Election 2008

Clinton Comes Back to Win New Hampshire Primary

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Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton's come-from-behind victory in New Hampshire revives a campaign badly shaken after a third-place finish in Iowa. And Republican John McCain, whose campaign was left for dead a few months ago, wins with a push from independent voters.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

New Hampshire's presidential primary altered the race for both parties' nominations. On the Republican side, John McCain won. And we'll have more on that in a moment.

We begin with Hillary Clinton, who was expected to lose New Hampshire just hours before she didn't.

NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is in Manchester, New Hampshire. And Mara, what happened?

MARA LIASSON: Well, what happened was we had a big upset. And it was pulled off by the candidate who had been the frontrunner; then she became the underdog after losing Iowa. She had been behind in all the public polls by an average of eight points; talk about a rollercoaster. Then she won by three points. And I would say that Hillary Clinton has earned the label of comeback kid, even more than her husband, who came in second here in 1992 and just called himself a comeback kid. But let's take a listen to what she had to say last night.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): Over the last week, I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice.

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

Sen. CLINTON: I felt like we all spoke from our hearts and I am so gratified that you responded. Now, together let's give America the kind of comeback that New Hampshire has just given me.

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

LIASSON: The Clinton campaign is trying very hard to show that she's not the candidate of the past, and you could see it last night. There were a bunch of young kids behind her on the stage; that's very different than in Iowa, where she had Madeleine Albright and Wesley Clark standing with her.

INSKEEP: Although that image happened after the victory was sealed. How did she manage to pull this out, when all polls showed her behind?

LIASSON: Well, the polls are still a real mystery. The polls were actually very good predictors on every other aspect of the New Hampshire vote except the Clinton-Obama contest.

What appears to have happened is that unlike Iowa, where Obama won the female vote, women really came home to Clinton here in New Hampshire. She won big among women at all income levels. And also, even though Obama won independents, it wasn't by enough to offset the bigger margins that Hillary had among Democratic regulars.

Steve, you know, the results here surprised the Clinton campaign just as much as they did everyone else. They were fully expecting her to lose. They were getting ready to regroup for the big primaries on February 5th. Now she goes on to those contests with the wind at her back.

Sen. CLINTON: We're going to take what we've learned here in New Hampshire and we're going to rally on and make our case. We are in it for the long run.

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

LIASSON: The results were a setback for Barack Obama. But when he addressed his supporters last night, he was upbeat.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): I am still fired up and ready to go.

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

LIASSON: Obama is still strong in the upcoming Nevada caucuses and South Carolina primary. But his narrow loss in New Hampshire deprived him of the boost his campaign had been expecting from two back-to-back wins.

Sen. OBAMA: We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics. And they will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks and months to come. We have been asked to pause for a reality check. We have been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

LIASSON: John Edwards placed third. And although he vowed to continue in the race, he doesn't have a lot of money. And his hope that the race would turn into a contest between himself and Obama has not panned out. Instead, the Democratic race has been transformed into a two-person battle - between Obama and Clinton, both well-funded popular candidates.

INSKEEP: So that's what's happening on the Democratic side. What about the Republicans?

LIASSON: On the Republican side, the establishment lost again. And New Hampshire voters chose their favorite maverick, John McCain. He had staked everything on New Hampshire after he ran out of money in the spring.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): 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.

(Soundbite of crowd)

Sen. McCAIN: And when they asked, how are you going to do it? You're down in the polls, you don't have the money. I answered, I'm going to New Hampshire, and I'm going to tell people the truth.

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

LIASSON: McCain held hundreds of town meetings and answered thousands of questions - winning New Hampshire votes the same way he did in the 2000 primary.

Sen. McCAIN: I'm past the age when I can claim the noun kid no matter what adjective precedes it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. McCAIN: But tonight we sure showed them what a comeback looks like.

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

LIASSON: With McCain's win in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney has now lost two of the early states he had been counting on. But he did win the tiny Wyoming caucuses on Saturday. And he pointed that out last night in his concession speech.

Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Former Republican Governor, Massachusetts; Presidential Candidate): Well, another silver, and it's - I'd rather have a gold, but I got another silver. And now there've been...

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

Mr. ROMNEY: There have been three races so far. I have gotten two silvers and one gold. Thank...

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

Mr. ROMNEY: Thank you, Wyoming.

LIASSON: Although fewer independents voted in the Republican primary than the Democratic primary, McCain got the lion's share of their votes. He split support of Republicans with Romney. McCain also did better among the half of Republican voters who were unhappy with President Bush. Romney carried those who were satisfied with the president.

Then there was Mike Huckabee, the Republican who came in third. Every candidate has music at their election night parties, but Huckabee was the only one whose introduction had a soundtrack.

(Soundbite of music, "Also Sprach Zarathustra")

Unidentified Man: Outspent 20-1, he shocked the world with a landslide victory in the Iowa caucus.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Man: And now New Hampshire has sent a message to the world that two months ago no one would have believed.

LIASSON: Huckabee has the least money of the leading Republican candidates, but he seems to be having the most fun, partly because he exceeded his own low expectations for New Hampshire. Not long ago, he was in single digits here.

Mr. MIKE HUCKABEE (Former Republican Governor, Arkansas; Presidential Candidate): Tonight, you've given us so much more than we could have imagined just a few days or weeks ago. And over the last few days, we've seen that momentum build and the excitement at our rallies and the enthusiasm of our people and the size of the crowds. And we just sensed that we were going to do better than a lot of people thought that this old unknown Southern boy could possibly do up here in New England.

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Clinton, McCain Look Ahead to Next Round

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Hillary Clinton and John McCain are New Hampshire's comeback kids, remaking their stalled presidential campaigns and blunting the momentum of opponents as they head into fresh contests in Michigan and South Carolina.

"I felt like we all spoke from our hearts and I am so gratified that you responded," Clinton told cheering supporters outpacing Sen. Barack Obama in the first-in-the nation primary. "Now together, let's give America the kind of comeback that New Hampshire has just given me."

New Hampshire's record turnout also revived the White House hopes of Republican John McCain, seven months after his campaign had seemed to be down for the count.

"Tonight, we sure showed them what a comeback looks like," a grinning McCain told supporters as they chanted, "Mac is back!"

With 98 percent of the precincts counted, Clinton was winning 39 percent to 36 percent for Obama. Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina trailed with 17 percent. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was fourth, polling less than 5 percent.

On the Republican side, McCain had 37 percent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 32 percent, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee 11 percent, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani 9 percent and Texas Rep. Ron Paul 8 percent. Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson got 1 percent.

The victories for McCain and Clinton raised the prospect of a drawn-out nomination battle between two history-making candidates: Clinton, who would be the first woman to hold the presidency, and Obama, who would be the first president of African-American descent.

"I am still fired up and ready to go," a defeated Obama told his backers. "We know the battle ahead will be long. But always remember that, no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change."

For all the candidates going the distance, that means new focus on Michigan (Jan. 15), South Carolina (Republicans, Jan. 19; Democrats Jan. 26), Nevada (Jan. 19) and Florida (Jan. 29). Two dozen states vote on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5.

New Hampshire was a bitter blow for Romney, who spent millions of dollars of his own money in hopes of winning the kickoff Iowa caucuses and the first primary - and finished second in both. Huckabee, who won the leadoff Iowa GOP caucuses last week, was running third in New Hampshire.

After Iowa, Clinton and her aides seemed resigned to a second straight setback. But polling place interviews showed that female voters — who deserted her last week — returned to her column in New Hampshire. She also was winning handily among registered Democrats. Obama led her by an even larger margin among independents, but his campaign was less successful in turning out young voters than it had been in Iowa.

Word of Clinton's unexpected triumph set off a raucous celebration among her supporters at a hotel in Manchester — gathered there to celebrate a New Hampshire primary every bit as surprising as the one 16 years ago that allowed a young Bill Clinton to proclaim himself "the comeback kid."

Her performance came as a surprise even to her own inner circle. Officials said her aides were considering whether to effectively concede the next two contests — caucuses in Nevada on Jan. 19 and the South Carolina primary a week later — and instead try to regroup in time for a 22-state round of Democratic contests on Feb. 5.

There have also been rumors that a campaign shake-up was in the works, with longtime Clinton confidante Maggie Williams poised to come aboard to help sharpen the former first lady's message.

Obama drew huge crowds as he swept into the state after winning Iowa. Confident of victory, he stuck to his pledge to deliver "change we can believe in," while the former first lady was forced to retool her appeal to voters on the run. She lessened her emphasis on experience, and sought instead to raise questions about Obama's ability to bring about the change he promised.

The grind took a toll on both of them.

Obama suffered from a sore throat, while Clinton's voice quavered at one point when asked how she coped with the rigors of the campaign. That unexpected moment of emotion became the talk of the final 24 hours of the campaign.

The Republican race turns next to Michigan, where McCain and Romney already are advertising on television, and where both men planned appearances on Wednesday. Huckabee also was expected to campaign in the state.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

Clinton Surprises Obama in Tight Democratic Race

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Hillary Clinton 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

toggle 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."



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