By JULIE BOSMAN, NYT
JUNCTION CITY, Ore. — On the day Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was endorsed by the governor of North Carolina, a supporter gave her a three-foot-long balloon replica of herself, complete with blond hair, black pantsuit and wide pink smile, which Mrs. Clinton promptly took on her plane and laughingly showed off to reporters.
On Thursday, little more than two weeks later, the doll lay on the sofa by her seat on the plane, shriveled and deflated.
With her candidacy running out of time — and perhaps air — the Clinton campaign has taken on a distinctly subdued mood.
And despite coming off a large victory in West Virginia, and anticipating success in Kentucky on Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign in recent days has encountered a series of disappointments, not the least of which was the endorsement of Mr. Obama by the influential women’s group Naral Pro-Choice America.
Famous for her 16-hour days, her unflagging energy and her willingness to shout into a microphone until her voice gives out, Mrs. Clinton finds herself encountering long odds and a dwindling bank account. (David Letterman recently joked that with her campaign $21 million in debt, she is at “the world’s most expensive fantasy camp.”) And the new tone is palpable.
“I’m so grateful to all of you for letting us have this conversation,” Mrs. Clinton said softly at an afternoon event, speaking to a group in which reporters outnumbered supporters by at least 3 to 1.
“When you have just the big events with the rallies and all the rah-rah and all the speeches and the lights and everything,” she said, “it doesn’t mean as much to many people as to be included and actually hear the stories and the concerns that everybody has.”
It has always been difficult for Mrs. Clinton to compete against an opponent who once received thunderous applause for blowing his nose. But as Mr. Obama seized nearly every headline in the last several days, Mrs. Clinton appeared zapped of her usual enthusiasm.
The small crowd she attracted in rural South Dakota on Thursday was quiet and polite, with none of the exuberance that usually greets Mrs. Clinton at her campaign stops. (A campaign aide suggested it could have been due to the cultural mores of South Dakotans.)
In Oregon on Friday, her first event, staged in a house in a quiet residential neighborhood, was described as a round-table discussion on the economy. Mrs. Clinton, surrounded by six people at a dining-room table, frequently drifted back to telling stories of economic woe and despair.
She told the story of a couple she met in Ohio who faithfully mailed in their mortgage check every month, only to have their home taken away from them in a home-foreclosure scam.
Mentioning the federal government, Mrs. Clinton said, “There’s such a sense of paralysis.”
“Here we are, the greatest nation in the world, the greatest problem solvers, but we’re not solving our problems,” she said.
Largely absent from her swing through South Dakota and Oregon, two of the four states (plus Puerto Rico) that have yet to hold primaries, was any mention of her opponent. On Thursday, she mentioned Mr. Obama only when she defended him from Mr. Bush’s remarks that implicitly compared him to appeasers of Nazis.
The Clinton campaign began running three more television advertisements on Friday in Oregon and Kentucky, none of which criticized Mr. Obama directly. An aide said that in the coming days, Mrs. Clinton planned to focus on the economy and avoid directly criticizing Mr. Obama.
She cut short what was scheduled to be a two-day visit to Oregon, where Mr. Obama is expected to win, deciding instead to fly to Kentucky late on Friday. She will spend four days there, make an election-night speech on Tuesday and then return to Washington later that day.
With an eye to her financial situation, Mrs. Clinton squeezed in a visit to Los Angeles on Thursday night to appear at two fund-raisers, which brought in $400,000.
Late Friday, Mrs. Clinton stopped by her campaign office in Salem, Ore., to thank a group of excited volunteers, shaking hands and eating cannoli.
“I don’t really get the point of her carrying on,” said Tim Ledford, 29, a store clerk who had wandered upstairs to catch a glimpse of Mrs. Clinton. “If it’s done, it’s done.”