09 27 2016
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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a "Get Out the Vote" event at Rundlett Middle School, in Concord, N.H., Saturday Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — With a victory seemingly out of reach in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton is looking ahead to the next round of voting to reposition her campaign to counter the rising primary threat of insurgent Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Clinton hopes to use a narrower-than-expected loss in this first primary state as a springboard into contests later this month in Nevada and South Carolina, where she hopes a more heavily-minority electorate will build the foundation for a delegate-by-delegate drive toward the Democratic nomination.

Part of that strategy means cutting into the double-digit advantage that Sanders has enjoyed in New Hampshire for several months. Her aides fear that a huge win here will help him make headway among women and minority voters, two key blocs of the coalition that twice elected President Barack Obama. Sanders' strength with younger voters only heightens the threat he poses to what was once her decisive national lead.

But while Clinton has vowed to fight for every vote in New Hampshire, at least some of her operation is moving on. This weekend, former President Bill Clinton wooed voters in Las Vegas, campaign surrogates knocked doors in San Antonio and Clinton's aides announced a meeting with top civil rights leaders next week in New York City.

Clinton herself is planning on leaving the state for a quickly scheduled visit to Flint, Michigan, on Sunday, an unusual step for a candidate trailing in the polls here. Aides said she was invited by the city's mayor, Karen Weaver, and plans to hold a town hall meeting with residents before flying back to New Hampshire in the evening. She's frequently pointed to the crisis of lead-poisoned water in the city as an example of racial and economic injustice, an issue that resonates among Democrats but particularly with African-American voters.

"People in New Hampshire probably care about what's happening to the kids, the families in Flint," said Clinton's chief strategy Joel Benenson. "People voting, particularly in a Democratic primary and I would hope even voting in the Republican primary, care about the disgrace of what's happened."

Clinton aides argue that the heavily white and liberal electorates of New Hampshire and Iowa, where Clinton barely eked out a win, make them outliers in the Democratic primary race. They say Clinton will find more success in the South Carolina primary on Feb 20 and the Nevada caucuses a week later, where polls show her with a wide lead.

In recent days, she's been using the state as a testing ground for new campaign messages targeted at specific demographic groups, alluding to her gender with vows to break "the highest and hardest glass ceiling" and promising young voters that she'd "be for them" even if they support Sanders.

On Saturday, Clinton said during a town hall meeting in Henniker that her proposals to address college affordability and to build upon Obama's health care law were superior to Sanders' approach. She also cast her plans as more fiscally responsible. "I think it's important that those of you who are trying to make this decision by Tuesday really look at whether the numbers add up because, you know, it matters," she said.

The day before, during a blizzard in Manchester, she joined a fleet of female senators for a volunteer rally. While they were flown into the state to back her bid, their message seemed aimed at a far broader audience.

"When folks talk about a revolution, the revolution is electing the first women president of the United States. That's the revolution," said Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a clear dig at Sanders call for a "political revolution."

Sanders, too, has been casting ahead, hoping to boost his profile among black voters who make up more than half of the South Carolina electorate. On Saturday night, he left the state for an appearance on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" with comedian Larry David, whose imitations of Sanders on the show have quickly gone viral.

The day before, his campaign scheduled a press conference to tout the endorsement of former NAACP president Ben Jealous. Though the campaign canceled the event because of heavy snow, Jealous told reporters on a conference call that Sanders "has the courage to confront the institutionalized bias that stains our nation." He was quickly dispatched to South Carolina for campaign events on Saturday with Erica Garner, whose father died in 2014 after a white New York police officer put the black man in a choke hold.

Sanders backers believe that as African-Americans learn more about the Vermont senator, they will warm to his liberal message. Clinton is one of the best known political figures in the world and has strong backing among Latinos and black voters.

"Before a few weeks ago, I never gave Bernie Sanders the time of day," said state Rep. Justin Bamberg, who recently switched his backing from Clinton. "But if you look at Sanders he has been solid as concrete with regards to his passion for racial, social and economic justice."

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Associated Press writer Bill Barrow contributed to this report from Columbia, S.C.

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