Michelle Obama, Clinton Trade Praise

Posted August 26, 2008 at 8:00pm

This time, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) was talking about a different kind of late-night phone call to the White House.

In her remarks to an EMILY’s List rally Tuesday afternoon, Clinton hailed Michelle Obama’s Monday night speech to the Democratic National Convention and reiterated her support for Obama’s husband, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.).

“I know a little bit about working in the White House,” she said. “And if the president doesn’t [listen], call the first lady. And with Michelle Obama, we’re going to have somebody to answer that phone.”

Clinton delivered her remarks to an enthusiastic crowd of mostly women at the EMILY’s List “When Women Vote, Women Win” gala at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Denver. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Michelle Obama followed Clinton, though the three never appeared on stage at the same time.

With appearances by one former first lady and another woman who wants to fill her shoes, the event also touched on how politics can be personal for women. Clinton warned future candidates that the road ahead could be undefined.

“It’s not just about politics, it’s really personal,” Clinton said. “Because when you start running, you have no idea where the path will lead.”

During her remarks to a slightly smaller crowd — some attendees left after Clinton’s speech — Michelle Obama delivered a heartfelt thanks to Clinton for her advice over the past few months.

“No one has been more gracious, more forthcoming, more helpful to me over the last few months than Sen. Clinton,” Obama said. “I will never forget that kind of support.”

Obama recalled how Clinton had broken stereotypes, saying the New York Senator gave both her and her young daughters “a different vision of what they can become.”

The mother of two was also one of many speakers who commented on the importance of the date in women’s history: Tuesday marked the 88th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

“And in two days, just two more days, we’re going to make a little more history when we nominate this guy that I happen to be married to, Barack Obama, to be president of the United States,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Michelle Obama spoke at another event geared toward women, an economic forum where four female governors and Barack Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), also spoke.

At the EMILY’s List event, Michelle Obama appeared to have won the favor of Joan Karver, a 75-year-old Clinton supporter from Southern California. Though not an official delegate, Karver said she came to Denver with her daughter to be part of history.

Watching the event on a big screen directly outside the packed ballroom, Karver said she thought Michelle Obama was “very impressive.”

“She’s going to be the next Eleanor Roosevelt, I hope,” Karver said. “She’s really got something special.”

The event also served as a tribute to one of EMILY’s List’s most vocal recruits, the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio). At the age of 58, Jones died suddenly after she had a brain aneurysm while driving her car.

EMILY’s List founder and President Ellen Malcolm showed a video clip of an impassioned Jones reciting a poem at an EMILY’s List event last June.

“Let your sprit soar, my friend,” Malcolm said.

A visibly glassy-eyed Pelosi recalled how Jones called her the day before she died to ask for her help on something for someone else — a selfless act that she said was typical for the Ohio Congresswoman.

“For my colleagues in the House of Congress, those of who work with [her] every day, this is unbelievable to us,” Pelosi said. “It just keeps occurring to us that Stephanie is gone.”

Pelosi also remarked on another milestone for women: She said this was the first convention with more female delegates than male.

But Tuesday’s event did not seal the deal for all of the attendees. Maria Freyer, a middle-aged woman from Colorado Springs, was one of the guests who departed after Clinton’s speech.

“I left because I don’t like [Michelle Obama],” Freyer said. “To begin with, she’s a woman and she should be supporting a woman.”

Freyer said she plans to vote for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) this November.

George Cahlink contributed to this report.