CONCORD MONITOR: Hillary Clinton pushes economic policy, says she would not abolish death penalty
As originally appearing in Concord Monitor


As a junior at Saint Anselm College and a regular attendee of Politics & Eggs on her campus, Kelsey Walsh has met almost every presidential candidate in the 2016 cycle.

And even though former secretary of state Hillary Clinton impressed Walsh in Manchester on Wednesday, the college student hasn’t made up her mind.

“Too early to say,” Walsh said. “She’s definitely up there.”

In the first stop on a two-day trip to New Hampshire, Clinton addressed a crowd of more than 400 – the largest gathering in 20 years of Politics & Eggs. She focused heavily on her economic platform, pushing the need for equal pay and reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. And, for the first time, Clinton said she would not abolish the death penalty, but would rather see it preserved for “certain egregious cases.”

For Walsh and most voters, a speech in October won’t seal the deal for the February primary ballot in New Hampshire.

“There’s no reason for voters to decide now,” said Andy Smith, a political science professor and pollster at the University of New Hampshire. “And they don’t.”

Smith said exit polls show 30 to 45 percent of voters make up their mind in the last three days before a primary election. And as many as 15 to 20 percent make up their minds the same day they cast a vote.

That’s because most primary candidates of a particular party aren’t too far apart on the issues, Smith said.

“They’re voting on other likes, like stability and character,” Smith said. “Their perception of that changes over time.”

Clinton’s speech built off her biography first, as she shared stories about her grandfather’s work in a factory and her father’s small business.

“To me, that’s the way it’s supposed to work in America,” she said. “We’re supposed to be building, maintaining, propping up those ladders of opportunity.”

The bulk of her speech was dedicated to economic policy – the need for equal pay and higher incomes, her desire to raise the minimum wage, a pledge to cut red tape for small businesses.

“This election to me, first and foremost, is about how you get the economy working for everyone again, how we rebuild broad-based inclusive prosperity,” Clinton said.

She pointed to Market Basket in New England as an example of corporate profit-sharing, and she called the decision to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank a “no-brainer.”

It was a questioner who turned from the economy to capital punishment.

“We have a lot of evidence now that the death penalty has been too frequently applied, and too often in a discriminatory way,” Clinton said in response.

She suggested limiting capital punishment, but said she does not personally support abolishing it. Her opponents for the Democratic nomination – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley – have come out in favor of abolishing the death penalty.

“I do think there are certain egregious cases that still deserve consideration of the death penalty, but I’d like to see those be very limited and rare, as opposed to what we’ve seen in most states,” she said.

The candidate also fielded questions about climate change and health care, banking regulations and Social Security.

In the audience was Michael Cuzzi, who served as deputy state director for Obama for America in New Hampshire in 2008. He said Clinton’s address was consistent on her message on the campaign trail so far during this cycle.

“No surprises in that regard,” he said.

Cuzzi, who works for a public affairs firm in Maine, was also a strategist for Draft Biden in New England. He tipped his hat to Clinton’s campaign organization, saying they had seemed to be on track in New Hampshire.

“They are doing everything they need to be doing,” he said.

Anne Cunic, a 49-year-old Rhode Island resident, also traveled from Rhode Island to hear Clinton’s speech. She had hoped Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren would jump into the race, and she is still weighing her decision between Clinton and Sanders.

Seated toward the back of a packed room before the event, Cunic said she wants to vote for a candidate who can eventually turn campaign rhetoric into reality.

“Part of it is to be truthful, to be realistic,” she said.

“Don’t promise me the moon, because I know that’s not going to happen,” she added.

Barbara Haynes also drove to Saint Anselm from Rhode Island to hear Clinton’s speech. She liked what she heard, especially Clinton’s comments in support of community health centers and Planned Parenthood, but the former media professional said she hasn’t made up her mind yet either.

“I think on Hillary Clinton, her body of work is so extensive that a decision on her is to watch her through the campaign, and see where her consistencies are,” Haynes said.

She’ll keep an eye on Sanders as well.

“I was just here for a sampling,” Haynes said.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321, or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle. Ella Nilsen contributed to this story.)

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