All the papers lead with the New Hampshire primaries, where voters surprised everyone by handing Sen. Hillary Clinton a victory over Sen. Barack Obama. Sen. John McCain’s victory over Mitt Romney had been widely expected in the last week, but it still marks an amazing turn of events for a candidate that many were ready to write off last summer. With almost all the votes counted, Clinton received 39 percent of the vote, while Obama got 36 percent, and John Edwards was a distant third with 17 percent. On the Republican side, McCain got 37 percent to Romney’s 32 percent, while Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani got 11 percent and 9 percent, respectively. As had been expected, it was a day of record turnout and approximately 500,000 voters cast a ballot.
If the key word after Iowa was change, today it’s comeback as voters breathed new political life into two candidates that had come in third and fourth in last week’s contest. Now the only thing that’s clear is that “contests in both parties are far from settled despite predictions that a compressed primary calendar would force a quick decision,” notes USA Today. For Clinton, comparisons to her husband’s candidacy seem almost inevitable as it was his surprise second-place finish in New Hampshire in 1992 that led to his famous “Comeback Kid” speech. Even McCain alluded to it in his victory speech. “My friends, I am past the age when I can claim the noun, ‘kid,’ no matter what adjective precedes it,” he said. “But tonight we sure showed them what a comeback looks like.”
The Washington Postpoints out that, in the end, “New Hampshire proved to be the political firewall that the Clinton campaign long had hoped for.” With all the pre-election polls predicting a wide margin for Obama’s victory, the key question is, what happened? The New York Timesgoes highest with the theory that perhaps a lot of women turned to Clinton after her “unusual display of emotion” on Monday, which Slate’s Chadwick Matlin describes as perhaps “the most famous tears that never fell from an eye.” Of course, no one really knows how many voters were persuaded by the moment that was endlessly repeated on television, but regardless, it is clear that women, and particularly older women, played a decisive role in Clinton’s victory. “Over the last week, I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice,” Clinton said last night.
While it might be easy to forget with all the excitement about the surprising victory, the Los Angeles Timeshelpfully reminds readers high up in its story that Clinton became “the first female candidate ever to win a major-party primary.” Younger voters still went for Obama, but Clinton is trying hard to woo them to her side. The Wall Street Journal points out that in a “purposeful contrast with her concession speech in Iowa,” she was surrounded by young people yesterday during her victory speech. Slate’s John Dickerson points out that after Iowa, “the Clinton campaign worked hard to bring Obama down to earth,” and the Post’s Dan Balz says some analysts believe that the strategy worked. We can probably expect it to continue, particularly since many think yesterday’s loss will push voters and the media to take a more critical look at Obama.
Registered Democrats also favored Clinton, while independents gave a boost to Obama. The NYT and LAT point out in front-page analyses that this might be a good sign for the former first lady because many states that hold primaries in the coming weeks don’t allow independents to vote in the Democratic contests. Support from the party’s base will be particularly important in many of the states that will hold contests on the critical Tsunami Tuesday, notes the LAT. But that’s not to say she’ll have an easy time. The next two Democratic contests are in Nevada, where a powerful union will probably back Obama, and South Carolina, where African-American voters are expected to make up about half of the electorate. But, at the very least, Clinton’s victory “instantly deflated the almost giddy sense of anticipation inside Obama’s headquarters,” notes the Post.
While the Democratic results solidified the feelings that this has become a two-person contest, McCain’s victory means “the Republican field is more scrambled than ever,” as the NYT puts it. The results were clearly a blow for Romney, not only because he had made winning the early states a key part of his strategy, but also because he was supposed to have a leg up in New Hampshire, where he owns a vacation home and voters were already familiar with him from his time as governor of neighboring Massachusetts. But McCain was boosted by independents and, as the LAT notes on Page One, Romney widely beat McCain with voters who consider themselves conservatives, which could spell trouble for the senator in later contests. Even McCain’s “supporters are wondering whether he can take his adrenaline-fueled campaign national,” says the Post.
The next Republican primary is on Jan. 15 in Michigan, which the WSJ says will be the first real contest between Romney, McCain, and Giuliani. Romney should, theoretically, have an advantage in Michigan, where his father was a three-term governor. The NYT says Romney’s aides now view Michigan as his firewall. Although Huckabee didn’t get much of a bounce from the Iowa results in New Hampshire, he has a lead in South Carolina, which votes on Jan. 19, and advisers think he could have a respectable showing in Michigan with the help of rural voters and blue-collar workers that find his populist message appealing. Then comes Florida, where Giuliani has been spending lots of time lately, and which will likely be a decisive marker on whether the former mayor can gain momentum before Feb. 5. As the WSJ points out, even though he’s losing big in the early states, Giuliani could end up benefitting from the Republican rule that allocates all of a state’s delegates to the winner. (Democrats allocate proportionally.)
In other news, all the papers go inside with U.S. and Iraqi forces launching a major offensive against Sunni insurgents in Diyala province. But even before the offensive began, military officials got word that insurgent leaders had fled their hideouts, “confirming a long-standing pattern: When U.S. and Iraqi forces attack, insurgents drop their weapons and blend into the civilian population,” says the LAT. The NYT notes that American planners had kept most Iraqi troops in the dark about the offensive in order to avoid just this kind of scenario, which “suggests they cannot fully trust their allies who are supposed to pick up more of the fighting” this year.
The Post’s David Ignatius says there’s currently a “new push” from Kurdish leaders to oust Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It’s a move the United States would rather avoid but officials recognize that Maliki needs to be more effective and inclusive in the coming months to avoid being thrown out of office.
The WSJ reports that the White House is working on an economic stimulus plan that would involve giving out tax rebates “of perhaps $500” for individuals and new tax breaks for businesses.
With the cancellation of Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards ceremony, and the possibility that more awards shows will also be nixed because of the continuing writers’ strike, the fashion industry is worried it could face big losses this year, says the WSJ. The red carpet extravaganzas are worth millions of dollars in “free” advertising for the fashion houses. And it’s not just about the clothes, one fashion insider tells the paper. “When a Versace dress marches down the red carpet, it helps to sell that label’s shoes, their bags, their perfumes.”