NASHUA, New Hampshire (Reuters) - New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, reeling from defeat in Iowa at the hands of Barack Obama, urged Democratic voters on Friday not to build up “false hopes” by choosing an inexperienced presidential candidate.
In Iowa, which kicked off the process of choosing the next U.S. president with its caucuses on Thursday, the former first lady finished a disappointing third, nine percentage points behind Obama and narrowly behind former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.
That contest turned into a battle between Clinton’s message of experience against Obama’s of new hope which the Illinois freshman senator won decisively.
Clinton, 60, a New York senator who would be the first woman U.S. president, has led national opinion polls for months and was once seen as the all-but-inevitable Democratic presidential nominee for the November election.
But Obama, who would be the first black president, goes into next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary with all the momentum on his side, anticipating a substantial bounce in the polls from his Iowa triumph. Many analysts now believe New Hampshire has turned into a must-win contest for Clinton.
“This is a new day, this is a new state,” Clinton told reporters after arriving in the New England state. Despite her loss, she said she would continue to contrast her resume with Obama’s comparative youth and inexperience.
“We can’t have false hopes. We’ve got to have a person who can walk into that Oval office on day one and start doing the hard work that it takes to deliver change,” she said.
Asked how disappointed she was about Iowa, Clinton said: “I was never a front-runner of any significance in Iowa. Iowa, I knew, was always going to be hard for me.”
“I feel that we executed what we thought was the limit of what we could produce in Iowa under the circumstances that we were facing,” she told reporters at a cafe in Manchester.
A Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Friday put Obama within striking distance of Clinton in New Hampshire. She led Obama 32 percent to 26 percent, with Edwards in third place but the poll was taken before the Iowa results.
Clinton told several hundred supporters at a rally in Nashua that she wanted to listen to their concerns and urged them to think about who would be best to bring change “based not only on a leap of faith,” but on their records.
Obama, 46, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. Prior to that, he served for seven years in the Illinois State Senate. Clinton was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000. She experienced eight years in the White House when her husband, Bill Clinton, was president from 1993 to 2001. Earlier, she had served as a congressional legal counsel and a lawyer.
In Iowa, Clinton said she had done well with voters over 45 but not so well with under 30s. “I take responsibility for that. So I’m going to in the next five days do as much as I can to talk about my record in creating opportunities for young people.
“I’m not someone who just calls for change or demands change but actually produces change and I’m going to take that message to young people as well as people of all ages.”
She said Democrats also needed a candidate able to withstand the “Republican attack machine.”
“I’m tested and I’m proven. I’ve been through the fires. Anyone that we nominate is going to be thrown into that blazing inferno ... the general election,” she said.
Editing by Alan Elsner