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Sep 4, 2015 10:42 PM

Steinhauser: Clinton campaign chair says calendar, not polls, behind timing of Shaheen endorsement

NH1 Political Director -

CONCORD – The chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign says the Democratic front runner’s acceptance Saturday of a key endorsement in the Granite State has nothing to do with her slip in the polls and everything to do with the calendar.

Clinton will share the stage Saturday morning in Portsmouth with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the best known and most popular Democratic politician in New Hampshire.

Shaheen’s formal backing of the former secretary of state comes as Clinton’s poll numbers in New Hampshire, the other early voting states, and nationally, have slipped this summer.

Clinton, who was once the overwhelming front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, slightly trails Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the most recent two public opinion surveys in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

Asked if Sanders surge was the reason the Shaheen endorsement was happening Saturday, Clinton campaign chair John Podesta said “No.”

“We’re going into a different phase of the campaign, post Labor Day. People are going to pay more attention in the run up through the fall, through the debates and into the primary here. So this was an important and appropriate time to have that endorsement and to energize supporters here who love Sen. Shaheen,” explained Podesta, who came to the NH1 News studio Wednesday for a one-on-one interview.

“I don’t think there’s anything to the timing other than we’re in a new phase, post Labor Day. She’ll be out doing more events. She’ll be here a lot in New Hampshire through the course of the fall, doing more interviews, talking to more people, talking to more people in the media,” Podesta added.

Read/Watch: Clinton campaign chair sits down with NH1 News

The event in Portsmouth will also serve as the kickoff for “New Hampshire Women for Hillary.” Clinton’s expected to highlight the challenges still facing women around the world.

Later Saturday Clinton heads to Manchester for a Labor Day weekend reception with Granite State labor leaders and officials.

Watch: Lots of 2016 campaign traffic Friday in New Hampshire

The trip to the Granite State and Shaheen’s endorsement come at an important time. The recent polls indicating Sanders ahead of Clinton were a bit of a shock, as New Hampshire was long considered Clinton country. Bill Clinton was nicknamed the “comeback kid” after his second place finish in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary, spring boarding him to the nomination and a White House victory. Bill Clinton won the state in both the 1992 and 1996 general elections.

Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York’s last minute comeback victory in the 2008 Democratic primary re-launched her into an epic battle with then-Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois for the nomination. Eight years later, Clinton enjoys the backing of almost the entire Democratic party hierarchy in New Hampshire. But Sanders, who is well known in the Granite State and who has made numerous trips to New Hampshire since last summer, has seen his poll numbers rise dramatically the past couple of months.

And the endorsement also comes as speculation mounts regarding a White House bid by Vice President Joe Biden.

Shaheen’s formal support is not unexpected. She backed Clinton in the 2008 nomination battle, and in 2013 she signed a letter along with the other female Democratic senators urging Clinton to run again.

After Clinton launched her 2016 campaign in April, Shaheen said in an email to supporters that “we all have to rally behind her starting right now.”

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