Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
It happened in New Hampshire: Republican John McCain staked his claim to the title of "Comeback Kid," and Democrat Hillary Clinton surprised the pollsters by beating Barack Obama.
Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
Republican John McCain and Democrat Hillary Clinton shocked the pundits, the pollsters and many in their own parties by winning in New Hampshire's presidential primaries on Tuesday.
"Well, that was weird," wrote liberal Bill Scher, a blogger at Campaign for America's Future and Liberal Oasis, and author of Wait! Don't Move to Canada!
Scher says he's still shaking his head over the outcome. By focusing on New Hampshire, McCain had been able to climb back into contention there. But polls consistently showed Clinton trailing Barack Obama — sometimes by double digits.
"It's odd when every single poll is wrong. We're used to polls being wrong, but not this across-the-board," he says. "In the blogosphere, there's just as much surprise as throughout all the political media."
Scher attributes Clinton's comeback less to anything she did than to things that were done to her. He cites sexist treatment on the New York senator in the days leading up to the New Hampshire vote, from the badgering by male members of the press corps to heckling from men in T-shirts reading "Iron My Shirt." He adds to that list the way Obama and fellow Democrat John Edwards ganged up on Clinton in a debate on Saturday. Taken together, those moments "may have rallied women around her," he says. Exit polls showed Clinton performing better among women in New Hampshire than she'd done among women in Iowa.
Now the Democratic race becomes a free-for-all, Scher says. He expects Edwards to stick to his populist message and Bill Richardson to drop out.
Meanwhile, conservative Eric Erickson, editor of RedState.com, says McCain pulled off something of an upset. Erickson says former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had staked much of his fortune — political and financial — on winning in New England. Instead, Romney added another second-place finish to the one he notched in Iowa.
In the days before the election, he says, political observers settled on a Romney refrain: "Governor next door, vacation house in the state, millions in the state — $10 million, he's definitely going to win — and, well, go figure," Erickson says.
Erickson says that all summer, the bloggers he knew were keeping a "dead pool" on when McCain would have to drop out. Now he's got his first primary win. "This is a stunning turnaround for John McCain," he says.
The blogger wonders about the role of independents. In New Hampshire, registered voters can cast a ballot in either party's primary. Obama had been expected to pull strongly from their ranks.
"Some people were positing the theory that everybody thought Obama had it in the bag, so people decided they'd go vote in the Republican primary for John McCain," he says.
From here, Erickson predicts, Romney will try to make a final stand in Michigan on Feb. 7, where he has pockets of strong support.
"The problem for him, though, is that Michigan voters really like John McCain," he says. "John McCain looked like he really had the fire in the belly to run through this thing, and all of a sudden he's won New Hampshire."
McCain's win helps Mike Huckabee, who won the Republican primary in Iowa and appeals to evangelical Christians, and it helps the struggling Fred Thompson, who appeals to voters looking for a more conservative candidate than John McCain. Erickson says Rudy Giuliani's strategy of concentrating on the Feb. 5 primaries, when voters in nearly two dozen states head to the polls, could pay off. The entire GOP field could be hurting for campaign funds by then.
"The difference is that Rudy has already placed all his ad buys for Super Tuesday," Erickson says, "and nobody else has."
On our blog, an open thread: McCain, Clinton rock the race.