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Clinton: Avoid 'more of the same'

From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
BRIDGETON, Mo. -- Hillary Clinton began a rally here Sunday by arguing this election represented an opportunity for America to change direction and avoid "more of the same."

"This election has the turning point potential. It can either get us back on the right track or to continue down the road that's labeled more of the same," she told a crowd of a few hundred at a town hall outside St Louis. 

The New York senator has been spending a lot more time in recent days talking about the future and the need to focus on the next generation rather than simply the next election and while her line today wasn't totally new, it sounded like an effort to co-opt her rival's main message. 

Obama often talks about the need to "turn the page" on what he calls the divisive politics of Washington and his latest pitch centers on the theme that this election is about the past versus the future. This past week, he said voters should resist the temptation to build "a bridge back to the 20th century". It was a way of arguing against another Clinton presidency. (The phrase was a play on Bill Clinton's line about building a bridge to the 21st century.)

Polls show Clinton leading Obama in Missouri, but the race is tight and today, it seemed that Clinton was trying to use Obama's argument to win points with voters who want change.

She also spoke about what she believes is necessary to win the next election.

"There is no doubt we will have a clear contrast in the general election. I know that in order to win we have to have a united Democratic Party, which we will. We have to have a candidate with the good ideas and the experience to make the case that we can have a country that once again delivers results for the vast majority of Americans and we have to have someone who is ready to go toe to toe with the Republicans," she said.

Clinton spent the rest of her speech hitting all the points she usually makes and reprising her criticism of Obama for offering a healthcare plan that doesn't cover everyone.

She closed with an appeal to voters to choose her as the candidate who can best bring change to the country. It was a fresher, more to-the-point line than we often hear from her.

"For those undecided voters in the "Show me" state, we have two candidates left after a vigorous and intense year of campaigning. Either one of us will change history," she said to applause.  "That is not the question. The question is who will change America and who will deliver results for America? Who can, on January 20th 2009, walk into the Oval Office, begin turning the economy around, be the commander in chief to bring our troops home safely and responsibly and get our country moving once again into the future with confidence and optimism."

Clinton's voice was weak and she joked: "It is clear from my voice that I've been talking a lot, but there's a lot to say, because there's so much at stake in this election."

She spoke for about 20 minutes and then answered audience questions on NAFTA, Iraq, ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", helping retired workers, global warming, No Child Left Behind and other issues

One woman sparked amusement and applause in the crowd when she stood and called Bush a bastard. She went on to say that in 2005, the president reached an agreement that would join America, Canada and Mexico together by 2010 to create a single country. Clinton, who stood smiling as the woman asked her question, said the story was a myth. 

"I've heard that story and there's not a lot of truth to it. So let me put your mind at rest. There were agreements signed to increase cooperation among our three countries, but so far as I know, there is no such agreement. Now, when I'm president, if I discover there is such an agreement, it'll be gone in a bird dog minute," she said to applause.

Another woman said she felt Clinton would make the best person to lead the country but was "just really scared" about her electability.

"It's always better to vote for the person you think would be the best president, because in the cauldron of a campaign, I think that's the most important factor. If you think that I would be the best president, you have to believe that I can demonstrate that to the rest of the country," Clinton said, before going on to talk about the election wins in New York, having been tested and her ability to work across the aisle.  

She ended with what seems to be her new favorite line about how it takes a Clinton to clean up after a Bush. It was a winner at the LA debate. It would also seem to play handily into her rival's past versus future argument for choosing him instead.