Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- State Rep. James Splaine is a prominent New Hampshire Democrat who has been backing Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary. So it shocked his fellow Democrats when the pol slammed her campaign for having "no clear message."

Splaine, who authored the state law that locked in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary status, is a veteran party strategist who knows the state's politics better than anyone. He has been involved in every state primary contest since he distributed campaign literature as a kid for John F. Kennedy. But he's been troubled about the Clinton campaign for many weeks and recently went public with his complaints.

"I am concerned that her campaign still has continued to emphasize 'experience' rather than 'ideas,' and the 'past' rather than the 'future.' And her advertising in my judgment is crammed full of rhetoric, with no clear message other than this stuff about a president needing to be ready to 'lead from day one.' What's that mean? She can do better," he said in his blog on the popular Democratic Web site Blue Hampshire.

"I just think something's wrong with her campaign right now," he said, adding that she "could lose this one" if she doesn't change her message and strategy.

While polls were showing that Democratic support has eroded for the New York senator, Splaine was more troubled by Clinton's campaign posture, the way she talked to voters and the absence of bread-and-butter issues and ideas in her stump speeches.

"Where has the 'conversation' gone that she said she wanted to start with her announcement last January? It seems as if she is talking 'to' or 'at' us, even 'down' to us," he said.

"Where are her courageous stands? It seems as if so many of her 'positions' are indeed that -- positions that are the result of focus groups and consultant message massaging that simply makes it difficult to figure out exactly what she will do about Iraq, corporate corruption, campaign-finance reform and even health care."

Splaine's slam was the buzz of the party's rank-and-file, and Democrats there tell me it's still having a rippling effect -- as her chief rival, Barack Obama, inches closer to her in the polls; in some cases, moving up to a statistical tie.

"Jim Splaine is a very thoughtful guy," said Jim Demers, another veteran state Democratic leader who backs Obama. "For him to publicly express his frustration with Hillary Clinton's campaign, of which he is a supporter, is an indication of his concern that many of her supporters have here.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.