The real story of the night is John McCain's
victory in New Hampshire. He invested an incredible amount of time and money
into the state betting that it would provide him with a crucial bounce into the
South Carolina primary on February 19. His victory was all the more complete
because, exit polls show, he managed to capture almost every distinguishable voting block except
religious conservatives. That includes women, men, rich, poor, the college-educated
and those with high school degrees. He also, of course, did well among independents.
All those victories point to a broad challenge to George W.
Bush from within and without the GOP. But the worst news for Bush is that most
voters chose McCain because they thought him to be a man of character and
conviction. His victory speech sharpened the themes of honor within the Oval Office. He proclaimed, this
"is the beginning of the end of the truth-twisting politics of Bill Clinton
and Al Gore." Chief of staff Mark Salter put a different spin on the victory: "The key is that
McCain is the hardest working man in show biz."
One Bush staffer told the
York Times "I think we were prepared for a 5-to-7 point loss. The
dimensions of this are troubling. We worked very hard. We wanted it really bad." In his concession
speech Bush called New Hampshire a
"bump in the road for front-runners." In South Carolina, he has a state that
favors front-runners and religious conservatives. McCain has quite a
challenge -- South Carolina's size will impede the preferred style of
person-to-person politics that was so
effective for him in New Hampshire.
Gore wins, barely
On the Democratic side Al
Gore won a predictable victory. Toward the end, the polls tightened up but
still showed him leading. New Hampshire was the state that Bill Bradley was supposed
to win. Its independent voters were supposed to be the most receptive to
his messages of reform, but the closest he was able to come was 4 points.
Still, while the win gives Gore a strong boost, the lack of a wide numerical margin of victory
gives Bradley a
burst of media exposure and allows him to parlay a sizable war chest into the March 7
primaries. He starts a five-state swing Wednesday in order to cement his presence
in the race even further.
A strange mix of voter characteristics divided the
Democratic candidates. Bradley's strongest support came from men, voters with
incomes over $75,000 and those with college degrees, but he also gained support
from independents, very liberal and somewhat conservative voters. On the down
side, Gore captured fully 60 percent of the union vote.
Perhaps heralding a tactical shift in his campaign, Gore's victory speech referred to
Bradley in the past
tense: "Senator Bradley was a tough competitor who made us fight for every
New Hampshire's curse
No one who has lost New Hampshire has ever been elected president except the self-proclaimed "comeback kid" Bill Clinton in 1992. Expect
aggressive commentary from every pundit on how Bush will try to make Clinton's exception the rule. There are many arguments to be made in favor of that analysis, but the big one is Bush's money, which can be deployed in multiple states simultaneously, and
the extensive organization that has cohered around him since 1998. McCain will have to campaign feverishly in order to best those barriers.
In the aftermath of Tuesday's
primary comes the knowledge that this will be a very costly and hard fought month for
both parties. The New York
Times explores the gap between the parties' initial expectations of primary
season as a period of coronation and rude awakening to what politics entails.
Finishing out the race
Despite a last-minute endorsement from impeachment veteran David Schippers and a backhanded one from Michael Moore, Alan Keyes didn't fare well in New Hampshire. He ended the night polling 6 percent. Gary Bauer did worse, polling
a measly 1 percent that worked out to be 1,653 votes. Steve
Forbes did the best of the conservative pack, polling 13 percent, but was
pretty decisively removed from immediate contention. The New
York Times reports that the campaign was deflated by voters who viewed Bush
as the inevitable candidate, but that the Forbes team still holds out hope that McCain will whittle Bush down to size and again make their man competitive.
A vast far-right conspiracy continued
In New York Hillary Rodham Clinton's
campaign continued attacking Rudy Giuliani
for alleged connections with conservative groups and an appearance with the
rising nativist Austrian candidate Joerg Haider. The Washington
Post reports that the First Lady's campaign manager, Bill de Blasio, asked
Giuliani to stop a nasty direct mail initiative by a group that has alleged
connections to the mayor. Giuliani later responded that he didn't know who
Haider was when they sat together at a Congress for Racial Equality dinner, and joked that the direct-mail attack was the "far-right
conspiracy" that Clinton had claimed was vindictively pursuing her husband.