Four days out from the New Hampshire primary, Hillary Clinton was intent on persuading women to close the margin by which she trails Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — and also to play down the odds of actually pulling it off.
Pulling it off was what Clinton did in 2008 against Barack Obama, as she reminded an audience at a YWCA in Manchester. But Sanders is a next-door resident and retains a substantial lead over Clinton in every poll taken in New Hampshire.
Clinton seemed to suggest she might have had the option of skipping New Hampshire, although that was never in the cards in a state which not only resurrected her campaign but, in 1992, her husband’s.
“People kind of opine: OK, you won Iowa, but you know you’re running against a neighbor. In New Hampshire, neighbors seem to win,” she said, deflating expectations for next Tuesday. “And I say, look that’s neighborly; I have no problem with that, but I’m going to make my case with the people of New Hampshire.”
Clinton said her campaign would “keep fighting until the last vote is counted on Tuesday,” although the candidate herself is leaving briefly to visit Flint, Mich., where lead from water pipes has poisoned residents.
Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow was one of a group of Democratic female senators who traveled to New Hampshire to support Clinton and try to rev up supporters planning to knock doors for the candidate in the midst of a driving snowstorm.
She told the audience that Clinton was the only candidate to have called her office to offer help the Flint residents — a jab at Sanders. She also mocked his call for a “political revolution” that would elect him to the White House.
“This is the moment,” Stabenow said. “When folks talk about a revolution, the revolution is electing the first woman president. That’s the revolution. We are ready for the revolution.”
Other female senators also compared Sanders, their colleague, unfavorably to Clinton.
“We’re not supporting her because she’s a woman; we’re supporting her because she’s the very best person in this race,” said New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. “She’s smart, she’s tough and she doesn’t need any on-the-job training.”
Shaheen may have unintentionally alluded to the challenge ahead for Clinton here when she asked not for a victory on Tuesday but for “a strong vote” — in other words, a narrowing of the gap that Clinton can cast as a moral victory.
Clinton used her come-from-behind win in her last campaign to encourage her supporters.
“I know from my last experience here, when I came in 16 points down or something like that — but who’s counting?” she said. “I wasn’t running against a neighbor but an incredibly charismatic candidate, as we all remember. The only reason I was able to pull that off was because of you.”
Stabenow broke up the crowd with a reminiscence of something that many women have been told at some point in their political careers. And some of it touched on criticisms that have been made of Clinton herself, which the senator wanted to dispel before Tuesday.
“There’s always a message we get, about we’re too this or too that,” she said. “Wait your turn. You smile too much; you must not be serious. You don’t smile enough; you must not be friendly. You talk too much. You’re too serious. And I wouldn’t want to have a beer with you. Or, I do want to have a beer with you, but you can’t run security for our country.
“Your hair!” she continued. “Donald Trump’s hair — what about that hair? Come on.”