(AP) As Hillary Rodham Clinton prepared to return to life in the Senate and announced that she will campaign with Sen. Barack Obama in New Hampshire on Friday, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee began reaching out to female voters who had formed the backbone of Clinton's support in the primary season.
The Obama-Clinton event will take place in the town of Unity, in the southwest corner of a swing state that Obama hopes to carry in November. The symbolism goes beyond the town's name, as Clinton and Obama each won 107 votes there in the January primary.
But New Hampshire is also the state in which Clinton first demonstrated her strong connection with older, working-class women, a group that Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, is now working hard to attract by lauding Clinton and depicting Obama as inexperienced.
At a town hall meeting here on Monday, Obama praised the women responsible for his upbringing and outlined his record of pushing to address issues important to women. The only men in the room were reporters, campaign aides and Secret Service agents.
"I would not be standing before you today as a candidate for president of the United States if it weren't for working women," Obama told the group. "I'm here because of my mother, a single mom who put herself through school. . . . I am here because of my grandmother, who helped raise me. . . . And I am here because of my wife, Michelle, the rock of the Obama family."
As the working-class women in the audience nodded, Obama continued: "Too many of America's daughters grow up facing barriers to their dreams, and that has consequences for all American families. It's harder for working parents to make a living while raising their kids. And we know that the system is especially stacked against women."
He told the group that McCain had opposed the Fair Pay Restoration Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) in response to a Supreme Court decision requiring women to seek back wages for pay discrimination within six months of the first discrepancy.
"Senator McCain thinks the Supreme Court got it right," Obama said, as the crowd groaned. "He suggested that the reason women don't have equal pay isn't discrimination on the job -- it's because they need more education and training."
The McCain campaign countered with a memo outlining the Republican's support for legislation that would allow parents to work more flexible schedules, and would offer more tax relief, especially for small-business owners.
The memo also notes that McCain and his siblings "were often cared for solely by his mother while his father was away on long military deployments" and adds: "He has said that this experience has often taught him of the struggles many women face in raising families."
A day before returning to vote in the Senate, Clinton sent her supporters an e-mail on Monday with a videotaped statement soliciting contributions to help her retire more than $22 million in campaign debt, but she did not make a similar appeal on behalf of Obama.
Saying it was the beginning of the "next chapter of this historic journey," she recapped recent events. "We've blazed new trails, broken old barriers and transformed the political process forever," a smiling Clinton said, speaking directly into the camera with a vase of yellow roses in the background. "Together we made history, and I will continue to work toward our common goal of building an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us. This goal is shared by our Democratic Party nominee, Senator Barack Obama, and I look forward to campaigning with him across this great country of ours."
She concluded: "I hope you will continue to stand with me and support me by going back to HillaryClinton.com. We still have so much to do together. We've made history. Let's make some more."