Bruised in Iowa, Clinton, Romney Change Styles

By: Wall Street Journal


MANCHESTER, N.H. — After candidates who portrayed themselves as agents of change won the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney — the Democratic and Republican stalwarts defeated there — embraced the lesson, swiftly and drastically changing their campaigning styles.

As they turned their focus to tomorrow’s New Hampshire primary, the two candidates unveiled new speeches, new music, and even new clothes. The changes came as polls released last night showed both of them slipping behind their chief rivals here — Mrs. Clinton by a significant margin.

After rarely taking questions in the final days of her Iowa campaign, Mrs. Clinton opened the floor to two hours of queries in place of her prepared stump speech over the weekend. And she ramped up her attacks on Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic victor in Iowa, even as she tried to soften her image to address concerns about her likability.

Mr. Romney, who for weeks appeared against the backdrop of a lone American flag, was suddenly flanked by a massive “to do” list of campaign promises and an illuminated sign declaring, “Washington is Broken” — an attempt to tar his leading opponent here, Arizona Sen. John McCain, the candidate with the most Washington experience in the Republican field.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Romney are facing fallout in the post-Iowa polls. For much of the year, both had commanding leads in New Hampshire. But a weekend poll released late Sunday showed Mr. Obama with a 10-point lead over Mrs. Clinton in the Granite State and gave Mr. McCain a six-point lead over Mr. Romney. Other polls indicate both races, particularly the Democratic one, are much closer.

Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Romney also came under blistering, and unified, assault from their main party rivals in debates here Saturday night — a sign that the major campaigns think the once-formidable pair could be severely damaged if they sustain a second consecutive loss here tomorrow.

In the Democratic debate, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards joined Mr. Obama in criticizing Mrs. Clinton saying: “Sen. Obama and I have differences, but both of us are powerful voices for change,” before referring to Mrs. Clinton as the “forces of the status quo.” In the Republican debate, each of Mr. Romney’s five rivals took at least one shot at him, while largely sparing one another.

The two Iowa losers weren’t the only ones to retool their campaigns for the New Hampshire race. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the Baptist minister who carried the Iowa Republican caucus on a tide of support from the state’s large evangelical community, toned down his religious message in New Hampshire, where conservative Christians are a much smaller voting bloc. He dropped speeches that were staples in Iowa about his lifetime opposition to abortion and his support for restricting marriage to “between a man and a woman.”

His New Hampshire message focuses on his populist economic agenda, smaller government and a patriotic pitch to the military and veterans. “The greatness of this country has never been in its government,” Mr. Huckabee told a packed house Saturday at a middle-school gym in Londonderry. “Anytime the government gives something to us, they first have to take something from us.”

Mrs. Clinton’s goal in the past few days has been to appear softer and more approachable than she did in Iowa. In the run-up to the caucuses, she left little to chance, rarely departing from her standard speech. But at an event Saturday in Penacook, N.H., she shifted gears. “This is all about you,” Mrs. Clinton told a crowd of more than 1,000 piled into the bleachers of a high-school gym. “I want to ask for your questions about any issue you want to discuss that will help you make up your mind.”

More than two hours of questions followed, touching on the war in Iraq, health care, global warming and even secondhand smoke. “It’s a real problem for people who work in bars,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Voters seemed to like the approach. “No matter what the question, she had an answer,” said Nestor Stevens, a 63-year-old independent who is leaning toward voting for Mrs. Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton is also doing more to reach the younger voters Mr. Obama has attracted. Her Saturday event featured songs by the Irish rock band U2, whose music has been used by the Obama campaign, as well as selections from older performers like Tom Petty and Dolly Parton.

Another change aimed at younger voters has been a less-prominent role at the candidate’s side for husband Bill, the former president, and a more-active role for their 27-year-old daughter. Until now, Chelsea Clinton largely stayed in the background at campaign events. But on Saturday Mrs. Clinton and her daughter rode on a campaign bus to Durham with four young undecided voters, all of whom plan to vote in the primary.

The voters asked about health care and financial aid for college. Chelsea chimed in often, offering her own opinions or reminding her mother of examples that fit her argument. The Stanford graduate, who now lives in New York City, mentioned friends burdened by student-loan debt, putting her arm warmly around her mother.

“We talk about it a lot,” Mrs. Clinton said, voicing sympathy for students forced to pay high interest rates on student loans. “I just think it’s so wrong what we’ve done to young people,” she added. “We have to get more-free-flowing federal aid into all the schools.”

Mrs. Clinton ratcheted up her criticism of Mr. Obama. “You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose,” she told an overflow crowd yesterday at a rally at Nashua North High School, quoting former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to underscore her argument that Mr. Obama, with just two years in the Senate, has limited ability to deliver on his promises. The crowd’s size suggested Mrs. Clinton is competing in drawing power with Mr. Obama, known for attracting large throngs — though three buses brought Clinton supporters in from out of state.

Last night senior Clinton campaign officials held a much-publicized conference call with reporters to assert that the Obama campaign had violated New Hampshire law by sending prerecorded political messages to voters on a do-not-call list.

“Our disclaimer absolutely complies with the federal law, and our vendor has assured us that he scrubbed the list for people on the do-not-call registry,” said Ned Helms, state co-chairman of the Obama campaign.

“Hillary Clinton is now campaigning like an underdog, instead of a front-runner,” said Stephanie Cutter, communications director for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.

For Mr. Romney, the challenge is going after his opponents while trying to deflect criticism that he is too negative. On Friday evening, after only two hours of sleep because of an overnight flight, Mr. Romney fielded questions with new vigor at an “Ask Mitt Anything” event in Manchester. When a young voter expressed concern about job security, Mr. Romney responded with a sympathetic gaze. “Those words weigh on my shoulders,” he said.

His new roadshow was on full display Saturday morning in Derry. The walls of the Pinkerton Academy gymnasium were blanketed with handpainted signs of support, rarely seen before in the tightly orchestrated Romney campaign. One had the McDonald’s golden-arch logo and read “Ba ba ba ba ba! I’m lovin’ MITT,” a takeoff on the fast-food chain’s “I’m Lovin’ It” ad campaign.

After weeks of speaking in front of a massive American flag and aided only by the occasional PowerPoint slideshow, Mr. Romney took the stage “in the round,” talking to people on all sides. Next to him hung a huge 11-point list titled “TO DO.” The items on it ranged from “Make America Safer” (No. 1) to “Put people ahead of selfish interest” (No. 11). There were blank spaces at the end of the list, and Mr. Romney encouraged voters to help fill them in.

Mr. Romney, who wore some form of navy-blue every day for weeks in Iowa, appeared Saturday morning in a gray sweater and black slacks. He cast aside all of his usual anecdotes. Instead, he spent 20 minutes talking about how “Washington is broken.”

Mr. Romney, who received a standing ovation at the end of his speech, fired up the crowd to the point of shouting back responses. “Now is there anybody here who agrees with me that Washington is badly broken? Please show it by your hands,” he said, prompting applause and an overwhelming display of hands. “Looks like we have a pretty good consensus on that.” An audience member shouted out, “You’ve got the tools!”

One fact that may give both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Romney hope: Even two days before the primary, many New Hampshire voters remain undecided and willing to listen to new pitches. Barbara Maloney, a 55-year-old attorney from Manchester, was attending a house party for Mr. Romney Saturday in Bedford. She doesn’t know which party she’ll choose, let alone which candidate. “I’m the sort of person who will pull the trigger at the last minute,” she said.

–Alex Frangos and Brody Mullins contributed to this article.

Write to Elizabeth Holmes at and Amy Chozick at

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