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Obama, Clinton rallies prove hot tickets

January 6, 2008 | 10:20 pm

Manchester, N.H. -- Big crowds can be illusory; they don't always translate into success at the ballot box. But both Barack Obama -- presumably riding a wave -- and Hillary Clinton -- trying to find one -- could take heart that lots of folks wanted to see them Sunday as they stumped in New Hampshire.

With polls in the state showing that Obama's victory in Iowa has not gone unnoticed, his audiences filled gyms, auditoriums and overflow rooms -- close to 1,000 in Manchester, an estimated 3,000 in Exeter, a couple thousand in Derry, more than 1,000 in Salem, 2,000 or so in Keene.

The Times' Maria La Ganga was with the roadshow and reports that at the Salem event, the auditorium at a local high school was so packed that the media corps traveling with Obama was turned away by the fire marshal guarding the doors. Not even peeking was permitted.

As so often happens, the candidate's schedule quickly went awry and the crowds that came to see him in the latter part of the day needed patience. The Salem event, for instance, was set to start at 4:15 p.m. (EST); it started more like 5:30 p.m.

Those awaiting Obama included ABC's Diane Sawyer, who conducted an interview set to air Monday on "Good Morning America." An excerpt was released, echoing one of the notes Obama struck on the trail. Here's the teaser: ...

Sawyer: "Do you get angry at (Clinton)?"

Obama:  "Not really. I find the manner in which they’ve been running their campaign sort of depressing lately. It was interesting in (Saturday night's) debate, Sen. Clinton saying don’t feed the American people false hopes. Get a reality check. You know? I mean, you can picture JFK saying, we can’t go to the moon. It’s a false hope. Let’s get a reality check. It’s not, sort of, I think what our tradition has been."

Clinton, after some door-to-door campaigning, was greeted by large and buoyant crowds at rallies in Nashua (about 3,700 people) and Hampton (close to 1,600). In both locations, overflow rooms were used at local high schools to accommodate people who couldn't get in.

Her third-place showing in Iowa called for changes, and one involves her willingness to take audience questions. Indeed, according to The Times' Peter Nicholas, she now spends most of her time answering questions; in Hampton, he reports, she stayed so long fielding queries that people started filtering out. That freed up space so that a new wave of people from the overflow room came in -- and so began a new round of questions.

Some who came to see her won't be able to deliver the help she needs most now -- votes in Tuesday's primary.

For instance, her listeners in Hampton included Al Ricko, a 72-year-old retired police officer. And he was impressed: "She's very bright," he said. "She says the right things, so I'm supporting her."

One problem: He's a Massachusetts resident.

-- Don Frederick