Hillary Clinton Turned Her First Loss Into A Winning Speech

by Alexandra Svokos

Hillary Clinton lost the primary vote in New Hampshire, but it certainly didn't feel like that inside Southern New Hampshire University on Tuesday night.

Amanda Nannarone, 20, an American University student in New Hampshire on a non-candidate-specific school trip, said:

I thought her speech was awesome. She's amazing. I love her.

That positive, boisterous energy was all around. I saw Clinton speak a few times over the last two weeks, but this -- on the night of her first defeat -- was the loudest I have heard her crowd and by far the best speech I have seen her give.

They were chanting with spirit as they waited for her to get onstage, screaming at the end of every line of her speech and being so loud that at times they drowned out what she actually was saying.

Dan Mercer, 18, a British student on a school trip who had also seen Hillary in Iowa, said:

It did not feel like an atmosphere of defeat. It felt like an atmosphere of 'OK, we've lost this one, let's just keep going. Let's just keep trying.'

Clinton did not disappoint the enthusiastic crowd. She was absolutely fired up, speaking passionately about moving forward to keep fighting for the Democratic nomination, to go on helping people around the country.

She spoke about visiting Flint, Michigan and wanting to prevent a water crisis like that from happening again. Clinton set herself up as someone who is mad -- like Bernie Sanders, like young voters -- but someone who will use that madness to create actual change and improvement in realistic terms, saying:

People have every right to be angry. But they're also hungry. They're hungry for solutions.

Mercer and his British school group saw Clinton speak a few times, and they all vigorously agreed that this was the most energized they've seen her.

Sophie Rose, 19, said,

I think she really thinks she can use this as an advantage and show people that she's got what it takes. She's now got to show she's better than Bernie, and I think she just did.

Rather than taking the New Hampshire loss as a hit, Clinton used it to propel her campaign forward.

A major criticism Clinton has faced is that she's a phony who doesn't actually give a sh*t about people. And her speeches often do feel like she's just going through the motions -- which makes sense, given that a campaign is inherently saying the same thing over and over again. She's not the best at inspiring hope through campaigns.

Not to mention, as a woman, she can't exactly yell and grumble as much as a man can without facing an overwhelming amount of criticism.

And Clinton was speaking about the same things she always speaks about -- equal pay for equal work, LGBT rights, Wall Street reform and racial discrimination.

But on Tuesday night you felt how much she genuinely cares about these issues. Instead of drifting off, I was right there with her, nodding along and paying attention. Her tone was passionate, angry, forceful -- you could feel real emotion and drive.

The floor in the auditorium was shaking with supportive screams as Clinton said:

I believe so strongly that we have to keep up with every fiber of our being the argument for, the campaign for human rights. Human rights as women's rights, human rights as gay rights, human rights as worker rights, human rights as voting rights, human rights across the board for every single American. Now, that is who I am. That is what I've always done.

She said it with passion, but she was also quoting one of her most famous lines: Back in 1995 in Beijing, Clinton used the phrase “women's rights are human rights.” It was an effective way of linking together her past and present, showing that, like her slogan says, she has long been “fighting for us” -- whoever “us” might be.

Clinton also referred to her falling numbers among young voters in one of her big lines of the night:

I know I have some work to do, particularly with young people, but I will repeat again what I have said this week: Even if they are not supporting me now, I support them.

For Jonah Wolff, 21, who was also on the American University trip, it's these kinds of speeches that sway his vote. He came to New Hampshire as an undecided voter between Bernie and Hillary. But after seeing both of them speak several times, he said:

The fact of the matter is the two of them, like Secretary Clinton said today, agree on basically every policy issue, and I agree with them on basically every policy issue. But I really look for the energy that they can inspire in people and in me. And between the two of them and what I've seen, I really love both of them, but there's more of a fire here. For sure.

When Clinton walked off the stage to Rachel Platten's “Fight Song,” which she's been using throughout the campaign, it actually felt like she earned the song's message.

We'll have to wait and see if she can carry this momentum further into the next primary voting states.