Female supporters of Hillary Clinton sprang to her defense Tuesday, insisting she speaks for all women and should stay in the Democratic primary race to the bitter end.
"Not so fast," read a full page ad in The New York Times, amid calls for Clinton to bow out of the race to help unify the Democratic party after a gruelling race pitting the former first lady and New York senator against Illinois Senator Barack Obama.
"Hillary's voice is our voice, and she's speaking for all of us," said the ad, purchased by a group not affiliated with the Clinton campaign called WomenCount.
"We want Hillary to stay in this race until every vote is cast, every vote is counted, and we know that our voices are heard."
The ad came as Clinton's rival Barack Obama inched closer to claiming the right to be the party's standard bearer in November, with voting in Kentucky and Oregon Tuesday likely to give him a majority of pledged delegates, according to aides.
"A clear majority of elected delegates will send an unmistakable message – the people have spoken, and they are ready for change," Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe said in a fundraising email Monday.
Former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro, the only woman on a US presidential ticket to date, said sexism had been "rampant" in the presidential primary campaign, and could explain Clinton's apparent pending defeat.
Asked if the former first lady could blame her loss on gender, Ferraro said, "She might, but I certainly will and other people involved in watching the campaign will."
"Latent sexism has been around this country for a long time. In this campaign it was rampant," Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee, said on NBC's Today show.
"There is a real difference in this country. It is not okay to be racist. It is just not. It is almost acceptable to be sexist," Ferraro said as the Democrats fielded the historic choice of the first female or the first black presidential nominee.
Ferraro recalled a Clinton rally in New Hampshire when someone in the audience held up a sign saying "Iron my shirt".
"Suppose somebody at that Barack Obama rally said 'Shine my shoes'. The person would have been swamped by the media saying, ‘What are you a racist?’ Hillary barely saw press on this. It is not only the Obama campaign. It is how the press has handled this."
Ferraro stirred up a firestorm in March with comments attributing Obama's stunning rise in US politics to his race. Obama is aiming to become the first African-American to occupy the White House.
"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," Ferraro said in an interview with a California newspaper. She resigned from Clinton's campaign finance committee shortly after.