Hillary back home

CHICAGO -- If you ever wonder what a day on the road looks like for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), here’s what she squeezed in when she returned to her native Chicago area last Sunday.

In 10 hours, Clinton hit:

• Two fundraisers at private homes in the city to raise money for Democrats, the main reason for the trip.

• Two keynotes to crucial Democratic base constituencies put together at the behest of the Illinois Kerry-Edwards campaign, which has not seen a national surrogate in months because the state is not in play.

• A benefit for a local foundation that helps the developmentally disabled, at a suburban country club.

Clinton was born on the North Side of Chicago and grew up in Park Ridge, an adjacent suburb. Her popularity here has never wavered since she became first lady, not even during the darkest days of any of President Clinton’s travails. The executive director of her political action committee, HILLPAC, Patti Solis Doyle, is the sister of a Chicago alderman.

When in Chicago, Clinton hooks up with a childhood pal, Betsy Ebeling, and the two were together Sunday as the senator made the rounds. Clinton was greeted with cheers and shouts of “Hillary for president in ’08” at the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute annual conference downtown and when she took to the pulpit at the Apostolic Church of God as part of the African-American congregation’s big women’s weekend on the South Side of Chicago.

But Clinton was focused on 2004 and the Kerry-Edwards ticket. “We need a leader, not a misleader, in the White House,” she told the Hispanic group, offering up a testimonial to John KerryJohn Forbes KerryWarren taps longtime aide as 2020 campaign manager In Virginia, due process should count more than blind team support Trump will give State of Union to sea of opponents MORE. In the post-Sept.-11 world, the Bush administration does not have realistic immigration policies to provide for security, said Clinton; instead, it just “kept everyone out.”

From there, Clinton dashed off to make the event for the Glenkirk Foundation, then arrived at a joint funder to benefit the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and Illinois Senate nominee Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaIntelligence for the days after President Trump leaves office Barack Obama sends Valentine's message to Michelle: 'She does get down to Motown' For 2020, Democrats are lookin’ for somebody to love MORE, which was also attended by Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees GOP leader presses Trump to agree to border deal Trump divides Democrats with warning of creeping socialism MORE (D-Ill.) and his wife, Loretta. Obama left early to jet to the West Coast for fundraisers, including one in Los Angeles hosted by Dem donor/impresario Haim Saban.

At the church, Clinton sat in a pew waiting for her turn to speak. When she did, she talked about the power of prayer. She is religious, and, she said, even if she were not, “a few days in the White House would have made me a praying person.”

In my one-on-one with her she said:

• On the Kerry message, “It is about being strong at home and respected around the world.”

• On how Kerry could have explained his vote to authorize President Bush to attack Iraq, said Clinton, “I don’t regret giving the president the authority; I regret the way he used the authority. But knowing what we know now, given all the developments, they would never have come for a vote to the Congress.”

• And these fighting words: The Bush team is expert at diverting attention “from their own failures and misjudgment and they can’t be allowed to get away with it.”

Traveling Corzine: Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J), DSCC chief, hit the road last weekend for Senate Dems, headlining funders in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston.

Sweet is the Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times. E-mail: lsweet3022@aol.com