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Page last updated at 11:06 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 12:06 UK

Conservative support for Hillary

Simon Burns MP
Simon Burns MP

The Conservative MP Simon Burns has been campaigning in American presidential elections since he backed George McGovern in 1972. This year he is backing Hillary Clinton, and he tells us why.

Simon Burns
Simon shows his support

Why should a British Conservative be supporting a US Democrat?

The answer is simple.

It is too easy and wrong to generalise that the Republicans are the Tory party in the US and the Democrats are New Labour or Lib Dem.

We need an America that is once again respected, not hated, in the world; an America where everyone has access to health care rather than the current situation where approximately 40m working Americans cannot afford health insurance and an America where all benefit from its economic success - not just the super rich who have disproportionately benefited from the Bush tax cuts.

These are the reasons why I always have supported the Democrats since 1972 - and why I believe passionately that Hillary Rodham Clinton is the best candidate for being the next President.

Conservative MP Simon Burns campaigned in the USA for Hillary Clinton.

Campaigning for Hillary

I am so convinced that Hillary Clinton is the best choice to be the next president of the US that I spent some of the Christmas Parliamentary recess trudging the snowy streets of New Hampshire campaigning for her.

It was quite clear from the telephone canvassing and door to door canvassing that she strikes a deep chord with many voters, especially women and less well off working class whites.

Women see her as an inspirational role model and traditional working class Democrats see her as someone who will stick up for them whether it be with healthcare, the problems of foreclosures or law and order.

They admire her as an experienced fighter who will stick up for their interests.

Hillary and Simon
Meeting Hillary at the rally

It was clear from the rallies that I attended that she commands respect and even affection from many core Democrats.

Edge to Obama

The primary election campaign for the Democratic nomination for President has been a long drawn out affair with the ultimate result still very close.

Last Christmas, before the caucuses in Iowa and the first primary election in the snow of New Hampshire, most commentators assumed the nomination would be sewn up by Hillary Clinton either on Super Tuesday on 05 February 2008 or by the middle of March.

Simon and Bill
Simon gets together with Bill Clinton

Yet, confounding all the pundits, the race still has not been decided as we reach the last of the primaries on 2 June - though Barack Obama does have the edge.

Many people may ask why the polls that were so strong for Hillary Clinton last year have not propelled her to the Democratic nomination.

Part of the reason is the nature of the proportional representative system that the Democrats have used to decide the nominee.

It is ludicrous that Hillary Clinton could win the caucus in Nevada and the primary election in Texas and yet come out of both contests with fewer delegates than Obama.

It is equally worrying for the Democrats that a candidate - Hillary Clinton - can win all of the largest states in the Union by substantial margins except Illinois and still be behind in the delegate count.

If the Democrats had run their primaries and caucuses under the same rules as the Republicans, Hillary Clinton would now be the undisputed nominee of her party.

Hillary Clinton
Hillary works the rally

Hillary's voters

Of equal concern for the party must be that Hillary Clinton's greatest support comes from women, Latinos and lower paid working white voters.

Exit polls show that up to 33% of them would refuse to vote for Obama in a general election and would probably cast their vote for John McCain.

Possibly the only way to get around this problem and shore up the vote would be for Obama to invite Hillary Clinton to be his vice presidential running mate in the November election if he is indeed the nominee.

More experienced

This raises the question as to why a relatively unknown, untested junior senator from Illinois has captured the imagination of the voters.

How could he be the nominee even though most people will accept that Hillary Clinton is far more experienced, has achieved far more over her 35 years in public life and is infinitely better qualified?

Part of the answer lies in the fact that he is an inspirational speaker who has captured the mood of many voters.

But with America facing a serious recession, a quagmire in Iraq and a loss of confidence at home, there is more to being President of the United States than simply giving lofty, inspirational speeches.

Anti-Hillary bias

Hillary Clinton has also been the victim of press bias that has not helped her cause.

Until relatively recently Obama has not been subjected to the same press scrutiny as Clinton has had to put up with.

The press has been mesmerised by the package that Obama presents and failed in the early days to look as carefully into his policy positions and past associations as they have the other candidates.

Additionally, although America may still in some ways be still racially prejudiced, they are even more, as Gore Vidal has pointed out, a nation of misogynists and this has hurt Hillary Clinton.

Wrong strategy?

Finally could Hillary Clinton have played her cards better?

The answer is undoubtedly yes.

She should have skipped the Iowa caucuses and not put herself through the arcane caucus system that immediately put her on the back footing when she came in a narrow third.

Instead, she should have started her campaign with the primary election in New Hampshire, where real voters were actually casting a vote for a candidate.

Similarly she spent too much time in the early days campaigning as the nominee and pursuing the Republicans as if it were the general election.

She should have gone after Obama earlier and with more vigour so as to stop him in his tracks.

The Politics Show is on BBC One at 12.00pm on Sunday 1 June.

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