Clinton's Large Crowd Interrupts Event's Flow

(John P. Filo/CBS)
From CBS News Senior Political Correspondent Jeff Greenfield

PENACOOK, N.H. -- Question: What's the worst job in the world this morning?

Answer: whoever's in charge of Hillary Clinton's advance team.

At her first event, at Merrimack Valley High School -- the event most likely to make the TV newscasts before she left the public eye for debate preparation -- a clash of obligations between the Clinton campaign and the fire marshal left hundreds of people waiting outside the gym, down the hall and into the street (to quote Chuck Berry) as Clinton began her remarks.

Now, nothing is worse for an embattled candidate than images of a less-than-full hall, especially when there are people waiting to fill it.

But the campaign, according to an aide, had recveived only 500 responses to invitations by last midnight -- perhaps three times as many turned out.

That good news turned into something of a shambles: Clinton had to repeatedly stop her train of thought to implore the fire marshal to let more people in.

"There are chairs up here if the fire marshal, Mr. fire marshal, we have chairs that people can actually fill if you'd let some more people in."

"We want as many voters from New Hampshire to have a chance to make up their minds about what they are going to do on Tuesday," she said.

When the fire marshal did let more people in, Clinton campaign aides were scrambling to set up folding chairs even as Sen. Clinton was fielding questions from audience members who had no portable microphones at hand so that they could be heard.

Her goal ths morning was to contrast her health care plan with Barack Obama's no-mandate plan. That left her repeatedly calling for health care questions, which left the give and and take a decidedly less spontaneous feel.

I've never believed you can use a bad logistical event as a metaphor for a "faltering" campaign. But given how many in the press lack my "Higher Level of Enlightenment," I would not want to be a Clinton campaign aide on the receiving end of a call from the candidate anytime soon.