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N.H. delegates give Clinton early nod

Senator seen as state party favorite

"I love the Clintons," said Anita Freedman, 79, one of two New Hampshire delegates to the Democratic National Committee. (Jim Cole/associated press)

As Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton prepares for her much-awaited first trip to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate this week, she can count on the support of both of the state Democratic Party's representatives to the Democratic National Committee, who have been among the most sought-after endorsements in the state.

The endorsements solidify Clinton's position as the early favorite of the state party establishment, though some of the top guns -- including Governor John Lynch and former governor Jeanne Shaheen -- have yet to choose a candidate.

The two delegates to the Democratic National Committee, Anita Freedman , of Portsmouth, and Gaeten DiGangi , of Merrimack, told the Globe that they would be supporting the New York senator, stressing their long association with the former first lady and her husband, former president Bill Clinton.

"I love the Clintons," said Freedman, 79. "I told them I don't walk that well these days, but I do have a phone and I will do all I can."

DiGangi said he has been impressed with the quality of the nearly dozen Democrats who are either running for president or considering a run. "But, hey, I am for Hillary," said DiGangi. "She has plenty of experience, and my opinion is that when people get to know her they will begin to see she is not the same person Republicans portray her to be."

State Democratic Party rules bar many leaders from endorsing any candidate in a Democratic primary, so Freedman and DiGangi's endorsements rank only below those of Lynch, Shaheen, and the state's two recently elected House members in terms of importance in the state party hierarchy.

In addition, Justin Nadeau , the 2004 Democratic congressional nominee in the state's first district, was scheduled to have dinner at the Clintons' Washington home last night. Nadeau recently agreed to be on the national finance team for Hillary Clinton's campaign .

Earning the support of activists like these in New Hampshire, a state that for 80 years has held the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, has been critical for previous presidential candidates because of the advice they give and the local credibility they lend a candidate. But they don't always pick winners. In 2004, Freedman and DiGangi endorsed Richard Gephardt, the House minority leader, who withdrew from the race before the primary took place, after a disappointing finish in the Iowa caucuses.

Clinton is scheduled to visit the state this weekend for the first time since October 1996. Her full schedule has not been released but the Globe has learned there will be invitation-only house parties in Keene and Nashua, among other events.