- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 10, 2007

BERLIN, N.H. (AP) — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton faced tough questions yesterday from New Hampshire voters skeptical about her stand on the Iraq war, including one who demanded that she repudiate her 2002 Senate vote to send U.S. troops into battle.

In her first presidential campaign visit to the early-primary state, the New York Democrat sought to focus on her plans to revive struggling small-town economies, universal health care and making college more affordable. But at a crowded town-hall meeting of about 350 people, Mrs. Clinton was peppered with questions about Iraq.

Her toughest questioner was Roger Tilton, 46, a financial adviser from Nashua, N.H. Mr. Tilton told Mrs. Clinton that unless she recanted her vote, he was not in the mood to listen to her other policy ideas.

“I want to know if right here, right now, once and for all and without nuance, you can say that war authorization was a mistake,” he said. “I, and I think a lot of other primary voters, until we hear you say it, we’re not going to hear all the other great things you are saying.”

In response, Mrs. Clinton repeated her assertion that “knowing what we know now, I would never have voted for it,” and said voters would have to decide for themselves whether her position was acceptable.

“The mistakes were made by this president, who misled this country and this Congress,” Mrs. Clinton said to loud applause.

Later, Mr. Tilton said he was not satisfied with her answer and was inclined to support either former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina or Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. The latter announced his candidacy yesterday.

“I love what she says about health care; I love what she says about capping troop levels; I love what she says about the war now,” he said, adding he would remain undecided until she offered a clearer answer.

Mrs. Clinton’s refusal to recant her vote has been a sore point for many liberal Democratic activists, who tend to vote heavily in the party’s primaries.

Mr. Edwards has said his vote was wrong. Mr. Obama was not in the Senate in 2002, but has opposed the war from the outset.

Mrs. Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2008, has strongly criticized the Bush administration’s conduct of the war, most recently in strong terms at a Democratic National Committee meeting. She promised to end the war if elected president. She also has proposed capping troop levels in Iraq.

For the most part, Mrs. Clinton was received warmly by the audience. People applauded enthusiastically several times throughout her 90-minute appearance.

Mrs. Clinton told the crowd she chose to open her visit in Berlin, a struggling paper-mill town in northern New Hampshire, because the area resembled upstate New York and faced many of the same economic challenges.

“I’m starting in the north country for a simple reason — I want to be a president who represents all of America,” she said. “Our small towns, our rural areas, places that need some extra help and attention to be as prosperous in the 21st century as you were in 20th century.”

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