Clinton Seeks to Reassure Democrats With Sanders Ready for Fight

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greets supporters on Jan. 28, 2016, in Newton, Iowa.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • Campaign moves to New Hampshire where challenger is favorite
  • `No panic' in Clinton camp after slender victory in Iowa

Hillary Clinton tried to reassure Democrats she’s still best positioned to win in November after her razor-thin victory over Bernie Sanders in Iowa only served to boost the challenger’s fundraising and momentum heading into the New Hampshire primary.

Facing the same anti-establishment voter sentiment that’s roiled the Republican presidential campaign, Clinton said it’s now up to New Hampshire voters in next Tuesday’s primary to determine “who can go toe-to-toe with Republicans to make sure they don’t wreck us again."

“Make this journey with me,” she told a community college audience in Nashua on Tuesday. “Fight for me. And when we win I will stand up and fight for you every single day."

Even with the close contest in Iowa and with Sanders favored to win New Hampshire, Clinton remains the candidate with the best odds of capturing the Democratic nomination for president as the campaign moves into more favorable territory, starting Feb. 27 in South Carolina.

Bolstering Staff

Still, she was bolstering her resources in New Hampshire. Members of Clinton’s staff who aren’t directly involved in operations for other states she’s counting on to seal her front-runner status, such as South Carolina and Nevada, are driving from Clinton campaign headquarters in Brooklyn to help over the next week.

Sanders declared himself ready for a fight. He raised $1 million within 90 minutes of his speech after the Iowa caucuses Monday night in which he declared the results essentially a tie, said spokesman Michael Briggs. He had already banked more than $20 million in donations in January, showing the depth of his grassroots support and a financial base. Arriving in New Hampshire, he was greeted at 5 a.m. by dozens of cheering supporters.

Predicting Upset

“I am confident that at the end of the day we will bring forth the major, most significant political upset in the modern history of the United States and we’re gonna win,” Sanders told reporters after a get-out-the-vote rally later in the day in Keene.

Clinton worked to turn the threat from Sanders into a rallying cry for her supporters rather than allow it to undermine the confidence of donors, party leaders and her campaign staff.

A previously scheduled afternoon conference call with media surrogates and senior campaign aides was upbeat, with agreement that the Iowa result was a victory and there was "no panic," said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic strategist and Clinton backer who participated.

“Everybody I talk to still thinks she’s going to win,” Elmendorf said. “The first two states are Bernie’s best states because they’re extremely liberal and extremely white and when we get out of those two states we’ll do better. I don’t see a lot of concern.”

There were no signs of plans to add to or shake up Clinton’s senior team in response to Monday’s result. Although most polls showed Clinton leading in Iowa until few weeks ago, aides said her ability to stave off a late Sanders surge demonstrated that she’ll win the nomination, even if she loses in New Hampshire.

Minority Voters

Jim Manley, another Democratic strategist who is supporting Clinton, said that while the Sanders campaign has been expanding its outreach to Hispanics in Nevada and engagement with black voters in other states, Clinton has a much deeper relationship with minority communities. “That’s where all the growth is when it comes to Democratic voters,” he said. “I think that’s what they’re counting on.”

Sanders’ campaign was using his late surge in Iowa to rally his supporters.

“Bernie Sanders has demonstrated he can go toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton,” said Tad Devine, a longtime Democratic consultant and senior Sanders adviser. “He did so yesterday in Iowa, and I think now they know they’ve got two real choices here.”

Sanders Campaign

The Sanders campaign has been in New Hampshire since August and has 108 paid employees spread across 18 offices, according to the state communications director Karthik Ganapathy. The main concern remains turning out supporters, he said.

Sanders is the senator from neighboring Vermont and that familiarity in New Hampshire has helped give him an 18-point advantage in the state, according to an average of polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.

Sanders chastised reporters for focusing on individual wins and losses.

“Media gets hung up on ‘What happens if you lose this and if you win this?’ And, ‘If Hillary Clinton had lost in Iowa would it have been the end of the world?’ No, it wouldn’t have. She would have been right here," Sanders said in Keene. "This is the way it is. This is a national election. We’re going to go to state, after state, after state, after state.”

Clinton told CNN Tuesday that a win in New Hampshire is “certainly what I’m aiming for.” At the same time, she sought to lower expectations. “I know that they tend to favor their neighbors,” she said of New Hampshire voters, but “I think we will have a good contest.”

She also said she looks forward to a debate on Thursday, while declining to agree to Sanders’ campaign’s demand that she also debate him in New York.

While saying economic fairness was the driving issue, Clinton also used her time in New Hampshire to try to rally other key segments of the Democratic base: women, minorities, gays, teachers’ unions, college students with debt, gun control advocates and anti-war voters.

“This is going to be a great week of campaigning,” she said.

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