MANCHESTER, N.H. – Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York rode a wave of female support to victory over Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois in the New Hampshire primary last night. In the Republican primary, meanwhile, Sen. John McCain of Arizona revived his presidential bid with a Lazarus-like win.
The performances of McCain and Clinton 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 fundraising 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.
Several New Hampshire women, some of them undecided until yesterday, 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 yesterday 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, after watching television reports of his victory in his Nashua hotel room, took congratulatory calls from Romney and Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor. He then went downstairs to declare victory.
To cheers of “Mac is back,” McCain told supporters yesterday 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 black president.
Yet Obama, like Mrs. 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 Manhattan – Clinton’s home turf – and intends to make new requests for donations from online donors and major party figures.
Another Democratic candidate, John Edwards, who finished second in the Iowa caucuses, was running far behind the two leading candidates in the New Hampshire vote.
With 50 percent of the electoral precincts reporting, Clinton had 39 percent, Obama 36 percent, and Edwards 17 percent. On the Republican side, with 49 percent of precincts reporting, McCain had 37 percent, Romney 31 percent and Huckabee 11 percent.
Romney, stoically smiling in remarks to supporters Tuesday night, is now looking ahead to Michigan primary on Jan. 15; he grew up in the state, where his father was a popular governor, and has been advertising on television there since mid-December. And two Republicans from the south – former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee – are hoping for a huge boost from fellow Southerners in the South Carolina primary on Jan. 19.
The voting did little to clarify the muddied Republican field. 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.