Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Notes on New Hampshire

There's been an awful lot of analysis of the results from last night's New Hampshire primary, including some rather "over the top" stories.

"Clinton Escapes"? *snark*

Hillary Clinton did get a wake-up call in Iowa, to be sure. I don't want to minimize that, She also was in deep trouble, based on the polling leading up to last night. Even her internal numbers looked bad, if you read between the lines of the news stories coming out of her camp.

So what happened? What changed between Iowa and New Hampshire?

One word: organization.

Clinton had very little organization in Iowa. Indeed, she was warned going into Iowa that she stood very little chance of winning the caucuses and she should consider skipping them, but the impression of the "inevitable nominee" skipping any primary or caucus didn't play well.

So she went in expecting to lose. I don't think she expected to lose that badly.

In New Hampshire, it was a different story: she had the blessings of the regular Democratic machine in the state (Jean Shaheen, former governor of the state, and wife of former Clinton press aide Michael Penn, was her state campaign chairman), and she had a network of volunteers that recruited 6,000 volunteers from out of state this past weekend to knock on doors.

Too, she caught a break in the frenzy over scheduling: as Iowa, Michigan, and Florida started to play with the calendar, New Hampshire was forced to move their primary up into the winter break for Dartmouth University. Dartmouth would have provided some votes for Clinton (single college educated women went strongly for her), but Obama and Edwards would have gained many more votes than she.

Edwards provided another firewall for her, to be sure. By aligning his position so closely to Obama's, he gave political cover to those who wanted to vote for him but who felt obliged to acknowledge Obama's "change" narrative. I think this backfired on Edwards. I think he meant to take Clinton out, but only hampered Obama's chance for victory.

One more unintended resource for Cljnton was the independent vote, which swerved from Obama in Iowa to support John McCain in New Hampshire. I'm thinking hatred of Romney survives from his gubenatorial reign in neighboring Massachussetts.

But to say that Clinton "escaped" in New Hampshire is to tacitly acknowledge that Obama "escaped" in Iowa, because these factors I've listed here (with the possiblee exception of Edwards) worked for Obama in Iowa.

Hillary Clinton finally got her campaign back on track, doing pretty much what I prescribed earlier this week (albeit in a way I had never pondered when I wrote my piece), She took the focus away from the infighting and turned the spotlight more clearly on what she wanted to do for this country, and how this country had slipped back from progress:
"You know, I have so many opportunities from this country, I just don't want to see us fall backwards," she said, her voice breaking a bit. The audience applauded.

"This is very personal for me, it's not just political, it's [that] I see what's happening, we have to reverse it," she said emotionally, adding that some "just put ourselves out there and do this against some pretty difficult odds.

"But some of us are right and some of us are wrong. Some of us ready and some of us are not. Some of us know what we will do on day one, and some of us really haven't thought that through enough."

"So as tired as I am and I am. And as difficult as it is to try and keep up what I try to do on the road, like occasionally exercise and try to eat right -- it's tough when the easiest food is pizza -- I just believe so strongly in who we are as a nation.
Just keep it up, Hillary. You've got your groove back.