MANCHESTER, N.H.—Hillary Clinton won.
Not only did Barack Obama miss an opportunity to put the race for the Democratic nomination away with a second solid win over the erstwhile front-runner, but he’s now going to be on his heels for a bit as he seeks to explain how he fell so far short of expectations.
And Hillary, with an against-the-flow victory—as of this writing, her margin over Obama was 3 percentage points—has exactly the “comeback” narrative she was looking for after her disaster in Iowa.
On the Republican side, Mr. McCain beat Mitt Romney by seven percent, breathing life into a candidacy that had been considered all but dead only six months ago.
“We sure showed ‘em what a comeback looks like,” Mr. McCain told his supporters in a victory speech.
For Mr. Romney, the former Governor of neighboring Massachusetts, the loss is the second devastating result in a state where he had invested heavily in advertising, infrastructure and energy. Deprived of a clear frontrunner, the Republican field is now wide open. Rudy Giuliani, who briefly stood near the top of the polls in New Hampshire, suffered a fourth-place finish behind the Iowa caucus winner Mike Huckabee. As Mr. McCain gave his speech, the Giuliani campaign sent an email to reporters informing them that he would be in Florida.
Even before the final results were in on the Democratic side, but when it was clear that the race would be close, Mrs. Clinton’s aides were declaring victory.
“Over the past 72 hours, people have been responding to the fact that Hillary Clinton has been working her heart out,” said Phil Singer, a campaign spokesman.
Privately, aides compared even a close result to a political “nuclear bomb” going off.
Tactically speaking, that’s not wrong.
Expectations following Mr. Obama’s thumping victory in the Iowa caucuses were enormous, fed, as always, by an almost hysterical level of hype in the media. With just five days separating the two contests, the reeling Clinton campaign had seemed at a loss to find an answer for the traditional post-Iowa bounce. The Clinton campaign itself seemed genuinely surprised by the results: according to an aide, their internal polling had showed Mr. Obama up by about 15 points the day before the primary.
“We assumed that we were dead,” said the aide.
Certainly, panic had set in, with the campaign undergoing a reported shake-up on primary night. Mrs. Clinton had set about the business of dismantling her once-vaunted political machine, reshuffled staff at the very top of her campaign, replacing one longtime confidante, Patti Solis Doyle, with another, Maggie Williams, as campaign manager. As of last night’s showing, the role of the campaign’s senior strategist and pollster, Mark Penn, remained unclear. New Clinton loyalists were being brought in while staffers privately aired harsh feelings about the different forces within the campaign.
The Obama campaign, meanwhile, will have now have to deal with the consequences of their failure to meet the radically inflated expectations that were set, and encouraged by them, in the days after their Iowa triumph.
Friday, Jan. 4, 12 a.m.
In the air with Mark Penn, somewhere between Des Moines and Nashua, N.H.
The MD-80 airplane took off from Des Moines, Iowa, bound for Nashua, N.H., carrying Jay Carson, Terry McAuliffe, and the members of the press corps that have been following Hillary Clinton throughout her 2008 presidential campaign.
At about 2 a.m., Mark Penn, chief strategist for the Clinton campaign, addressed the reporters. He spoke for more than a half hour.
“We need to win Feb. 5,” he told them, as they faced a long, five-day slog through frozen New Hampshire in Mrs. Clinton’s footsteps.
Friday, Jan. 4, 8 a.m.
With Bill Clinton in a hangar in Nashua
“Are you ready?” former President Bill Clinton asked. Mr. Clinton is extremely popular in New Hampshire. He wore a pink shirt. He was talking to a few hundred of his wife’s supporters, who were carefully displayed before an enormous American flag in an airport hangar in Nashua, where his wife’s first stump speech in the New Hampshire primary was about to take place.
“We got in at 4:30 last night. I think my girls look good,” he said. “Don’t you?”
The reporters who were gathered there had had even less R and R than the candidate they were traveling with. And no need to put on a smiley face about the trudge through Iowa earlier in the week. Their franchise, one said in the airport hangar, was “fucked.”
“We thought we owned a McDonald’s, but we own a Wendy’s.”
Friday, Jan. 4, 10:15 a.m.
With Barack Obama in Portsmouth, N.H.
Inside an old airplane hangar at what used to be Pease Airforce Base in Portsmouth, Barack Obama was making his first New Hampshire appearance since his Iowa victory.
He recited his standard stump speech, but there was a confident, almost giddy spirit in his voice and among the crowd of a few hundred supporters.
Referring to his new status as the Democratic front-runner, he said: “This feels good. It’s just like I imagined it when I was talking to my kindergarten teacher.”
Friday, Jan. 4, 4 p.m.
With Mike Huckabee in Henniker, N.H.
Mike Huckabee was speaking at a rally of his supporters in the gymnasium of New England College in Henniker.
“Do you really think they had this much fun at Hillary’s rally?” Mr. Huckabee said, after playing a few songs on the bass guitar with a local band.
He introduced his friend, Chuck Norris.
Mr. Norris told a story about people from the Middle East who come to the U.S. and buy things and load them on private planes and do not pay taxes.
“Chuck Norris for president!” screamed an audience member.
Mr. Huckabee took the microphone.
“What about Chuck Norris for secretary of defense?”
Friday, Jan. 4, 7 p.m.
In the New Hampshire Dome, Milford, N.H.
A giant crowd gathered at the Hampshire Dome for the N.H. Democratic Party’s Club 100.
Bill Richardson gave his speech. By the time he was wrapping up, hundreds of Mr. Obama’s supporters had begun gathering near the stage, chanting and yelling.
Then: an eruption. The majority of the hall that holds the party dinner—the dome actually is enormous, by the way—jumped to its feet as Mr. Obama entered the room. Definitely a minority were sitting.
“People say, Obama, he may talk good, he may have good ideas. … But they will say, Obama hasn’t been in Washington long. He needs to be seasoned and stewed. We have to boil all the hope out of him. And you know—that argument didn’t work in Iowa. And it’s not going to work in New Hampshire.”
Saturday, Jan. 5, 9:30 a.m.
Rudy rides a Segway at Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, N.H.
A conference was gathered at Southern New Hampshire University: Robotics enthusiasts. “For Inspiration & Recognition of Science and Technology,” the meet-up was called. “A unique varsity sport of the mind,” the competition literature read. “Designing and building a robot is a fascinating real-world professional experience.”
Rudy Giuliani rode in on a Segway.
While he did receive a warm response, the attendees were ultimately there to see robots fight.
On his way out The Observer caught up with him.
In New Hampshire, “we’re going to do well,” said Mr. Giuliani. “And then we’ll be ready to live and fight another day.”
Saturday, Jan. 5, 10 a.m.
In the lobby of the Manchester Radisson
Republican political consultant and talking head M
ike Murphy was in the lobby of the Radisson in Manchester.
“President Clinton? Never gonna happen,” he told a reporter. “She loses here, but she keeps trying. She turns into Ed Muskie in a pantsuit. “There’s your money quote.”
Saturday, Jan. 5, 11 a.m.
‘Live Well Laugh Often Love Much’: Litchfield, N.H.
An hour or so after the robot fight, Mr. Giuliani gave a speech at a packed house in Litchfield. But it was a house.
“Live Well Laugh Often Love Much” was written above the archway leading into the living room where Mr. Giuliani spoke. Keys hung on the wall next to the closet. Appliances got in the way of people as they squeezed into the kitchen.
While his Republican rivals are filling school gyms and cafeterias, Rudy is playing it small.
In the living room on Garden Drive, he received enthusiastic applause from the attendees and a lock of Abraham Lincoln’s hair from Greg Carson, the chair of the Rockingham County Republican Party.
“The focus has not so much been on him in the last few months,” Mr. Carson said in the driveway of the house on Garden Drive after Mr. Giuliani and his entourage left. “The focus has been on other people.”
Saturday, Jan. 5, 11:45 a.m.
With John McCain, stacking the pews in Peterborough, N.H.
John McCain was left for dead six months ago. Things have changed just a little.
The Town Hall in Peterborough, the picturesque village that inspired Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, fits 640 people.
But now, 15 minutes before Mr. McCain’s only scheduled event for the day was to start, there were more than 800 people packed inside—and the angry fire marshal was at the front doors, shouting away more than a hundred more local residents and media members, a throng that spilled into the narrow downtown street.
An informal poll of voters near the entrance revealed that most were McCain voters and all had RSVP’d for the event. Some were miffed.
Saturday, Jan. 5, 8 p.m.
Romney breaks a sweat at St. Anselm
Mitt Romney and John McCain were fighting like cats and dogs at the Republican debate at St. Anselm College.
Mr. Romney, his hair shining, leaned forward and spoke rapidly and loudly while Mr. McCain leaned back in his chair and looked at him with squinted eyes, sort of like a skeptical parent listening to his teenage son frantically explaining away the giant dent in the family car.
But what really damned Mr. Romney was the assist Mr. McCain got from three of the other Republicans.
MITT ROMNEY TO MIKE HUCKABEE: “Governor, don’t try to characterize my position.”
MIKE HUCKABEE TO MITT ROMNEY: “Which one?”
Saturday, Jan. 5, 9 p.m.
Hillary lashes out at St. Anselm
“I want to make change, but I have already made change!” Hillary Clinton had said, almost yelling.
The Democratic debate over, it was time for the spin cycle.
The enormous cluster of reporters in the media room at St. Anselm College surrounding Mark Penn dispelled any question as to whether the debate was all about Hillary Clinton. It was.
“I think you saw some very good examples between talk and action in the debate,” Mr. Penn said, calling the debate “a fundamental eye-opener.”
Sunday, Jan. 6, 6 a.m.
The Union Leader hits the stands
This morning’s edition of the Union Leader contains a reminder of why the endorsement of New Hampshire’s largest (and most conservative) newspaper is so coveted by Republicans: Two separate editorials (technically, one is a note from publisher Joseph McQuaid) touting John McCain and disparaging Mitt Romney, his chief rival in the state.
Sunday, Jan. 6, 1:30 p.m.
With Aragorn in Concord, N.H.
The actor Viggo Mortensen was so ticked off by the exclusion of Dennis Kucinich from Saturday night’s debates that he got on the red eye to New Hampshire.
He stood on a table with the Democratic candidate in the storefront headquarters in Concord this afternoon and spoke softly about the debates. “You have four people up there, no disrespect to any of them, who are cherry-picking from what Dennis is talking about.”
Sunday, Jan. 6, 2 p.m.
With Hillary and the traveling press at Nashua High School North
After building them up as making a “tremendous contribution to this campaign” and offering “service to our country,” Hillary Clinton fervently went about the business of knocking down her opponents at a rally in the gymnasium of Nashua High School North.
Afterward she talked to reporters, who tested her statement that she would not have gone to war in Iraq if she’d been president.
“You know I’ve said that many times,” she scolded.
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.