Clinton Victory In NH Means Back To Old Politics
Narrow as it was, the Clinton victory over Sen. Barack Obama returned us to the old brand of non-inclusive politics that has marked the American scene for too long. Clinton is a divisive candidate who can only cause great bitterness to continue across ideological lines. Obama, while perhaps more liberal ideologically, is a candidate whose personality and skills of compromise, his vision of a united America, would bring the country together, not tear it apart with continuation of a problematic Clinton dynasty. This apparently being a Democratic year means that whoever is the Democratic nominee is apt to be elected.
I'm also disappointed in myself for getting it wrong. Obama's victory in the Iowa Caucuses put me in a state of euphoria, and I feel betrayed by my own emotions.
Clinton won in New Hampshire by doing much better than she did in Iowa among women, and cutting Obama's share of the youthful vote. There is more of a working, urban population in New Hampshire, and Clinton carried both the cities of Manchester and Nashua, the cities that Sen. John Kerry carried in 2004. Obama's strength in the college towns of Hanover, Keene and Durham could not overcome the Clinton edge elsewhere. Clinton also carried the rural far north of the state near the Canadian border.
Why were the polls wrong about the Democratic race, but right about the Republican, where Sen. John McCain won a narrow victory over former Gov. Mitt Romney?
I suspect that, in part, this was the old story of some people saying they are going to vote for a black candidate but then voting for the white one. They think there's a "right" and "wrong" answer on poll questions involving race, and some people are privately less open to a black candidate than they tell the posters.
But the New Hampshire race was very fluid, conducted in a state of almost frenzy, with all kinds of cross-patterns on the idea of Clinton becoming the first woman president. She may have benefited by a feeling among woman that she was being unduly beset upon by all the men in Saturday's debate. Even her near-crying episode just before the election, and Obama's rather curt suggestion in the debate that he found Clinton "likable enough," may have helped her with women.
There was always a question of how the independent voters, who could vote in either party primary, would break between Republicans and Democrats. Would they go in a larger proportion for McCain or Obama? The split seemed to lean a little toward McCain, but, to be frank, Clinton did better than expected among the independents as well.
So my hopes for a coronation and a clear path to an Obama nomination are clearly not to be realized, and I have to think back to the McCarthy-Humphrey contest I covered in 1968, after Sen. Robert Kennedy was assassinated. McCarthy, who was not as good a candidate, or as pleasant a personality as Obama, fell short that year. Humphrey captured most of the working class Democrats, as Clinton did last night. McCarthy had only a liberal and dilettante fringe insufficient to bring him victory.
In this contest, however, Obama may benefit, when he gets to South Carolina Jan. 26, by a sizable black vote. But Obama faces questions in the 23-state "Big Tuesday" primaries whether he can make inroads among white working people, the bedrock Democratic rank and file of the party, and there are questions, certainly in California, about the Latino and Asian vote. In light of the pattern of last night's voting, I'm now not all that optimistic.
On the Republican side, McCain's victory doesn't tell us much about the contests ahead -- most notably in South Carolina. We'll have to see how former Gov. Mike Huckabee does against him in South Carolina, and Florida Jan. 29 will be a test of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's strength. Michigan, Jan. 15, may be a propitious state for either McCain or former Gov. Mitt Romney.
The vote in the New Hampshire Democratic primary was about 112,000 for Clinton to 104,ooo for Obama. Too bad. As I say, I won't conceal my unhappiness about it.
Labels: Presidential campaigning