PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Hillary Rodham Clinton's eyes welled up and her voice broke repeatedly Monday as she talked with voters in a restaurant about her campaign for the presidency.
The former first lady was making a last-minute pitch for support as she spoke on the eve of the state's primary, with polls showing her trailing Democratic rival Barack Obama.
Asked by a sympathetic voter how she keeps going in the grueling campaign, she replied, "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," she said, her voice catching.
"You know, I've had so many opportunities from this country, I just don't want to see us fall backwards," she said, her voice trailing off. The voters crowded into the restaurant applauded encouragingly.
"So," she continued, then paused, seemingly to control her voice as her listeners applauded again. "You know, this is very personal for me. It's not just political. It's not just public. I see what's happening, and we have to reverse it. 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. You know some of us put ourselves out there and do this against some pretty difficult odds. And we do it, each one of us, because we care about our country. But some of us are right and some of us are wrong. Some of us are ready and some of us are not."
She concluded, "And so when we look at the array of problems we have and the potential for it getting _ really spinning out of control, this is one of the most important elections America's ever faced. So as tired as I am _ and I am _ and as difficult as it is to kind of keep up with what I try to do on the road like occasionally exercise and try to eat right _ it's tough when the easiest food is pizza _ I just believe so strongly in who we are as a nation so I'm going to do everything I can to make my case and, you know, then the voters get to decide."
After she spoke several of the people in the Cafe Espresso audience crowded around Clinton and offered sympathetic support.
Clinton later told Fox News Channel that male politicians get emotional, too.
"We have gone through years of male political figures who have done everything from cry to scream who have been our presidents," she said, adding that people who have followed her know she is "cool under fire" and "that I am tough.
"They know that I can make decisions. But I also want them to know I'm a real person," Clinton said.
One of the GOP hopefuls, Mitt Romney, has had his own emotional moments on the campaign trail. In New Hampshire on Dec. 17, the former Massachusetts governor teared up when he recalled watching the casket of a soldier killed in Iraq and imagining that he had lost one of his sons. Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" a day earlier, Romney, a Mormon, choked up while speaking about his religion.