Clinton woos voters in bid to revive NH momentum
By Samantha-Rae Tuthill | January 23, 2016, 23:04 EDT
MANCHESTER, N.H. – Hillary Clinton brought her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination to New Hampshire Friday to try to seize back the momentum she once had in the Granite State with less than three weeks before its first-in-the-nation primary election.
At her last stop, a town hall-style meeting at the Hillside Middle School in Manchester, U.S. Sen. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a three-term governor of the state, introduced Clinton with a reference to her stamina compared with other presidential hopefuls.
Pointing to the 11-hour day Clinton spent last October in front of a congressional committee probing the Benghazi incident in which U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens died in a terrorist assault, Shaheen asked the assembled audience: “Do you think Donald Trump could have done that? Could Ted Cruz have done that? Could Bernie Sanders have done that?” Republicans in Congress have been investigating Clinton’s role in the government’s handling of the Benghazi crisis in September 2012, when she was secretary of state.
Sanders, a senator from Vermont, passed Clinton in New Hampshire voter surveys in early December and has held a lead since then in the final weeks leading to the state’s first-in-the-nation primary election Feb. 9.
Earlier in the day, Shaheen spoke about Clinton’s poll numbers on Keene radio station WKBK-AM, saying that results of voter surveys “don’t matter much.” Though she has led Sanders at times over the course of the campaign, the self-described democratic socialist has the edge on Clinton by about 52 percent to almost 40 percent, according to RealClearPolitics.com’s latest average of recent polls.
Clinton, who exchanged slome harsh words with Sanders during the Democratic debate almost a week earlier, softened her tone on Friday, addressing their differences rather than outright attacking him. She said that on some issues, they agree. For instance, they concur in the need to take on Wall Street and big banks. But Clinton said she is better equipped to make the necessary changes, adding that the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act provides all the tools needed.
“We have the authority under Dodd-Frank to break up banks that pose a systemic risk to our economy,” she told the crowd. “My esteemed opponent, Sen. Sanders, and I have a difference of opinion about this.”
“His view is that we have to return something called Glass-Steagall, get a new version of it, but I think Dodd-Frank took care of a lot of our problems with the big banks,” Clinton said, referring to the Depression-era law that until 1999 forced U.S. banks to separate investing activities from banking operations. But she noted that Dodd-Frank the law does have some shortcomings, because it doesn’t focus on insurers or fund-management companies, which can be just as financially powerful as banks.
Clinton has been under fire for taking campaign donations from the very Wall Street bankers that she says should be cut down and better regulated, while the Sanders campaign raised $73 million last year, most of it in small donations alone. Refusing to use political action committees, or PACs, and refusing money from millionaires has been a cornerstone of the Sanders campaign.
Clinton told the crowd in Manchester that big banks aren’t the biggest threat to the economy.
“I go further,” she said. “I want to go after all the other actors in the financial world. Because they’re the ones most experts say can be the source of problems in the future.”
She also added that the major financial institutes in the country must be worried about her plans to regulate them, because of the money they are spending to run ads against her campaign.
“Karl Rove is running ads against me,” Clinton said, referring to the one-time White House adviser to George W. Bush, the former president from Texas. Years after he left the White House, Rove founded the American Crossroads PAC, which continues to work to elect conservative candidates with the help of affiliates such as Crossroads GPS.
Rove, Clinton said, “got money from the financial industry to run ads against me to influence Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire.” But she turned that to her advantage, rhetorically anyway: “I find this very perversely flattering. They know I know how to stop them.”
The Sanders campaign has frequently said that if the nation’s biggest financial institutions were afraid of Clinton, they wouldn’t have donated money to her campaign.
Clinton and Sanders have both become vocal about campaign finance issues and the fact that since the 2010 Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, corporations as well as labor unions have been able to donate huge sums to PACs and other groups seeking to influence elections. The court lifted restrictions, citing the First Amendment’s free speech clause.
With an eye to reversing Citizens United, Clinton told her Manchester audience that she will appoint justices to the high court who will be willing to take that step. She also said if the court won’t undo what it did in Citizens United, she would lead a campaign to amend the Constitution to permit government regulation of political spending.
“It is not equivalent to free speech,” she said to a loud round of applause.