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How Hillary Clinton pulled off her 2008 New Hampshire upset victory

Lars Gesing, CU News Corps Assistant Director

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Logo final_highIn our Anecdotal Evidence column, movers and shakers share personal stories of how intriguing (and often odd) presidential campaigning in their respective swing state can be.

Andrew Smith – Director, University of New Hampshire Survey Center

Andrew Smith. Photo: Lars Gesing/CU News Corps

Andrew Smith. Photo: Lars Gesing/CU News Corps

“Events matter. Even the best campaigns can lose because their candidate says something stupid in a debate – like it happened with Obama and Clinton in 2008. Clinton came in third in Iowa in 2008. There were only four days between Iowa and New Hampshire that year. Every poll showed Obama was going to win New Hampshire. But over the weekend, several things happened.

“There was a debate Saturday night. During that debate, moderator Scott Spradling cited our poll and asked Clinton how it made her feel that according to the numbers, she was the least likable candidate. Clinton said it hurt her feelings. And Barack Obama said, ‘You’re likable enough!’

“That weekend, Clinton’s campaign sent out upward of 40,000 emails and direct-mail pieces, particularly to middle-aged women, saying that the reason Barack Obama abstained from many abortion votes while he was a senator in Illinois was that he was secretly a pro-life guy. You can’t trust Obama on abortion – that was the message.

“Then Clinton had an event at a book store in Portsmouth Monday morning. Somebody asked her a question, and she looked as if she was choking up and showing tears. She got humanized. That got run over and over all Monday and during the day Tuesday.

“And Clinton actually campaigned all the way until 7 o’clock on Election Day. She was in polling places all over the state. The Obama campaign by Sunday held one big rally in Dartmouth – they were going to get all those votes there anyway. Then they essentially took a victory lap into Manchester to rest up for the big party that night.

“Clinton won by three percentage points, and the only group that really moved were middle-aged women.

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Explanatory Multimedia Reporting from CU Boulder Journalism Students
How Hillary Clinton pulled off her 2008 New Hampshire upset victory