Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Lessons From A New Hampshire Primary

So another New Hampshire Primary is history. Lots of back stories here and many of them are worth noting. The main story is the turnout again. Record numbers of Democrats once again dramatically eclipse the total Republican vote. That foreshadows the real election in November and augurs well for a return of a Democratic White House and Congress…but that is way too early to presume.

The rising turnout of the independents, women and youth is once again very noteworthy. Voting is sexy again and judging by the outcomes tonight, it has become more meaningful again. My view is that the independents split more tonight than they did in Iowa. They may have believed the polls showing Obama was riding a double-digit lead. That would have delivered and outcome that would have devastated Clinton so many of the returning women voters rallied to her cause. That polling strength for Obama meant that some Independents could now also show up and ensure that McCain did well, and they - and he did too.

Women still showed up with impressive support for Obama but more of them were engaged by the human moment when Clinton dropped the media-trained mask. The instantly famous “tear-up” where Clinton showed her humanity and briefly succumbed to the stress of the campaign let us see the real Hillary as a person with some authentic emotion. Cynics called it staged managed but nobody believed that. Better yet nobody played the hoary old weak and emotional female candidate gender card. They didn't dare!

Independents came to McCain's aid and they gave him a victory. They also gave him new optimism and renewed energy going into the tough Michigan pure Republican Primary race where Romney has the home field advantage.

Obama was not beaten tonight. Voters decided they wanted to keep his momentum but to also ensure Clinton and McCain continued to be strong. They knew Obama could show a strong second and still thrive. He did not need to win to sustain significance but that was not true for Clinton and McCain. New Hampshire did their nation a favour tonight by bolstering the fortunes and fortitude of those two winning candidates.

Next is South Carolina, which is 51% black and a very different ball game than anything we have seen so far. At the end of Obama’s speech tonight he did his pre-game warm up by invoking the spirits of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Blackness becomes relevant in the South Carolina Primary.

Governor Huckabee, finishing third, had one of the best lines of the night. He referred to a friend who alleged he had never failed at anything he attempted, but he also admitted the game sometimes ended before he was finished playing. I think that image will become the sine qua non for his campaign from here on in.

I still think, even after tonight, that the Democratic and Republican nomination results are still pretty much a forgone conclusion but the game - well that is far from over.