From NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli
NASHUA, NH -- Clinton got good news out of Iowa Saturday with the Des Moines Register's endorsement. As she began to make her closing argument in New Hampshire, however, she faced some tough questions, including one from a voter who said she comes across as "cold and politically calculating."
At town hall meetings in Plaistow and Nashua yesterday, Clinton placed a renewed focus on her experience. "I was a public servant before I was ever in public office," she said, before citing areas on her resume where she said she has "been a change maker" -- working with the Children's Defense Fund, as a member of the Legal Services Corporation, working for universal health care in 1993, advocating for women's rights abroad as first lady; and as a senator from New York." America is ready for a new beginning," she said. "And it really comes down to one question: Who is ready and able on Day One to make the changes America deserves to have? This is the work of my lifetime. I have been working on behalf of change ever since I can remember."
Expanding on a point she first made in the Iowa debate this week, Clinton also contrasted her approach with that Edwards and Obama. "Some believe that you can get change by demanding it. And some believe you can get change by hoping for it. I believe you get change by working hard to make it happen," she said.
Voters here, while indicating support for her, confronted her directly on some issues that they said were deal-breakers. In Plaistow, Barbara Dennett, a teacher from Newfield, said she and her friends were concerned about her voting record on the war. "What can you say that will assure us that you don't want to be the war president that President Bush is so proud to be?" Dennett asked.
"I believe that every one of us who is running to be the Democratic nominee has the same position now on Iraq," Clinton responded. And she said that she, Edwards before leaving the Senate and Obama since joining have "all voted the same way." "We all voted to fund the war until recently. We all voted for all of the legislation affecting the war. We all voted exactly the same way."
But Dennett interrupted to ask about the Iran vote, saying it pointed to a "pattern." "I don't think it is a pattern," Clinton responded. She claimed that the resolution branding the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization "gives us a stronger hand in diplomacy." "I know this has been turned into a political issue … but I do not favor war. I also believe that we have to get tough in a diplomatic pressure way with Iran, and I think that helped us do it. And if it saves American lives by labeling them a terrorist organization, I'm going to label them a terrorist organization."
At the final event of the day in Nashua, another voter asked about Iraq, but focused mostly on Clinton's perception. Roger Tilton, a Nashua resident and registered Democrat, said that earlier this year in Berlin, NH he asked Clinton about her Iraq vote, and found her answer "evasive and condescending."
"There's still a disconnect for me," he said. "Sometimes I think that you come off cold and politically calculating." He referred to supposed attacks by Clinton's campaign on Barack Obama over his religion and drug use. He then asked, what he should tell his daughters, who he said want him to vote for her.
As Tilton was speaking, members of the audience began grumbling, some even hissing. Clinton responded by saying: "Well, your daughters sound very smart to me." The audience erupted with applause and gave Clinton a standing ovation. "I can only tell you what I believe," Clinton continued. "I can't ask you to agree with everything I tell you. But I think it's pretty evident that I'm held to a much different standard than everyone else running in the race." She added that she's "been in the political arena for a long time, so I have no objections" to criticism. "But I believe you can look at my record of 35 years, and you see consistency, you see positive changes that have helped people, that I was doing long before I thought of running for political office. You can ask people who know me that have worked for me, that I try always to do whatever I think is best."
After the event, Tilton said he has contributed money to John Edwards and Barack Obama, but still had not decided whom he's voting for. "Like I said, I love what this woman talks about, but there is a disconnect, and that's what I was trying to get at," he told reporters. He would not say if Clinton's response was satisfactory, but he defended his comments. "If Barack Obama or John Edwards were politically calculating like that I would say that," he said. "But I don't get the sense that they are. I think they're a lot more authentic."
As Tilton was talking to reporters, Clinton New Hampshire co-chair Kathy Sullivan came over and engaged him, saying she appreciated his question and defended Clinton. "I love the way that all you guys come over to him," Sullivan then said to reporters, "because he did ask a tough question. And all these other people ask great questions too, and it's a wonderful thing because she's just a great candidate."
Later, another male audience member came to congratulate Tilton for his comments. "If she doesn't answer this question, how can you vote for her?" he asked Tilton. "Bingo," Tilton replied. State Rep. Bonnie Lasky, a Clinton supporter, also approached Tilton and said he was "full of it." "No matter what she said, she could have sit on her head and spit wooden nickels, as the saying goes, it wouldn't have pleased him," Lasky said later.