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Gearing Up for the Granite State

A N.H. harvest for Clinton? (AP).

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- The scene was straight out of New Hampshire campaigns of the past. An intimate setting on a gloomy day, a presidential candidate, a handful of voters and a lively, substantive conversation.

This was how Hillary Clinton spent part of a rainy Monday afternoon, devoting more than an hour of her time to a discussion with just five voters at the Goffstown home of Judy and Joe Lanza. She talked health care and education and she asked as many questions as she answered.

But this was more than a casual conversation about policy or a photo op for the cluster of reporters and photographers peering in from the adjacent living room. It was a critical part of Clinton's methodical effort to build a New Hampshire firewall in the event that things go badly for her in Iowa.

Two months ago, Clinton enjoyed a formidable edge in the Granite State, leading Barack Obama by 23 points in the University of New Hampshire poll. Today she still runs ahead of Obama, John Edwards and the rest of the Democratic candidates, but her lead has narrowed.

Given the competitiveness of the race in Iowa and how rapidly the terrain here can change after Iowans vote, Clinton's standing in New Hampshire could look dramatically different after the Jan. 3 caucuses in the Hawkeye State than it does today.

Under the best of circumstances, the Clinton campaign has viewed New Hampshire as the state that could ratify a victory in Iowa and bring the Democratic nominating contest to a swift conclusion. A Clinton victory in Iowa alone might effectively end the race but a pair of victories would leave no doubt about her nomination.

But Clinton must be prepared for a pitched battle in New Hampshire rather than a victory lap. As she campaigned here on Monday, Obama and Edwards were also in the state, a reminder that they too recognize that they must be prepared for any outcome in Iowa well before Iowans vote. With just five days between the first two contests, there will be no margin for error in New Hampshire.

The order of finish in Iowa will be critical in shaping the New Hampshire primary. All three leading campaigns are thinking through the possible range of outcomes and how they will deal with them.

Edwards's advisers know that a loss in Iowa would likely end his hopes for the nomination. But unlike four years ago, they know that if he were to win Iowa, he must have a campaign in place in New Hampshire that can take advantage of that momentum. Over the past few months, he has systematically worked to correct the deficiency of his first campaign. "He learned the lesson of four years ago," one Clinton adviser said.

Clinton and Obama each worry most about losing to the other in Iowa, both believing they can survive an Edwards victory there (though Edwards believes they may be underestimating what his winning Iowa will do to the race). A third-place finish for either in Iowa would be difficult to overcome.

Obama has built a large organization here. Until recently, his cadre of organizers outnumbered Clinton's, and he has spent far more money on television here than she has. His advisers believe that some of the movement in his direction they are seeing in Iowa is also translating into progress in New Hampshire. An Iowa victory, they believe, would shrink Clinton's advantage here overnight.

Given the uncertainty in Iowa, New Hampshire becomes all the more important for Clinton. Between now and Jan. 8, the date of the New Hampshire primary, her campaign here will be focused on two tasks: converting the many undecided voters and deepening the commitments of those voters who have already said they are supporting her.

New Hampshire always looked better to the Clinton campaign than Iowa. The Clintons have a long history in the state and therefore an extensive network of supporters. As my colleague Alec MacGillis pointed out in a Trail posting on Monday, Clinton is the establishment's candidate in New Hampshire. In Iowa, Clinton has faced resistance from the very beginning of her campaign, in part because there is no Clinton network comparable to the one here.

In many other ways, however, the demographics of New Hampshire should help Obama. The electorate here is better educated and more upscale than it is in other early states and his appeal to those voters has consistently been stronger than Clinton's. He also has appeal to independents, who could vote in heavy numbers in the Democratic primary.

Three issues dominate the landscape in New Hampshire: Iraq, health care and the economy. Clinton campaign advisers have concluded that the bulk of undecided voters do not see huge differences among Clinton, Obama and Edwards on those issues.

What these voters want, according to one Clinton adviser, is rapid change after the Bush years. They are looking for a Democratic nominee who knows the process and the players and who they trust to quickly deliver on promises to provide universal health care coverage, end the war and boost the economy.

That's why Clinton packages her health care proposal or her anti-war rhetoric a message that she has the knowledge and experience that neither of her rivals can match. And that was what she told the four undecided voters in Goffstown on Monday afternoon.

Spending that much time with just a few voters may seem like an unproductive use of a candidate's time this close to the primary, but the Clinton team believes intimacy works -- and that these citizens, if converted, will help spread the word to friends and neighbors with a credibility that other means of communication cannot match.

Clinton advisers believe Edwards's message of change is too hot for many voters here. They still believe Obama faces hurdles on the question of experience. They also argue that the more Clinton talks about her senatorial style of reaching across partisan lines the more she will appear as someone who can ease the polarization in Washington. Judging from conversations with voters here this week, that may be more difficult than they assume.

The Clinton campaign also has learned a lesson from Howard Dean's experience of four years ago. Dean built an impressive organization in New Hampshire but learned after Iowa that it was wide but not deep. Clinton's advisers intend to do everything they can over the next month to deepen the roots of their support in New Hampshire.

Said one adviser, "We want to make sure the roots are so deep in New Hampshire that we can sustain anything that happens out there."

--Dan Balz

By Washington Post editors  |  November 27, 2007; 2:01 PM ET
Categories:  A_Blog , Dan Balz's Take  
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Anyone looking for some new Hillary video from an SC stop and an interesting commentary on how race is impacting that primary should try:

Posted by: lanefiller | November 27, 2007 11:59 PM | Report abuse

"That's why Clinton packages her health care proposal or her anti-war rhetoric a message that she has the knowledge and experience that neither of her rivals can match."

Huh? Is there an editor in the house?

And by the way, when did Dan Balz quit being a journalist and start being a mind reading hack?

Posted by: zukermand | November 27, 2007 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Obama is the canidate that the GOP wants.

Any of you Barakist even know nixon's or reagan's "southern Stragedy".

Btw,I've met Obama's ground crew, and if you think a bunch of 19-22 year olds are going to influence anyone on how to vote ,you're NUTS.

Obama's crew comes off like the children they are.. flighty,yearning, and silly.

Posted by: newagent99 | November 27, 2007 9:09 PM | Report abuse

re: "I just do not think the Hillary boosters grasp the antipathy toward Hillary, whether it be rational or irrational."

I really don't think it's the problem of us Hillary boosters to worry about irrational people.

I'm voting for a Democrat named Hillary Clinton. If irrational Democrats don't like it, so be it. Truth be known, irrational Democrats having antipathy towards Hillary Clinton actually makes me a wee bit proud of my vote for her.

p.s. And I agree; Bill Richardson is a very experienced guy. You get him the primary nomination and I'll be behind him 100%.

Posted by: freespeak | November 27, 2007 8:27 PM | Report abuse

What we are calling experience or not experience for Hillary is partly the question, but even more important to me is her demonstrated intelligence, energy, platform, and readiness from day one to deconstruct what Bush and his Republicans hath wrought and replace it with an America we recognize again.

It won't happen without the accompanying massive replacement of Republicans with Democrats that's coming, though. You have to have 60 votes in the Senate to do anything, and without replacing those retiring Republican Senators with Democrats neither Hillary or any other Democrat will be able to make the changes most of us want.

But because most of us want it, those replacements will happen.

But even with the 60 votes, Hillary will work across the aisle as she has these last seven years and bring about change with as many people signed on as possible.

How anyone can complain about not doing enough in an institution that is essentially deadlocked is ludicrous. But the deadlock ends with this next election.

I want the intelligence and energy and ideals of Hillary Clinton leading that change when it happens.


Posted by: ralphdaugherty | November 27, 2007 8:26 PM | Report abuse

If Clinton has all this so-called expertise re: Health Care reform and the Iraq debacle why has she waited until now to voice her concerns? She didn't have a Health Care plan until John Edwards made his proposal and she has been a staunch Bush supporter up until now. How coincidental she has arrived at these monumental changes concomitant with the upcoming election. If that's how she views the electorate as nothing more than a means to her own satisfaction then we can do without her in the Oval Office.

Posted by: puciret | November 27, 2007 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Trade is the strikingly clear policy issue that demonstrates the difference between John Edwards and the corporate Democrats. As he has always been a consistent champion for working families, Edwards is now their advocate for fundamental "smart trade" changes that address imbalances and unfairness in the present system. The American middle class has been squeezed downward a full level due to stagnant wages and an extreme disparity of income. Despite all-time high productivity, working people have not received their fair share under the present trade regime. The rules benefit multinational corporations and the economic elite but not American working families.

Clinton and Obama are both supporting the Peru FTA while Edwards is not. Primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are getting the message.

The comprehensive Smart Trade proposals of John Edwards provide Americans the opportunity to begin to believe again that their children will have a better life in the future rather than face a depressing decline. "Working together we must do everything we can to minimize the unfair offshoring of American jobs and do right by America's working families." - John Edwards /

Posted by: mdtaichi | November 27, 2007 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Everyone I know is a Democrat, well-educated, and all support Hillary. I know that's now scientific, but here in Denver we love her. She's the opposite of what all the haters say: she's ethical and beautiful. Go Hillary!!!!! We love you!

Posted by: sskyvickers | November 27, 2007 6:40 PM | Report abuse

john16, I agree Richardson has the impressive resume, but a likeable personality? I have met him a few times, and he comes across as slick and oily. As for the hopes that the country will vote for Hillary over the GOP nominee, I would not count on that. If a viable third party candidate does not appear, I may write-in someone (Gore) rather than vote Hillary, even though I now might live in a swing state (VA). I just do not think the Hillary boosters grasp the antipathy toward Hillary, whether it be rational or irrational.

Bet you Mark Warner is wishing he did not pass up this opportunity, but maybe 4 years in Senate and then he runs.

Posted by: merganser | November 27, 2007 6:06 PM | Report abuse

"How is that credible?"

Whatever poll you're talking about, the results are dependant on the art/science behind creating a statistically valid sample. In the industry in which I work, its relatively easy - we're just sampling existing customers. In polling its a little tougher - you have to decide what your ideal sample looks like - age distribution, party affiliation, geographic representation, gender splits, etc. Whether you're polling by grabbing people on the street, sending out emails, calling landlines or taking opt-in online surveys, you end up throwing out a bunch of data in order to create your sample. They all do it, some better than others. Zogby's methodology is different, but has a record of being pretty good. As I said, you can't look at it as being perfectly representative of reality - its far more useful in the context of analyzing trends & comparing to prior Zogby polls. Same holds true for everyone elses data too.

Posted by: bsimon | November 27, 2007 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Vote for Obama and the Dems will lose 49-1.
Wait for 50 more years, it is not now.

Posted by: henryvu | November 27, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

bsimon: Although you may claim it is scientific, it can be discredited because only online voters may participate. How is this any different than the argument that traditional polls target only those with land lines? Additionally, in an online poll there is no targeted audience, ANYONE can vote. Additionally, anyone can vote more than once from that location or another. You or I could have voted 100 times more. How is that credible?

Posted by: jesuscastillon | November 27, 2007 5:42 PM | Report abuse

The idea that any GOP candidate is going anywhere but down in flames in a knee slapper, just ridiculously funny. In case you have been in a cave, the GOP, starting with wasting time impeaching Clinton and 85% of everything they have pulled since, has about wrecked this country. So a clever talking pretty boy Mormon is going to step in? A geriatric war criminal? A lispy hyper ambitious egomaniac? Can the GOP organize enough bigots, hate mongers, antisocial greed-crazed capitalists, and military families on the gov teat to win this? Please.

I think a strong third party candidate could come in second to the GOPs third this NH primary election, if there were a third party, that's how bad it is for the Republicans. I live in NH, we don't pay a whit of attention to Iowa. WE pick the President, as we have every primary except Bill Clinton, who was second only because of local favorite Tsongas.

In our primary serious NH GOP voters will vote Romney, as we watched him in Mass and he didn't wreck the place. But many many GOPers here will vote Ron Paul because we know what BS is, and we are sick of it, and the GOP is full of it. Obama is a good guy but too young. With eight years of negligent management fresh on our minds, it's Clinton in a landslide here in NH.

Posted by: AIPACiswar | November 27, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

jesuscastillon writes
"The latest Zogby poll is an ONLINE poll--how reliable is that? Obama supporters are so desperate that they're resorting to ONLINE polls. Way to keep it classy Obamites."

The Zogby poll is scientific. While it is an online poll it is very different from the polls seen on sites like CNN that make no attempts to create a statistically valid sample.

Zogby might have a couple thousand total respondents to his poll. He would then pull from that population a sample representative of the population he's studying - i.e. US as a whole, certain states, etc. In other words, in an attempt to be accurate, he throws out a lot of data.

It is certainly true that there are flows with this methodology, but not to the degree as there are with unscientific polls. In short, the Zogby data is not necessarily 100% accurate - which is true of everey poll. But the Zogby data is useful, particularly when compared to prior Zogby polls, for determining trends. In this case, the trends do not look good for HRC.

Posted by: bsimon | November 27, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

PeterDC, that is such BS. There is no way you know of 5 republicans that are going to vote for Hillary. Sure you're not writing from Billary's campaign headquarters? LOL

Posted by: ohio4580 | November 27, 2007 5:22 PM | Report abuse

David: The latest Zogby poll is an ONLINE poll--how reliable is that? Obama supporters are so desperate that they're resorting to ONLINE polls. Way to keep it classy Obamites.

Posted by: jesuscastillon | November 27, 2007 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Republicans want to run against Clinton because they think they can beat her. The latest Zogby poll shows her losing to all the republican candidates but Obama beating them all !

Posted by: david_sites | November 27, 2007 03:32 PM

I hope your info didnt come from FOX...

Posted by: 1Sxytoy | November 27, 2007 5:19 PM | Report abuse

You forget that Senator Clinton was an attorney and activist before she was the First Lady. You forget that she was credited rightly or wrongly with much of the successes and failures of her husband's terms and now you claim she only knows about Christmas decorations. You forget that she sponsored legislation to improve access to Plan B contraception and extended heatlh care benefits to our armed forces among a swath of other accomplishments. What has Obama accomplished in the Senate? A last minute sponsor on an ethics reform bill is hardly an accomplishment for all his talk. If you can disregard Senator Clinton's White House days because of the no-nonsense National Archives bruhaha then you should likewise discredit Obama's state house experience because there is no record of his days there what so ever--none. He also failed to support abortion rights while in Chicago and although present, chose not to vote on the legislation. Give me a break--he is not a true Democrat and we will lose in the general with him as our nominee. I will hold you responsible.

Posted by: jesuscastillon | November 27, 2007 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Obama's ground crew in NH has outdone Clinton's team all over the state. They have more energy, more boots on the ground, better grass-roots organization. Any hint of weakness by HC in Iowa and NH will be a rout. Time for a change. End the culture wars now.

Posted by: thebobbob | November 27, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Edwards continues to fade in Iowa.
Gov. Richard takes third place in Iowa.
Clinton and Obama continue to drag each other down with attack politics.
Suddenly the voters realize that they are both Senators, part of the Washington problem, and that Senators rarely get elected President.

Republican's know the person they really don't want to run against is Gov. Richardson -- a moderate and successful western Governor, with great foriegn policy credentials and a likeable personality.

As Democratic primary voters start to better understand that he'll move to the top tier...

... and then its a whole new ballgame.

Posted by: john16 | November 27, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Clinton's claims of experience are baloney. While she may have been more influential than most first ladies, she totally blew the one big initiative she headed in the White House--health care. Otherwise, she's been a lackluster senator and a presidential candidate, none of which adds up to any more experience than Obama has. And Richardson blows them both out of the water in experience--he's run a government, run a cabinet agency, been the "real" face of American foreign policy. If Clinton wins the nomination, we'll have 2000 and 2004 all over again as the Democrats watch a sure thing slip away.

Posted by: iowanic | November 27, 2007 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Let's be honest. What poll, online or otherwise, is truly reliable. I know a great many Dems. who will not vote for Hillary Clinton because they believe, as do I, that any Republican candidate can and will beat her. She has entirely too much baggage, and all the Repubs. are chomping at the bit hoping she wins the nomination. They'll shred her. As for her wealth of experience - the last time I checked, being the wife of a President doesn't qualify you to be the President.

I like Obama, but I think he got pushed into this race and I do fear that in the general election, he's a little too stiff and unsure of himself to be able to whip up on a Republican. I think they'll call into question his level of experience and I think ultimately and regrettably, they'll win.

Personally, I like Edwards. I think he has his own baggage, although it's of a different and far less controversial nature than Clinton's, but I believe that he can take on the Republicans. He has been through this before and knows what to expect, but more importantly, I believe that he is sincere in his desire to effect change and I think powerful special interests are afraid of that. At least they know what they're going to get with Clinton (aka, Bush lite), and that's more of the same.

Posted by: skpedersen | November 27, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

dc-attorney, I will match your five dems who won't vote for Clinton with more than five Repubicans I know who will.

The reality is that Hillary Clinton has the experience to produce change and Obama doesn't. She has the background and ability to fight the Republican attack machine and Obama doesn't. She has won in major Republican areas in NY and Obama hasn't. She will have the advantage of women being 54% of the electorate which Obama won't.

And the bottom line is that I don't believe that any dems in the end won't vote for Clinton. They will remember that when Bill Clinton left office we weren't at war, had a balanced budget, and passed programs that benefitted people besides the very rich. They will vote for Hillary because even if they don't love her they will realize that the nation will be better off with her than with a continuation of the Republican leadership we have in the White House now.

Posted by: peterdc | November 27, 2007 4:33 PM | Report abuse

There are more than three candidates in this race. The media, which have ignored all but Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, may well have some serious egg on its face on January 4th, when the story coming out of Iowa is how well Bill Richardson did.

Posted by: iowanic | November 27, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Very thought-provoking article. Thanks, Dan.


~ I think either Obama or Clinton can afford to come in third in Iowa. I don't think Edwards can afford less than first, and if he doesn't take first, I really don't see why he would be in a position to take second. Either people want him, or they want Obama as the not-Clinton.

~ I think Ron Paul is going to suck away alot of Independent support in NH, so I don't think a Democrat should depend on the Indies in NH yet. (I live in NH and the Ron Paul signs are unbelievable.) I doubt Ron Paul will win the general for the GOP, at which point I believe the Indies' votes will go to the Democratic candidate. NH has turned very blue since Bush came into office, and I just don't think Indies will even consider voting for a Loyal Bushie.

~ I really think the Dem's race will be either Clinton or Obama, and I believe either one of them will wipe the floor with any Republican. I have no idea who the Republican will be, as they all look fatally flawed to me.

Posted by: freespeak | November 27, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Seems like if Senator Clinton's claimed level of experience existed, she'd have cut a wide swath through the Senate creating new bipartisan coalitions to solve the various problems we face. Yet she has not. The Clinton campaign also claims she is well suited to repair bitter partisanship in Washington. Yet she is the one talking about the Vast Right Wing Consipracy and the manifold failures of the Bush administration. It seems her campaign is long on rhetoric and short on reality. The polls indicate the voters are becoming aware of this credibility gap.

Posted by: bsimon | November 27, 2007 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I know at least 5 Dems offhand who will never vote for Clinton. I agree with them. If the Dems want to lose again, they could repeat their mistakes from 2004 and pick the "electable" candidate (Clinton).

We need a candidate who stands for real change. Clinton is not it.

Posted by: dc_attorney | November 27, 2007 4:17 PM | Report abuse

The only one running that is not a corrupt crook and lair is Ron Paul. The rest put Self first, Party second, Lobbyist third and they could care less about American Citizens or this Nation! Thats not totally correct the Democrats do love Illegal Aliens for the millions of welfare votes they will provide the Democrats!

Posted by: american1 | November 27, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Oh wait. I have to vote for Clinton because a Clinton supporter believes Obama can't win the South. Hello? Do you know the level of hatred they have for Mrs. Clinton down there. Look, the Dems do not need the deep South as long as we pick up Ohio and Virginia. Anyway, this vote for Hillary because America is racist and will not vote for a Black man is the same Democrat BS every black canidate has to deal with. I am willing to back the guy I want and not worry about "what the racists will do." I will support the Democrat in the general election no matter who he or she will be, but right now I am riding with O (Obama). I'm not naive...I just believe!

Posted by: michaelguss | November 27, 2007 4:03 PM | Report abuse

The latest Zogby poll is an ONLINE poll--how reliable is that? Obama supporters are so desperate that they're resorting to ONLINE polls. Way to keep it classy Obamites.

Posted by: jesuscastillon | November 27, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Republicans want to run against Clinton because they think they can beat her. The latest Zogby poll shows her losing to all the republican candidates but Obama beating them all !

Posted by: david_sites | November 27, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Hope is only a word if you don't have a candidate experienced enough to implement it. Support Clinton, Dodd, or Biden--anyone but Obama. Fired up? Ready to go? Please do. Go away and don't ruin our chance at winning in the general. Look at Jena, LA and tell me that race relations are what you think they are and then tell me that Obama will bring us together? Support a real viable candidate and not an EMPTY phrase that your candidate cannot back up.

Posted by: jesuscastillon | November 27, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

The race was bound to tighten in the end, but Hillary will obviously prevail. She's the Dems only chance of winning.

Posted by: garrettpomeroy | November 27, 2007 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama all the way!!! "A nation healed, a world repaired"---Barack Obama.

"Let us all attain our highest possibilities through president Barack Obama"---By a critical thinker

Posted by: nkgilb | November 27, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

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