Chelsea Clinton Steps Out On The Trail

Chelsea Clinton, left, receives a photograph from Spelman College student Sescily Coney, right, of New Jersey,during a visit to the historically black school for women in Atlanta while campaigning for her mother, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2008. (AP Photo/W.A. Harewood )
While her parents command center stage at massive campaign rallies, Chelsea Clinton has gone the road less traveled.

The only child of Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton has ventured to casinos and a cosmetology school in Nevada, made impromptu visits to coffee shops and, on Wednesday, stopped at Spelman College, a historically black school for women.

It's part of the Clinton campaign's bid to reach voters off the beaten path and help erode Democrat Barack Obama's popularity with young voters, who contributed to his victory in the Iowa caucuses. More than one-third of his support there came from voters under 30, according to exit polls.

"I'm actually here today, to be honest, as part of a reaction to that," Chelsea Clinton told an audience member who asked about Obama's appeal to young voters.

That she's out in public, and on her own, speaks volumes.

Her parents took great pains to shield her from the media glare during the eight years they lived in the White House. She also managed to stay largely absent from her mother's campaign until December.

But at campaign rallies leading up to the Jan. 3 caucuses in Iowa, Chelsea Clinton ventured into the crowds afterward to ask voters to support her mother.

Reporters covering the campaign have been told Chelsea Clinton will not speak to them; she made headlines recently for turning down an interview with a 9-year-old "kid reporter" for Scholastic News.

On Wednesday, she told the Spelman students she decided to assume a more vocal role in the campaign because she feels her mother's record, not Obama's, should be the most appealing to young voters.

"That message got lost in the story after Iowa," she said. "I'm here because I want to be a voice for those policies."

She still won't speak with reporters, but when audience members lobbed questions she replied with answers about her mother's health care, education and immigration policies.

"I don't think you should vote for her just because she's a woman," Chelsea Clinton said. "I think all that she's done should clearly inform what she will do as president."

Chelsea Clinton also showed a lighter side. Before taking questions, she quipped that soon she might not be able to relate to college audiences.

"I want to think of myself as your peer, but I'm 27, so I may be older than all of you," she said.

Laughter rippled through the room when she refused to stand in front of a bank of microphones, to the chagrin of the cameramen at the back of the room.

"I'm not going to stand in front of the podium," she said aloud, after an aide whispered in her ear. "I feel weird about that."

The cameramen, unrelenting, later stuck a microphone attached to a pole in front of her.

Chelsea Clinton can expect more media attention in the coming weeks. The campaign says she will continue visiting colleges, high schools and other spots where young people gather leading up to Super Tuesday, when 22 states hold Democratic presidential nominating contests on Feb. 5.