Denis Staunton in New Hampshire
Mon, Jan 07, 2008
The snow-banked roads around Nashua North High School were jammed as a 300-metre queue of warmly-dressed people snaked around the building, waiting to hear Hillary Clinton make her case in advance of tomorrow's New Hampshire primary.
Inside, the candidate long viewed as the almost inevitable Democratic nominee was playing a new role as the scrappy underdog challenging the apparently irresistible rise of Barack Obama.
"How will we bring about change? By making sure we nominate and elect a doer, not a talker," Ms Clinton told a crowd of about 2,000 in the high school gym and a further 800 in an overflow room.
Mr Obama's emphatic victory last week in Iowa, which pushed Ms Clinton into third place, has transformed the Democratic race, making tomorrow's primary a test of viability for the former first lady.
A second resounding win could light a fire under Mr Obama's run for the White House, as Independents and Republicans cross party lines to support the first African-American with a fighting chance of becoming president.
With polls showing the two candidates in a dead heat in New Hampshire, Ms Clinton says it is time to subject Mr Obama to the same level of scrutiny she has borne and to search for the reality behind his soaring rhetoric.
She accused Mr Obama of shifting positions on everything from healthcare to the counter-terrorist Patriot Act, suggesting the promise of change at the centre of his campaign was an empty one. "If you give a speech saying we're going to vote against the Patriot Act and you don't, that's not change," she said.
During a question-and-answer session, Ciarán Staunton, a Mayo-born publican in New York, told Ms Clinton the Irish people were grateful for her contribution to the Northern peace process.
"I want us to get back into the business of being a peacemaker," she said, to loud cheering and applause. "And I was very privileged to work on behalf of the peace process in Northern Ireland. I actually went to Northern Ireland more than my husband did because I was working to change attitudes among people. Because you know, leaders alone can rarely make peace. They have to bring people along who believe that peace is in their interest."
Mr Staunton, vice-chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, which campaigns for undocumented Irish immigrants in the US, spent the weekend in New Hampshire, attending campaign events run by Republican and Democratic candidates.
© 2008 The Irish Times