By Michael Kranish
ATLANTA _ Hillary Clinton, seeking to take advantage of John Edwards' withdrawal from the Democratic presidential contest, campaigned yesterday in two of the four Southern states that will hold primaries on Super Tuesday. Clinton's first stop was in Arkansas, where she served as first lady when her husband was governor _ and where her campaign hopes to win next week.
Clinton then traveled to Georgia, where Barack Obama has a strong campaign in a state that is demographically similar to South Carolina, where Obama beat Clinton handily last week. Clinton has previously traveled to the two other Southern states holding primaries on Super Tuesday, Alabama and Tennessee.
Speaking to successive audiences in Atlanta _ first to Baptists from across the country, and then to Georgia Democrats _ Clinton urged voters to help her end what she called "an epidemic of indifference" in Washington during the last seven years. During a somewhat subdued appearance before the Baptists, she noted that she and her husband have not always been in agreement. She made the comment amid reports that there is disagreement within the campaign about whether former President Clinton's outspoken criticism of Obama has hurt Hillary Clinton's candidacy.
"Bill and I have been talking and debating since we first met 35 years ago," Senator Clinton told the Baptists. "Sometimes the decibel level can rise. That is how we learn to explore our differences."
Later, in an ebullient appearance before several thousand Democrats, Clinton heaped praise on Edwards, hoping to attract his former supporters by promising to continue his fight against of poverty. While she never mentioned Obama in her speech, she called herself best-qualified to serve from the start.
"The decision facing Georgia on Tuesday and all of the Super Tuesday states is who will be the best president on Day One to meet those challenges and seize the opportunities." The crowd, with many waving "Hillary" signs, applauded enthusiastically. Obama's failure to make an appearance at the dinner disappointed some Democrats, who spent part of the evening discussing whether his absence was a sign that he is confident of a victory here.