Durham, N.H. -- Hillary Clinton had planned to address two of her liabilities today -- her dismal level of support among young, well-educated voters, and her image of impermeability -- by holding a Q&A session with University of New Hampshire students, but her campaign entourage was, uncharacteristically, two hours late, sorely testing the patience of the 20 or so students waiting for her.
When Clinton did finally pull into the parking lot in front of the Bagelry here, Clinton told the remaining assembled students: "I particularly want to give young voters a chance to ask the questions they have," noting that the debate tonight is sponsored by Facebook, the networking site heavily used by students.
Clinton sought to portray her campaign as a vehicle for idealism, offering young voters the chance to participate in a crusade similar to the one Barack Obama now is seen as leading: "One of the reasons I am running for president is I love this country and I don't want to see it sort of slip away from us," she said. Clinton described in detail her efforts helping to negotiate a peace agreement in Northern Ireland and her work encouraging provision of services for refugees in Macedonia.
Over and over again, the former First Lady returned to the theme of youth.
In a critique of the Bush administration's tax and spending policies, Clinton warned the gathering that "the way the Bush policies will play out, this [the deficit and national debt] is all going to be dumped on you, the young generation."
Similarly, she told the students -- far outnumbered by members of the press and her staff -- that "if you look at the income data, this is the first time young people are on a trend to not do as well as their parents....we've got to get the economy producing jobs again."
With only three days to go before the New Hampshire primary, Clinton faces an uphill struggle, with long odds against making substantial inroads into Obama's support among young voters, if the Iowa results are any guide. As an indicator of the generational divide at work, Obama got his degree from Harvard Law School in 1991; Clinton graduated from Yale Law School in 1973.
Network entrance polls from the January 3 Iowa caucuses showed Barack Obama crushing Clinton by a 5 to 1 margin, 57-11, among voters aged 17 to 29, a development that has become particularly damaging this year, with Iowa demonstrating that young voters are turning out in far higher percentages than in past contests.