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The Nashua Telegraph - Obama Wants More Help for Veterans

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Location: Nashau, NH

The Nashua Telegraph - Obama Wants More Help for Veterans

By Ryan J. Halliday

Barack Obama said Monday he's "feeling pretty good" about his presidential prospects here in the Granite State, where a new poll shows he's gaining ground on Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"We've always felt that if I am talking about health care, education, Social Security, veterans and the war in Iraq in an honest way and offering real solutions, that people would respond," Obama told reporters after marking Veterans Day with a private meeting with military veterans in Nashua.

"The more people know about me, and my track record, and my campaign, the more support I'm going to get," the Illinois senator said. "At the rate we're going now we feel good about how we're going to end up."

According to a new UNH poll released Sunday, Obama still trails Clinton, 35 percent to 21 percent. But Clinton's lead has narrowed 9 points since a September poll showed the former first lady, and New York senator, with a 43-to-20 percent edge over Obama.

"We anticipated that we'd do better, and we think that we will continue to do better here in New Hampshire and in Iowa," Obama said.

After meeting with residents of Buckingham Place, a 20-unit apartment building that is transitional housing for homeless veterans, Obama touted his new plan to give more help to veterans.

"Unfortunately, every night there are veterans sleeping on the streets," Obama said, pointing to a Homelessness Research Institute report released last week showing veterans make up 26 percent of the country's homeless population.

"That's just not right," he said, adding that military veterans "bore the greatest burden for our freedom."

Obama's Veterans Homelessness Prevention Act would launch a $26 million pilot program providing housing for at-risk veterans, along with mental health counseling, job training and financial planning.

The bill, which Obama introduced in the Senate on Friday, calls for the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs to run the program, with help from nonprofit organizations.

"This is what we owe our veterans," Obama said. "All Americans need to speak with one voice and say, 'We honor your service. We are in awe your sacrifice, and we will do everything that it takes to be there for you, just as you were there for America."

Darrell Spencer, a retired Army captain who told the senator about his two tours of duty in the Vietnam War, came away from the meeting impressed with Obama.

"I'm still on the fence, but he's the one candidate that's impressed me the most," said Spencer, a 67-year-old south Nashua resident.

Obama also weighed in on the controversy surrounding questions planted by Clinton campaign staff at her campaign events, saying, "It's not a practice that we've ever engaged in.

"The people in New Hampshire should expect that the candidates are going to hear what's on the voters' minds and not what's been concocted by the candidate's staff," he said.

"I think that the voters have the right to find out what is exactly on the minds of the candidates in a way that is unscripted."

At an event in Waterloo, Iowa, Clinton responded to the allegations her campaign planted questions by saying, "Neither I nor my campaign approve of that. And it will certainly not be tolerated."

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