Hillary Clinton Seeks Rebound in New Hampshire

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton talks during a campaign event in Nashua. i i

hide captionDemocratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton talks during a campaign event at Nashua North High School in Nashua, N.H.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton talks during a campaign event in Nashua.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton talks during a campaign event at Nashua North High School in Nashua, N.H.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York is trying to reinvigorate her campaign in New Hampshire after placing third in the Iowa caucuses last week. Renee Montagne spoke with Clinton from her bus on the campaign trail in Concord as she tries to reach voters before Tuesday's primary.

The following is a transcript of the interview:

Montagne: First, and a question I think a lot of people would like to know, can you afford to lose in New Hampshire?

Clinton: Well, Renee, obviously I'm going to work as hard as I can today and tomorrow to reach as many voters with my message about my candidacy, and then go on. I've always intended to run a national campaign, and I have prepared to do so from the very beginning, so we'll go right through the Feb. 5 states.

Over the weekend, you've been telling voters that they should elect a doer, not a talker, and saying that in various ways. What are you trying to say about your rival, Sen. Barack Obama?

Well, what I'm asking voters to do is to look at each of us and contrast and compare our records, our plans, our experiences, in order to get the facts that are relevant to making a decision. You know, I would not be running for president if I didn't think that I was the best qualified person to really tackle the problems that we face in our country and the world at this time. And I think that it is important to look at what each of us brings to this race. And there is a difference in how we approach problems, what we have done over the last years to solve problems. You know, if you want to know what I'll do, look at what I've done. And I think that there's a contrast here between talking and doing and between rhetoric and reality that is an important one. Out of the greatest —

What, Senator — though — what makes him a talker rather than a doer?

Well, I think that if you look at the results that I've been able to bring about to improve people's lives, even here in New Hampshire, you know, a program that I helped to start, the Children's Health Insurance Program, gives health care to 7,000 kids. And bipartisan legislation that I was able to push through the Senate and then the House to get into law over the threat of a veto gives health care to the National Guard and Reserves. And, you know, working on issues ranging from respite care for caregivers to improving the adoption and foster care system, just so many ways that I've been working to make people's lives better and —

Well, clearly you have done these things, but what makes Sen. Obama merely a talker, someone with rhetoric but nothing behind him beyond that?

Well, you know, in the debate that we had here in New Hampshire the other night, the moderators asked all of us, you know, what we've done, what is our favorite, most important accomplishment, and I think in both Sen. [John] Edwards' and Sen. Obama's case, there was a real contrast. Sen. Edwards said that he had passed a patients' bill of rights, and in fact, of course, it never did pass the Congress, and it was never signed into law. And Sen. Obama said, well, he had helped to pass lobbying reforms so that lobbyists couldn't have lunch with members of Congress, and I think it was Charlie Gibson, the moderator, who said, well, wait a minute, they can have lunch standing up, they just can't have lunch sitting down.

So, I think it's important to begin to actually take the records that each of us brings to this race. You know, we don't have good guides in life to anything that we do based just on what we say. We always look behind that, I mean if you're going to choose any important — make any important decision, you're going to want to know what's behind it. And that's all that I'm asking. I have the greatest respect and regard for Sen. Obama. I think he is an incredibly gifted politician who has been extremely, you know, positive in putting himself forward. I just think that —

One thing that you're —

But as we pick a Democratic nominee, I really think we've got to go deeper than that, and that's what I am asking.

Our correspondent David Greene told us earlier this morning that your campaign is urging reporters to look deeper, but in this case more closely at Barack Obama's record. What do you think is there?

Well, Renee, take for example what Sen. Obama said two weeks ago, not about me, but about Sen. Edwards. He said that Sen. Edwards changing positions between 2004, 2008, would make him unelectable in the general election. Well, in fact, Sen. Obama has a very obvious record of changing positions, from the time he ran for the Senate, his early years in the Senate, and now of course running for president. Well, if he's going to say that records matter, which he has said on numerous occasions, and if he's going to point to another opponent as being unelectable for changing positions, then clearly that's a criterion that he's trying to get voters to judge others on.

Therefore, I think it is more than fair to judge him as well. So, when he says he's going to vote against the Patriot Act, and he goes to the Congress and votes for it, or when he says that he is against special interests and lobbyists and he has a lobbyist running his campaign in New Hampshire, for any other candidate, that would be relevant information, and I think that it is relevant in this case as well.

New Hampshire Campaign Goes Door to Door

Video: Canvassing in NH
David Gilkey/NPR

Don't be fooled by the pretty pictures of campaign rallies in New Hampshire.

Sure, you can be mesmerized by the banners and balloons and the sing-song cadence of the candidates. But none of that gets people to the polls on primary day.

Voters in New Hampshire need the personal touch. The phone call, the handshake, the knock on the door. Every campaign has compiled a list of the people who are likely to support their candidate. The names are culled from events and Internet lists and secret marketing databases. Even in these high-tech days of voter profiling and targeted e-mail, there's no better way to reach out to those people than by standing on their front stoop.

I went out with video producer David Gilkey to learn the art of street-level politics, and it wasn't hard to find the experts. On just about every cold sidewalk in New Hampshire is someone with a clipboard, carrying campaign literature and peering up at house numbers.

We chose to tag along with two volunteers from the John Edwards campaign as they knocked on doors in Portsmouth, but we could have picked any campaign, any town. We ran into canvassers for Bill Richardson and Barack Obama. I saw a team of women with Hillary Clinton signs heading up the next street. It's crowded with true believers out there.

In the end, we found that there are only a few tricks you need to learn to do this job. Wear sturdy shoes and two pairs of socks. Don't stand too close to the door when it opens. And be relentlessly upbeat. The guys we were out with never argued with voters; they just asked some gentle questions and reminded them to vote on Tuesday. But that may be enough. Political operatives believe that you can increase the likelihood that people will vote for a candidate by investing those voters in a campaign. Hand them buttons. Provide lawn signs. And most effectively, send a neighbor over to ask them if they are committed to vote for the candidate. Come Election Day, the voter won't want to disappoint the team.

Or that's the theory anyway. On the other side of the door, the constant stream of phone calls and door-knocks can drive a voter nuts. Even though we got to the front porch of Melissa Costa by 11 a.m., she had already received three campaign calls and two personal visits. She admitted that sometimes she just turns her hearing aid off and goes upstairs to avoid the politics. But most of the time, she opens the door and lets the volunteers give it their best shot.

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