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‘Elect a doer, not a talker,’ Hillary urges
Question of the Day
NASHUA, N.H. — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York yesterday tried to reframe the Democratic presidential contest as "talk versus action" and "rhetoric versus reality," leveling charges that Sen. Barack Obama has done little more than give impassioned speeches.
"If you gave a speech — and a very good speech — against the war in Iraq in 2002, and then by 2004, you're saying you're not sure how you would have voted, and then by 2005, -6, and -7, you vote for $300 billion for the war you said you were against, that's not change," Mrs. Clinton told a standing-room-only crowd in a high school gymnasium.
That was a direct hit against Mr. Obama, an Illinois Democrat who uses each of his campaign appearances to remind voters he opposed the Iraq war from its inception while Mrs. Clinton voted to authorize it. As she did in a debate the previous evening, Mrs. Clinton highlighted issues on which she said Mr. Obama has shifted position. She did not mention she once voted for war funding but now votes against it.
Mrs. Clinton, who voted for both the USA Patriot Act and its reauthorization, told voters Mr. Obama once said he would oppose the act but later voted for it.
The former first lady told voters here if you "rail against" tax breaks for big oil but "you voted for Dick Cheney's energy bill" in 2005, "that's not change." Mrs. Clinton opposed the energy bill, but several senators supporting her candidacy voted for it.
Mrs. Clinton said New Hampshire voters tomorrow must ensure "we nominate and elect a doer, not a talker."
Mr. Obama, attracting overflow crowds at his events as well, told 3,000 in Exeter that he rejected Mrs. Clinton's debate argument of Saturday night.
"One of my opponents said we needed a reality check on hope and that we should stop giving people false hopes about what we can accomplish and saying it's dishonest," he said. "Well what kind of an agenda is that?"
He worked to reassure voters he is not naive.
"I know how hard it will be to get health care reform. I know that once I get this Democratic nomination, the folks on the other side are going to come after me," he said. "I know that, but we can't let that stop us."
He also told reporters: "There is no such thing as false hopes. We can focus and get things done."
The Obama campaign also jumped on remarks Mrs. Clinton made about the Iraq war.
"After 9/11, I would never have taken us to war in Iraq," she said, adding she would have remained focused on Afghanistan. "Now we're playing catch-up, and it's a dangerous game of catch-up."
An Obama spokesman said Mrs. Clinton was trying to rewrite history since she voted for the attack on Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 2003.
But, responding to that, Mrs. Clinton insisted her vote was not for a pre-emptive war.
Several reporters asked the candidate and her campaign why the "talk versus action" line of attack didn't come earlier, and she said she felt the debate "opened the door" and "the timing was right."
"I intend to fight hard in this campaign," she said.
She also declined to answer whether a loss here tomorrow could end her candidacy, saying she is focused on New Hampshire and future elections, not her third-place Iowa showing.
"If a campaign doesn't evolve, it probably is dead," she said.
When asked about Mr. Obama saying poll-tested politics should be a thing of the past, Mrs. Clinton shot back: "Senator Obama has four pollsters if I'm not mistaken."
Among the day's lighter moments was when she teased MSNBC's Chris Matthews for asking her a tough question. When she reminded him she was not a guest on his show, but rather he was at her press conference, he said, "Please come on the show."
"Yeah, right," Mrs. Clinton responded, laughing. "I don't know what to do with men who are obsessed with me. Honestly, I've never understood it."
Mrs. Clinton drew more than 3,700 to the Nashua event, where Mr. Obama had a smaller crowd the day before, but it turned out there was at least one busload of New Yorkers there. Some attendees said they were recruited via phone calls from nearby Massachusetts.
Polls of New Hampshire voters are all over the map, with some showing an Obama-Clinton tie and a new CNN poll giving Mr. Obama a large lead of 39 percent to 29 percent. The previous day, the same poll had the candidates neck and neck.
On a conference call yesterday, Clinton campaign New Hampshire co-chairman Kathy Sullivan portrayed Mr. Obama as a flip-flopper who doesn't share Mrs. Clinton's ability to make change happen.
"Talk is cheap," she said.
Mrs. Sullivan said, "the people of New Hampshire deserve an explanation" about Mr. Obama's changing positions, and she disagreed the new push was going negative.
The candidates also are feuding in voters' homes about abortion. The Clinton campaign distributed a mailer targeting Mr. Obama's seven "present" votes on abortion-related issues when he served in the Illinois state Senate. The Obama campaign recorded a response call that the Clinton team said violated state laws regarding the do-not-call list and political ads.
"I know the facts. Barack has a 100 percent pro-choice record," said Wendy Frosh, a local Planned Parenthood chairman, on the call. "Hillary Clinton's last-minute smears won't protect the right to choose, but as president, Barack Obama will."
But later last night, the president of Planned Parenthood New England, Nancy Mosher, sent an e-mail saying Ms. Frosh had acted as an individual, and "has taken a temporary leave from the board."
According to the Associated Press, the e-mail included a statement from Ms. Frosh noting the organization has not endorsed a candidate and that "I regret any confusion that may have been caused by my actions."
Mrs. Sullivan also charged that the calls violate New Hampshire state law requiring identification of its sponsor within 30 seconds. The "paid for by Obama for America" comes at 38 seconds.
The Obama campaign responded by saying its firm would scrub its list of voters on the do-not-call list and stressed the calls comply with federal law.
Earlier yesterday, the Nashua event couldn't have gone more smoothly for Mrs. Clinton, who was thanked by voters repeatedly for her work, asked how she would deal with health care and global warming, and what she would do with the suspected terrorists held at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
But Mrs. Clinton's day got off to a rough start. She beamed as she stepped from her bus to greet volunteers who were preparing to do a voter canvass on her behalf. Megaphone in hand, she prepared to rally the troops. But instead of her voice, the crowd heard a siren. The faulty megaphone was quickly handed off to a staffer and replaced with a microphone, which also didn't work.
After saying she would work hard for change and having outlined her record, Mrs. Clinton made a promise: "We'll have a better sound system the next time I see you."
Mr. Obama picked up two big endorsements yesterday — from former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000, and from former Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado, who won the New Hampshire primary in 1984.
• Brian DeBose contributed to this report.
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