POLITICS
03/28/2008 02:45 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obama, Clinton Offer Closing Arguments In New Hampshire

Democratic frontrunners Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton made their final pitches for support on the eve of America's first official primary vote in New Hampshire.

Speaking late into the evening on Monday night, Obama called on supporters to vote for a new style of politics when they hit the polls.

"We believe it is time for change and we are going to make it happen. And New Hampshire, in less than 24 hours it is your turn," the Illinois Democrat declared. "In less than 24 hours if you work hard, knock on some doors... then it is your turn to finally say we are turning the page and writing a new chapter in American history."

At an event two hours earlier, Clinton, who has watched her expected ordainment as the Democratic nominee disappear following the Iowa caucus, remained defiant. Asking the crowd repeatedly if they were ready for a president who could tackle health care and economic woes, getting the troops out of Iraq and restoring the middle class, she said:

"I want you to know that if you will give me your vote tomorrow, if you will talk to your friends and neighbors about what as at stake in this election, I promise you that we together will achieve the goals that America should be setting for ourselves and our children. We are a good nation; we've got to start acting like that again."

But even officials within the Clinton campaign were conceding that the zest and the ploys were likely for naught. Late on Monday, aides acknowledged that a "victory" for Clinton could be just a close second-place finish. Some polls have given Obama a double-digit lead in New Hampshire. A trusted CNN/WMUR-TV poll released on Monday afternoon showed Obama leading Clinton by a margin of 39 percent to 30 percent.

Yet Clinton stuck to her well-worn message, passionately explaining her political ambitions to a raucous crowd, with her husband and daughter standing close by.

"I didn't run for office to become your president because I needed more attention from the press, or because I wanted to live in the White House again," she said. "I did it because I care passionately about our country. I love this country. This country has given me so much."

The audience was clearly enthusiastic, and while they expressed a realistic sense that their candidate would likely not win come Tuesday, there was still optimism about a national victory over Obama.

As Tom Edsall reported on Sunday for the Huffington Post, Clinton operatives are already looking to elections ahead, believing that "the longer the primary campaign can be extended, the better chance Clinton will have to prove that 'there is not even a second level to Obama, there is no depth.'"

In contrast to Clinton's diminished expectations, the Obama campaign offered a quiet but confident demeanor. Following the win at the Iowa caucus, staff for the senator worked and sat subdued on the campaign plane. The businesslike manner carried over to Monday night. Even as polls and pundits predicted a New Hampshire victory, members of Obama's camp insisted that they were not looking ahead of the next day's vote. "We have witnessed something tremendous here," one said, "but we still have a ways to go."

Clinton and Obama's closing arguments capped off five days of aggressive, emotional, and at times tumultuous campaigning among the candidates. In the days following her third place finish in Iowa, infighting was rumored to be pervasive inside Clinton's campaign. On Saturday, Time magazine reported that some of the Senator's biggest donors were unhappy with her performance and were casting blame on chief strategist Mark Penn -- an account which Penn denied.

Staring down the prospect of losing the first two Democratic primary contests, Clinton pursued a more aggressive strategy towards Obama. During the debates on Saturday she attacked the Illinois Democrat for being far more rhetoric than substance, specifically over his votes for the Patriot Act and for Iraq war funding.

In response, Obama mainly took a light tone. He laughed off Clinton's comments in his many appearances in the Granite State, and stuck with calling for change in the face of entrenched interests. And on Monday night he stayed with the proven message.

"I know [change] will be difficult," the senator said to an adoring, young crowd. "But I also know that the only magnificent things that have ever happened in this country happened because a few people somewhere decided to believe."

Check out HuffPost's comprehensive on-the-ground New Hampshire coverage here.