KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Anyone wanting a Hillary vs. Sarah smackdown might be in for a letdown. First, Sarah Palin launched her Republican vice presidential campaign with praise for the strides Hillary Rodham Clinton made in her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. On Monday, Clinton spoke in kind.
"It is a great accomplishment," Clinton said of Palin's selection as the GOP's first female running mate. Clinton told a rally of 500 that the election will be decided on issues, not the historical significance of the candidates, and Democrat Barack Obama and his running mate Joe Biden bring more to the table than the Republican ticket.
"Women as well as men make their decisions after they weigh the evidence," Clinton said. "As Americans go into that voting booth, what they have to ask themselves is not so much who am I for, as who is for me? And I don't think it's an even close question that we have the ticket that is going to do the best job in restoring the American promise."
About the most she'd say about Palin is that she and Republican presidential candidate John McCain "are not the change that we need."
Former Clinton adviser Howard Wolfson is dismissing any notion the Obama campaign would dispatch Clinton to take on Palin, as much as he thinks some people would revel in seeing the two strong women butt heads.
"Don't hold your breath," he wrote in his New Republic blog. "Clinton-Palin might drive ratings and sell magazines, but it wouldn't be good for the Democratic Party, or the cause of women's rights. Some might enjoy the spectacle, but don't expect Hillary Clinton to play along."
Clinton said: "I didn't run because I was a woman but I was very conscious of the fact that my campaign meant a lot to so many, and I appreciate that. But this election is about the two parties, and the two presidential nominees, where they stand, what they would do, what our country needs right now."
And she said the Democratic ticket is the one that "will fight to revitalize the economy and create jobs and make college affordable and enable hardworking Americans to be able to afford both a gallon of gas and a gallon of milk."
It was Clinton's second campaign swing through Florida since she conceded the Democratic primary to Obama. She told supporters it will be a critical state in November, and one that has been harder hit than most by unemployment and home foreclosures.
She later addressed nearly 1,600 members of the International Association of Machinists and
Aerospace Workers, which endorsed her last year. Clinton asked them to help Obama now.
So far polls have found few signs that women who backed Clinton in the primary would cross over to vote Republican in large numbers. Even so, Palin has been the talk of the presidential campaign for a week and the Obama campaign has seemed unsure what to do about her.
Now commenting from the sidelines, Wolfson said each day the Democrats focus on Palin is a day they are not driving home the message that McCain just represents four more years of President Bush.
He warned against giving in to "an obsession in our popular culture with the 'cat fight,' an offensive term that describes the spectacle of two well-known women fighting with one another."
At least one Clinton supporter tried instigating that fight during a Tampa rally later Monday, interrupting her speech with a shout of "Tell us about Palin!"
Clinton didn't take the bait.
"You know what? I don't think that's what this election is about. This election is about the differences between us and the Republican Party," she said to cheers from the crowd of more than 1,000. "Anybody who believes that the Republicans, whoever they are, can fix the mess they created probably believes that the iceberg could have saved the Titanic."
At a news conference afterward, she took a slight jab at Republicans for not putting a woman on the ticket sooner.
"The Democrats did it in 1984," she said, referring to Geraldine Ferraro, Walter Mondale's running mate. "It took a while, but the Republicans got around to doing it this year. And I think that's a great milestone for us as a nation, but that's not the determinant as to who should be our president."
Photo: Sen. Hillary Clinton, left, Gov. Sarah Palin, right.