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Locals flock to see him speak

Alexander Tutunov proudly showed off his citizenship papers after former President Bill Clinton's speech Sunday at North Medford High School.

"This will be the first election that I can vote," said the 40-year-old Russian emigre and classical pianist.

Tutunov, like many of the nearly 2,500 people who attended the rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton, said he thought the former president gave an informed speech that connected with the audience.

"His speech was inspiring," Tutunov said.

Kristina Foltz, 38, his wife and a fellow classical pianist, said, "It was like a rock concert. He's brilliant."

Bill Clinton's visit was expected to be followed by Hillary Clinton's sometime in April. The New York senator trails in recent polls in Oregon against her rival, Sen. Barack Obama.

While many gave the former president high marks for his 80-minute speech, reactions to Sen. Hillary Clinton ranged from lukewarm to enthusiastic.

Medford resident Patricia Kuhn, 72, said, "It was the best speech of the year."

She said the former president gave many specifics and didn't speak down to the audience.

But Kuhn said she'll vote for Obama, though she didn't get to hear him speak when he appeared March 22 at Kids Unlimited in Medford. "He's a man of the world — a statesman," she said.

Maxine Pool, 62, of Shady Cove excitedly called her relatives immediately after shaking President Clinton's hand.

"He pointed out all the things I cared about," she said.

Pool said she believes that despite Hillary Clinton's qualifications, many people still can't support a woman for president.

"I think men still have a hard time," she said.

Medford resident Bruce Barrows, 53, said after the Clinton rally, "I think I'm voting for her. I hadn't made up my mind before."

Barrows' wife, Liza, 50, said, "I'm voting for Obama. I guess we're split right now."

"It's a hard choice," Bruce responded.

Grants Pass resident Linda Webb, 50, said she didn't have any doubt that Hillary Clinton should be the next president.

"I hope she doesn't give up," Webb said. "I've been thinking she should run for years."

Webb said President Clinton did a wonderful job running the country. "I've been watching what happened in the past eight years and I'm scared," she said.

Grants Pass resident and Republican Steven Hutchinson, 52, said his wife and daughter are Hillary Clinton supporters, but he is keeping an open mind.

"I'm here to see a president of the United States," he said. "It makes me feel American."

He said he also thought the former president did a lot of good for the country.

"I thought we were totally prosperous when he was in office," he said. "He brought us into the 20th century. It's not so good now."

With the campaign rhetoric getting increasingly hostile, Hutchinson said he's worried what it might do to the Democratic Party.

"I'm hoping the Democratic convention doesn't turn into a racist thing," he said.

Eagle Point resident David Hale said the president was an effective speaker and he appreciated his discussions about getting the country more energy independent.

Still, he thought Bill Clinton could do better if he stopped waving a slightly crooked finger at the audience.

"It reminds me of that time when he said, 'I did not have sex with that woman,' " Hale said.

Though Hale hasn't made up his mind who he will vote for, he does believe one candidate in particular stands out. "Obama is a bit more charismatic, a crowd pleaser and more spiritual," he said.

Registered as an independent, Hale said he would be happier with either Obama or Clinton. "Either one is better than John 'McBush,' " he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.