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Clinton Insists She Is The Strongest Democrat

NASHUA, N.H. -- At the second house-party gathering of her second day of campaigning in this key primary state, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) insisted that she is the best candidate to win the White House back for her party in 2008. And, what's more, she said Republicans know it.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Sen. Clinton talks during a gathering at the home of Mike and Debora Pignatelli in Nashua, N.H. The candidate told attendees that she is the best candidate to win back the White House next year. (AP photo)

"I know what [former House Speaker Newt] Gingrich [R-Ga.] tells people privately, I know what [former House Majority Leader Tom] Delay [R-Texas] tells people privately, I know what Karl Rove tells people privately," she said. "I'm the one person they are most afraid of. Bill and I have beaten them before and we will again."

The remark drew loud cheers from the assembled crowd here at the home of Debora and Mike Pignatelli this afternoon. And it led to a rare discussion by Clinton of how her campaign would differ from those of the last two Democratic nominees.

Clinton said Democrats have spent too much time turning out voters who are already for them rather than reaching out to those less inclined to back the party. She drew on her experiences running for the Senate in New York to back up that claim -- pointing out that she performed well in the Republican-heavy Upstate by simply showing up and asking for votes.

In many ways, the strategy on which Clinton appears to have based her past campaigns, as well as her presidential run, echoes the "50-state Strategy" of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. Since taking over the DNC in early 2005, Dean has dedicated the party to funding and building organizations in every state in the country, including places like Mississippi and Idaho where Republicans dominate on the federal level.

Can that strategy work in a national race for the White House? Maybe.

It remains to be seen how many states will truly be in play in next November's general election, thought it's probably a safe bet that the presidential campaign will come down to a handful of states into which the two parties will pour millions of dollars.

Talking about reaching out to voters not inclined to support you or your party is a sound rhetorical device for Clinton at this early stage in the race. But the challenge of assembling the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency is a complicated task that demands strategic decisions about where and how to spend scarce resources.

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 11, 2007; 5:35 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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