McCain, Clinton Bounce Back


By: Wall Street Journal

Results Upend Both Parties; Obama Is 2nd
By JACKIE CALMES

NASHUA, N.H. — New Hampshire voters jolted the presidential nomination race, giving Republican Sen. John McCain a much-needed victory and, in an upset, handing Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton a win that revives her campaign after her loss in Iowa.

Sen. Clinton had been braced for another big defeat, following on her third-place finish in Iowa last week. That could have doomed her chances in the next state contests. Her victory was particularly surprising given how low expectations had fallen for the New York senator as she tumbled in state and national polls taken after Iowa.

A big factor for Sen. Clinton was her recovery among female voters. In Iowa, Sen. Clinton got less support from women than Sen. Obama did. But in New Hampshire, she captured about half of women voters, giving her a roughly 10-percentage-point lead among women over her rival, according to early exit polls. About two in three Clinton voters were women.

Democratic strategists speculated that some may have been won over by Sen. Clinton’s much-televised show of emotion Monday, the day before the primary, during a discussion with women voters. The incident may have helped humanize a candidate whom many voters have called unlikable.

“Over the last week, I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice,” Sen. Clinton told supporters. She went on, “Let’s give America the kind of comeback that New Hampshire has just given me.”

Arrayed behind her for the television audience were cheering young people. That was a purposeful contrast with her concession speech in Iowa, where senior citizens and Washington establishment figures were her backdrop — paining supporters who noted that Sen. Obama had won with the support and energy of younger voters.

Sen. Clinton’s finish recalled her husband’s surprise second-place finish here 16 years ago, but did him one better. Bill Clinton dubbed himself the “comeback kid” after his New Hampshire performance and went on to win the presidency.
John McCain claimed victory in the Republican New Hampshire primary.

In the Republican primary, Arizona’s Sen. McCain gave new life to his long-held presidential ambitions by vanquishing Mitt Romney, once the favorite here. Mr. Romney’s second loss after Iowa’s caucuses is a major blow, particularly coming in the state next door to Massachusetts, where he was governor.

For Mr. McCain, victory marked an improbable comeback. Once the Republican front-runner, his campaign all but collapsed last summer, in part due to his unpopular stance in favor of allowing illegal immigrants to earn citizenship. While he faces continued financial and organizational problems, his win in New Hampshire gives him a big second wind in a national contest that still has no favorite or heir apparent.

Mr. Romney had tried to label Sen. McCain, a fourth-term senator, as a charter member of Washington’s status quo. But it didn’t stick, given Mr. McCain’s reputation as a maverick in his party and Congress. Mr. McCain is especially well-known in New Hampshire, where he defeated George W. Bush by 19 points in the 2000 Republican primary on the strength of his “Straight Talk” theme.

“My friends, I am past the age when I can claim the noun ‘kid,’ no matter what adjective precedes it. But tonight we sure showed them what a comeback looks like,” the 71-year-old Sen. McCain told supporters. “When the pundits declared us finished, I told them, ‘I’m going to New Hampshire, where the voters don’t let you make their decision for them.’”

His supporters chanted, “Mac is back.”

So great was voter interest yesterday, mainly on the Democratic side, that New Hampshire’s secretary of state dispatched extra ballots to towns statewide. Warm weather further encouraged voters. Turnout was estimated at 500,000; the previous high mark was about 400,000 in the 2000 primaries to pick Bill Clinton’s successor.

New Hampshire’s contest followed just five days after Iowa’s caucuses kicked off the 2008 nominating process, the shortest gap ever between the two. With Iowa caucus-goers having given victories to the Democrat and Republican most identified among voters with promising to “change” Washington, all the candidates came to New Hampshire campaigning on the theme.

For Sen. Obama, the momentum of his eight-point Iowa triumph seemed to carry over to the Granite State and beyond. He drew overflow crowds, while the Clinton campaign was engaged in finger-pointing.

On New Hampshire primary day, Sen. Clinton was shaking up her campaign. She brought in her former White House chief of staff, Maggie Williams, to help campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, and reached out to other political veterans of her husband’s political team. Advisers scrambled behind the scenes to persuade senators, governors and other establishment figures not to come out with Obama endorsements.

Sen. Obama, in his concession speech, assured his backers that together they would build a “new American majority” that would “lead this nation out of a long political darkness.” He called on supporters to “mobilize our voices to challenge the money and influence that’s stood in our way.”

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards came in a distant third, for another disappointing showing. He had been second in Iowa, nearly tied with third-place Sen. Clinton there, but he had banked on winning that state. He never had much of a base in New Hampshire. He vowed to stay in the race “to the convention.”

The biggest showdown comes on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, when 21 states vote.

The Republicans’ Iowa victor — former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — got little bounce here. New Hampshire has fewer evangelical conservatives of the sort who powered the former Southern Baptist preacher’s late-breaking upset last week. Exit-poll results showed that only about one-fifth of New Hampshire Republican voters considered themselves evangelical Christians, compared with about 60% in Iowa.

Among the Republicans, Messrs. Romney and McCain had the most riding on New Hampshire’s outcome. Mr. Romney’s imperative was to recover from an Iowa loss that had ruined his original strategy, which — much like Sen. Clinton’s original game plan — calculated that triumphs in the first two states would be “kindling” to fire victories in subsequent states. Mr. McCain, who didn’t seriously contest Iowa, staked his candidacy on a comeback in New Hampshire.

Mr. Romney will now be forced to reconsider his campaign, and how much more of his personal wealth he is willing to invest since outside contributions are likely to dry up after his two losses.

As in Iowa, the onetime Olympics CEO used a medal analogy in his concession speech. He said he had “two silvers and one gold” — the gold being the little-watched caucus he won over the weekend in Wyoming. Mr. Romney said he would continue competing. “I’ll fight to be back here in November,” he said.

A decisive showdown could come next Tuesday with Michigan’s primary, the first in which Messrs. Romney, McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will seriously compete against each other. Mr. Giuliani made stop-and-start efforts in past months in New Hampshire, though he spent millions of dollars on television ads to no effect. He figured the state would go to Mr. Romney, who, as the former Massachusetts governor, is familiar to New Hampshire voters who get Boston-area television. Mr. Giuliani also gave short shrift to Iowa, since his socially liberal stands are anathema to the Christian conservatives who are a force in the state’s party.

After Michigan, Republicans move south to South Carolina and Florida, which hold primaries on Jan. 19 and 29, respectively. Messrs. McCain and Huckabee had an alliance of mutual interest in New Hampshire in seeing Mr. Romney knocked out — both spoke warmly of each other in debates and campaign appearances — while jabbing Mr. Romney for his flip-flops on abortion and other issues. But in South Carolina, the two men will be competing hard against each other in a state where the Republican Party mixes evangelical conservatives and those more interested in a strong defense.

As for last night’s New Hampshire vote, exit polls showed how Sens. McCain and Clinton pulled themselves back from the brink.

New Hampshire’s election rules allow independents to vote in either Democratic or Republican primaries. While Mr. Obama seems to have drawn the majority of the state’s independents, Mr. McCain lured enough of them to the Republican race to give him a lift. Among voters who called themselves Republicans, he and Mr. Romney were virtually tied. Among self-declared independents, Mr. McCain beat Mr. Romney by about 10 percentage points.

The Arizona senator — known for some prominent breaks with President Bush, who defeated him in the 2000 race for the Republican nomination — also seems to have gained among voters unhappy with the Bush administration. Mr. Romney won by a large margin among voters saying they were “enthusiastic” about the Bush administration, while Mr. McCain dominated among those who said they were “dissatisfied” or “angry.”

Mr. McCain’s regular attacks on Mr. Romney for changing positions on key issues seem to have been particularly damaging to the former governor. Mr. McCain won heavily among voters who said they chose a candidate who “says what he believes.” And Mr. Romney’s last-minute attempts to portray Mr. McCain as a Washington insider didn’t seem to hurt — in fact, they may have helped the long-serving senator, who also won among voters who said they wanted the candidate who “has the right experience.”

On the Democratic side, Mr. Obama carried independents, who made up about 40% of those voting in the Democratic primary. But among registered Democrats, Mrs. Clinton won a clear majority.

Sen. Obama once again won heavily among the youngest voters, but Sen. Clinton did better than she did in Iowa. She captured 28% of those aged 18 to 29, according to early exit polls, better than her 11% in last week’s caucuses.

As in Iowa, Sen. Obama won among first-time voters, while Sen. Clinton carried among those who had cast ballots before.

The battle between the two candidates has shaped up as one between Sen. Clinton’s assertion that voters should choose the candidate with more experience versus Mr. Obama’s emphasis on bringing about change. About half of all Democratic voters said they wanted a candidate who “can bring about needed change,” and Sen. Obama won a majority of them. About one-fifth of voters said they wanted a candidate “with the right experience,” and Sen. Clinton took 70%.

– Susan Davis, Amy Chozick, Alex Frangos, Elizabeth Holmes, Laura Meckler, Amy Schatz and T.W. Farnam.

Write to Jackie Calmes at jackie.calmes@wsj.com

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