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January 8, 2008

New Hampshire Primaries: The Recap

New Hampshire voters have cast their ballots, and the results seem pretty clear. John McCain completed a months-long comeback, while Hillary Clinton suddenly righted a ship that looked in serious danger of foundering. She eked out a narrow win when polls suggested a big loss, and McCain took a race that looked like a toss-up and almost turned it into a laugher.


McCain gets his chance to bid for national front-runner status. Michigan at this point has Mitt Romney edging ahead, but the impact of the clear McCain victory has a week to sink into the consciousness of Michigan voters. Romney cannot allow McCain to win in Michigan. A second win makes McCain the momentum candidate and allows him to come into South Carolina with a head of steam.

What about the rest? Mike Huckabee never expected to do well, but he wound up taking third place with a respectable 11 percent. Rudy Giuliani took fourth, narrowly, over Ron Paul, who again proved that the so-called Revolution exists mainly in the imaginations of the fringe. Fred Thompson had no expectations in New Hampshire and managed to meet them, only taking a single percentage point. He has to do something spectacular in South Carolina.


No one can pretend that this wasn't a huge victory for Hillary Clinton. All of the pollsters had her tanking in the days between Iowa and tonight, and I mean all of them. She not only got to be an underdog, she got to write a comeback script for a media that loves them. CNN's pundits scratched their heads all night long, expecting that narrow gap to disappear, and it never happened.

How did she do it? Improbably, she kept pace with Barack Obama with independents, and she also won back the women's vote. The big turnout looked like a boon for Barack, but wound up being a bust.

Hillary did one more thing with this win; she proved she can adjust and adapt to her missteps. She spent the last eight or nine weeks giving Barack Obama an opening for the nomination, and in New Hampshire she somehow found just enough strength to close the door on him. Make no mistake, Obama will continue to be a factor, but the momentum has come to a halt. Hillary has stopped the bleeding, and she can now hone the message and rebuild her lead on a state-by-state basis. She can shut him out with a win in South Carolina (in a dead heat at the moment), and now that she has won this race, she will likely hold the Democratic establishment.

As for everyone else, they have to come to grips with the fact that the Democrats have at most a two-person race. John Edwards finished far out of the money. His schtick only had resonance in Iowa, and he faces a rapid decline. He won't register any more in his native South Carolina than he did in the Northeast. If Edwards wants to beat Hillary, the best way he could accomplish that is to withdraw from the race and endorse Obama. That may be Obama's best hope at this point in the race.

UPDATE: I've had a few commenters and e-mailers note that Edwards lives in North Carolina, but he was born in South Carolina. Seneca, to be exact.

One last thought: this is the second state where the independents broke towards the Democrats. Republicans need to consider that and its implications for the entire ticket in November.


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» Hillary & McCain take NH from The Anchoress
As Ed Morrissey says here: No one can pretend that this wasn’t a huge victory for Hillary Clinton. All of the pollsters had her tanking in the days between Iowa and tonight, and I mean all of them. She not only got to be an underdog, she got to ... [Read More]

» Clinton And McCain New Hampshire Wins: Tales Of Two Comebacks from The Moderate Voice
The political pundits, political operatives and political scientists will be analyzing the New Hampshire primary results for days but there is one thing that won’t be in dispute: the victories of Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton and Republican... [Read More]

» The blogosphere reacts: What happened in New Hampshire? from US Elections - Times Online - WBLG
Talking Points Memo: But polls are usually right. Not always and not exactly. But by and large they have a very good record. It's silly to think that we -- whether 'we' is reporters or political junkies or ordinary voters [Read More]

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