8 Questions New Hampshire Could Answer
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
1. Will an Obama victory knock Clinton out of the race?
A decision to quit would be totally out of character. Hillary Rodham Clinton has already said she will go forward no matter what happens in New Hampshire. As Democratic strategist Bill Carrick put it: "No one quits a presidential campaign until they run out of money. Senator Clinton has money. She will be around till at least February 5th."
That day is the equivalent of a national primary, with states such as California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Georgia holding contests. Those states are rich in delegates, and some could set up well for Clinton.
But a loss in New Hampshire would be a crippling blow. Clinton loyalists are already worried about losing the potentially pivotal Jan. 26 primary in South Carolina, where African American voters play a predominant role. Her team long has believed that Nevada, which votes on Jan. 19, is strong Clinton country, but that could change if Barack Obama picks up support from the influential Culinary Workers union.
Beyond money, Clinton has tenacity and the experience of having been knocked down before. Her biggest challenge will be buying time. She will have 11 days between New Hampshire and Nevada to start changing the dynamic of the race.
"She will remain in the fight through Feb. 5th hoping that Obama stumbles and that her experience message finally gets some traction," wrote Donnie Fowler, a Democratic strategist. "The real question is how much drama will spill out of Camp Clinton in the meantime. Not a pretty prospect if past is prologue."
2. Will either race end in New Hampshire?
If Obama wins, it's possible everyone will look back at New Hampshire and say that's where the Democratic race ended. But even if Clinton were considered effectively out, there's John Edwards to think about.
The former senator decided to become Obama's wingman in the Democratic debate on Saturday, ganging up on Clinton. But his real hope is for Clinton to fade away, turning the race into a one-on-one contest about who is the real change agent.
Though Edwards will be at a big financial disadvantage, a Democratic strategist said, "I don't discount Edwards's ability to stay in, and he has, as always, the sharpest message."
Democratic strategist Ron Klain offered another reason for the race to keep going. "Given that an unprecedented number of Democrats have given an unprecedented amount of money to permit senators Clinton and Obama to carry their message nationally, neither should leave the race until that has happened: i.e., until a large cross section of Democrats from around the country have had a chance to cast their votes."
The Republican race, on the other hand, may just be getting started. If John McCain wins Tuesday, the Republican Party will have winners of the first two contests who hardly conform to party orthodoxy and who, three months ago, no one said had a chance of being the nominee.