Byline: DAVID COHEN
ENGLISH teacher Katherine Morgan thought she knew who she wanted to bethe next President. In November, she campaigned for Hillary Clinton and stakeda "Vote Hillary" sign in her front garden.
But today the sign lies buried beneath three feet of snow and, having heardBarack Obama, the young pretender, speak for the first time, she is in turmoil.
"As a 61-year-old feminist who thinks Hillary has the best grasp on the issues,I like to think I'm not swayed by what happened in Iowa" she said. "Butlistening to Obama is so, well, thrilling. He reminds me of John F Kennedy inthe way he lights up a room and inspires you to think about politics. But itwas after his speech, he was shaking people's hands and I asked a question: hestopped, pondered what I'd said, looked right at me, and at that moment, evenbefore he said a word, he probably won me over." By yesterday, Ms Morgan wasagain tilting towards
Hillary. "I want to see a woman elected to the presidency in my lifetime andalthough Obama is a great orator, he is short on specifics and lacks a trackrecord," she said, after spending the weekend driving from one candidate's townhall meeting to another.
Mrs Clinton, 60, has come out swinging as she faces the fight of her politicallife ahead of tomorrow's crucial presidential primary in New Hampshire.
Her six-point lead over Mr Obama here has evaporated, and the latest polls showObama surging ahead by 39 per cent to 27 per cent, with John Edwards trailingat 20 per cent.
To prevent core voters like Ms Morgan defecting, and to win over the youngpeople energised by Obama, she has tried to hit the reset button and radicallychange her strategy. In a series of campaign events strung across snow-coveredNew Hampshire, whose 1.3 million residents live mainly in the south withincommuting distance of Boston, Mrs Clinton ditched her stump speech and tookquestions from the audience for two hours.
The people of New Hampshire are fiercely independent and more private abouttheir preferences than "heart-on-the-sleeve" Iowans, but their concernsabout Iraq, health care, climate change and the economy are broadly similar.
I watched her first at a school on the outskirts of the state capital, Concord,where, to accommodate the overflow of the 800-strong crowd, she began byremoving a metal barrier around her to allow people to sit on the floor. It wasa small but symbolically significant gesture: in Iowa, Mrs Clinton had been theonly candidate to have barriers separating her from the audience. Then sheasked her daughter, Chelsea, to give up her seat to a young mother with a baby.She employed no lectern. This was the new accessible Hillary.
Her performance was not just polished, it was personable. She looked relaxed,bright-eyed, poised and totally in command of the issues as she attempted to"connect" with voters' concerns in a way she had not even attempted in Iowa.
"I really liked that she stayed two hours and answered our questions and was soapproachable," said Stacey Radine, 31, who before the meeting was "on thefence" but was now "leaning towards Hillary".
Amy Croot, 32, agreed: "I thought Hillary was great: intelligent, well-spokenand she knows her subject backwards. Obama obviously has more charisma, but forme the decisive factor is who will be most effective in changing the statusquo." The irony is that defeat seems to have energised Clinton and liberatedher from the frozen position she adopted in Iowa.
But is it too late? When I asked Jay Carson, Mrs Clinton's press spokesman,whether failing to take questions in Iowa had been a mistake, he angrilyrefused to comment, but he admitted she'd be "redoubling her efforts" to reachyoung voters by reminding them "that she, more than anyone, has fought fortheir interests".
But winning over the youth is likely to be an uphill challenge. "Ever since Iwas born, there has been a Bush or a Clinton in the White House," said AndrewJackson, 19, who listened to Mrs Clinton and waited to shake Chelsea's handbefore playfully teasing her: "Are you going to stand for President, too? …