Clinton continues to target key blocs — minorities, pro-choice women

In less than a week, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has indicated, through appearances and emotional appeals, the two voting blocs her campaign believes to be key to winning the Democratic nomination.

Fresh off an attention-grabbing event in Selma, Ala., targeting black voters with the help of her husband, Clinton addressed a packed ballroom of members of EMILY’s List, an organization that endorses women candidates who support abortion rights.

Clinton used her speech as a kick-off of her Women for Hillary initiative, a grassroots effort the campaign said will use the Internet to mobilize women voters, and to announce that she will reintroduce the Paycheck Fairness Act.

With EMILY’s List president and famed political activist Ellen Malcolm repeatedly referring to Clinton as “the next president of the United States,” Clinton took the stage in the Washington Convention Center promising that together, she and the group “can break that highest and hardest of glass ceilings.”

“So to all those who say a woman cannot be elected president, I say we’ll never know unless we try,” Clinton said, to polite applause.

At the event, dubbed “Women in Power,” the increasingly powerful political action committee (PAC) members heard from two of their latest success stories in freshman Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) before paying tribute to the first female Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

In introducing Clinton before Pelosi, a video was shown on two big-screens setting the stage for an Inauguration Day sometime in the future, showing the procession and describing the day’s scene before adding, “but this time, for the very first time in American history, the words will be spoken, ‘Madame President.’”

In her introduction of the senator, Malcolm ticked off a list of reasons she says Clinton will win the presidency next year, going as far as to take a swipe at 2004 nominee Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

“Hillary Clinton will not be Swift-Boated,” Malcolm said. “She knows how to fight.”

For her part, Clinton talked at length about women politicians who have come before her, before ultimately using the occasion to announce that she will re-introduce the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation that would mandate women be paid as much as men.

Clinton promised that with this proposal, as well as with improving healthcare and ending the war in Iraq, if President Bush won’t sign the legislation into law, “then as the next president, I will.”

Klobuchar, McCaskill and Pelosi all mentioned Clinton’s historic run, with Pelosi referring to Clinton as the party’s “frontrunner,” but all three stopped short of declaring Clinton to be “the next president,” as Malcolm is wont to do.

EMILY’s List raised and spent more than $46 million during last year’s midterm elections, and Clinton represents the first presidential candidate the group has endorsed, as the PAC supports women candidates who are pro-choice.

In announcing the speech and accompanying initiatives, the Clinton campaign referred to women voters as “the X factor in this upcoming election,” noting that more than 54 percent of general-election voters in 2008 will be women.