June 5, 2008 / 5:53 AM / 11 years ago

McCain reaches out to disgruntled Clinton supporters

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Reuters) - Memo to disappointed women supporters of Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton: Republican John McCain wants your vote.

US Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R-AZ) points to the audience as he arrives to speak before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, June 2, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Young

McCain, the senator from Arizona who has wrapped up his party’s White House nomination, moved on Wednesday to woo women and other Clinton backers whose disappointment over her defeat by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama could cause them to switch teams.

“I would welcome any of Senator Clinton’s supporters’ vote,” McCain told reporters in Louisiana, adding he would seek backing from people across the political spectrum.

“I think there’s a lot of Senator Clinton’s supporters who will support me because of their belief that Senator Obama does not have the experience or the knowledge or the judgment to address this nation’s national security challenges,” McCain said.

Sound familiar? Clinton hammered Obama for months in the Democratic presidential nominating contests about his lack of experience and gained some traction with her argument that she would be better prepared to take a late night White House call on a national emergency.

But Obama won, clinching last night the number of delegates needed to take the Democratic nomination and lead his party’s presidential bid in November.

Obama has been careful to praise Clinton and not look like he was pushing her out of the race so he could appeal to the some 18 million people who voted for her.

McCain followed suit, complimenting her on Tuesday night even as he ripped into his new Democratic opponent.

“She deserves a lot more appreciation than she sometimes received,” McCain said of Clinton.

“As the father of three daughters, I owe her a debt for inspiring millions of women to believe there is no opportunity in this great country beyond their reach.”

The strategy could pay off. Some women supporters have said they will back McCain over Obama — despite the former first lady’s entreaties on the campaign trail not to do so.

“I’m disappointed that Hillary didn’t make it, being a female,” said Brittany Ford, 19, a black student from Columbus, Ohio. She said she’s now looking at McCain, adding simply: “I don’t care for Obama.”

But Debbie Moore, a Cincinnati accountant, said she would stick with the Democratic choice.

“I started off as a Hillary supporter and ended up as a Barack supporter — but I can support either wholeheartedly,” said Moore, adding she was concerned die-hard Clinton backers would not unify behind the presumptive nominee.

“I’m concerned Democrats will blow it this year by not unifying,” said Moore.

additional reporting by Andrea Hopkins; editing by David Wiessler

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