In order to escape the expected Obama wave that may sweep over New Hampshire tomorrow I fled this morning to the safety of higher ground to reflect on what I had seen in the Granite State over the past two days, but not before attending several Democratic campaign rallies in Nashua, Manchester and Concord. I also went canvassing voters door-to-door, and talked to some locals yesterday morning over eggs at the historic Merrimack Restaurant in downtown Manchester.
What message kept coming back to me from a good number of these encounters is how angry and disappointed local Democrats are with their national Congressional leadership. I repeatedly heard that Granite-staters are fed up with anything that constitutes politics-as-normal inside the Beltway and that includes anyone who is perceived -- rightly or wrongly -- associated with it. "The Democrats were voted back in to bring change and they didn't!" said one middle-aged Democratic woman to me. Another elderly Democratic voter actually said it was time for a coup d'etat against Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi for their failure to convincingly stand up to Bush on Iraq, Gonzales, Cheney, Gitmo, surveillance, health care, scandals... what have you. She was running out of breath rattling off a passion-laden laundry list of Democratic shortcomings.
This bottled up resentment against the national Democratic establishment is, in my judgment, a terrible drag on Hillary Clinton's campaign in New Hampshire. It has subliminally fostered a desire among Democrats to have Obama "change" trump Hillary "experience" because when Democrats voted for change in 2006, they got little more than business as usual out of DC Dems. Obama has clearly benefited from that tide of Democratic disappointment with their national Congressional leadership, of which he has apparently developed a Teflon coat.
What also comes across loud and clear is that Democrats have pushed aside concerns over the war in Iraq to focus almost exclusively on domestic social and economic issues. Case in point: at the Clinton Nashua North High School campaign town hall yesterday afternoon, Mrs. Clinton (with daughter Chelsea at her side) thoughtfully fielded over twenty questions over a period of two hours from a variety of potential. Evidencing her superior grasp of issues, Clinton expertly segued from one arcane topic to another. And nary a question about Iraq or Al Qaeda came up. However, she did talk about the need to restore America's battered image in the world. And Clinton did weave into one answer a standard stump speech line about how she would end the war as quickly and securely as possible.
But what got the audience's greatest applause was her vow to help our returning Iraq vets get the best possible mental health care.
Throughout her event, Clinton was in her best teaching mode, while down the road at his own rally, as I later watched on TV, Obama was in his best preaching mode.
After Clinton's rally, I buttonholed a few attendees to ask them what they had thought of Hillary. Two young non-committed independent voters told me they were still "candidate" shopping and were hurrying over to an Obama event in Salem, NH.
A couple with two young kids in tow decided to take a few minutes and vent. Each told me that while they had originally planned to vote for Hillary, they were concerned she would not shake the pot up enough in Washington, get new Democratic leaders with more backbone, and were now leaning toward Obama or Edwards. They were afraid she was tied too much to the "business as usual" DC crowd.
Then the husband really unloaded. He indicated he was a ward chairman in Nashua and was "furious" with Nancy Pelosi for not stopping the war. He felt betrayed by Congressional Democrats of which he claimed Hillary was one of. When I reminded him that Obama had been in the Senate for three years and certainly was no outsider, he said that Obama had come to change Washington and had the courage to change Washington as President, but that Hillary had not come to change Washington as Senator and probably would not try hard enough to force change on Washington as President.
If Clinton loses big to Obama tomorrow, it may very well be because Nashua met Nancy and Harry before meeting Hillary and Barak.
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