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Hillary Clinton returns to her roots in Scranton

March 10, 2008 |  5:22 am

Hillary Clinton begins her six-week siege of Pennsylvania today with an afternoon rally  in Scranton, where her rough-hewn father, Hugh Rodham, was born to Welsh immigrants almost 97 years ago.

Once a major mining community, the city now is best known as the setting television types picked for NBC's sitcom "The Office." Scranton, nestled in state's northeast corner, has embraced this reflected glory; as noted in a New York Times article last year, the publicity is a welcome change for a city "whose name never seemed to appear in print without the words 'hardscrabble former coal-mining town.' "

Hard-bitten apparently would describe Rodham's upbringing in Scranton, based on Carl Bernstein's capsule description of him in his 2007 biography of Clinton, "A Woman in Charge." The author termed the presidential candidate's dad "a sour, unfulfilled man whose children suffered his relentless, demeaning sarcasm and misanthropic inclination, endured his embarrassing parsimony, and silently accepted his humiliation and verbal abuse of their mother."

Clinton presumably will invoke her local roots during her appearance at Scranton High School. Chances are good she'll mention that as a girl, her family's annual vacation took them to Lake Winona, on Scranton's outskirts (oops, our thanks to a couple of commenters, who noted this should be Lake Winola). Perhaps she'll note that they stayed in a cabin built by her father and grandfather -- a dwelling that, Bernstein reports, "had no heat, bath, or shower." But odds are not good she'll regale her audience with ...

this anecdote from "A Woman in Charge":

"As Hillary and her mother increasingly expressed mixed feelings about the prospect of another Lake Winona vacation, their objections were met with Hugh's promises of a shopping spree somewhere on the return trip.... After one summer holiday in Pennsylvania, Hugh drove to Fifth Avenue in New York and told [Clinton and her mother] they could buy whatever they wanted before the stores closed at five o'clock. Mother and daughter had only twenty-five minutes so they took off their shoes and ran."

Clinton's schedule shows that after kicking off her Pennsylvania campaign with the homecoming, of sorts, in Scranton, she travels Tuesday to Harrisburg and Philadelphia to troll for support.

Bill Clinton, meanwhile, stumps for his wife Tuesday in communities close to Pittsburgh and on Wednesday heads to Erie, in the state's northwest corner.

Barack Obama has a more immediate target in his sights than Pennsylvania's April 22 primary. He's spending today in Mississippi, where he's heavily favored to win the state's primary on Tuesday.

The Clintons made a feint toward Mississippi -- Hillary campaigned there Friday, Bill on Saturday (during one stop, he did his best to keep alive the prospect of Obama ending up as his wife's running mate). Given their itinerary the first part of this week, however, it's hard to avoid the conclusion they've written off the Magnolia State.

-- Don Frederick 

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