NASHVILLE --There were two odd things about presidential
candidate Hillary Clinton's appearance at Tennessee State University in
Nashville Saturday night.
One came early, when Clinton looked into the filled rafters of the school gymnasium and offered a hearty verbal thank-you to the "students of Tennessee State University" for welcoming her and being on hand.
Fact: In the sea of thousands, both upstairs where she was looking and in the dense seated rows down the floor, the number of bona fide students at the historically black college - or of African Americans of any kind -- was almost infinitesimal.
Given that this first of two planned Tennessee stops before her February 5th Super Tuesday primary contests against new black icon Barack Obama was surely designed to appeal to African Americans, the ratio of white to blacks in the crowd - perhaps 20 to one, if not more lopsided -- could be regarded as embarrassing.
The high side of that, of course, was that the overwhelmingly Caucasian crowd was enthusiastic in its reception of Clinton, greeting her extended - maybe over-extended - remarks with enthusiasm and peppering her with questions until she had been on her feet answering for well more than an hour.
Like Obama in his appearances since last week's stormy televised debate involving the two chief Democratic contenders and the still hopeful John Edwards, Clinton avoided direct attacks on rivals and concentrated her fire on the Republican incumbent in the White House, George W. Bush.
The second odd thing about Clinton's appearance came during that extended Q-and-A period when someone, late in the going, finally asked her to comment on the just-concluded South Carolina primary, in which Obama had trounced her by a margin of two-to-one.
After a perceptible pause, she began awkwardly: "I was honored to run in South Carolina... and it was very close...." What came after that startling denial of reality was a series of stated resolves about keeping on keeping on, mixed with hopeful platitudes aimed at the larger Democratic constituency.
By that time, Clinton - who had begun her appearance with a freshness and animation that, under the circumstances of her grueling campaign pace and the new defeat in South Carolina was truly admirable - had begun to wilt. But, in the style of her husband, ex-president Bill Clinton, she stayed behind after she concluded and lingered, down on the gymnasium floor, to talk to such members of the throng who wanted to greet her personally.
At her Memphis appearance on Sunday at the Rev. Billy Kyles' Monumental Baptist Church on Parkway, Clinton was assured at least of having a predominantly African-American crowd. That would give her the opportunity to try to work some of the magic that she and her husband had been thought to possess with black audiences before this year's contest with the surging Obama.