CONCORD, N.H. — Hillary Clinton, after a rocky primary-season start, heads toward more favorable electoral terrain with a retooled strategy aimed at rallying the non-white voters she hopes will put her struggling campaign back on track.
In her concession speech Tuesday night, the former secretary of state nodded to the themes of political and economic inequality that have fueled Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign, but also said there is a need “to break through the barriers of bigotry.”
“African American parents shouldn’t have to worry that their children will be harassed, humiliated and even shot because of the color of their skin. Immigrant families shouldn’t have to lie awake at night listening for a knock on the door,” Clinton said.
Her campaign has come under criticism from other Democrats who say she lacks a message as clear and compelling as that of Sanders, who fought her to a virtual tie in the Iowa caucuses and won the New Hampshire primary by double digits.
In New Hampshire, Sanders bested Clinton even among female voters, long presumed to be the core of her support. Preliminary exit polls reported by CNN said Sanders won 55 percent of female voters, 11 percentage points more than Clinton received.
The Vermont senator has harnessed the passions of the party’s liberal base — particularly young voters — with a promise to fix a political system that he says is rigged in favor of the wealthy. He beat Clinton in every demographic group except voters older than 65, non-whites and those with family incomes over $200,000, according to the exit polls.
Both campaigns now face a different set of challenges than those of Iowa and New Hampshire, which are small, ethnically homogeneous states.
The Democratic race heads next to Nevada, where there is a significant Latino population. Clinton is expected to win the Feb. 20 Democratic caucuses, although Sanders’s team is predicting the finish could be close.
A week later comes the South Carolina primary, in which Clinton is heavily favored because of her support among African American voters, who make up more than half of the Democratic electorate there.
Clinton’s decision to leave New Hampshire on Sunday and make a visit to Flint, Mich., was an early indicator of the new direction that her campaign is taking. Clinton has pointed to the poisonously high levels of the lead in the water of the predominantly African American city as evidence of lingering economic and racial inequality.
Shortly before the polls in New Hampshire closed Tuesday, the Clinton campaign announced that the mothers of Eric Garner, Dontre Hamilton and Jordan Davis — African American men whose deaths as a result of gun violence or at the hands of police helped spawn the Black Lives Matter movement — will be appearing at events on her behalf in coming weeks.
Clinton also will be speaking more about her work as a young woman investigating racial discrimination by private academies in Alabama, examining the living conditions of young people incarcerated in adult jails in South Carolina, and registering Latinos to vote in Texas as a campaign worker for 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern.
She plans to continue hammering Sanders for his mixed record on gun control, which her campaign sees as a top priority among African Americans. She will also argue that his proposal for a government-run health-care system is not as good for low-income and minority Americans as the existing one set up under the Affordable Care Act.
“People have every right to be angry, but they’re also hungry,” she said in her remarks Tuesday night. “They’re hungry for solutions.”
Sanders’s campaign, however, noted that voters in most states have yet to hear his personal history. Latinos will connect with the fact that he is the son of an immigrant who grew up in an immigrant community, aides predicted, and African Americans will relate to his involvement in the civil rights movement as a young man. Sanders was scheduled to attend a breakfast Wednesday with African American activist and radio-show host Al Sharpton.
“We haven’t even begun in many ways to tell that story,” Sanders strategist Tad Devine said. He added that the campaign will begin airing biographical ads Wednesday in Minnesota, Colorado and Oklahoma, as well as in parts of Massachusetts outside the Boston market, where they have already been airing.
Moreover, “the message that he has is not limited to a narrow set of voters. It is a big, powerful message,” Devine added.
Clinton aides remain confident that the former secretary of state will ultimately emerge with the Democratic nomination that only a few months ago seemed as though it would be hers for the taking. Now, it appears that it will be a long struggle — in some ways a replay of 2008, where she and Barack Obama battled until June. That one did not end in her favor.
Her strategists now believe it could take until the end of March — at which point 60 percent of the delegates chosen through the primary process will have been selected — before she can claim to be her party’s de facto standard-bearer.
“The nomination will very likely be won in March, not February, and we believe that Hillary Clinton is well positioned to build a strong — potentially insurmountable — delegate lead next month,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook wrote in a memo released Tuesday night.
“Many of the most delegate-rich states also have some of the largest minority and urban populations — states like Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Illinois and Florida,” Mook added.
Even if Clinton gets on a winning streak through the March round of primaries and caucuses, Sanders has the capacity to stay in the race for a long time. One reason: Democrats allocate their delegates in proportion to the results, unlike the Republicans, whose later contests are winner-take-all. That means that Sanders will continue to pick up delegates even if he comes in second.
The second, and perhaps more important, reason is his enormous fundraising capacity. In January, Sanders raised $20 million, marking the first time he had brought in more than Clinton, who reported $15 million in contributions.
And unlike Clinton, who relies heavily on big-dollar fundraising events, Sanders raised nearly all of his contributions over the Internet in small amounts. That means he can keep going back to his donor base, because his contributors have not given the maximum allowed under federal law.
But Clinton has an asset that Sanders does not: a super PAC, Priorities USA Action, working on her behalf.
“I do not have a super PAC and I do not want a super PAC,” Sanders said in his victory speech.
To date, Priorities has spent a minimal amount in the primary season on digital ads defending Clinton against Republican attacks. It had $45 million in cash on hand at the end of January.
Should Priorities USA Action decide to start spending to defeat Sanders, “that’s going to be the real moment of truth,” Sanders strategist Devine said.