- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2000

BUFFALO, New York First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton drew heavily on her celebrity over the weekend, courting voters in upstate New York.

Though a personality with star power in her own right, she called on actor Ben Affleck to introduce her to a sympathetic crowd of Cornell University students.

"Since Rick Lazio has been running around the frat house in his underwear, Hillary Clinton has been working for America," Mr. Affleck told the Saturday crowd of 2,000 that had earlier been larger. But the first lady was late, and the temperature was dropping.

Mr. Lazio, Mrs. Clinton's Republican opponent in her Senate bid, actually attended Vassar College, whose students are mostly women and where there are no fraternities.

Mrs. Clinton, joined by daughter Chelsea, revisited western and upstate portions of New York over the weekend, stopping in both Democratic and Republican areas.

Mr. Lazio spent the weekend on the road as well, campaigning from Long Island to Plattsburgh to Rochester.

Mrs. Clinton started the weekend by addressing the campaign's crisis of the day, a report that Republican telephone solicitors had placed calls to voters linking some of Mrs. Clinton's contributors to the terrorists whose bomb killed 17 Americans aboard the USS Cole.

"They have stooped to a level that I never thought we'd see," she said. Mrs. Clinton returned the $50,000 contributed by a Muslim group that had praised organizations suspected of terrorism, after the donation was disclosed in the newspapers.

Clad in a Creamsicle-orange sweater and battling a head cold, Mrs. Clinton grabbed at hands and signed her own placards as well as copies of her book, "It Takes a Village," and told the throng: "Everything you care about will be affected by this election. You have two teams, the Bush-Cheney-Lazio team [cue for boos] and the Gore-Lieberman-Clinton team [the first lady nods to the cheers]."

"She's a celebrity," said supporter Donna Hutchison, a 39-year-old mother of two who watched Mrs. Clinton along with Sen. Charles E. Schumer work a crowd of 200 people at Elmira's Bradley Farms produce store and, seasonally, pumpkin patch.

Mrs. Hutchison held aloft a lime-green cardboard sign that read, "Elmira mothers and daughters for Hillary." Mrs. Clinton, she said, is a role model for all women.

Mrs. Hutchison acknowledged disagreement in her own house. "My husband doesn't support her at all."

He's more in agreement with Scott Esty, who stood at the entrance to the Bradley Farms with a sign proclaiming, "Hillary is the last lady we want."

"This is Lazio country," said Mr. Esty, 45, from nearby Big Flats. "But we know that in New York, the upstate doesn't carry as much sway as the city."

Mrs. Clinton logged 155 miles Saturday, starting in Ithaca, home of Cornell, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 23,000 to 17,000. She traversed through Elmira, where Republicans have an almost identical edge, and on to Buffalo, a heavily Democratic city in the Rust Belt.

Yesterday, Mrs. Clinton moved on another 150 miles, from Buffalo to Syracuse, visiting churches and glad-handing at rallies.

She's working to dent Mr. Lazio's upstate polling numbers. He has dominated the upstate polls since entering the race in May.

One new poll says Mr. Lazio leads by a point among upstaters, 46 percent to 45 percent. Other polls give the edge to Mr. Lazio by 5 percent to 15 percent.

"The future will get better here, but we've got some hard work to do," Mrs. Clinton told a room full of union machinists in Buffalo Saturday evening. They cheered with gusto, some waving their baseball caps.

Noting the population drop in Buffalo, which the Census Bureau estimates has lost an estimated 30,000 people since 1990, Mrs. Clinton promised she would propose programs that would keep people in town. She scolded Mr. Lazio in blue-collar language.

"Sure, there are candidates who are nice guys, guys you want to go have a beer with, talk about the Buffalo Bills with. But when you ask what their plan is, they have none. Why would you pick someone with no track record?"

Outside a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop in the Buffalo suburb of Tonawanda, Joan Stephens, a Republican tax collector from nearby Lewiston, watched the commotion of an impromptu Hillary visit.

"Oh, this is much more exciting than a visit from Al Gore," Miss Stephens said, her breath making little clouds in the cold air. "I'd much rather see Hillary any day."

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