Patrick Healy: Elderly Women Love Hillary

Reporter Patrick Healy traveled to Des Moines with the Clinton campaign and delivered a pillowy feature on Hillary's attempt to appeal to elderly women voters in Iowa for Tuesday's edition, "In Elderly Women, Clinton Sees an Electoral Edge."

"They usually sit in the front row - to hear her better, to see her better and to make sure they have a chance to shake her hand. Some lean on canes. Some have traveled a great distance. Some have never been to a political event before.

"The first one who shared her story with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was Ruth Smith, 87. She drove 160 miles to Des Moines from Buffalo Center to attend Mrs. Clinton's first rally in Iowa as a presidential candidate and went up to her afterward.

"'I told her that my grandmother was the first person in town to vote, and my mother was the second,' said Mrs. Smith, who was born three months before the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920. 'And I told her I was born before women could vote, and I want to live long enough to see a woman in the White House.'

"Since then Mrs. Smith's story has become a grace note in Mrs. Clinton's stump speech. At the same time, the many other elderly women who turn out for Clinton campaign events have become welcome set pieces, visibly demonstrating the candidate's effort to highlight her sex and her overtures to female voters, whom the campaign is counting on to propel her to the Democratic presidential nomination.

"Many young women have been enthusiastic supporters, but Mrs. Clinton, of New York, has shown particular pride in the women in their 70s, 80s and 90s at her events. She spends extra time with them on the rope line and repeats their stories to audiences."

At the end Healy drummed in the helpful-to-Hillary idea that opposition to her candidacy was probably based on residual sexism.

"Susan Carroll, a senior scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said older women were often a problem for female candidates because they came of age in different eras.

"'Some of these women are going to be very divided over Clinton's candidacy,' Professor Carroll said. 'Running for president is not something women dared to do until very recently, and it's something for voters to become comfortable with.'

"Mrs. Smith, the senator's touchstone in Iowa, said she heard doubts about Mrs. Clinton from some of her Republican friends but did not care much.

"'A lot of them believe a woman's place is by the cookstove,' Mrs. Smith said. 'But I think Hillary's a very capable girl.'"