boston.com your connection to The Boston Globe

Clinton: America's middle class has become invisible

NASHUA, N.H. --Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday promised to bring America's "invisible" middle class out of the shadows, saying the Bush administration has for too long ignored working families.

Four years after John Edwards built his campaign around the theme of "two Americas" -- one for the wealthy and one for the poor -- Clinton sought to draw a line between two kinds of Americans -- the visible and invisible.

The latter group includes single-parents who can't afford health insurance, small business owners worried about energy costs, and college students struggling to pay their tuition, she said at a New Hampshire Democratic Party fundraiser.

"You are invisible to the oil companies earning record profits while you pay more at the gas pump. You are invisible to the companies who outsource your job, or lay you off or end the promise of your pension," she said. "For six long years, President Bush and the Washington Republicans have looked right through you."

Clinton also accused the Bush administration of turning a blind eye to emergency workers whose health was harmed while responding to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, soldiers returning from combat and children in failing schools waiting for more federal money.

"And if you're a career government scientist raising the global warming alarm; a conservationist trying to protect the environment; a government accountant looking into no bid contracts that have cost the tax payers billions of dollars; even if you're a Republican U.S. Attorney trying to enforce the law impartially -- they've tried to make you invisible to the rest of us," she said.

"Well, they're not invisible to us. They're certainly not invisible to me. And when we retake the White House, they will no longer be invisible to the president of the United States," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee responded that the middle class and the economy would be hurt by Clinton's "agenda to raise taxes and have government run our health care system."

"Sen. Clinton's liberal politics are out of touch with the mainstream values of New Hampshire voters," said Summer Johnson.

Clinton was speaking at the party's annual 100 Club Dinner, where 1,000 tickets were sold, most in the event's 47-year history. Typically, 500-800 tickets are sold.

Outgoing party chairwoman Kathy Sullivan gave Clinton a gushing introduction, describing the New York senator as "divinely attractive."

"Next time somebody says 'You know, I wasn't crazy about her hair' or 'What in the world was she thinking when she put that on?' I'm going to say, all I know is in New Hampshire, they think I'm divinely attractive," Clinton said.

Earlier, she paid a lengthy private visit to the matriarch of New Hampshire Democratic politics and squeezed through a crowded candy shop.

In Concord, she joined Gov. John Lynch at the home of Mary Louise Hancock, an 86-year-old former state senator whose living room is filled with framed pictures of the politicians who have courted her over the decades. The three spoke privately for 45 minutes before a reporter was allowed in for five minutes.

"Mary Louise knows more about what's going on in Washington than 95 percent of the people who are down there," said Clinton, who told Hancock that "it means the world to me to have your support."

"We're going to win, that's what we're going to do," Hancock said.

The scene was decidedly less intimate later in downtown Nashua, where a mob of fans waited for Clinton at Swan Chocolates and members of her campaign staff used a length of rope to corral reporters on the sidewalk.

Clinton laughed when she spotted a button worn by Sharon Snider-Muller that read "I'm not anti-Bush. I'm pro-intelligence." The Nashua woman said later she is impressed by Clinton but hasn't yet decided whether she will vote for her.

"She's a strong contender," she said. "I'm looking for someone who not just looking at short term goals but at the long term," she said, particularly on the issue of early childhood education.

Before entering the store, Clinton stopped to hug Anne Kaplan, 92, and grasp Kaplan's black furry hat. Kaplan said earlier she has met many candidates over the years and is a big fan of both Sen. Clinton and former President Clinton.

"If you had a good meal someplace, you'd want to go back again, right?" she said. "That's what I'm saying."

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES