Clinton Campaign Looks Toward N.H.
By Anne E. Kornblut
DES MOINES -- At 9:25 p.m. Central time, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton emerged onstage to acknowledge the first electoral loss of her career. "I am so ready for the rest of this campaign, and I am so ready to lead," Clinton said. She spoke for about 10 minutes, with her husband, daughter and mother standing at her side.
"Thank you, thank you so much. Wow," Clinton said. "Well, we're going to take this enthusiasm and go right to New Hampshire tonight. This is a great night for Democrats. We have seen an unprecedented turnout here in Iowa, and that is good news because today we're sending a clear message that we are going to have change and that change will be a Democratic president in the White House in 2009."
She continued: "I am so proud to have run with such exceptional candidates. I congratulate Senator Obama and Senator Edwards. I thank Senator Dodd and Senator Biden and Governor Richardson and Congressman Kucinich. Together we have presented the case for change and have made it absolutely clear that America needs a new beginning. And I am as ready as I can be after having had this incredible experience here in Iowa starting out a long time ago and making this journey with so many people who have become my friends and who I am so grateful for their hard work and support."
Clinton repeated her central theme: That only she is ready to lead as president upon inauguration in 2009. She also suggested that many Iowans had been unable to participate in the caucuses, which require people to be physically present in the room and thus exclude active-duty members of the military and night workers. And Clinton promised, as expected, to continue running a national race.
"What is most important now is that, as we go on with this contest, that we keep focused on the two big issues, that we answer correctly the questions that each of us has posed. How will we win in November 2008 by nominating a candidate that will be able to go the distance? And who will be the best president on day one? I am ready for that contest," Clinton said. "We have always planned to run a national campaign all the way through the early contests."
After the public rally, the Clintons held a private pep talk with their staff members on the floor of their hotel. Former president Bill Clinton told downcast aides that there was some good news in the night's results: that the campaign had gotten far more than 70,000 voters -- far more than the campaign thought it needed, he said -- and that he is confident a post-caucus analysis will show that Clinton and Obama were tied among first-time voters. He also described second-choice votes as the meaningless result of deals made by other campaigns.
According to someone who was present in the meeting, Clinton then said that his wife is 12 points ahead in New Hampshire -- and that they would be going there on Thursday night, and would win next Tuesday.
Clinton spent much of the night consoling her downcast supporters, summoning aides to her hotel floor for a pep talk. Later, campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle held a conference call with the entire staff to encourage them for the fight ahead. Although the campaign had spent millions to come in third in the first nominating contest, Solis Doyle praised the effort in Iowa and described it as an "unprecedented" result, according to someone who was on the call. She described the team as "pumped," reporting that Clinton is ahead 10 points in New Hampshire.
Solis Doyle congratulated Obama in a statement issued at 9:22 p.m. Central time. "Congratulations to Senator Obama and his campaign on their victory tonight," she wrote. "It's been a hard fought race here in Iowa for the last year and all eyes now turn to New Hampshire." She continued: "Hillary is going to continue making the case that in these serious times when America faces big challenges, it will take a leader with the strength and experience to deliver real change. This race begins tonight and ends when Democrats throughout America have their say. Our campaign was built for a marathon and we have the resources to run a national race in the weeks ahead."
Clinton supporters mustered a cheer of "Hill-a-ry, Hill-a-ry" and "New Hampshire" in a second-floor ballroom of the Hotel Fort Des Moines, where campaign officials kept turning up the volume of her soundtrack to try to mask the quiet disappointment of the crowd. Her backers -- overwhelmingly women -- waved signs that read "ready for change" -- an ironic twist on a night when voters sought change, and chose her chief rival.
The surrogate lineup onstage embodied the challenges for Clinton in arguing she represents change. Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, retired Gen. Wesley Clark and former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe stood ready to back Clinton up during her concession speech. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was also present.
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