MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — The Clintons came to New Hampshire with a carefully calibrated pitch for local voters and the national news media, positioning the former Secretary of State as a dogged fighter who won’t let a loss here to Bernie Sanders slow her march to the Democratic presidential nomination.
With less than 24 hours until voting begins in the first-in-the-nation primary, the Clinton charm offensive went big in New Hampshire Monday afternoon with a packed rally at Manchester Community College. The event offered three Clintons for the price of one, as former President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea Clinton proved an effective opening act for the SRO crowd.
Bill Clinton continued his charged effort to draw contrasts between Clinton and her Democratic opponent, thought he did not cite the liberal Vermont senator by name.
“We’re grateful for all the millennial young people who are supporting Hillary,” Bill Clinton said. “They’re just as mad as those others — they just understand that they have to translate that anger into answers and resentment into results.”
Bill Clinton criticized the tenor of the campaigning from some of Sanders’ ardent supporters, accusing them of demonizing Hillary as “part of some mythical establishment” over mere policy differences. “We need somebody who can get things done,” he said. Bill and Hillary mentioned more than once that her supporters include the other senator from Vermont, Patrick Leahy, and the state’s current governor, Peter Shumlin.
Hillary Clinton, standing in front of a “Fighting For Us” backdrop, was more direct in her criticism of Sanders, who is expected to win Tuesday’s Democratic vote by a sizable margin. She cited recent reports that he accepted a $200,000 donation with links to Goldman Sachs, in sharp contrast to his claim to waging a campaign fueled by small donors. But she emphasized that taking campaign donations from financial institutions doesn’t mean she’s beholden to them — far from it, she asserted.
“That hasn’t changed his views and it certainly hasn’t changed mine,” Hillary Clinton said, with a primary-season hoarseness. She called it “a badge of honor” that big Wall Street firms have donated more than $2 billion to defeat her candidacy.
A lone man in the crowd — wearing a red baseball cap and a jacket emblazoned “Yale Hockey” — shouted out “You take their money” during her Wall Street-bashing riff. He was quickly drowned out by pro-Hillary chants but campaign staff made no effort to eject the man from the gathering.
Hillary Clinton cast Sanders as an idealist who would set the country back with unrealistic goals such as shifting to a single-payer healthcare system or making all public higher education tuition-free. The more pragmatic path is to work to defend and expand Obamacare, she said.
“What we can’t do is start over. It’s a lot easier to get from 90% (of Americans covered by health insurance) to 100% than it is to go from zero to 100%,” she said.
Clinton, like Sanders, courts middle-class voters with appeals to concerns about the ever-rising cost of college education. But she nixes his idea of free tuition for public colleges and universities on a simple principle: “Frankly Donald Trump should pay for his own kids to go to college,” she said, to big applause.
Overall, the tone of the presentation was geared to linking the prospect of a future Clinton presidency with the previous Clinton presidency, with precious few mentions of President Obama. Both Bill and Hillary sought to reclaim the narrative of her ill-fated health care reform effort in 1994.
“You know they called it Hillarycare before they called it Obamacare,” she quipped. She defended the plan as sound and defeated by opposition from insurance and pharmaceutical companies. “They spent a lot of money (to fight the plan) as they tend to do whenever I’m around,” she said. Bill Clinton also raised the 1994 effort in his opening remarks: “We had a really good plan, we just didn’t have the 60 votes in the Senate.”
Chelsea Clinton took the microphone before either of her parents. The pregnant former first daughter, who also has a 10-month-old daughter, couldn’t help but add the human touch. “This is the first election I will vote in as a mom,” she said.
Hillary Clinton naturally hit upon hot-button topics for women — from equal pay to support for Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights — but didn’t belabor her appeal to the distaff side. More than anything else, Clinton sought to position herself as a “fighter.” She left the stage and dove into the crowd as Rachel Platten’s feminist anthem “This Is My Fight Song” blared overhead.