Clinton Surprises Obama in Tight Democratic Race

Hillary Clinton i i

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) celebrates her victory in the state primary on Tuesday in Manchester. Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) celebrates her victory in the state primary on Tuesday in Manchester.

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, defying pre-election polls, defeated Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois in Tuesday's Democratic primary in New Hampshire.

With 96 percent of the vote counted, Clinton held 39 percent of the vote to Obama's 36 percent.

After Clinton's third-place finish in Iowa, most of the New Hampshire polls indicated that she would lose to Obama again, and by a substantial margin. So when the results became apparent Tuesday night, Clinton's supporters chanted "comeback kid, comeback kid," invoking the moniker that her husband, Bill Clinton, adopted 16 years ago, when a second-place showing in New Hampshire revived his faltering presidential campaign.

Hillary Clinton told her supporters Tuesday night that she came to them "with a very full heart."

"Over the last week," she said, "I listened to you and in the process, I found my own voice. Now, let's give America the kind of comeback that New Hampshire has given me."

Shortly before 11 p.m., Obama emerged to congratulate Clinton, but his message was upbeat.

"I am still fired up and ready to go," Obama said, adding: "A few weeks ago, no one could have imagined what we would do tonight in New Hampshire."

His assertion that he was ready to take the country "in a fundamentally new direction" was greeted by a chant from his supporters: "We want change. We want change."

John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, who finished second in Iowa, was third in Tuesday's voting. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was a distant fourth. Richardson insisted that the upcoming Western contests in Nevada, New Mexico and California will revive his campaign.

"This race is going to go on and on and on," Richardson told supporters.

Edwards, who some had speculated might be knocked out of the race by a weak performance in New Hampshire, gathered about 17 percent of the vote and vowed to fight on. He pointed to the upcoming primary in South Carolina — the state where he was born and which he carried four years ago — as a fresh chance to compete with Clinton and Obama. Edwards' supporters also saw a potential opening as Clinton's unexpectedly strong showing slowed some of Obama's momentum.

In Manchester, N.H., Edwards told his supporters that nearly 99 percent of Americans had not yet had a chance to vote and that they "deserve to have their voices heard."

Warm Day, Hot Race

Unseasonably warm weather contributed to a record turnout of roughly a half-million voters on Tuesday, 280,000 of whom were Democrats. As in Iowa, Obama won more votes from independents than did Clinton, but she received the larger share of votes from registered Democrats.

Economy, War ... and Change

According to exit polls, the top issues among Democrats were the economy and the war in Iraq. As for the qualities that Democratic voters were looking for in their candidate, 56 percent said that "change" — Barack Obama's signature issue — was most important to them. Only 18 said that "experience" — Clinton's potential trump card — was most important.

Again, Obama dominated among young voters, as he did in Iowa, but in New Hampshire they made up a smaller percentage of the total vote. And unlike Iowa, where Obama got slightly more votes from women than Clinton, in New Hampshire Clinton decisively won the female vote. She also beat Obama 2 to1 among voters who said they were looking for a candidate "who cares about people like me."

Behind the Clinton and McCain Comebacks

N.H. voter

A man marks his ballot in a voting booth in Manchester, during the record statewide voter turn-out for this year's New Hampshire primary. Chris Hondros/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Primer on the N.H. Primary

  • N.H. residents can register and vote on primary day.
  • Independent voters make up the single largest voting block of the N.H. electorate: 370,118 out of 827,701 voters.
  • Roughly 30 percent of N.H.'s eligible voters participated in the 2004 primary.
  • Independents can also vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary, whereas in Iowa, caucus goers can only participate if they're registered with a party.

Arizona Sen. John McCain largely owes his New Hampshire GOP primary win to the support of independent voters, moderate Republicans and New Hampshire residents dissatisfied with President Bush, according to exit polls.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton received her New Hampshire boost from women, a group Clinton has long courted but who went, narrowly, for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in the Iowa caucuses.

Preliminary exit polls also suggest this New Hampshire primary broke previous statewide voter turnout records, with roughly 500,000 New Hampshire residents flocking to the polls— that's 48 percent of the voting age population in the state.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who came in second in the GOP primary, received the support of conservatives and voters who approved of President Bush.

Obama overwhelmingly held a lead among independents and first-time voters, although the number of first-time primary goers was up only slightly from 2004. Obama also won the youth vote: the 18 percent of the New Hampshire electorate under 30, while Clinton won among voters age 45 and older.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the GOP winner in Iowa, won the white evangelical vote: 18 percent of the New Hampshire Republican voters.

Among the issues strongly affecting the mindset of New Hampshire primary voters, the economy topped the list for both Republicans and Democrats. Only 14 percent of New Hampshire Democrats and 21 percent of the state's Republicans said they felt like they were "getting ahead" financially.

The Iraq war, healthcare, immigration and terrorism followed closely behind the economy as the top issues in voters' minds.

Republicans listed Iraq, immigration and terrorism as the top three issues. Those most worried about the war and terrorism supported McCain, while voters worried about immigration went with Romney.

Clinton outperformed Obama with poor, less-educated voters, while Obama won among affluent primary voters.

In the ever-present Democratic debate between "change" versus "experience," Obama won amongst those who sought reform. But among the 19 percent of voters who listed experience as their top priority, Clinton held the lead.

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