- The Washington Times - Monday, February 8, 2016

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Faced with the prospect of a crushing loss here in Tuesday’s crucial primary election, and with a campaign that once again looks to be in disarray, Hillary Clinton this week is relying on her husband to make a series of increasingly heated attacks against rival Sen. Bernard Sanders.

Former President Bill Clinton, still one of the most popular figures in the Democratic Party, on Sunday and Monday took harsh shots at Mr. Sanders, saying, among other things, that the Vermont senator lives in a “hermetically sealed” fantasy land and has a platform full of wholly unrealistic policy proposals. Mr. Sanders remains 12 points ahead of Mrs. Clinton in New Hampshire, according to the most recent RealClearPolitics average of all polls.

Mr. Clinton’s attacks — which not only have targeted the senator’s policies but also his readiness to be president — come amid reports the Clinton campaign is considering major staff shakeups after its razor-thin win in last week’s Iowa caucuses and ahead of Tuesday’s expected blowout loss in New Hampshire.

Mr. Clinton’s verbal bludgeoning of Mr. Sanders seems to come with dual motivations — limit losses in New Hampshire and sway as many undecided voters as possible to Mrs. Clinton’s side, and also to shore up the campaign’s Southern “firewall” in South Carolina and beyond by planting doubts in the minds of Democrats about Mr. Sanders’ qualifications and electability.

Mrs. Clinton remains far ahead of Mr. Sanders in South Carolina, polls show.

Whatever the motivations, what had until recently been a relatively friendly primary battle based on policy ideas now has gotten ugly.

“When you’re making a revolution, you can’t be too careful with the facts,” Mr. Clinton said at a rally in nearby Milford on Sunday night, mocking Mr. Sanders’ frequent calls for political upheaval.

He went on to say that Mrs. Clinton has embraced realistic policy solutions on health care, affordable college and other key issues, while Mr. Sanders hasn’t.

“It’s a hermetically sealed box. It’s very effective. The system is rigged against you by the big banks, and both parties are in the thrall of the big banks. Anybody who takes money from Goldman Sachs couldn’t possibly be president,” Mr. Clinton said, repeating Mr. Sanders’ frequent attacks on Mrs. Clinton for her close ties to Wall Street.

The 42nd president was slightly more restrained at a Manchester rally Monday, but still admitted that the Sanders campaign has gotten under his skin.

“It bothers me to be in an American election where a debate is impossible because if you disagree, you’re just part of the establishment,” Mr. Clinton told a crowd at Manchester Community College. “We can’t get in a place where we get so mad we demonize anyone who is against us.”

Some Clinton supporters agree and say that while they like Mr. Sanders’ ideas, they also view them as fantasy.

“It sounds great, but hope doesn’t translate to movement,” said Neil Valentino, a 67-year-old Manchester resident who attended Monday’s community college rally. “He sounds great, but it’s not the answer.”

For his part, Mr. Sanders largely refrains from direct attacks on the Clintons during his campaign rallies, though he has made clear in recent weeks that he believes his opponent is the very embodiment of the Washington political establishment that he’s warring against.

Even though he’s likely to secure a major win in Tuesday’s primary here, Mr. Sanders still is casting his as an underdog campaign.

“We have come a long way in the last nine months,” he said at a Monday rally.

Meanwhile, Politico reported Monday that the Clintons are unhappy with the campaign’s messaging and digital strategy, and are considering staff changes if things go poorly in the New Hampshire primary.

Insiders say they are frustrated at Mrs. Clinton’s hands-off approach when things are going well and her micromanagement when things are going poorly.

The campaign dysfunction is eerily similar to 2008, when Mrs. Clinton also seemed to blame her staff when she began falling behind then-Sen. Barack Obama.

Obama campaign veterans latched on to Monday’s news and said the Clintons ought to look in the mirror if they’re wondering who to blame.

“When the exact same problems crop up in separate campaigns, with different staff, at what point do the principals say, ‘Hey maybe it’s US,” former Obama adviser and campaign chief David Axelrod tweeted Monday afternoon.

Mrs. Clinton responded directly to the rumors in an interview Monday with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, saying she’s both confident in her campaign team but is always looking for ways to improve.

“Yeah, somebody showed that to me,” Mrs. Clinton said of the Politico article. “I have no idea what they’re talking about or who they are talking to. We’re going to take stock, but it’s going to be the campaign that I’ve got. I’m very confident in the people that I have. I’m very committed to them; they’re committed to doing the best we can. We’re going to take stock: what works, what doesn’t work.”

At least some Clinton supporters still have faith in the campaign’s core strength moving forward and believe that, ultimately, Mrs. Clinton’s message will win out.

“I’m confident in her long game, even though she’s not going to win here tomorrow,” said Bill Ryan, a 62-year-old North Sutton, New Hampshire, resident who attended Monday’s Clinton rally at Manchester Community College.

Kelly Riddell contributed to this report.

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