Chelsea Clinton holds town hall at Kayak’s

Mark Dudley
David Brody

With just one week to go before Super Tuesday and the Missouri primary, presidential campaigns are in a full swing effort to reach voters in critical states before time runs out. This down-to-the-wire operation brought Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Democratic candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, to St. Louis Monday afternoon to campaign for her mother in what was a rare occurrence for the younger Clinton.

Before a packed house at Kayak’s Coffee, across the street from the University, the 27-year-old held a town hall-style question and answer session in which she responded to inquiries and concerns covering a wide variety of topics.

To open the event, Ms. Clinton took a question from a Washington University student concerning the rising costs of higher education.

“My mother wouldn’t be where she is today without the educational she was able to receive,” Ms. Clinton said. “She understands the difficulties and has a plan to change the system.”

Ms. Clinton said that her mother, if elected, would double Pell Grant awards to $10,800 for both undergraduate and graduate students, give each student a $3,500 tax credit, and pledged to end the FAFSA paperwork system, offering an alternative way to apply for federal aid through federal income taxes returns.

The day-to-day battle for the nomination also came through in Ms. Clinton’s language.

“We don’t see past February 5,” Ms. Clinton responded when asked about running mates. “On February 5 we’ll look towards February 12.”

Ms. Clinton’s public appearances are a rather recent addition to her mother’s embattled campaign, which suffered a significant loss to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in the South Carolina Democratic primary on Saturday. Ms. Clinton has typically maintained a silent presence on the campaign trail, but has recently started a tour of universities to try to attract younger voters to Senator Clinton’s cause, who have been a strength of the Obama campaign.

Ms. Clinton appeared at the University of Missouri-St. Louis earlier on Monday and this new direction was evident in her Wash. U. stop.

“So much of this campaign is to get young people to vote-people from our generation,” said Ms. Clinton. “We need to emphasize the values that matter to us.”

Washington University students who made the short trek to Kayak’s Coffee for the session reacted positively to Ms. Clinton’s visit, and some undecided voters, including freshman Ayla Karamustafa, said that Ms. Clinton’s words may have strong influence on young voters in the days before Missouri’s Super Tuesday primary.

“I think she answered questions as best as she could and she seemed pretty knowledgeable about everything. I’m glad that she took her time out to do this because I think it’s going to affect a lot of people,” said Karamustafa. “I was undecided before I came, and it’s between Barack and Hillary for me. I’m still deciding but I would say right now that it’s 51 [percent] for Hillary, 49 for Barack.”

Sophomore Bobby Harvey, who currently favors Obama, said that he would not change his vote, but Chelsea Clinton’s words made him more comfortable with the possibility of Senator Clinton winning the Democratic nomination.

“I was really impressed with her ability to speak about her mom’s issues,” said Harvey. “I also feel really comfortable now that if Hillary wins the candidacy, then I definitely feel strongly that I can support her.”

In general, students felt that Ms. Clinton did a good job of empathizing with young voters.

“She definitely showed that she cared about us, that Hillary cared about us,” said Harvey.

“She did a really good job answering questions,” said sophomore Leah Blake, who is still an undecided voter. “It’s good to see the Clinton campaign reaching out to young voters.”

Some students did not sing similar praise for the question-answer session.

“She didn’t actually address my question,” said junior Ross Zeitlin, who asked about health care system benefits and the effects of Senator Clinton’s health care plan on health care providers. “But I am still leaning toward Clinton.”

In addition to the special focus on the importance of younger voters, Ms. Clinton fielded questions regarding the war in Iraq, environmental issues, the housing crisis, foreign policy, immigration and national security.

To tie into more recent trends, Ms. Clinton also addressed what role her father, former President Bill Clinton, plays in her mother’s campaign.

“I don’t think you should vote for my mom because of my dad,” she said, answering a voter’s question about her father’s role in the election. “And I don’t think you should vote against her because of my dad. I think you should judge her for her own merits.”

Above all else, Ms. Clinton emphasized the importance of voting in the process.

“Part of being a good citizen means voting,” she said. “This is your voice.”

-With additional reporting by Puneet Kollipara and Johann Qua Hiansen

For more coverage about Chelsea Clinton’s visit, check out the Political Unit on

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