Pace Quickens in Wide-Open Races

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 10, 2008

MANCHESTER, N.H., Jan. 9 -- Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain each left New Hampshire elated over their victories in Tuesday's primaries, but neither could look ahead with confidence at a compressed calendar that will culminate in the biggest primary day in history on Feb. 5.

"It's a wide-open, pitched battle," Democratic pollster Mark Mellman said of the Democratic race between Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). "I wouldn't give anybody a dime for their predictions."

"There is less certainty now about who the Republican front-runner is now than there was a year ago," Republican pollster Neil Newhouse said of the GOP campaign. "The race is just as wide-open as it was a year ago."

Although Obama could not repeat his Iowa victory in New Hampshire, he picked up key endorsements on Wednesday, including the Culinary Workers union in Nevada, and promised a tougher brand of politics in the week ahead.

Clinton, who stunned even her own advisers by winning on Tuesday, spent the day at her home in New York, catching a break from the intense pace of the campaign trail.

The Democratic field will lose another contender Thursday. Sources close to the campaign said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a candidate with a résumé that includes service as a congressman, as secretary of energy and as ambassador to the United Nations, will announce his withdrawal in Santa Fe after a fourth-place finish on Tuesday.

Clinton and Obama began readying for the next contests on the Democratic calendar, Nevada on Jan. 19 and South Carolina on Jan. 26; they are the first states in which minority voters will play a substantial role. But Feb. 5, with contests in California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia, Arkansas and elsewhere, looms for both campaigns as the Super Bowl event for which they are preparing.

Former senator John Edwards (N.C.), a distant third in New Hampshire after a second-place finish in Iowa, remains a factor in the Democratic race, particularly in South Carolina. He won the state in 2004.

In the Republican race, McCain, given up for dead six months ago, left here for Michigan. There he hopes to replicate his 2000 primary victory and give himself momentum heading toward South Carolina and its critical primary four days later.

But McCain faces potentially stiff competition in the next two states. In Michigan, he will be competing against former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who finished second in Iowa and New Hampshire after leading in both until recent weeks, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, the surprise winner in Iowa.

Romney seeks to avoid elimination by winning his home state of Michigan, and pulled down ads in Florida and South Carolina to concentrate his efforts there. Huckabee hopes for a strong showing in Michigan as a springboard to South Carolina, the first test in his native South. In South Carolina, he is looking for support from religious conservatives to help give him his second victory and deal McCain a setback.

Meanwhile, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, weakened from poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, has camped out in Florida in the hope that a victory there on Jan. 29 will revive his moribund campaign. Former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.), who won 1 percent of the vote on Tuesday, faces a last stand in South Carolina.

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