Correction to This Article
This article incorrectly says that Bill Clinton won New Hampshire's Democratic presidential primary in 1992. Clinton came in second to former senator Paul Tsongas.

With Echoes of Clinton '92, Another 'Comeback Kid'

The Washington Post's Dan Balz talks about the New Hampshire primary and the story of two comebacks. Video by Chet Rhodes/
By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 9, 2008

MANCHESTER, N.H., Jan. 8 -- New Hampshire proved to be the political firewall that the Clinton campaign long had hoped for. Just as New Hampshire voters saved Bill Clinton's candidacy 16 years ago, they revived Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's faltering presidential campaign Tuesday night.

Clinton's battle with Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) now moves to Nevada and South Carolina, then to almost two dozen states, including California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, that will hold contests on Feb. 5. Both campaigns are ready, and with two well-liked, well-funded and determined candidates, Democrats face a battle almost unlike any they have seen in a generation.

Tuesday's outcome defied the final poll results, which had shown Obama heading toward a handsome victory. It provided a huge psychological boost to the Clinton campaign, just as the results Tuesday buoyed Republican John McCain, and instantly deflated the almost giddy sense of anticipation inside Obama's headquarters.

What arrested Obama's surge was not clear. Some strategists speculated that it was Clinton's performance in Saturday's debate, in which she declared that "words are not actions" and sought to refocus voters' attention from the soaring rhetoric and energy of Obama's candidacy and back to the nuts-and-bolts question of what it takes to produce real change -- and who is better equipped to do so.

Others suggested that it was her emotional moment at a New Hampshire diner on Monday, when her voice cracked as she talked about what kept her going. That moment, played and replayed on television over the final hours of the campaign, revealed a side of her rarely seen before, a more vulnerable Clinton than the one described by her own campaign as "one tough woman."

Whatever it was, women flocked to Clinton's candidacy in a way they had not in Iowa. There Obama captured more of the female vote than Clinton, but in New Hampshire on Tuesday, exit polls by the National Election Pool showed Clinton winning women handily. Obama won the votes of men by about the same margin, but with women making up more than half the electorate here, Clinton's victory was assured.

Stunned by the loss in Iowa, Clinton was in the midst of shaking up her campaign as New Hampshire voters went to the polls Tuesday. She was recruiting new advisers to join the existing team. Newer, tougher ads are likely. A new assessment of where to fight and where not to fight between now and Feb. 5 was underway.

But the key for Clinton, say veterans of past campaigns and some of her supporters, may still be her ability to articulate a rationale for her candidacy that goes beyond the assertion that her experience makes her far readier to step into the Oval Office than Obama.

"I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice, " she said in her victory speech, a speech that Clinton advisers saw as the first critical step in redefining her candidacy and her message.

"There has to be a recalibration and a readjustment," said one Clinton loyalist, who asked not to be identified in order to speak candidly about the challenge ahead.

"Her rationale has been all based upon tactics," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who is not affiliated with any campaign. "Everything has been tactical. It's, 'My five-point program is better than your four-point program,' and, 'I am ready from Day One.' That's just not where the country is at." Obama, he added, "clearly fits the mood of the year."

Obama has his own challenges. The first will be to try to rebuild his campaign's morale, which plummeted Tuesday night with the first reports that Clinton might win. His loss will take some of the luster away from his candidacy, as he attracts more scrutiny from the media and probably comes under the kind of attacks he has not experienced in his political career.

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