And neither is exactly feeding red meat to the party faithful. Obama’s wild, sign-waving audience in Durham spent much of the time waiting quietly to jump on any progressive morsel he might toss out to them. At one point, they cheered when he mentioned his work on death-penalty reform as an Illinois state senator, apparently not realizing that Obama is pro-death penalty, and that the reforms he worked on helped to restore the punishment after it had been ended.
And the disconnect doesn’t end there. Jackey Scott, a senior at University of New Hampshire, won’t find Obama as eager to bring troops home from Iraq as she is; Dick Courtney, a staffer with the state’s teachers union, might look askance at Obama’s reference to holding teachers “accountable.” Obama also opposes gay marriage and wants to increase the military budget. He might just be the Democrats’ Rudy Giuliani: intensely popular among those unaware of how much they disagree with his politics.
Certainly the several dozen Democratic state legislators watching from folding chairs were not applauding many of Obama’s answers.
As for Hillary, she proved remarkably disinterested in the listening part of her self-proclaimed “conversation with New Hampshire.” Even in house-party settings of 30 to 50 guests, she did not engage in the time-honored technique — mastered by her husband — of asking a personal question of the questioner before answering. In Nashua, a woman asking about Katrina recovery expressed her “very personal interest” in the topic; Clinton did not ask what that was. A man asking about government research funding made very pointed references to prostate cancer; again, she let it go without inquiring.
And try as she might, she could not avoid the topic of her unpopular positions on the Iraq war.
Potential political differences with core Democrats make it all the more critical, some in New Hampshire suggest, that Obama and Clinton spend personal time with key influencers, to answer questions frankly and convey their real concerns about progressive issues in ways large settings don’t allow for.
Of course, there’s plenty of time to have those meetings, thanks to the early start of the campaign season. But New Hampshire is just one item on the candidates’ plates. They are campaigning in Iowa, of course, and face early contests in Nevada, South Carolina, Missouri, and Oklahoma, and possibly, in Florida, New Jersey, California, and Illinois as well. They are fundraising, and hiring staff. And they still have jobs to do as US senators. All of which will likely matter little to New Hampshire’s influencers, if Obama and Clinton can’t find time to fit them into their schedules.