The Democratic front-runner played it safe on her final campaign swing of 2015, calling on four children in the packed crowd of supporters who had questions for her inside a Portsmouth church.
“I really do love to call on kids because this is actually what this election is all about,” Clinton said.
One boy reading a question from a card asked Clinton how she will “make sure me and my friends are safe from [gun] violence at school.”
Another boy told Clinton that his dad works with people who have developmental disabilities and asked how she’d help those with special needs.
And the last questioner of the day, a young boy, told Clinton that his “mother is working more harder than my father” but that as a teacher, his mother makes less money than his engineer father.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” the child said.
“That’s so sweet,” Clinton responded. “You have a great future as an advocate.”
It wasn’t just the children cozying up to Clinton. The adults who she called on were similarly adoring.
One man who didn’t have question merely informed Clinton that the only woman in the world he has more respect for than her is his wife, while another man who identified himself as a government official from Liberia said he was there to ask Clinton for a picture of the two to send back to his home country.
Meanwhile, Clinton is in a dogfight with Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Trail 2016: Who is really winning? The evidence backs Trump: We have a duty to doubt election results A Good Year to Go Green (Party) MORE (I-Vt.) in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire just more than a month away.
According to the RealClearPolitics average of surveys, Sanders leads Clinton by nearly 6 points in the Granite State, although the polls have been all over the place.
New Hampshire could be Sanders’s firewall, as Clinton has been pulling away from him in Iowa in recent weeks and holds what appears to be an insurmountable lead in South Carolina.
Clinton made a strong pitch directly to the New Hampshire voters, asking that they turn out for her.
“This will be a consequential election in so many ways because we have work to do,” Clinton said. “I’m excited by the work, confident and optimistic about the work we can do together, but I need all of you to be part of this campaign, to be part of the first-in-the-nation primary, because in many ways, you are the first or depending on how you define it, last line of defense. The decision that New Hampshire makes is so important.”
The atmosphere allowed Clinton the opportunity to expound at length on her pet issues.
Clinton spoke at length about her $2 billion plan aimed at preventing, managing and curing Alzheimer’s disease, while vowing to work to remove the stigma of mental illness.
Clinton consistently praised President Obama, lauding him for the “historic” climate deal; saying he pulled the economy from the brinks of a depression; and for investing in a brain mapping program she said would lead to new advances in medicine.
She talked about learning of New Hampshire's heroin epidemic and meeting with the families of those who have died from overdoses and people who have fallen into addiction and said the U.S. needs prison sentencing reform so that non-violent drug offenders aren’t incarcerated.
And Clinton pivoted off the question from the man from Liberia to note that country has Africa’s only female president, lauding the efforts of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who she said has had to work with elected government officials who had been involved in atrocities in that country’s civil war.
“I thought, boy we think we have it hard?,” Clinton said. “Here she is trying to work with a Congress that includes people who were mortal enemies ... and she’s working so hard to make this democracy what it should be against tremendous odds. ... We need to put that in perspective and figure out how we’ll work together even with people we disagree with.”
Clinton called for comprehensive background checks to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and domestic abusers.
She said the U.S. must close several gun-buying loopholes, including the one that was exploited by the young shooter at a church in South Carolina earlier this year, arguing that there is majority support for those reforms among gun owners and non-gun owners alike.
“I’m personally asking gun owners to support these changes,” Clinton said. “This is supported by 95 percent of Americans and 85 percent of gun owners but the gun lobby lives off of fear and misinformation and will do and say whatever it takes.”
“It’s time for gun owners to form a different organization that will do more ... to stand up for the safety of our children and our communities,” Clinton said.
Clinton also fielded a question from a woman from Alabama who said she was tired of Democrats ignoring her state.
Clinton responded that she’d do her best to “rebuild the Democratic Party in places where it hasn’t been successful in recent years.”
“There is this inconvenient fact Republicans ignore,” Clinton said. “Our economy does better when there’s a Democrat in the White House, and that’s true in Alabama just like it is everywhere. We’ll make that case and do best we can to get people to recognize we’re in this together.”
Clinton will return to the campaign trail on Jan. 3, with plans to hold three town hall events across New Hampshire on that day.