Unlike her husband in New Hampshire in 1992, Hillary Clinton not only came back from premature announcements of her political demise. She actually won the Democratic primary by a narrow 2 per cent, 39-37. (In 1992 Bill, battered by reports of his infidelity, came second to Paul Tsongas by 8 per cent.) The prime reasons for her victory were a) women and b) the lower profile in New Hampshire of the war in Iraq.
In Iowa, Barrack Obama won the women’s vote by more than 5 percentage points over Hillary Clinton. In New Hampshire, Hillary got 47 per cent of the women’s vote, over 34 per cent for Obama. After looking at the devastating numbers in Iowa the Clinton campaign rushed out mailers stressing Obama’s supposed softness on the abortion issue. Second, Hillary Clinton’s moment of tearful victimhood with New Hampshire women was clearly effective, as was the footage of a post-debate session where the Democratic and Republican male candidates fraternized jovially, uncertain how to deal with the only woman in the locker room. “Defend our sister,” was clearly a crucial rallying cry in New Hampshire for Hillary Clinton.
In Iowa the war was foremost as a concern among Democratic and independent voters. In New Hampshire it was less of an issue.
The Clintons learned quickly from the Iowa disaster. Hillary Clinton, as she stated in her victory speech in Manchester, “found my own voice”, a disclosure perfectly in tune with the confessional dramatics of Oprah Winfrey and Dr Phil. The Clintons learned too how to calibrate an assault on Obama. That was Bill Clinton’s role. His carefully prepared outburst the day before the primary, assailing Obama for lies and malicious slanders on his own character was an eerie reprise of his furious outbursts during the Lewinsky affair. This time Bill’s flailings at Obama had, to the attentive ear, a racist timbre, nudging the black senator over into the “preacher of fairy tales” side of the ledger. Obama as “ole preacher” was the overt message of Hillary Clinton when she said that Martin Luther King may have talked a good game on change, but it took a white southern president to deliver it.
As the Democrat in the race who most fiercely and unapologetically defends her support for the attack on Iraq in 2003, Hilary Clinton’s win last night in New Hampshire was paralleled on the Republican side by John McCain’s victory. (In 2000 McCain beat Bush in New Hampshire, 46-30. In 2008, with 86,000 votes, he beat Romney 37-32) New Hampshire is not Iowa, where the votes are almost always interesting and the voters are genuinely of an independent disposition. In New Hampshire the two candidates most closely approving of the war and the least emblematic of change came out on top. In her victory speech Hillary Clinton said she wants “to end the war the right way.” John McCain, with the same pause, said he wants “to bring them home with honor.” The day before, McCain told the press in New Hampshire he thought the US would be in Iraq “for the next 100 years.”
As in Jacobean tragedies, the time is coming for the stage grips to haul the dead and dying off the stage. Gone: Fred Thompson (1 per cent of the vote in New Hampshire, after an incredible amount of press); Mike Gravel, 396 votes; Dennis Kucinich, 3,800 votes, the same number of UFOs Shirley MacLaine sees on a clear night; Bill Richardson, 12,845 votes, 5 per cent. Giuliani? It doesn’t look good for him. This is the north-east. It’s his quarter of the Homeland. He got 19,500 votes, 9 per cent ahead of Ron Paul. Paul got around 18,000 votes absent those who had no time to get to the polling both because they were still picketing outside Sean Hannity’s hotel. (He won more than the other antiwar candidates, Richardson, Kucinich and Gravel got, combined. Romney? He’s a north-eastern governor. If he can’t score in New Hampshire, where else, aside from Utah?
Among the corpses to be dragged off should be those of the pundits and the pollsters, not excluding James Zogby, often on the money. He called it right in Iowa. In New Hampshire he was exactly right on Richardson and Edwards but had Obama at 42 and Hillary at 29, a huge polling gaffe. Were the New Hampshire voters simply not divulging their true feelings? The “closest” of all the polls on the Democratic side was the Suffolk/WHDH survey, and its last poll had Obama up by 5 points, still wildly wrong. That same poll had Romney winning by 5 points.
Ron Paul has to decide. If Hillary wins the Democratic nomination, whoever the Republican, there will be no straightforward, uncompromising anti-war candidate in the race. Ron Paul thus far has won such support as he got in Iowa and New Hampshire thanks to the fact that they are both open states that allowed independents to vote for a Democratic or Republican. Most future primaries don’t allow this option. He has about $20 million raised from the most enthusiastic supporters yet visible in Election 2008, antiwar, pro-Bill of Rights. He should immediately run as an Independent candidate or on the Libertarian ticket, the latter being the easier option for him.
Are there any other independents who would raise the antiwar standard? Certainly not Michael Bloomberg. Ralph Nader? His endorsement of John Edwards in the final moments of the Iowa caucus was bizarre. Why suddenly support someone he had run against in 2004, who supported the war and the Patriot Act, whose populism has as much authenticity as Al Gore’s lunge into populism at the Democratic convention in 2000? Nader should probably leave the battlefield to Paul.
Message to the young supporters of Obama. Politics is not one quick dash. You have to stay and work. The Clintons have been at the game for 30 years. They don’t give up. They’ve come back from the dead many, many times.