Friday, January 4, 2008

January 4, 2008

     It was different--Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee, not Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney--and it was fun.  Now on to New Hampshire and what happens there.
     First, the Democrats.  Hillary Clinton, trumpeted by many in recent months as the inevitable nominee, has lost that aura.  She has the money to come back in New Hampshire and her spokesmen now say they're ready for a marathon campaign.  But there are worrisome signs for her.
     Change was the issue most Democratic caucus goers cited in Iowa and, of course, that was Obama's issue.  Clinton cited her experience.  Obama had a huge lead over Clinton among independents (41--23%).  They make up the largest voting bloc in New Hampshire and can vote in either party's primary there.  Obama led among young and middle-aged voters;  Clinton, only among those over sixty.  That's not to say that New Hampshire independents will vote the same way as those in Iowa but, if you're a Clinton backer, it's not a good sign.  And I have a feeling--no poll question quite asked this--that a lot of Americans are fed up with twenty years of Bushes and Clintons and just want somebody new.
     Anyway, if you're Clinton, New Hampshire is probably a make or break state.  Robert Shrum, a veteran Democratic consultant who was John Kerry's senior strategist in 2004, told the New York Times, "If Hillary doesn't stop Obama in New Hampshire, Obama is going to be the Democratic nominee,"  and that sounds about right.  Her husband finished out of the money in Iowa in 1992, then finished second in New Hampshire, labeled himself the Comeback Kid and won the nomination.  A repeat of that seems unlikely.
     Republicans?  A whole different game.  60% of Iowa's Republican caucus goers told entrance pollsters they were evangelical Christians.  Mike Huckabee got 46% of them, far ahead of Mitt Romney's 19%.  But New Hampshire Republicans are less evangelical, more anti-tax.   Huckabee has been attacked for raising some taxes as governor of Arkansas, though he answers that he's cut others.  He's likeable, has a sense of humor even about himself--unusual in presidential candidates--but will New Hampshire Republicans support a candidate who doesn't believe in evolution?  I don't know.
    Huckabee's win in Iowa hurts Mitt Romney, who spent time and money in the state.  It doesn't much hurt John McCain, who didn't and who won the Granite State eight years ago.  So New Hampshire could end up a battle between Romney and McCain.  Both parties may have two-person races by next Wednesday. 
     One thing's for sure:  real voting is a lot more fun than straw polls, don't you think?

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