Clinton, McCain disclose presidential promises

Amie Billings knew Monday would be a good day.

Either she'd give birth to one daughter, or she'd bring the other, 7-year-old Skylar, to witness Sen. Hillary Clinton's first trip to South Carolina as a presidential candidate.

Labor pains held off for another day.

"When I was growing up, the best you could hope for (as a woman) was to maybe get elected to the Senate one day or to maybe get chosen as a vice presidential candidate," Ms. Billings said, "and so people like Hillary Clinton are just blazing a trail for young girls like her."

The Florence woman didn't have far to travel.

At the request of Mayor Frank Willis, Mrs. Clinton made the town one of three stops in South Carolina on Monday, sandwiching a visit there in between a town-hall style rally with more than 3,000 people in Columbia and a brief appearance at a tribute to Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., in Charleston on Monday night.

Republican hopeful Sen. John McCain of Arizona, meanwhile, was in Sun City, near Hilton Head Island, campaigning on the need for fiscal responsibility in Washington and a winning strategy in Iraq that includes more troops.

"I promise you, if we leave Iraq, (the enemy) will follow us home," Mr. McCain said.

Mr. Willis said that Mrs. Clinton, D-N.Y., called him on Super Bowl Sunday to get his advice on campaigning in the state.

"And I said, 'Ms. Hillary Clinton, you can come to Greenville, or to Columbia, or to Charleston, and you can go to the $1,000-a-plate dinners, but if you want to win in South Carolina, you better come to rural South Carolina,'" he said, drawing applause.

Speaking to about 250 people, Mrs. Clinton focused on fulfilling the "promise of America" in part by establishing a system of universal health care, an energy policy that swaps dependence on foreign oil for a greater reliance on homegrown renewable resources, and an educational system that invests in early childhood education, encourages family involvement in a child's education and makes a college education more affordable and attainable.

"And most of what has to be done is not done by government, but if the government is not on your side, trying to help clear a path, it can get very difficult to get where you want," she said.

Mrs. Clinton comes to South Carolina as the front-runner in the battle for the Democratic nomination for the 2008 presidential race.

According to a USA Today/Gallup poll released Jan. 13, she leads her nearest Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, 40 percent to 21 percent.

Along with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Mr. McCain is considered a Republican front-runner and is doing particularly well in South Carolina, where he lost the Republican primary to George W. Bush in 2000.

Mr. McCain has won a good amount of the state's Republican political and financial support, including the backing of Attorney General Henry McMaster, a majority of House Republicans and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham.

On Monday, he blasted Washington politicians for wasteful spending of taxpayers' money, reiterated his support for more troops in Iraq and fielded a number of questions on issues including the flat tax and his support for embryonic stem cell research.

Reach Kirsten Singleton at (803) 414-6611 or kirsten.singleton@morris.com.