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Appealing to young people to share her vision of an America with "limitless possibility," Hillary Rodham Clinton vowed to make health care affordable and urged international cooperation to protect the environment during a stop Sunday at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

Clinton spoke to a crowd of nearly 4,000 in a gymnasium, hoarse from a multi-state campaign blitz the weekend before Tuesday's crucial series of primaries and caucuses.

"I think about the next generation," she said. "I think every American generation has the choice to be great." But, she said, the nation is at "a critical turning point" and "there is no guarantee that we will remain a great nation" without sound leadership.

Her appearance came a day after Barack Obama drew 20,000 to Target Center and about 25 minutes before the Super Bowl kickoff. But the timing didn't deter her supporters.

"It's really great to see a woman out there who can step up and do it," said Erinn Voight, 18, a freshman at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul. Ali Minelli, 18, a fellow St. Kate's student, agreed, adding, "Obama's young; he still has time. Hillary, I think this is her time."

Youth vote may be key

The event underscored the significance of the youth vote in Minnesota and her need to counter Obama's strong appeal to young voters. Exit polls have consistently shown that young voter turnout here has been higher than nationally.

A recent poll and results from primaries and caucuses in leadoff states show that adults younger than 25 are more likely to call themselves Democrats than Republicans, and much more likely to vote for Obama than Clinton.

Throughout the earlier Democratic primaries and caucuses, Clinton portrayed herself as the candidate with the best chance of winning the general election in November. In an effort to draw a contrast with Obama, she said Sunday that she has been subjected to scrutiny from Republicans for years, adding that the best Democratic nominee should be "somebody with a few battle scars, who's been tested."

Referring to Obama's vow to take on special interests, she reminded the crowd that she challenged insurance companies in the first term of her husband, Bill Clinton, when she pushed an unsuccessful health insurance plan.

Her biggest applause lines came from attacks on the Bush administration. "History will judge them harshly," she said to roars of approval. "They governed by fear and fatalism."

Saying the nation needs to spend more on maintaining roads and bridges, she said, "What happened here with the collapse of the 35W bridge was a travesty."

She said she would make universal health coverage, energy independence and environmental protection cornerstones of her administration, pledging to forge an agreement with other nations on reducing greenhouse gases and global warming.

"We will take the tax subsidies away from the oil companies" and spend money promoting renewable energy, she said. "I know we can't do any of this until the two oil men leave the White House," she said, referring to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

On jobs: "I see an America where the economy works for everyone again, not just the wealthy, where young people go out into the world with limitless possibility," she said.

She drew long applause with the remark, "How about making college affordable again?" On health care, she vowed to limit premiums to "a small percentage" of income to make it affordable.

She renewed her call to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq in her first 60 days in office.

Some were unsure about whether to vote for Clinton or Obama. "It's hard for me to figure out what the difference is," said Jo Jacobson, 22.

For others, Clinton is preferred for practical reasons.

Marlene Lynch of Minneapolis said she feels Clinton has a better chance in the general election. "I want the most electable," Lynch said.

Though nearly everyone stayed through Clinton's half-hour speech, dozens left after 5 p.m., as the Super Bowl kickoff approached. Clinton's state campaign organizer, Jonathan Beeton, acknowledged that the runup to the game proved a challenging time to bring out a crowd, but as he waved at the packed auditorium, he added, "I'm happy."

Among those in the crowd were former Vice President Walter Mondale, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton.

Pat Doyle • 651-222-1210