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'Ding, dong, Clintons calling!'

January 6, 2008 |  1:14 pm

Manchester, N.H. -- The Clinton campaign had a couple of extra volunteers today for last-minute canvassing: Hillary Clinton herself, and her daughter Chelsea. The mother-daughter tag team went door-to-door on Ash Street, making the New York senator's case directly to voters. And in a direct reflection of the overall campaign here, she met with mixed success, as our colleague Peter Nicholas reported.

It's a nice day here, in the low 40s and overcast but the snow pack is melting, so let's walk part of the the street with the Clintons, as related by Nicholas.

At the end of the visit to first home, the woman who answered the door told her: "Keep Gov. Richardson in mind." Clinton sang the praises of the New Mexico governor -- and one of her low-polling rivals who served as United Nations ambassador and energy secretary in the Bill Clinton administration. "I like him a lot," Clinton said. "He's been a friend of mine for a long time. Of course, my husband gave him two good jobs.''

After leaving another house, Clinton was asked by a TV reporter how she felt about the Democratic debate Saturday night. "Really good,'' Clinton said. "We're starting to draw a contrast for New Hampshire voters between talkers and doers.''

The debate performance may have helped her in a couple of houses. Clinton sat down at a table with first-grade teacher Maura Labrie, her 4-year-old son Nathan ...

playing nearby, as Labrie said she remained undecided but liked Clinton's performance.

"I liked how you said it hurt your feelings,'' Labrie said, referring to Clinton's response when asked about a poll that found voters liked her top rival, Barack Obama, more. "It's a tough business," Clinton said. But Labrie wanted to talk more about her job, saying she objected to requirements that teachers assess their students.

Clinton commiserated. "All these other factors play such a big role [in educating children]. You've got disorganized families. You have violence. You have malnutrition. Untreated health problems. The school just can't treat the child like a little curriculum package. You have to look at the whole child, because kids progress at different levels.''

She added: "If you're a teacher and you're under all this pressure to assess, assess, assess, you're not going to have the time to pay a lot of attention to them.''

Afterward, Labrie told reporters she was still undecided. And still thinking about the debate. "I liked how Bill Richardson sounded last night, and I was also struck by the fact that Obama and Edwards had tag-teamed and decided they were going to support one another.''

At the next house, Wayne and Mary Johnson had an Obama sign posted in the snow out front and several neighbors inside. The main topic: "No Child Left Behind,'' the federal education law that has been vilified during the Democratic campaign almost as much as the Iraq war. Clinton was sharply critical and noted that virtually every family on the block seemed concerned about the program.

"It needs to be ended,'' Clinton said. "It is undermining teaching and learning.''

Afterward, Mary Johnson, 60, a retired schoolteacher, said Clinton's visit was "a wonderful surprise. I'm leaning toward Obama but after last night's debate --'' she paused, "-- Obama was looking very tired last night. He didn't impress me. So we'll see.'' And Clinton, she said, "has always been my second choice.''

Her husband said he still liked Obama because he wanted "a fresh face -- someone who isn't a deep part of the system.''

The next house looked like it would be a tough sell. A McCain sign was posted out front and a picture of former president George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara,  hung in the entryway. Clinton told the couple, Rosalyn and William Golding, that she would "appreciate your consideration.''

Afterward, Rosalyn Golding said she is a Democrat, her husband a Republican. "She's a lovely person and I loved meeting her,'' Rosalyn Golding said. She would not reveal her choice. But she was happy to reveal her husband's, at least by party. He would be voting Republican.

So there you have it, the lay of the political landscape -- at least on Ash Street.

-- Scott Martelle