- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — The Democratic presidential candidates are using young actors — from TV’s “Ugly Betty” to movie star Kal Penn — to target college students in hopes of driving up their vote totals in Pennsylvania, with each campaign refocusing on the importance of the popular vote.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s camp urged Philadelphia barhoppers to take registration forms with them Saturday night and had supporters run “door-knocking days” and phone banks dubbed the “Final Four” days of voter registration, playing on March Madness.

“Even if you’re going out to bars, grab a few extra clipboards,” Sasha, a Clinton coordinator, told volunteers gathered to hear “Ugly Betty” actress America Ferrera in Philadelphia.

Miss Ferrera told volunteers holding cocktails that there was nothing she would rather be doing than campaigning for the senator from New York. She said Clinton supporters should aim for nothing short of “100 percent of young voters going to the polls.”

Across the state in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Mr. Penn and Pennsylvania native Zachary Quinto of “Heroes” were encouraging university students to register to vote and to persuade their friends to “come together to make an extraordinary difference” for Sen. Barack Obama, of Illinois.

The campaigns had until midnight to register Democrats for the April 22 primary, and their aggressive efforts indicated that the party would gain many new voters. The strategy also allows Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama to drive up the vote totals instead of jockeying within congressional districts for the most delegates.

Obama and Clinton volunteers from all over the East Coast were out in full force over the weekend to drive up the registration numbers, and some of the tension between the campaigns spilled onto the streets of Philadelphia.

A man walking by a line for the Ferrara event started chanting, “Obama, Obama,” which prompted Clinton supporters to shout him down with “Obama for VP.”

The man stopped to argue his case, saying that nominating Mrs. Clinton ultimately would lead to “President McCain,” prompting a woman to accuse the Obama supporter of backing someone who “sold out” the presidency to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who endorsed the senator Friday. The man angrily defended Mr. Richardson as being independent-minded and shook his head before walking away.

Later, Clinton supporters said they were frustrated by such “Obamabots,” and one person covered an Obama sticker posted on a street sign with a “Hillary” sticker.

Jehmu Greene, the first black president of Rock the Vote, said voters should be “looking past the noise” associated with Mr. Obama. “Some people may think one candidate has the monopoly on the youth vote,” she said.

The campaign aides also are increasingly trading nasty and bitter charges.

Former Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Gordon Fischer, who was co-chairman of Mr. Obama’s Iowa campaign, said in his personal blog over the weekend that former President Bill Clinton is “hurting his own party.”

He said Mr. Clinton’s comments on the trail are a stain on his legacy “much worse, much deeper, than the one on Monica’s blue dress,” he wrote in a post that Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson labeled “disgusting.”

Obama aides also denounced the post, which Mr. Fischer has deleted, saying such comments have “no place in our political dialogue.”

Mr. Fischer apologized in a subsequent blog post, calling his own remarks “tasteless” and writing that the blog was “unnecessary and wrong.”

Obama supporters, meanwhile, said they were outraged that Clinton booster James Carville likened Mr. Richardson’s endorsement of their candidate to the biblical event of Judas betraying Jesus.

Appearing on CNN yesterday, Mr. Carville stood by his comment as a “seasonal metaphor” intended to label Mr. Richardson as disloyal after receiving two Clinton administration posts in the 1990s.

A decisive Clinton win in Pennsylvania on April 22 would bolster her argument that she wins in populous swing states. But if Mr. Obama can win big numbers in the regions where he is strong in Pennsylvania, especially among college students, he can add to his lead in the popular vote.

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