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Clinton's thirsty, undercaffeinated campaign

Democratic gains in once-mostly red New Hampshire have emboldened presidential campaigns to venture north into previously untapped territory, akin to setting up camp in Republican strongholds in the Panhandle.

Hillary Clinton has 16 offices across the state, including small towns such as Berlin, at the edge of the White Mountains, and in Peterborough, home to one of the oldest basket manufacturing plants in the country.

"Those are not typical spots for Democrats," said spokeswoman Kathleen Strand. "Historically it's been a Republican state, but 2006 was a tidal wave."

Last November, Democrats took New Hampshire's two congressional seats, grabbed control of the State House, and re-elected Democratic Gov. John Lynch with 74 percent of the vote.

Clinton has one of the biggest campaign organizations in the state, headquartered about a block off the main strip in downtown Manchester. Occupying the second floor of a nondescript office building, the headquarters are a maze of tiny offices crammed with computers, campaign signs, and mounds of soda cans awaiting recycling (the caffeine keeps the volunteers going).

A copy of Clinton's official portrait as First Lady hangs above the staircase. "Dial like a champion today," it intones.

Strand declined to disclose how much the Democratic frontrunner is spending on advertising in New Hampshire, saying only it's a "signficant buy." Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has invested $4.2 million on media.

But Strand discounted suggestions that money and TV advertising can seal the deal among New Hampshire voters. About 7 in 10 voters in Iowa and New Hampshire say how much time a candidate spends in their state is an important factor in who they chose, according to a recent New York Times/CBS poll. One in four called the face time "very important."

Clinton has visited the state 19 times - same as rival Barack Obama, Strand noted.

"The candidate has to come and talk to voters, shake their hands, answer their questions, look in their eyes," Strand said. "We'll be in two diners, a coffee shop, a restaurant, 20 voters at one location, 150 at the next...Voters here expect and want to see you here and hear from you directly."

Video | Interview with Kathleen Strong, spokeswoman for the Hillary Clinton New Hampshire campaign

CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Posted by Lesley Clark at 03:54 PM on November 14, 2007 | Permalink

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