Clinton Rallies N.H. Voters, Looks to Next Primaries

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton once looked at New Hampshire as her "firewall" — protection against an Iowa defeat. Now, after a surprising third-place finish in Iowa, her position in the Granite State is more precarious as she campaigns with one day to go.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

In New Hampshire today, a study in mood contrast as two presidential campaigns head in opposite directions. Here's a moment from Barack Obama's campaign day. He's in the town of Lebanon, responding to the suggestion that he's peddling false hope.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): This country was built on hope. Is JFK looking up at the moon and saying, ah, false hope, too far. Reality check. Can't do it. Dr. King, standing on the steps of Lincoln Memorial, looking out over that magnificent crowd, the Reflecting Pool, the Washington Monument, sorry, guys, false hope. The dream will die. It can't be done.

NORRIS: That was Barack Obama today in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

SIEGEL: Hillary Clinton is trailing Obama in New Hampshire polls by double digits. Her campaign is already looking past the possible loss there and onto the big states that vote on February 5th. But Clinton is still on the trail in New Hampshire and today, she showed something rare for a campaign event.

NPR's Mara Liasson was there.

MARA LIASSON: Hillary Clinton got emotional today here at the Cafe Espresso in Portsmouth. She was talking to undecided voters. And after about an hour and a half of detailed policy-laden answers, a woman said she wanted to ask a personal question, how do you do it, she said, how do you keep upbeat and so wonderful?

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): It's not easy. It's not easy. And I couldn't do it if I just didn't, you know, passionately believe it was the right thing to do. You know, I have so many opportunities from this country. I just don't want to see us fall backwards, no, no.

(Soundbite of applause)

LIASSON: She didn't actually cry, but her eyes were wet with tears.

Sen. CLINTON: And some people think elections are a game. They think it's like who's up or who's down. It's about our country. It's about our kids' futures. It's really about all of us together.

LIASSON: It was a moment that many in the room said made her seem human and accessible, just what her campaign has been wanting her to show. Although she's trailing in the polls, she still have strong supporters, like Monique Sheblin(ph), who came to the event today.

Ms. MONIQUE SHEBLIN (Hillary Clinton Supporter): I have actually been a Hillary supporter since before she decided to run. I had always hoped that she would. And I think she has what it takes to run the country. She has the experience.

LIASSON: But even Sheblin has been affected by the Obama surge.

Ms. SHEBLIN: I think, I've been caught up with what's going on with a lot of people and that, you know, Obama does carry a lot of appeal and charisma, and that can be his winning factor, unfortunately.

LIASSON: So you're feeling yourself tugged in his direction?

Ms. SHEBLIN: It's - just a tad. He says the right things and in a nice way.

LIASSON: Sheblin said she uses her head, not her heart, when it comes to politics. Jeffrey Cooper(ph) wishes that more of his fellow Democrats will do the same when they look at Obama.

Mr. JEFFREY COOPER (Hillary Clinton Supporter): There's no question that he is a great motivational speaker, but that's not a qualification for president. (unintelligible) make him the next Dale Carnegie.

LIASSON: Cooper, like a lot of hard-core Clinton supporters, is frustrated.

Mr. COOPER: While I was canvassing for her yesterday, and I talked to this guy and says, oh, I'm for change. (unintelligible), well, what do you - what change are you looking for? What do you mean by that? And he was dumbfounded. He had no idea. Everybody's for change. Well, look, we're all for change. Smoke and mirrors, it's kind of like a cult following.

LIASSON: Gloria Kay(ph) was also at the cafe today. She's an old friend of both Clintons from Little Rock and a former Clinton administration official. She says she understands Obama's appeal.

Ms. GLORIA KAY (Former Clinton Administration Official): I do get it because I, too, was seduced as by JFK. And I think it's that same sort of seduction that we see going on right now…

LIASSON: You mean with Obama?

Ms. KAY: …with Obama. I understand, I really understand why young people are swooning. I just want, I just want them to look a step further and say, this is (unintelligible) in the times in which we live to take us where we need to go, and I think the answer is going to be (unintelligible).

LIASSON: Kay is a veteran rider on the Clintons' political roller coaster.

Ms. KAY: I'm remembering 1992, when Bill - everybody wrote Bill Clinton off, and we came out of here right into the next primary as winners. And I frankly see the same kind of thing for Hillary.

LIASSON: Even if she doesn't place first?

Ms. KAY: Oh, absolutely. She doesn't need to take New Hampshire. She can take Florida, South Carolina, California and New York.

LIASSON: Bill Clinton likes to say that when Republicans choose a nominee, they fall in line, but Democrats want to fall in love. And for now, to the great disappointment of the Clinton campaign, more voters in New Hampshire seem to be happy to be swept off their feet by Obama. But there's something else that Bill Clinton used to say, it was the title of his 1992 campaign song, "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." And that Hillary Clinton campaign is already thinking about the day after New Hampshire.

Sen. CLINTON: So I'm going to do everything I can to make my case and, you know, then the voters get to decide. Thank you all.

(Soundbite of applause)

LIASSON: Mara Liasson, NPR News, Portsmouth.

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Hillary Clinton Seeks Rebound in New Hampshire

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

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton talks during a campaign event at Nashua North High School in Nashua, N.H. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption 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.

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