DURHAM, New Hampshire — Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton officially picked up another key endorsement here Friday from the governor of this key primary state, where Bernie Sanders has been leading the former secretary of state in recent polls.
At a joint event at the University of New Hampshire, Gov. Maggie Hassan said Clinton is “the only candidate with comprehensive and practical plans" to address the critical issues facing the country, and added that Clinton is the "the right person to lead our country."
The endorsement comes as the current and former governors of neighboring Vermont, Sanders’ home state, campaign on Clinton’s behalf. Gov. Peter Shumlin appeared with Clinton Thursday while former governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean will speak to Massachusetts Democrats on her behalf Saturday.
New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has also endorsed Clinton, and she's locked down key supporters in Iowa, including its popular former governor and long-serving senator. The Midwest state represents an important field for candidates as it holds the first caucuses in the nation.
As Clinton's primary Democratic rival, Sanders has been drawing massive crowds — another 5,000 in South Carolina Thursday night, according to his campaign — but so far failed to secure the endorsement of a single Democratic member of the House or Senate, nor a sitting governor. Clinton has banked hundreds of such backers.
At the same time, the former secretary of state has had more difficulty attracting large crowds, and the ones she does draw often lack the energy of Sanders' attendees.
An at-capacity crowd of about 350 filled the room where Clinton spoke Friday, and more than 100 watched in an overflow area. “The good news is that we have an overflow!" Clinton remarked.
She made no mention of Sanders here, but was eager to pile on to Donald Trump, who Thursday night in New Hampshire failed to correct a man who said President Barack Obama was a Muslim. "I was appalled," Clinton told reporters after the event. "He should have from the beginning repudiated that kind of rhetoric, that level of hatefulness in a questioner in an audience that he was appearing before."
History suggests endorsements are a better predictor of electoral success in a primary than crowd sizes, but Sanders’ campaign hopes to sway party leaders by proving they can win, in part by showing the enthusiasm for him on the ground.