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Clinton Pushes Tax Credit in N.H.

February 19, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton went to New Hampshire determined not to look like he was gloating.

But there was something in the long, hearty cheers he drew Thursday night, seven years after he promised to fight until ``the last dog dies,″ that made him want to show the world _ or at least his critics _ that he still is standing despite the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

``This dog is limping, but still going,″ Clinton said, giving credit to his supporters. ``If you had listened to the political experts, this dog would have died. But instead you held out a lifeline. You embraced our cause.″

Clinton spent much of Thursday tiptoeing along the edge of gloating, taking advantage of the fine ironies that surrounded him. The visit to New Hampshire, where he turned a second-place showing in 1992 into a victory of sorts, marked his first political outing since the Senate acquitted him last week of perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

The place where he once begged for a second chance was also the place where he paused to catch his second wind.

``I am glad to be back,″ Clinton said before hundreds of New Hampshire’s Democratic faithful in the National Guard Armory in Manchester. ``All the experts expected you to send me home; instead you made me feel at home, and I still do.″

He worked the crowd zealously, posing for pictures and absorbing more than a few hugs and kisses _ and he held a baby _ 1-month-old Alexander Zacher.

``They took a chance on him and I think he’s repaid that trust with his performance in office,″ said Paul Begala, a campaign strategist in 1992, a White House strategist today.

``There’s a popular myth that he survived in New Hampshire, or indeed survived today, because of his political talent, which is manifest,″ Begala said. ``My view is that he’s surviving, then and today, because of his ideas.″

Clinton tried to put those ideas on display Thursday, holding a roundtable discussion with Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and people whose health care hardships illustrate what some of his budget proposals _ particularly a $1,000 tax credit for long-term care _ are designed to help alleviate.

``You will hear all kinds of debates in the next year about what to do with the (budget) surplus,″ Clinton said. ``But we have to ask ourselves, ’What should our first priority be?‴

He argued that priority should be people, echoing the 1992 mantra that he and Vice President Al Gore put into a book. He liberally put in plugs for Gore, reminding them that the vice president cast the deciding vote on the 1993 budget plan that Clinton says paved the way for today’s surpluses.

``Nobody had more to do with the decisions we’ve made and success we’ve enjoyed than Vice President Al Gore,″ he said. As if on cue, dozens of people began waving white ``Gore 2000″ placards.

Clinton punched the air confidently with his fist as he left the stage and lingered to shake hands. For the first time in months, he ventured close to reporters who wanted to know whether being in New Hampshire was nourishing for his soul.

``Sounds pretty good,″ Clinton said. ``What do you think?″

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