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Intraparty Tactics Questioned

New Hampshire's primary is over, but the Obama and Clinton camps are still upset.
New Hampshire's primary is over, but the Obama and Clinton camps are still upset. (By Win Mcnamee -- Getty Images)

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

LINGERING TENSIONS

Intraparty Tactics Questioned

The presidential campaign has moved on from New Hampshire, but it has left behind deep fissures and feelings of resentment among local Democrats that some fear may linger all the way until November.

Some Barack Obama supporters, stung by his loss to Hillary Clinton, are lashing out at female Democratic leaders in the state who criticized Obama's commitment to abortion rights. Their e-mail went to many New Hampshire voters two days before the primary.

"People are very upset about it," said Bill Siroty, a former Democratic chair for the town of Amherst and an Obama supporter. "I've heard one or two threaten they're not going to vote for Clinton at all. Tensions are very high, and it could cause a rift."

Bette Lasky, the assistant state House majority leader and a top Clinton supporter who was involved in the e-mail, said she was sorry to hear about the bad feelings but hopes Obama's supporters will get over it.

"It's politics, and it happens," she said.

The e-mail, echoing a mailing by the Clinton campaign, criticized Obama for voting "present," instead of "yes" or "no," on several abortion-related bills while he was in the Illinois Senate. The e-mail was signed by a who's who of the state's Democratic establishment, dominated by women who supported Clinton in the primary.

Obama supporters say the accusation, first laid out nearly a year ago, is unfair, noting that Democrats in the Illinois Senate often voted "present" on controversial legislation, not to duck issues, but as a tactical response to Republican efforts to force them into unpopular votes that could be used against them.

To try to defuse the e-mail and mailing, the Obama campaign last Sunday rushed out an automated phone call from a New England Planned Parenthood official vouching for Obama. The Clinton campaign, in turn, complained that the call had gone out to at least two people on the do-not-call list, against state rules.

Lasky said the letter should not prevent Democratic unity come fall. "The stakes in this election are too high to be risked because of a last-minute letter," she said.

Other Obama backers are upset that Clinton volunteers challenged the right of some Obama supporters to act as poll moderators, leading in some cases to the dismissal of some Obama-friendly observers.

"You work so very hard for so very long that, yeah, there are raw feelings the day afterward," said Jane Clemons, a state representative and the Nashua Democratic chairwoman. Her son Nick Clemons managed Clinton's campaign in the state. "We try to give people time to get over it," she added.


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