NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Returning to New Hampshire, Hillary Rodham Clinton thanked voters Sunday for teaching her about "grit and determination" during her 2008 presidential campaign, reaching for her family's old political magic to help fellow Democrats.
The former secretary of state campaigned in New Hampshire for the first time since October 2008, joining with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. Maggie Hassan, who both face competitive re-election campaigns, in an all-female pitch to voters in the midterm election's final weekend.
Clinton's visit stoked speculation about another presidential run, capping a two-month string of campaign appearances in the nation's top Senate and gubernatorial battlegrounds.
"Starting way back in 1991 you opened your homes and your hearts to us," Clinton said, recalling the first presidential bid of her husband, former President Bill Clinton. "And in 2008, during the darkest days of my campaign, you lifted me up, you gave me my voice back, you taught me so much about grit and determination."
The rally at a community college in the home of the nation's first presidential primary was eagerly anticipated by Democrats, many of whom still remember Bill Clinton's resiliency in 1992, a second-place finish for which he famously nicknamed himself the "Comeback Kid."
Following a loss to Barack Obama in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton staged her own rebound here in the state's presidential primary and later joined with the future president in New Hampshire after ending her White House bid — in a town appropriately named Unity.
Six years later, Clinton remains the dominant figure in a potential Democratic presidential primary to succeed Obama, and the rally served notice of her popularity here. The mere mention of her name by Shaheen and Hassan brought loud chants of "Hillary," bringing a smile to Clinton's face.
"She is here to help keep us going so we can keep our state moving in the right direction," Hassan said.
In her remarks, Clinton honed in on a number of local issues, noting Shaheen's support for jobs at the Portsmouth Naval Yard and legislation to help small businesses gain access to credit.
Clinton pounced on Republican Scott Brown's answer in a recent Senate candidate debate that had Democrats claiming he was unfamiliar with New Hampshire's geography, namely Sullivan County. Brown, who is competing in a tough contest with Shaheen, moved to New Hampshire from Massachusetts last year after losing a re-election bid for the Senate seat he won in a 2010 to fill the remaining two years of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's term.
Shaheen, Clinton said, didn't just know where certain communities were located but understood their issues. The upcoming election, Clinton said, offered a choice "between two very different visions."
"Either we're all in this together or we're all in this on our own," Clinton said. After the rally, she made off-schedule stops at restaurants in Manchester and Dover and was raising money for Hassan in Portsmouth.
Republicans aimed to use Clinton's visit to tie Shaheen to Obama, who remains unpopular. State GOP chair Jennifer Horn said Clinton and Shaheen "share one thing in common — they have both supported Obama's failed leadership, which has left America weaker at home and around the world."
Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne contributed to this report.
Follow Ken Thomas on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KThomasDC