2015-10-05 / Front Page

Clinton draws early support but also ambivalence from voters

LISA LERER and KATHLEEN RONAYNE
Associated Press

DERRY, N.H. — Inside the arena, the roar was deafening when Hillary Rodham Clinton took the stage at the annual convention of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. Thousands of people jumped to their feet to welcome their party’s White House front-runner with cheers and noisemakers emblazoned with her campaign logo.

Outside the hall, a far less joyous conversation was taking place.

“She kind of turns me off,” said Marsha Campaniello, a 63-year-old real estate appraiser from Concord, as she walked out of the arena. “But I’d rather have a Democrat in there as opposed to a Republican.”

At ice cream shops and book stores, at summer fairs and fall festivals, Clinton is running into voters such as Campaniello and their questions about her character and her commitment to the liberal values they hold dear.

They are Democrats, and some independents, too, weighing a desire to keep the White House in the party’s hands against the ambivalence they have for the former secretary of state and New York senator.

The Associated Press interviewed nearly 70 Democratic and independent voters in the past two weeks, all at places where Clinton has campaigned in the first-to-vote states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Those voters expressed a litany of concerns with Clinton and her candidacy. Some say they are skeptical of her positions on income inequality and Wall Street regulation. Others question her honesty and how she handles controversy, including recent inquiries into her use of a private email account and server.

Many said they simply feel they lack a connection with Clinton, often for reasons they cannot seem to articulate.

“She certainly could manage the country,” said Jim Gallagher, a 61-yearold, real estate investor from Manchester. “But she just rubs me the wrong way. But, hey, you don’t have to like her, right?”

Such tepid reactions have led Clinton, once a commanding favorite, into a fall campaign where she will have the competition she long has said she expects – be it from the insurgent bid of Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and his promise of “political revolution” or the possible late entry of Vice President Joe Biden into the race.

Clinton remains the odds-on choice. No candidate in either party has as sophisticated a campaign operation or the depth of establishment support.

But the unenthusiastic reaction her candidacy receives from some Democratic voters shows that despite her nearly quarter-century on the public stage, Clinton struggles to inspire the kind of personal passion that catapulted first-term Illinois Sen. Barack Obama into the White House.

“I felt very strongly that I was going to vote for Obama whether he was going to be the candidate or not. He was going to be my candidate,” said Amy Pepin, a social worker from Bow. “And this time I feel like I’m making a more practical choice.”

Sabrina Chen, 47, a family business owner in Pelham, puts it more simply: “I like Hillary. I fell in love with Obama.”

Clinton appeared to acknowledge the challenge in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show, when she said a question about her difficultly connecting was “not the nicest” to hear.

“I’ll admit I’m a more reserved person than maybe some people in politics are,” she said in New Hampshire on Monday. “But I also like to have a good time so we’ll mix it up a little bit.”

The public’s opinion of Clinton has grown steadily more negative since she returned to partisan politics with the April launch of her second White House campaign, after a period of high ratings while she was secretary of state.

Gallup surveys conducted in August and September found her positive ratings at their lowest point since 1992, her final year in Arkansas before becoming first lady.

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