King may yet haunt clinton

NEW YORK - Standing in front of the Harlem office building where Bill Clinton has his post-presidential office, Audrey Quantano said she has supported the former president and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton "for a very long time".

NEW YORK - Standing in front of the Harlem office building where Bill Clinton has his post-presidential office, Audrey Quantano said she has supported the former president and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton "for a very long time".

But Quantano has a problem.

"I am tossed between Hillary and Obama," she said on Monday. "I'm split right now . I've got my list of pros and cons with both of them."

New York's Democratic presidential primary on February 5 was once considered a cakewalk for Clinton, who has represented New York since 2001.

But after Senator Barack Obama's victory in the Iowa caucuses and his close second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, some see him as a viable candidate here as well.

And then a spat broke out between Clinton and Obama over the legacy of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. The former first lady was quoted as saying King's dream of racial equality was realised only when President Lyndon B Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Obama took issue with the remark. And Clinton said Obama was distorting her statement.

She said King was one of the people she most admired, and that her point was that his record of activism stood in stark contrast to that of Obama's.

Whatever the case, some Harlem voters said they were unhappy with Clinton's remark. "I was offended," said Charlene Hines, an Obama campaign volunteer. "I said, 'There's white entitlement again'. It was agitation that brought it to that point."

As Clinton appeared in midtown on Monday at a rally promoting better working conditions for security officers, signs of Obama support uptown in Harlem ranged from posters in shop windows to Hines soliciting helpers for a get-out-the-vote drive.

"He's an intelligent man," said Ronald Jeffers, who was distributing handbills in front of the Apollo Theater. "I like what he stands for." A December 17 poll by Quinnipiac University showed Clinton leading Obama by 55percent to 17percent among likely Democrat voters in New York.

No new state polls have been released since Obama's January 3 victory in Iowa, so it is difficult to handicap the race now.

Both Bill and Hillary Clinton have had a warm relationship with black voters since long before author Toni Morrison called him "the first black president" in 1998.

Harlem residents are used to seeing Bill Clinton on the street since he opened his office on 125th Street, and many have heard one or both Clintons speak to black churches and community groups over the years.

Quantano recalled a 1992 campaign event at which Bill Clinton had his staff take plates of food to onlookers across the street.

"That was impressive. He didn't just bring the food, but he joined them and ate with them."

Quantano said she was also troubled by Hillary's remark about King. "I'm still working on that one," she said. "I'm processing that one." - Sapa-AP

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