The Night the Pollsters Got It Wrong

Chris Matthews was in the crowd. He asked her to distinguish her platform on returning troops from Iraq from Barack Obama’s. Mrs. Clinton said a few words, not particularly in season; then: “Well, you guys can figure out the difference.”

“No, you tell us the difference!” he barked.

“I’m not on your show, I’m just answering your question,” she responded.

“Please come on my show,” he said.

Sunday, Jan. 6, 4 p.m.
With The Closer in Portsmouth

Michelle Obama—or “The Closer” as she is known these days to her husband and his campaign team—sought to live up to her nickname with the people of Plymouth this evening.

Speaking at a meeting of about 200 people in the Obama campaign’s local office in this small town, she portrayed her husband as a veteran of “tough Illinois politics.”

“I just think, ‘C’mon, people, where do you think we have been?’”

Sunday, Jan. 6, 8 p.m.
With the Republicans, sans Ron Paul, at the Fox debate

The Fox News debate is under way and Ron Paul is nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile, the latest New Hampshire poll, released hours ago, has Ron Paul receiving 10 times as much support as Fred Thompson—whom Fox included in the debate.

Monday, Jan. 7, 9 a.m.
Hillary at the sad cafe, Manchester

Hillary Clinton is meeting with undecided voters, most of them women, around a large table in a coffee shop, where she said she would answer any question to help them and others in New Hampshire make up their minds “on their own.”

She is running up against the full force of the compressed calendar, as new surveys of New Hampshire’s voters show Barack Obama enjoying momentum from his Iowa win.

The undecideds around the table seem very impressed by Mrs. Clinton’s answers to their questions about health care and labor.

The guys in the kitchen are less interested. They’re listening to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses.

Reporters were mostly only half-listening. And when she had taken her seat, it was clear they would only get to see her from behind.

And then all hell broke loose. The question came from 64-year-old Marianne Pernold Young—a photographer who was not there on assignment: How does she manage to get up and run and look so good every day?

“If you look at some of the Web sites and listen to some of the commentators, they always find me on the day that I didn’t. It’s not easy—it’s not easy. I couldn’t do it if I didn’t passionately believe it was the right thing to do.”

There was a long pause.

“This is very personal for me—it’s not just political,” she said. From behind, it seemed her voice had changed; it seemed that she was choking up. “It’s—not just—I see what’s happening,” she managed.

Moments later, when she concluded the conversation, reporters were still asking each other what happened. “Wait, WERE THERE TEARS?” asked one daily newspaper reporter. “Was this her Ed Muskie, 1972 mom
ent?” asked another.

Monday, Jan. 7, 2 p.m.
With McCain in a hotbed of global warming, Concord

John McCain hopped onto a makeshift stage in front of the State House in Concord to address a midafternoon rally of a few hundred supporters.

He took note of a group of environmental protesters in the front row who held giant signs that read “Make Global Warming a Priority.”

“I will make global warming a priority!” he announced. “And today is a lot easier day than a few days ago to say that.”

New Hampshire had suddenly rocketed to nearly 50 degrees—and nearly cost Mr. McCain a few votes when a sheet of snow and ice slid off the roof over the State House steps and fell about 20 feet, crashing on top of a group of McCain supporters. They shrieked. The candidate stopped talking and turned around to see what had happened. So did the crowd.

“We’re O.K.!” one of the victims, an older woman, announced as she struggled to her feet.

Tuesday, Jan. 8, 12:15 a.m.: The Midnight Rite of Dixville Notch, N.H.

Dixville Notch has shut Hillary Clinton out on the first official voting of the New Hampshire primary.

The tiny town in far northern New Hampshire (actually, it’s not really a town—its voters all live and work in the Balsams resort hotel) handed Barack Obama 7 votes in its primary, ahead of John Edwards (2 votes) and Bill Richardson (1). Hillary didn’t even hit the board.

On the Republican side, John McCain won with 4 votes, to 2 for Mitt Romney and 1 for Rudy Giuliani.

Dixville holds its primary at midnight every year, taking advantage of a law that allows towns to open and close their polls whenever they want, so long as all votes are accounted for. It’s a publicity stunt dreamed up by the original owner of the Balsams and it routinely attracts international attention.

The results don’t typically portend much. In 1992, the most votes in town actually went to Andre Marrou, who was running in the Libertarian primary, and last time around Wesley Clark won the Democratic race. But it is noteworthy that more Dixville residents (10) voted in the Democratic primary than in the G.O.P. contest (7). Typically, the town favors Republicans over Democrats.

Tuesday, Jan. 8, 1:15 p.m.: Manchester Romp With Romney Bunch

Mitt Romney’s headquarters is bustling and the campaign says they made 100,000 calls statewide yesterday. But they also have a secret weapon: five children.

Tagg Romney has been out ringing doors, and the others are out campaigning. What were Bill and Hill thinking when they stopped with Chelsea?

Matt and Ben Romney just arrived at Romney headquarters to give a pep talk to the callers. Matt has two kids and lives in San Diego; Ben is blonde and has a blonde wife.

“Obviously we would have liked to have won in Iowa,” said Matt. “Just on behalf of my family I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate it.”

Ben said that “We know this is a good cause and we’re grateful for your support.”

Matt said, “Now get back to work.”

Tuesday, Jan. 8, 1:25 p.m.: Willow Street Traffic Update, Manchester, N.H.

On the way back from picking up a cell phone charger and a cup of coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, a caller to a radio station alerted listeners to a backup near the Dunkin’ Donuts on South Willow Street.

“I think there’s a candidate in there,” said the caller, being broadcast over one of the state’s many rock stations, 96.5 FM. (New Hampshire drives to Pearl Jam.) “There’s all these secret secret service agents.”

“Oh, then my guess is it’s Hillary,” said the D.J., who counseled patience. “They’ll all be gone tomorrow.”

UPDATE: It was Obama.

The Night the Pollsters Got It Wrong