From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
ORONO, ME -- As voters headed to polls and caucus sites in Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington, and the Virgin Islands today, Clinton spent the morning campaigning in Maine, which holds its caucus tomorrow.
The New York senator sought to make the case for why she's the best candidate to run against presumptive Republican nominee John McCain in the fall and even likened her campaign to a movement.
"The Republicans are about to choose Sen. McCain as their nominee. I consider him a friend and a colleague, but I guess the Republicans like the last seven years and have decided they want more of the same," she said. "When I think about running against the Republicans, running against Sen. McCain if I'm so fortunate as to be your nominee, you'll never have to worry about me being knocked out of the ring. I think I can go toe to toe with John McCain every single day."
Clinton returned to a central argument that framed her candidacy from the early days, saying that making change was harder than talking about change and stressing the need for a nominee with the strength and experience to make change. (The line on talking about change versus bringing change had been heard less in the days leading up to Super Tuesday.) "That is what I am offering and it will be even more important if our nominee is running against someone with the record, with the legendary background of John McCain and Democrats need to think about this," she said.
In reprising criticisms that have become standard bits on the stump in recent days, Clinton said McCain was willing to keep troops in Iraq "for up to 100 years", while she would begin bringing them home within 60 days of becoming president. She said McCain had admitted he didn't understand the economy and that she understood how to create and keep jobs and was the only candidate on either side with an aggressive plan to deal with the mortgage crisis. Clinton also said she was the only candidate committed to universal health care, because Barack Obama's plan would not cover everyone.
"If you care about universal health care, I hope you will go and caucus for me tomorrow," she said.
The campaign has said repeatedly the contests today and this coming Tuesday in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. favor Obama, but Clinton campaigned in Washington state Friday and here today in the hopes of edging out the Illinois senator, even though he has generally performed better in states that hold caucuses. (It's important to note a leaked Obama campaign strategy memo predicted a narrow loss to Clinton in the Maine caucuses.)
In closing, the senator said she had lent her own campaign money to stay competitive in the run-up to Super Tuesday because "this country is worth investing in" and likened her campaign to a movement, something the Obama campaign has been called.
Clinton said people were surprised her campaign needed financial help. "We all need help. We all are in this together," she said. "This has to be a movement. This has to be a movement for health care, for peace, for justice, for economic opportunity, for a better life for people in Maine and across America."
The senator spent about 35 minutes answering questions from the audience.