U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes the stage for a campaign town hall meeting in Salem, N.H., Dec. 8, 2015. 
Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

Half of New Hampshire’s Democratic state reps. back Clinton

Hillary Clinton now has the backing of nearly half of the Democrats in New Hampshire’s state House of Representatives, her campaign announced Monday. It’s a strong showing in a state whose first-in-the-nation primary is likely to play the definitive role in determining the Democratic presidential nominee.

Seventy eight members the state House, which has 161 Democrats out of 400 total members, signed onto an open letter to their colleagues announcing their support for Clinton. That level of support is close to double the portion of the Democratic Caucus that backed Clinton during her 2008 White House bid, when she won New Hampshire. 

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“Hillary Clinton has already proven that she is listening to us – and responding with real solutions,” the letter reads. The legislators join many other top Democrats in the state, including nine of 10 Democratic state senators, Gov. Maggie Hassan, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster.

New Hampshire is shaping up to be arguably the most important and contentious state in the Democratic nominating process, with rival Bernie Sanders’ top official in the state calling it a “must-win.”

Asked about the endorsement, a Sanders campaign official pointed to a CBS News article questioning the importance of endorsements in 2016. Still, Sanders has rolled out his own list of important state backers, including 19 state representatives, three former Executive Council members, and the former head of the AFL-CIO in the state, among others. He also picked up the backing of the State Employees’ Association, New Hampshire’s second largest labor union that represents more than 11,000 workers, even though its umbrella organization, the Service Employees International Union, backed Clinton.