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TOUGH CITY, RESILIENT PRESIDENT EMBRACE

The Comeback Kid and the comeback city connected so enthusiastically Wednesday that it became obvious why President Clinton came here first when taking his State of the Union message on the road.

Western New Yorkers no doubt were celebrating their own resiliency as much as his in energetically welcoming a president who not only shares many of their beliefs about government, but also their ability to take a hit and keep on going.

Yet this was more than just a marriage of convenience between an embattled president and a city that has been knocked around by economic changes and the national media, only to repeatedly dust itself off and forge ahead.

The health-care, school and job-training initiatives plugged by Clinton, Vice President Gore and their wives are exactly what's needed in a region still struggling with the lack of economic development, underemployment and educational challenges.

And in a community in which intergenerational family ties are still strong, Clinton's emphasis on saving Social Security so moms and dads can worry about their children instead of their parents obviously resonated well.

But Wednesday's phenomenon was about more than just a partisan crowd responding to Democratic proposals. The electricity was palpable as thousands greeted a president who has an unnatural ability to connect with people. It was there for a first lady who may be more popular than he is. And it was there for a vice president who seemed enthused about being in Buffalo, exhibiting more genuine passion than he's ever been known for.

They were pushing an agenda that resonates with much of America. And Buffalo's response to that agenda should count for a lot, even in Washington.

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