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The importance of New Hampshire to the Clintons

In the hours leading up to the Granite State's primary, New Hampshire is clearly weighing on the couple after fighting three campaigns there.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with her husband former President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea Clinton, Feb. 1, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with her husband former President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea Clinton, Feb. 1, 2016. 

New Hampshire is full of Clinton history. It is the state that propelled a little-known governor of Arkansas named Clinton to the Democratic nomination and it saved the candidacy of a well-known first lady also named Clinton.

This is the third campaign the couple has fought there and in the final hours leading up to the Granite State's primary, the weight of New Hampshire is clearly weighing on them. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is polling behind insurgent candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in a race that she was expected to lock up quickly and early.

Instead, Clinton is aggressively fighting in the state, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, is in the state doing what he does best -- stirring the pot. But in between stinging attacks against her opponent, he reminisces and draws parallels between now and his breakout performance 24 years ago.

"This is a special place for me. It was in Keene when I first realized I just might get nominated," Clinton said on Sunday.

In 1992, not-yet-President and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton won a measly 2.8 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses (two places behind uncommitted and far behind home-state Sen. Tom Harkin), leading some to count him out of winning the Democratic nomination. But in New Hampshire, he came in second behind Paul Tsongas, a former senator of neighboring Massachusetts, garnering 24.8 percent of the vote. He declared himself the "comeback kid." That narrative caught on, and he propelled to victory with the remaining candidates dropping out one month later.

New Hampshire was also critical for Hillary Clinton in 2008 after suffering a devastating loss in the Iowa caucuses. She came in third behind Barack Obama and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who barely beat her. The candidates received 37.6 percent, 29.8 percent and 29.5 percent respectively.

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But Clinton calibrated her own comeback in the Granite State eight years ago, beating Obama by three points. Her win saved her prospects and set up a two-way race between herself and the Illinois senator deep into the primary contest, until conceding in early June after not having enough delegates to win.

Clinton often talks about those races fondly on the campaign trail. She did so again on Monday.

"I love New Hampshire. For me, this is a labor of love," Hillary Clinton said at the restaurant Chez Vachon in Manchestser.

This year, New Hampshire continues to be a key moment for the Clinton's, but Hillary's challenge here is bigger than it was in 2008. While she barely won Iowa against Sanders' strong performance there (Sanders won 49.59 percent to Clinton's 49.84 percent), the Vermont senator is posing even a bigger threat as he represents a neighboring state and is well-known there.

The question is not if Sanders will win, but by how much. Clinton is hoping to narrow that margin as much as possible.

Bill Clinton is lowering expectations for his wife, comparing this race to his second place finish in '94.

"(Tsongas) beat me. He lived five miles from the New Hampshire border, and he beat me ten miles into New Hampshire, and the rest of the places voted for me and I went on and the rest is history. And it worked out pretty well for you, didn't it?" Clinton told a crowd at Milford, N.H. on Sunday.

The former president successfully turned his second-place finish into a win.

On Tuesday we'll find out if New Hampshire is good to the Clinton's for a third time.

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