By Chuck Browder
Hillary Clinton – It was a good night for the former First Lady. I suppose those crocodile tears really paid off for her. Had she not placed first here, it would have made it exponentially more difficult to garner the nomination. According to The Associated Press, Hillary managed to win over 46 percent of women voters in New Hampshire, and Clinton also prevailed among the largest age groups, voters 40-49 years of age, and seniors 65 years and up. Among the one in five voters who picked "has the right experience," Clinton trounced Obama 71 percent to 5 percent. This should serve as effective damage control for the national front-runner, who will be very difficult to stop from here on out.
John McCain – Not to overstate it, but this was an amazing come back for McCain, who was left for dead months ago, after his heavily financed campaign imploded with so many former George W. Bush advisers at the helm. Since then McCain’s campaign has relied more on hard work and experience than money and slick advisers. As a result, a third of Republican primary voters who call themselves independent came out to vote for him. Also, McCain won nearly 2-to-1 among moderates and the 11 percent who were self-described liberals. Three in 10 Republican voters said it was most important to them that a candidate "says what he believes" and a quarter picked "has the right experience." McCain won about half the votes of both groups. He also found greater support among GOP voters who disapprove of the war in Iraq. Romney and McCain ran about even among the six in 10 who approve the war. For now McCain has the ‘Big Mo’ on the Republican side going into Michigan, where he beat Bush in 2000.
Mike Huckabee – Huckabee once again exceeded expectations with a third place finish. More than a third of Republican voters said the top quality in who they were looking for in a president was that the candidate "shares my values," of which 20 percent of these values voters favored Mike Huckabee. Huckabee was unable to repeat his success last week in the Iowa caucuses because fewer of the electorate in New Hampshire are among his strongest groups: evangelical Christians and those who said it matters a great deal that a candidate shares their religious beliefs. Third place isn’t great, but it’s certainly nothing to sneeze at. Watch for his momentum to continue into South Carolina, where he should have more success with their larger demographic of religious conservatives.
Barack Obama – Not the showing that he had hoped for, but he will go on to fight another day. Obama received only 34 percent of the women’s vote, according to the survey conducted for The Associated Press and television networks. Obama beat Clinton by a comparable margin among men, but women voters outnumbered men in the Democratic primary by 57-43. Obama was as strong in New Hampshire as in Iowa among the youngest voters, winning 60 percent of those aged 18-24. And Obama ran about even with Clinton among 25- to 29-year-olds in New Hampshire. When asked which of four personal qualities was most important to their vote, 54 percent of Democratic primary voters picked "can bring about needed change." Obama won 55 percent of that group but Clinton got 28 percent. The exit polls found six in 10 independents opted for the Democratic contest and Obama led among them; voters who usually consider themselves Democrats went for Clinton over Obama by 10 points, after splitting evenly between the two in Iowa. It should be interesting to see where Obama’s national numbers go from here, after a strong second-place finish. As of January 6th, a USA Today/Gallup poll has him tied with Clinton at 33 percent nationally.
Mitt Romney – New Hampshire was billed by the media as Romney’s last stand and it appears he failed to deliver. However, Romney beat McCain 38 percent to 30 percent among the more than half of Republican primary voters who called themselves conservative. More than a third of Republican voters said the top quality they were concerned with was that the candidate "shares my values," and Romney led among that group with 38 percent. Romney also beat Huckabee 2-to-1 in New Hampshire among very conservative voters. So all in all, don’t count old Mitt out just yet. He is very heavily financed and still has a very well organized campaign. Also, pay careful attention to next week’s primary in Michigan - this could really be Romney’s last stand here. After all, Romney’s father, George W. Romney, was once Governor of Michigan, so there may be a nostalgia factor going into this race.
John Edwards – This was a bad night for Edwards, not only finishing a distant third with 17 percent of the vote in New Hampshire, but Hillary Clinton placed first. Senior Edwards staffers, rumored to have been told of the great likelihood, if Clinton had not placed first in New Hampshire, that her campaign would drop out of the primary. However this was not the case. Edwards ran even with Clinton among voters who emphasized that a candidate "cares about people like me" while Obama trailed on that score. Few voters acknowledge electibility as a top factor, which was probably a detriment to the Edwards campaign. For now, Edwards is still in the race and claims that there are “two elections down, forty-eight more to go.” This may be true, one would not have expected Edwards to expend too many resources in New Hampshire, since he was tracking so far behind in the polls and didn’t have a strong history in the state, finishing poorly there in 2004. However, two upcoming primaries that could work to Edwards’ advantage are the Nevada caucus and the South Carolina primary. Edwards was born in South Carolina where he won the primary in 2004, and also served one term in the U.S. Senate as the representative of neighboring North Carolina. Also, Edwards has strong ties to organized labor, which could work to his advantage in Nevada, a heavily unionized state.
Ron Paul – This is a candidate I would have expected to finish stronger in New Hampshire, where the electorate is comprised of over forty percent independent voters. Finishing fifth with 9 percent, just behind Giuliani, Paul managed to at least blow Fred Thompson out of the water. Still, this won’t be the end of the Ron Paul phenomenon. He is very well financed by libertarian-minded donors, and may manage to cause an upset before everything is said and done in this race.
Additional Losers: Fred Thompson & Rudy Giuliani – These two losers didn’t even bother to show up to participate in either Iowa or New Hampshire. While Giuliani did manage to eke out a slim forth place finish over Ron Paul with 10 percent in New Hampshire, Thompson didn’t even show up on the radar. Dennis Kucinich did better in the Democratic primary than that, and they don’t even let Kucinich participate in the debates any more! Unbelievable. Either way, you won’t be hearing much about either Thompson or Giuliani for quite some time. Thompson has relied for a while on a win in South Carolina to propel his campaign to victory. With Thompson tracking fourth with 11 percent in South Carolina, one imagines that sooner or later he will throw in the towel. As for Giuliani, his campaign has publicly admitted that they have targeted Florida as their must-win state. According to a Real Clear Politics average, Giuliani leads Huckabee by 5 percent. One has to ask the questions, with so many states between now and then, can that lead hold and will victory in Florida be too little, too late?
*The results are from exit polls Tuesday in 50 precincts around New Hampshire for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. The Democratic primary survey interviewed 1,956 voters, the Republican primary poll 1,521. The sampling error margin was plus or minus 4 percentage points for each exit poll.