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

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. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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