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Hillary on top in New Hampshire

world Updated: Jan 09, 2008 18:51 IST
AP
Barack Obama

A sharpened line of attack against rival Barack Obama, whom she called an agent of "false hope," appeared to help Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton battle back in the New Hampshire primary after last week's devastating loss in Iowa.

Clinton also may have gained traction after Obama and John Edwards joined againt her in a nationally televised debate, and when she made a surprising, and highly-publicized show of emotion, her eyes welling up as she spoke of the hardships of campaigning.

Clinton maintained a slight lead over Obama as the votes were counted despite numerous polls suggesting she was headed for another bad night. She scored much better among women voters than she did in Iowa, while Obama appeared to be getting less support from independents and young voters than he did there.

Obama's message of change continued to be a powerful draw from Democratic voters in the state, according to results of a survey of voters as they left there polling places. More than half said they were looking for a candidate who could bring changes, and half of those favored Obama.

But other numbers appeared to work to Clinton's advantage in New Hampshire.

Far more women voted than men, and Clinton won 45 percent of them compared to 36 for Obama. Not as many young voters turned out as in Iowa, depriving Obama of crucial support.

The survey was conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks.
Clinton advisers are now looking ahead to a multistate primary Feb. 5, which they hope would provide enough time to peel away at Obama's lead.

Clinton strategists were debating whether to bypass Nevada and South Carolina, which hold contests later in January. The powerful Las Vegas-based Culinary Union was likely to endorse Obama on Wednesday, weakening Clinton's chances there. And South Carolina's large population of black voters was expected to strongly back Obama, whose father is Kenyan.

Clinton was expected to huddle with advisers Wednesday about plans going forward before returning to the campaign trail Thursday. New Hampshire famously made Bill Clinton the "Comeback Kid" in 1992; giving him a strong second-place finish after his candidacy was nearly derailed by allegations of womanizing and efforts to evade the draft. He went on to win the Democratic nomination and the first of two terms as president that year.

His wife had a tougher go of it this time.

She received just polite applause and occasional boos at a state party fundraiser Friday night, while enthusiastic supporters swamped Obama. And while OBama was greeted with enormous, raucous audiences throughout the state, Clinton was left to help move chairs around at one campaign event to allow in enough people to make it appear respectably crowded.

In a nationally televised debate Saturday, Clinton was forced to defend her likability while Obama _ somewhat ungraciously _ deadpanned, "You're likable enough."

John Edwards, who narrowly bested Clinton in Iowa and has campaigned energetically in New Hampshire, joined forces with Obama in the debate to paint the New York senator as little more than a Washington hack.

Clinton's team has been scrambling to retool her message to be more forward-looking and less nostalgic about her husband's White House years. New faces are coming aboard to help craft strategy, including longtime confidante Maggie Williams and Doug Sosnik, who served as political director for former resident Bill Clinton. They also hope for stronger press scrutiny of Obama in the weeks going forward and are openly furious at what they perceive to have been fawning media coverage of him thus far.

Bill Clinton, who campaigned doggedly throughout New Hampshire for his wife, complained bitterly Monday that she had been unfairly treated while Obama had been given a free pass.

"The idea that one of these campaigns is positive and the other is negative when I know the reverse is true and I have seen it and I have been blistered by it for months is a little tough to take," the former president said at a campaign forum at Dartmouth College. "Just because of the sanitizing coverage that's in the media doesn't mean the facts aren't out there."

Indeed, her advisers intend to step up their scrutiny of Obama's record in the coming days and are likely to begin airing negative ads _ the first in what has been a remarkably civil TV battle so far.