly-attended question-and-answer session promoting Sen. Hillary Clinton's Democratic primary campaign at the University of Maryland's campus Sunday.
Before an audience of about 200 in the food court of the Adele H. Stamp Student Union, the former first daughter said her mother's past success with Republican voters in her New York campaigns is an indicator of her viability in the general election, a key concern among Democratic voters. She avoided any real comparisons with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, her mother's opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Part of the day's tame atmosphere was due to poor promotion of the event, with e-mails to the University of Maryland campus coming in the late afternoon Saturday. Many in the audience were displeased with the last-second notice.
By 11:15 a.m., when Chelsea Clinton was scheduled to appear, the seats in the food court were barely filled.
A few more observers filtered in as a band played covers of "All Along the Watchtower" by Bob Dylan and "Moondance" by Van Morrison.
Some of those present were working in the building and stopped for a break.
The timing just worked out well, said Jerry Johnson, a maintenance worker in the building.
Felisha Tankard, a freshman biology major employed at the information desk of the student union, was also working at the time of the event. Like Johnson, she was glad to get a better idea of Sen. Clinton's platform from hearing Chelsea Clinton.
Both Johnson and Tankard said they would support whichever candidate is the Democratic nominee in November. Johnson would not say which Democrat he is planning to vote for. Tankard was undecided.
Some of those in the audience just happened to be there for other reasons.
"We were here to see the Kermit [the Frog] statue," said Jim Stover, a criminal justice graduate student.
He and his friend decided to stay because they like hearing candidates speak regardless of their party. The availability of lunch from Panda Express made for an added bonus.
Chelsea Clinton used the 50-minute appearance to argue that Sen. Clinton is the only candidate with clear ideas about financing her proposals, which she said makes her mother the most fiscally conservative candidate from either party.
She also spoke about her mother's experience working for gender equality, health care expansion, as well as her position on issues such as the environment, education and the war in Iraq.
She contrasted her mother's policies with those of the Bush administration, which she said have shut out other countries while simultaneously making the United States cripplingly dependent on foreign oil and money from China.
"It's hard to stand up to your banker," Clinton said, and that has cost the country its ability to pressure China for help with situations like the violence in Darfur.
Sen. Clinton lost all of Saturday's Democratic contests to Obama. According to Associated Press estimates late Sunday morning, she had 1,095 delegates to his 1,070.
The next round of contests will come Tuesday when Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia are scheduled to vote.