Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News
Chelsea Clinton signs a campaign poster Tuesday for University of Utah student Kristina Rodriquez at the U. student union ballroom.

The daughter of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waved shyly as she took the stage at the University of Utah Tuesday as part of a half-day of campaigning in the state.

"Admittedly, these are the demographics I'm most comfortable in," Chelsea Clinton, 27, joked in front of some 150 students and others gathered in the U. student union ballroom for a question-and-answer session about her mother's stands on various issues.

"I am so happy to be here to talk to you and really, to answer questions about my mom," the New York City hedge-fund employee said. "There's no one that I love and respect more and I believe in more."

Chelsea Clinton confidently delivered lengthy and detailed responses to questions that drew seemingly polite applause and only a few partisan cheers throughout the nearly hourlong event.

"I thought she was really sincere," said Kelly O'Neill, a sophomore from Salt Lake City majoring in political science. O'Neill, already a Hillary Clinton supporter, said while she didn't hear any new information, the source was important.

"Who knows Hillary better than her own daughter — she's the second-best thing to Hillary herself," O'Neill said, adding she wants Hillary Clinton to win because "I think it's time for a female president of the United States."

Nadiha Hadzikadonic, a former student who came to Salt Lake City from her native Bosnia as a refugee in 1996, said she hadn't made up her mind yet. "This is the first time we could have a minority or a woman president," she said. "I belong to both of those groups."

But Nick Boyer, a freshman majoring in communications, said he was backing Barack Obama, the Illinois senator who is the first black candidate to have a serious shot at the White House.

"He seems like he's got a lot more vision. I think Hillary knows what she wants to do. But as you see, it's not that exciting," Boyer said, gesturing to the stage where Chelsea Clinton was describing her mother's plans for education reform.

Obama is motivating young voters, Boyer said. "I think he's a better listener," he said. "He has more understanding of where we're at. And he's younger, kind of the John F. Kennedy thing."

One question that Chelsea Clinton answered quickly was about how her mother's campaign would react to recent setbacks. Obama won a landslide victory in South Carolina last Saturday and has been endorsed by party patriarch Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.

Chelsea Clinton said her mother has kept the same strategy throughout the campaign. The woman who asked the question, 26-year-old U. marketing employee Bhagavathy Umamaheswar, said she wasn't satisfied with that answer.

"She just said our strategy was great so far. This is the last leg of the race. They have to do something to sway those undecided voters," Umamaheswar said. She said that while she once backed Hillary Clinton, she's now undecided herself.

Chelsea Clinton's appearance at the U. and one scheduled at Weber State University were open to the public. She was also to visit a Salt Lake senior citizens center and held an early evening fundraiser at Port O'Call, a downtown private club.

Her trip comes as Utah Democrats and Republicans prepare to vote in the state's presidential primary on Feb. 5 — so-called "Super-Duper" Tuesday, the same day that more than 20 other states go to the polls.

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com