Comebacks for Clinton, McCain in NH

Fred Lucas | Staff Writer | Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Comebacks for Clinton, McCain in NH

Nashua, N.H. ( - Experience trumped change for both parties Tuesday, as Republican John McCain and Democrat Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire primary.

Contrary to the polls, Sen. Clinton (N.Y.) defeated Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), the winner of the Iowa caucuses, with 39 percent of the vote to Obama's 36 percent. Exit polls showed Clinton with strong support from women, seniors, unions and lower-income households.

Clinton's come-from-behind win shows her presidential candidacy is still alive, despite Clinton's third-place finish in Iowa. In New Hampshire, Democrat John Edwards came in third with 17 percent of the vote, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had 5 percent.

Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) coasted to an easy victory over former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney with 37 percent of the vote to Romney's 32 percent.

Romney had been counting on a victory in his "backyard" of New Hampshire after coming in second to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in Iowa. Huckabee finished a distant third in New Hampshire with 11 percent of the vote. Trailing Huckabee was Rudy Giuliani with 9 percent, Ron Paul with 8 percent -- and Fred Thompson with 1 percent.

The biggest losers in New Hampshire may have been pollsters, as most pre-election polls showed the Republican race between McCain and Romney would be very close.

On the Democratic side, polls showed that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama would win by double digits over Sen. Clinton of New York.

The Democratic race ran well into the night Tuesday, but the media called the New Hampshire Republican race for McCain at 8:10 p.m., shortly after polls closed in the state.

With sunny, near 60-degree weather, the state reportedly had an 85 percent voter turnout Tuesday.

McCain's campaign was written off last summer, but he surged in recent weeks with newspaper endorsements and large crowds.

McCain supporters chanted "Mac is Back," as the winning candidate took the stage at to the theme of "Rocky" at an election night celebration in Nashua

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

"When the pundits declared us finished, I told them, 'I'm going to New Hampshire where the voters don't let you make their decisions for them,'" McCain said. "They asked, 'How are you going to do it? You are down in the polls. You have no money.' I answered, 'I'm going to New Hampshire, and I'm going to tell people the truth.'"

Fight for independent voters

McCain apparently did well among independent voters, whose support Sen. Obama was also courting.

Sean Frederick, a McCain volunteer from Derry, N.H., said earlier in the day that McCain's New Hampshire campaign organization had worked hard to get the independents' vote in the Republican primary.

"I think we closed the gap among independents. I reached a lot of would-be John McCain voters who said they were voting for Obama because they didn't want Hillary. But we explained to independent voters it looks like she's going to lose already."

'Found my own voice

Sen. Clinton delivered her victory speech at 11 p.m.

"For the past week I listened to you and in the process I found my own voice," Clinton told reporters at her campaign celebration in Manchester. "Now together, let's give America the kind of comeback New Hampshire has just given me."

"We are in it for the long ride," she said to applause. "And that is because we are in it for the American people."

Romney -- whose strategy was built around winning Iowa and New Hampshire and coasting through the remaining states - reminded his supporters that he's now finished
second in two contests - and first in one, the Wyoming caucus. He also played up an anti-Washington message.

"I think it is time to send someone to Washington who will actually get the job done," Romney said.

The next primary will be held on January 15 in Michigan, where Romney announced his presidential candidacy and where his father served as governor.

Obama's big and historic win in the Iowa caucuses last week put him in a strong position to win in New Hampshire less than a week later. He drew massive crowds in the state, but Clinton pushed her experience, criticizing Obama's message of hope and unity as empty, feel-good rhetoric.

Obama conceded the race shortly after 10:45 p.m., reminding voters that virtually no one anticipated his campaign doing even this well a few weeks ago. The lengthy concession speech sounded almost like a victory speech.

"There is something happening," Obama said. "We are ready to take this country in a fundamentally new direction. Change is what is happening in America."

McCain won by nearly 20 points in New Hampshire in 2000. While smaller in size, his victory this time over Romney was unexpected by many until polls showed him surging a few days ago.

McCain volunteer Charlotte Conway of Stoneham, Mass., mentioned the "Obama factor." "I don't think he (McCain) will win by as much tonight as he won in 2000, but a win is a win," Conway said earlier Tuesday in between making phone calls for the candidate.

Romney supporters said earlier that day they expect to continue with or without a win.

Andrea O'Halloran, a Romney volunteer from Bronxville, N.Y., believes Romney is still in the race despite what the media might say.

"The media portray Obama as the darling boy, that's why the media is trying to close the door on Romney because they know he is the only Republican who can beat any Democrat," O'Halloran said. "Iowa and New Hampshire are not microcosms of the U.S."

Derek Khanna, a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts who volunteered for Romney, has gone door to door and made hundred of calls and is cautiously optimistic about her candidates prospects after New Hampshire.

"It's not about winning them all," Khanna said. "He can stay viable in Michigan, South Carolina and Nevada. If he loses Michigan, it can be extremely tough."

Make media inquiries or request an interview with Fred Lucas.

Subscribe to the free daily E-brief.

E-mail a comment or news tip to Fred Lucas.