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N.Y. Senator Defies Polls, Edges Obama

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Presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) addresses her supporters after the New Hampshire primary election results filter in. Video by AP, Editor: Jacqueline Refo/washingtonpost.com

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Yet no one in Clinton's camp, including Penn, had projected a tight race here ahead of time. Adviser Howard Wolfson said that it was Clinton who reported feeling the tide turn after a debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester on Saturday night. She "said she felt the momentum shift out on the stump" at various town hall meetings and rallies, he said.

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With a tone of palpable relief, he added: "This gives us huge momentum going forward. No politician in history ever came in with as much momentum as Senator Obama had, and it was stopped."

Clinton benefited from a large gender gap, one that never materialized in Iowa. In New Hampshire, exit polls showed that 57 percent of the electorate was female and that she won the group by 12 percentage points; she lost women in Iowa by five points.

Clinton also picked up 28 percent of voters younger than 30, after getting only 11 percent of young caucusgoers in Iowa. In another big switch, Clinton got 28 percent of voters prioritizing "change," up 9 percentage points from Iowa.

A different mix on the issues also helped her. Among Democratic voters, the economy was the top issue, and she had a nine-point edge among these voters after losing them by 10 points in Iowa. Independents favored Obama, breaking for him by more than 10 percentage points. First-time voters also tilted toward Obama, though they were not as large a factor as they were in his Iowa victory. And as in Iowa, there was a generational divide: Obama pulled 51 percent of voters younger than 30, compared with 28 percent for Clinton, while Clinton won 4 percent of voters older than 65, compared with 32 percent for Obama.

Not apparent in the numbers was any evidence that Clinton had benefited from a moment on Monday when she choked up while describing how personal her campaign had become. Still, the flash of emotion shifted the dynamic of her campaign, suggesting that Clinton had cast aside caution in order to show a more human side.

Turnout in New Hampshire soared to more than 500,000 voters overall, including 276,000 who participated in the Democratic contest, up from 220,000 four years ago. The Obama campaign puzzled over the returns throughout the evening. The candidate and his wife, Michelle, had dinner at their hotel near the rally site, waiting for the race to be called, and held out hope that college towns reporting their returns late would swing the race in his favor.

One theory in Obama circles was that he may have appeared overly confident in the closing days, creating a sharp contrast with Clinton's flash of vulnerability. New Hampshire voters are famously independent minded, and they may have rejected the front-runner status that was granted when Obama arrived in the state, fresh from his Iowa win early Friday morning. Some suspect Edwards may have started the backlash when he went on the attack against Clinton in the sole pre-primary debate.

Obama campaign insiders portrayed the result as a near miss, an outcome that would have been a strong positive even two weeks ago, when they were still trailing in polls here. "It's going to be fine," said senior adviser Jim Margolis. "This was never going to be easy."

Margolis said he had discussed the loss with Obama. "He's in a great place," he said. "This is someone who has understood his whole life that there are pretty significant challenges out there. He never thought this was going to be over in two weeks."

As the evening began, Democratic circles buzzed with talk of a shake-up in the Clinton campaign, but wholesale changes did not occur as the night wore on. Campaign sources confirmed that Clinton confidante Maggie Williams would come aboard to help coordinate activities, but officials insisted that former Clinton insiders James Carville, Paul Begala and John Podesta would not be joining the team.

In addition to Williams, aides said that the team will almost certainly bring in informal advisers who are not household names, such as Texas advertising executive Roy Spence and Doug Sosnik, a former Clinton official who had worked with Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) until he left the race after a dismal finish in Iowa.

Clinton planned to return to her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., before traveling west to campaign and raise money later in the week. But how she will proceed from there is unclear, in large part because her aides expected they would be regrouping Wednesday from a crippling defeat.

As Obama's campaign moves to a larger and more challenging national stage, he will be tested in new ways. On Feb. 5, nearly two dozen states will hold Democratic primaries. By the end of this week, senior strategist Steve Hildebrand said, Obama will have operations in each one. "If we're in a battle royal, we're not overlooking anything," he added.

His aides expect a wave of high-profile endorsements in the coming days, helping Obama build a protective cloak to fend off the expected Clinton attacks.

The campaign also is targeting three prominent female politicians, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sibelius and Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. All three represent states that will vote on Feb. 5, and all three are being heavily courted by both Clinton and Obama.

In the short term, the Obama campaign still appears poised to score victories in Nevada and South Carolina, the next two states to hold nominating contests. In Nevada, the electorate is expected to be dominated by members of the Culinary Workers Union, which could endorse Obama as early as today. Clinton officials said Tuesday that she will still contest the state, which will also hold the next Democratic debate, in Las Vegas on Jan. 15. And after the victory on Tuesday night, they said, they believe they may well win.


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