New Hampshire Post-Mortem And Wednesday Open Threadby Doug Mataconis
While it’s ultimate impact on the Presidential race has yet to be determined, the New Hampshire Presidential Primary is over and it’s time to figure out what happened.
On the Republican side, we had, as expected, a repeat of 2000 for John McCain:
MANCHESTER, N.H., Jan. 8 — Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the early Republican front-runner whose campaign imploded last summer, handily won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, dealing former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney his second loss in the GOP nomination contest.
McCain’s victory amounts to a dramatic resurrection for the 71-year-old veteran of presidential politics and further scrambles a Republican race that now moves to Michigan and South Carolina. After New Hampshire, the fight for a new Republican standard-bearer remains a wide-open contest.
Given the way the polls had been going, this wasn’t much of a surprise. And, as I noted on Monday, it leaves the Republican field wide-open heading into Michigan and South Carolina. As of today, two men, Mike Huckabee and John McCain, have the best argument for claiming that they are the frontrunner in the race. Yes, Mitt Romney won the Wyoming caucus, but that race was barely contested and, more importantly, participation was limited to a handful of party insiders.
So, now we move on to Michigan and South Carolina, and Romney has to win one of them. For months, Romeny was leading in what is arguably is other home state (his father was Governor there in the 1960s), but that lead started to slip away in early December and is probably gone by now. If he loses Michigan, Romney may as well drop out of the race.
As for McCain, as I said on Monday, he faces pretty much the same problem he did back in 2000. Back then, he won New Hampshire but then lost South Carolina and his campaign pretty much fell apart. The difference between today and eight years ago, though, is that McCain was the maverick outsider in 2000; in 2008 he is arguably the closest thing to an Establishment candidate in the race. To the extent that Republican insiders are looking for someone to stop Mike Huckabee — and given Romney’s collapse and Giuliani’s implosion — the person they will look to is John McCain.
On the Democratic side, things turned out a lot differently than anyone thought:
MANCHESTER, N.H., Jan. 8 — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton narrowly won the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday night, a surprise victory for the onetime front-runner that revived her sagging fortunes and reshaped yet again the fight for the party’s nomination.
“Over the last week I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice,” Clinton (N.Y.) said at her victory rally, embracing a newly emotional campaign style that appeared to fuel her turnaround here. “Let’s give America the kind of comeback New Hampshire has just given me.”
Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), who had anticipated a second consecutive win after his Iowa caucus triumph last Thursday, conceded shortly before 11 p.m. “We always knew our climb would be steep,” he told supporters, a day after he had confidently told backers that he was “riding a wave” to a win here. Former senator John Edwards (N.C.) placed a distant third, followed by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
The question, of course, is why this happened. Every single poll up until Tuesday morning showed Barack Obama ahead, the only question seemed to be how large his margin of victory would be and how much longer Hillary could stay in the race.
Boy was that one wrong. “Dewey Defeats Truman” wrong.
So, what happened ? Looking at the exit polls, it’s clear that what put Clinton over the top was the fact that women moved back into her camp:
Forty-three percent of self-styled independents said they voted for Obama, and 31 percent said they backed Clinton. Independents made up 43 percent of all voters polled.
Addressing his roaring supporters after the race was called, Obama congratulated Clinton. But he was a candidate determined to draw a distinction between he and Clinton.
“But the reason our campaign has always been different, the reason we began this improbable journey almost a year ago, is because it’s not just about what I will do as president,” he said. “It is also about what you, the people who love this country, the citizens of the United States of America, can do to change it. That’s what this election is all about.”
But Clinton was ahead of Obama 45 percent to 34 percent among those who said they were registered Democrats. Those voters made up a majority — 54 percent — of all respondents.
Clinton also claimed the majority of women’s votes, according to the polling. That’s in contrast to last week’s Iowa caucuses, in which Obama surprised observers by stealing the female vote from Clinton.
Analysts say that shift among female voters was crucial to the Clinton turnaround. “If I had a single word, the word would be ‘women,’ ” said CNN political analyst Bill Schneider. “She got the women back.”
There are many theories that can be put forward to explain what happened, but there’s really only one that makes sense to me —- the crying jag worked. Get out the Kleenex.
So now what ?
There is a primary in Michigan next week, but there’s not really a contest on the Democratic side. When Michigan moved up it’s primary to January 15th, the DNC punished the state by decertifying all of its delegates. The only candidate who’s name will be on the ballot next week is Hillary Clinton, and voters won’t be able to write in any of the other candidates. So Michigan is meaningless, for the Democrats at least.
Barack Obama is leading in South Carolina, and will probably win there. Hillary, though, leads in Nevada and Florida. Which means that the big showdown will be on February 5th, and I wouldn’t count Clinton out this time.
So that’s how the horse race shapes up.
What does it all mean ? That’s what the open thread is for. Discuss.