Hillary Clinton fires up crowd at Pittsburgh rally
April 7, 2016 12:21 AM
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton holds a rally at Skibo Gymnasium at Carnegie Mellon University on Wednesday.
The crowd cheers as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton calls for equal pay for equal work during a rally at Skibo Gymnasium at Carnegie Mellon University on Wednesday.
Mayor Bill Peduto, left, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald introduce Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Wednesday at a rally in Skibo Gymnasium at Carnegie Mellon University.
The crowd cheers as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton calls for equal pay for equal work Wednesday at a rally in Skibo Gymnasium at Carnegie Mellon University.
From left, Joan Martell of Wilkinsburg, Rochelle Williams of the Hill District, Sylvia Buffington of Ford City, Holly Armstrong and Elizabeth Hoover, both of Sugar Creek Township, wait outside the Skibo Gym on the Carnegie Mellon University campus for a Hillary Clinton rally Wednesday.
Supporters watch as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton holds a rally at Skibo Gymnasium at Carnegie Mellon University on Wednesday.
By Chris Potter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Judging from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s appearance Wednesday evening at Carnegie Mellon University, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders doesn’t have a monopoly on enthusiasm — or the student vote — in Pennsylvania’s April 26 primary.
Ms. Clinton spoke to an estimated 2,000 people in CMU’s Skibo Gymnasium. Hundreds more — her campaign put the number at 1,400 — remained on the lawn outside, where they got a brief address from the candidate before she moved inside.
“Pittsburgh is a city of the future, and I want to keep it that way,” Ms. Clinton said. And while she apologized for the fact that not everyone could get inside, she said, “I want to come back many more times.”
Mr. Sanders attracted a larger crowd to a larger room at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center last week: His campaign estimated attendance at over 8,000. But there was no lack of energy among Ms. Clinton’s backers.
On his way into the event, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald surveyed a crowd in which college-age students and older voters stretched around the building and down the block. Although Mr. Sanders, 74, tends to attract younger voters, Mr. Fitzgerald observed that, “If you look at this crowd, it’s not just old guys like me.”
Some of the students in attendance were simply curious; others were international students who can’t vote in a U.S. election. But there were also many like CMU senior Nina Hill.
Having a female president was important, she said, “especially given the political climate for women’s reproductive health.” As for Mr. Sanders, “He’s making a lot of promises, but I don’t know if they are practical right now. He could be the president after Hillary.”
Inside the gym, Ms. Clinton, 68, offered a tacit rebuke of Mr. Sanders’ sweeping vision for revolutionary change, though she never mentioned him by name.
“If you are a progressive, you need to make progress,” she said, adding that it often came incrementally. Speaking of her work as secretary of state for President Barack Obama, she said, “You just get up every day and think, ‘How can I push this forward an inch or two?’”
She also offered what sounded like veiled criticism of her rival’s lack of national security experience. “You’re voting for a president and a commander-in-chief,” she said. “National security is not an afterthought: It’s a core responsibility.”
The audience, much of which reflected CMU’s international student body, responded especially well to Ms. Clinton’s assertion that “our diversity is an asset,” and her insistence that “we have to work with each other, lift each other up.”
By contrast, she said, “When I listen to the rhetoric coming out of Donald Trump’s campaign, it is deeply disturbing” and seemed intended to incite violence and prejudice.
More broadly, she said Republicans “are going to do everything they can to take back the White House,” and if the GOP won control of both the White House and Congress this year, “We will not recognize our country.”
Ms. Clinton offered up a recitation of progressive goals. The most popular was her support for an end to gender discrimination in wages, which she called “not just a women’s issue” but “a family issue.” Less popular with the Pittsburgh audience was her reference to relatives who attended Penn State — Ms. Clinton has family roots in Scranton. But she clearly redeemed herself by touting CMU’s own accomplishments.
“I was just over at the Robotics Institute” located nearby on campus, she said. “And I saw the extraordinary work they are doing. ... We can make the future by making the goods that we can export around the world.”
During that visit, Ms. Clinton observed a number of cutting-edge technologies, including robots designed to help feed disabled people and “Max,” a snake-like robot designed to inspect narrow recesses. As the robot writhed on the floor, professor Howie Choset told Ms. Clinton that it had been used in archaeology.
“We were in Egypt up until a few days before Tahrir Square,” he said, referring to a popular uprising that took place during Ms. Clinton’s stint as secretary of state. Ms. Clinton called many of the technologies “amazing.”
After her visit, Mr. Choset called hosting Ms. Clinton “a real honor” and hoped that ”if she becomes president, she’ll be thinking of CMU as the go-to place for robotics.”
Ms. Clinton won Pennsylvania comfortably during her 2008 primary fight against Barack Obama, and a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed Ms. Clinton with a 50 percent to 44 percent lead over Mr. Sanders among likely Democratic primary voters. Being on friendly ground couldn’t hurt: Ms. Clinton’s Pittsburgh visit followed a day in which she lost the Wisconsin primary to Mr. Sanders by a convincing 13.5 points. It was Mr. Sanders’ seventh win in eight contests.
“There’s no doubt that Sanders has momentum,” said Chris Borick, a pollster and political science professor at Muhlenberg College. “But Pennsylvania has some characteristics that make it a tougher sell.” Mr. Sanders was helped in Wisconsin by the fact that independents can vote in its primaries, and that Democrats there skew more liberal than those in Pennsylvania.
In any case, Ms. Clinton has 1,748 of the 2,383 delegates she needs to win the Democratic nomination. (That total is swelled by more than 400 “superdelegates” whose allegiances can shift.) Mr. Sanders has 1,058 delegates, and Democrats award delegates proportionately. “There will be a lot of drama in this race, but we’re going to be talking a swing of maybe 5 or 10 points” in the popular vote, Mr. Brick said. “That’s not a lot of delegates. Ties are good for her right now, other than the symbolism.”
Chris Potter: email@example.com or 412-263-2533.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
firstname.lastname@example.org and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.