January 9, 2008 in Nation/World

Obama keeps call for change despite defeat

Martin C. Evans Newsday

NASHUA, N.H. – After surfing atop poll numbers that showed him with a double-digit lead less than 48 hours earlier, Barack Obama now must try to steady a campaign that had appeared all but certain to pummel Hillary Rodham Clinton in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

The primary dogfight sets up a key Jan. 19 showdown in Nevada, where the most recent polling, taken a month before her loss in Iowa, showed Clinton with a wide lead.

“Nothing can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change,” Obama said after conceding to Clinton. “In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. … We are not as divided as our politics suggest.”

Obama, who edged Clinton among women in Iowa, saw Clinton win among New Hampshire women by a double-digit margin, according to exit polling reported by MSNBC. Obama won among men, but by a narrower margin.

And although late polling suggested that he had gained momentum from his Iowa victory, voters who were still undecided as the week began split evenly between the two candidates.

As precinct returns showed Clinton prevailing, Obama staffers clung to hopes that several college towns, including Dartmouth and Hanover, would propel him into the lead.

Obama supporters had predicted that a Clinton loss in New Hampshire could force her campaign into a desperate choice between hoping that an Obama gaffe would allow her to regain her footing, or directing attack ads against a fellow Democrat.

Already, there are indications that criticisms directed by the Clintons at Obama in recent days disappointed some New Hampshire voters who have found his message of unity and optimism appealing.

“I think she really hurt herself when she attacked Obama’s message of hope,” said Anna Bofa, 21, a Dartmouth history major. “The idea that we can make the world better is what motivates us to work hard and go to class.”

Obama, his voice raspy from fatigue and dawn-to-midnight speaking, began his day with an 8:30 a.m. speech at a Dartmouth gymnasium. With oratory that echoed poet Langston Hughes and Martin Luther King, he urged an audience of 700 to help speed him toward the Democratic nomination.

“We’re prepared to take this race to South Carolina and beyond,” said Suffolk County Legis. Jon Cooper, Obama’s Long Island campaign chairman. “We think Barack’s message of transformational change is catching on.”

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