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Nov 9, 2015 6:23 PM

Steinhauser: Clinton files for primary ballot; deepens contrast with Sanders; predicts Bill will return to NH

NH1 Political Director -

CONCORD – Hillary Clinton made it official Monday, as she filed to put her name on the primary ballot.

The former secretary of state and Democratic presidential front runner, speaking with reporters minutes after filing, passed on numerous opportunities to criticize Sen. Bernie Sanders, her main rival for the nomination.

But she did contrast herself with the independent senator from Vermont who’s running as a Democrat for the first time in his more than four decade long political career, saying “if there’s a contrast, there’s a contrast. I’m just so proud to be a Democrat and I’m proud to have worked so hard for the Democrat Party over so many years.”

And asked by NH1 News if former President Bill Clinton will return to the Granite State to campaign for his wife, Clinton said “I predict you’ll see him up here.”

This was Clinton’s fourth visit to New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s office on the second floor of the State House. Gardner, in office since 1976, is the longest serving current secretary of state in the country and one of the biggest defends of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary state.

“How are you holding up,” Clinton asked Gardner as she arrived in his office.

Later, talking to reporters, Clinton passed on attacking Sanders or former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, the third Democratic presidential candidate, saying “there are certainly differences among the three of us who are on the Democratic side, but our differences pale to what we find on the Republican side.”

But when asked specifically about Sanders status as a Democratic presidential candidate after years of refusing to accept the party’s nomination during his Senate campaigns in Vermont, Clinton said “he has to speak for himself.”

Sunday, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sanders stated he would continue to contrast himself with Clinton, saying “in terms of disagreeing with Hillary Clinton, yeah, I do, on many, many issues. You know, what I understand politics and elections to be about is to discuss differences of opinion. I intend to do that and do that vigorously.”

Asked about those comments, Clinton said “look I think we’re in the political season and people, you know they all sorts of things.”

Clinton added that she’s looking forward to Saturday’s second Democratic presidential debate, saying “there are differences among us and the voters can then judge for themselves and that’s what will happen Saturday.”

Predicts husband will be back in NH

Former President Clinton hasn’t set foot in New Hampshire since he headlined a state Democratic Party dinner in October of last year, just a couple of weeks before the 2014 midterm elections.

Asked by NH1 News how involved her husband is in her campaign and whether we’d see a lot of him in the Granite State moving forward, Clinton said “he’s been very busy working on his priorities right now, primary the Clinton Foundation. In fact as we speak he’s in Latin America.”

“I predict you’ll see him up here. I’m very much pleased that he did go to Iowa with me and I know that he’ll be here in New Hampshire. I don’t think I could keep him away. I think he really loves coming to New Hampshire as some of you know. And he’s been a great help, a great adviser and a great supporter in what I’ve done and will continue to do so,” she added.

Changes tune on Republicans?

Last month, during the first Democratic nomination presidential debate, Clinton said Republicans are among the enemies she's most proud of making. She later said that comment was a bit "tongue in cheek."

On Monday she had a different view of the GOP.

Clinton touted her past bipartisan efforts, telling reporters "when I’m in an official position as I have been both as secretary of state and as a two-term elected senator from New York as well as the work I did as first lady, I find a lot of common ground with Republicans."

"Now when I’m running for office the very same Republicans who work with me and say very positive things about me in official positions, are in politics, so of course they’ll be much more critical.

Later Monday, at a town hall in Windham, Clinton added that she would do "whatever I can" to find common ground with Republicans.

New Hampshire GOP chair Jennifer Horn was across the street from the State House prior to Clinton's arrival, talking to reporters.

“Hillary Clinton doesn’t really know New Hampshire very well. And we’ve seen that in the way that she’s conducted her campaign right now this time around," Horn told NH1 News.

"There is no such thing as a free and open town hall when it comes to Hillary Clinton. She does not embrace the spirit of the First-in-the-Nation primary. She’s not a live free or die candidate and I believe the voters of New Hampshire are going to reject her," she added.

Fourth time filing for primary

Clinton's first visit to Gardner's office came in December 1991, when the then-first lady of Arkansas arrived "to officially sign the papers on behalf of my husband’s campaign. It was a far different scene than this one. Let me say that, because there were very few people who gave him much of a chance."

"I think for good luck purposes I came back in late ’95, early ’96, to also sign the papers for his candidacy. A few more people were there but he was the incumbent president," she added.

Clinton returned in 2007 "on my own behalf back in ’07 and worked really hard and was really grateful to win the New Hampshire primary, and to be the first woman who’s ever won a national election primary in our country.”

As she filed, Clinton was surrounded by some of her closest friends and allies in the Granite State. The list included former congressman Dick Swett, Democratic National Committeeman Bill Shaheen (the husband of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and a co-chair of Clinton's 2008 campaign), former New Hampshire first lady Susan Lynch, Tom Hassan (the husband of Gov. Maggie Hassan), Terry Shumaker (a longtime friend and adviser to both Hillary and Bill Clinton who was sharing with reporters photos of Clinton from her first three visits to file for the primary) and Jim Demers (a 2008 co-chair of then Sen. Barack Obama's campaign who's now a strong backer of Clinton).

After filing and taking reporters questions, Clinton spoke to a large crowd of supporters on the plaza on the east side of the State House.

Tuesday Clinton holds events in Derry and Hanover.

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