McCain and Clinton win New Hampshire vote

Posted in United States | 09-Jan-08 | Author: John Broder| Source: International Herald Tribune

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, left, and Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York rode a wave of female support to victory over Senator Barack Obama in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday night. In the Republican primary, meanwhile, Senator John McCain of Arizona revived his presidential bid with a Lazarus-like win.

Both candidates called their victories comebacks, because both followed their defeats in the Iowa caucuses, where Clinton placed third and McCain fourth.

McCain's victory was the fruit of a meticulous and dogged turnaround effort; his second bid for the White House was in tatters last summer because of weak fund-raising and a blurred political message, leading him to fire senior advisers and refocus his energy on New Hampshire.

Clinton's victory came after her advisers had lowered expectations with talk of missteps in strategy and concern about Obama's momentum coming out of the Iowa caucuses.

Clinton told supporters, "I want especially to thank New Hampshire. Over the last week I listened to you and in the process I found my own voice."

She added, "Together, let's give America the kind of comeback New Hampshire has just given me.'

Obama conceded the race to Clinton, congratulating her on a "hard-fought victory."

He told cheering supporters in Manchester: "You made it clear in this moment and this election there is something happening in America. We are ready to take this country in a fundamentally new direction."

McCain said, "I'm past the age when I can claim the noun 'kid' no matter what adjective precedes it. Tonight we sure showed them what a comeback looks like."

His chief rival in New Hampshire, the former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney congratulated him on "running a first-class campaign."

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who came in third in the primary and was looking forward taking his campaign to other states, told supporters, "If there's any sadness, it's not where we finished, because frankly, we're pretty happy about that."

In the Democratic contest, John Edwards, the Democrats' 2004 vice presidential nominee, was a distant third.

Several New Hampshire women, some of them undecided until Tuesday, said in interviews that a galvanizing moment in the race had been Clinton's unusual display of emotion on Monday when her eyes filled with tears and her voice cracked as she described the pressures of the race and her goals for the nation.

"As voters began to see the choice they have and heard Hillary speak from her heart, they came back to her," said Mark Penn, Clinton's chief strategist.

Obama leaves New Hampshire with political support that is still considerable, after his victory in Iowa and his growing support in the nominating contests ahead. Clinton had been struggling to stop Obama, turning on Tuesday to new advisers to shore up her campaign team, and both of them are strongly positioned heading into the Nevada caucuses on Jan. 19 and the South Carolina primary days afterward.

McCain's victory dealt another serious blow to Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts. Romney campaigned hard and spent heavily as he sought wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, only to come up short in both states. McCain, after watching television reports of his victory in his Nashua hotel room, took congratulatory calls from Romney and Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor. He then went downstairs to declare victory.

To cheers of "Mac is back," McCain told supporters Tuesday night, "My friends, you know I'm past the age when I can claim the noun 'kid,' no matter what adjective precedes it. But tonight, we've sure showed them what a comeback looks like."

Surveys of voters leaving the polls showed Obama particularly strong among male voters, young people and independents. Obama advisers said he was poised to leave New Hampshire with a competitive edge in South Carolina, where they expect the heavily black electorate to rally around his bid to become the nation's first African-American president.

Yet Obama, like Clinton, has devoted considerable financial resources to Iowa and New Hampshire, and his advisers said they plan to spend carefully in the coming contests. He is scheduled to hold a major fundraiser on Wednesday night in New York — Clinton's home turf — and intend to make new requests for donations from online donors and major party figures.

The voting did little to clarify the muddied Republican field. Messrs. McCain, Romney, and Huckabee are all girding for battle, and some political analysts still see Thompson as a wild card in southern primaries. And Giuliani, whose strategy calls for winning big in later states such as Florida and the Feb. 5 primaries in New York, New Jersey, and California, finished near the back of the pack here.

"By the time it's over with, by Feb. 5, it's clear that we're going to be the nominee of the Republican Party," Giuliani told supporters in Manchester, before flying to Florida. He added that, perhaps, "we've lulled our opponents into a false sense of confidence."

Clinton plans to stay off the campaign trail on Wednesday and huddle with her husband and advisers about the way forward. She is already planning to add new strategists and advertising advisers to her team, including long-tie aide Maggie Williams and ad man Roy Spence, as she seeks to build on a strategy memo written by another ally, James Carville, to show more fight and grit against Obama in Nevada.

Even before polls had closed last night, advisers to Clinton were portraying her performance in New Hampshire as a gratifying revival and surprise, given her loss in Iowa and Obama's double-digit lead in some public polls going into Tuesday's vote.

But Clinton advisers acknowledge that she had spent heavily in the first two states and had only about $20 million on hand, so they were planning a massive fund-raising drive, an onslaught of sharper contrasts with Obama, and an increasingly personal style of campaigning from Clinton.

It was an especially remarkable night for McCain, who had to lay off much of his staff after he nearly ran out of money because of his attempt to run a national campaign last spring along the lines of President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign. All but counted out, McCain retrenched, and focused his limited resources largely on advertising and campaigning in New Hampshire, where he enjoyed a reservoir of support among Republicans and independents from his 2000 run here.

He got back on his emblematic bus, the Straight Talk Express, chatting with the few reporters who continued to cover him and working to persuade the state's voters one by one in a seemingly incessant stream of town-hall-style meetings.

And while Romney outspent him on television commercials by two to one — spending $8.7 million to McCain's $4.3 million, according to the of Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising — McCain closed the gap in the last days of the campaign here, in part because of his tireless campaigning.

Mike Dennehy, who directed the McCain efforts in the state, estimates that McCain spoke to some 25,000 people directly.

In the Republican primary, McCain got 38 percent of voters unaffiliated with either party, and the same proportion of registered Republicans, according to a surveys of voters leaving the polls conducted by Edison/Mitofsky for the television networks and The Associated Press. Such undeclared made up about a third of voters in the Republican primary.

It was different for the Democrats. Undeclared voters make up a larger portion of the voters in the Democratic primary -- more than 40 percent. Obama got about 4 in 10 undeclared voters and Clinton got about a third of their support. Clinton got 45 percent of the registered Democrats, and Obama got a third of undeclared voters.

McCain did better with young voters, but older voters were equally divided between McCain and Romney, the surveys of voters showed.

Most Republican voters said they had a favorable opinion of McCain, Romney and Giuliani, according to the exit poll, while about 80 percent of Democratic voters looked favorably on Obama and Edwards, and 73 percent viewed Clinton favorably.