“I found my own voice,” Hillary Clinton said in her New Hampshire victory speech, admitting to more than just a bumpy campaign. Instead, she appeared to be pointing at the stilted rhetoric and focus-grouping that have plagued her run for president. With Iowa and New Hampshire behind her, the senator’s campaign promise, it seems, is to speak from the heart.
Both Clinton and Sen. John McCain, who won handily on the Republican side, described their victories as comebacks. With Iowa winner Mike Huckabee coming in third, and Mitt Romney still unable to break out of second place, the Republicans’ race for the White House looks as up for grabs as the Democrats’.
If the Clinton machine indeed has righted itself, it has done so only with negative attacks, a tactic that Romney used with little success. Obama’s hope hype still has legs, and he’s likely to do well in South Carolina, the next contest.
And let’s not forget John Edwards, who probably won’t win and will have to send his support one way or the other. Considering his many harsh words for Clinton, it’s not so difficult to guess what direction he will look.
Whatever voice she uses, Hillary Clinton proved tonight that she is no pushover.
And beyond all that, the groundswell under the wave, is a hunger for something new. In interviews and focus groups all over the state, voters—especially Democrats—expressed this appetite. “It’s not about change,” said pollster Frank Luntz. “It’s about a new beginning. Democrats want to wipe the slate clean.”
That’s not what Hillary Clinton had hoped to hear 16 years after her now snowy-haired husband survived a wild ride in New Hampshire on his way to the presidency. As Obama began to look unstoppable, dreams of a Clinton restoration gave way to frantic rumors and desperate strategy sessions. Political operatives and journalists traded hints of staff shake-ups, insider infighting and hail-Mary gambles to somehow stem the Obama tide.
As the ballot-counting began, however, it was clear that Clinton’s well-organized New Hampshire machine was not going to collapse without a fight. Early returns showed her running strong in Manchester, the state’s largest city. Indeed, the tighter-than-expected race underlined an overlooked fact of the Iowa caucus: Clinton didn’t do badly there. She and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards ran up what would have been record tallies in any previous year while finishing in a near-tie. It’s just that Obama shattered all records.
AP photo / Jim Cole
Supporters cheer as Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton takes the stage after winning in New Hampshire.