Clinton Gets Personal At Portsmouth Rally, as N.H. Primary Nears Final Stage

Dec 29, 2015

While Hillary Clinton enjoys wide support in the Democratic presidential race across much of the country, in New Hampshire, Sen. Bernie Sanders still poses a threat. In Portsmouth Tuesday, Clinton spoke to a crowd that included voters weighing both candidates.

To be sure, there was no shortage of die-hard Clinton fans in South Church. That included David Allan-Matheson, who braved 70 miles of accident-riddled icy roads to see his favorite candidate. He says he has little interest in Bernie Sanders. 

David Allan-Matheson (right), longtime Clinton supporter, sits shoulder-to-shoulder besides Sanders supporters Sophie Rathjen (center) and Alex Binder (left).
Credit Allegra Boverman / NHPR

While Hillary Clinton enjoys wide support in the 

 “I see, when I look at Hillary Clinton talk on stage, she’s talking about real life circumstances vs. the heavenly vision people like to exhort,” he says.   However, it’s not folks like Allan-Matheson Clinton is trying to persuade at this point in the campaign. It’s the young women squished in the pew beside him who say they are voting for Bernie Sanders, along with those a few pews over: like Anya Moses, her partner Peter Helm, and father Mark. These three say Clinton seems too prone to disingenuous political maneuvering. “I think it’s worth voting for someone where we believe in their ideas,” says Anya. “Bernie has a fresh perspective,” adds her father.  

Mark and Anya Moses, (right and center) and Peter Helm (left) walked into Monday's event preferring Sanders, but left saying they felt persuaded by Hillary Clinton's remarks.
Credit Allegra Boverman / NHPR

A few minutes later, Clinton’s speech to this crowd of 950 shows how she’s trying to bring Sanders supporters like the Moseses into the fold. Clinton leaves out the grand rhetoric one might expect at a rally this size.

Instead, for 45 minutes, she reflects on the concerns offered up by her audience, displaying seemingly intimate knowledge of everything from the cost of hearing aids, to international climate negotiations.

She spends extra time on the issues where her campaign feels it has an advantage over Sanders, like gun control.

And after a visitor from Liberia took the mic to ask for a photo, Clinton launched into a long story about visiting post-war Liberia to meet the Liberian Congress. 

Clinton’s efforts to prove herself to Sanders enthusiasts may be working – at least for Anya Moses and her family. Teeth chattering in the slush outside South Church afterward the event, these three are experiencing some change of heart.  They came in preferring Sanders. After the event, Helm says “I’m probably more on the fence now than I was before.”

Anya adds “she seemed more genuine,” explaining “ It wasn’t buzz phrases, she wasn’t just saying ‘this is my platform,’ there actually seemed to have some heart behind it.”

Clinton has just over a month left to persuade New Hampshire voters, one on one, in settings like this Portsmouth church. Whether that will translate over the airwaves, in states where voters don’t get to shake the hand of every candidate? We’ll see.