Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Clinton, McCain win in New Hampshire

Clinton, McCain win in New Hampshire

Washington (dpa) - Bill Clinton was the original "comeback kid" in New Hampshire. Now, Hillary Clinton has done it too.

Rebounding from an opening loss to black candidate Barack Obama, the former first lady righted her White House bid with a poll-defying primary victory Tuesday in a small state that carries a lot of early weight in the presidential campaign.

Analysts credited the US senator from New York with thawing her chilly reputation by reaching out to voters in a state where people expect the contenders to get up close and personal.

Already, her misty-eyed moment - when Clinton choked up while explaining her hopes for the country in a cafe full of voters - is an iconic image. Suddenly, pundits are talking about her "authenticity."

"I come tonight with a very, very full heart," a beaming Clinton told wildly cheering supporters in her victory speech. "And I want especially to thank New Hampshire. Over the last week, I listened to you and, in the process, I found my own voice."

Her narrow victory braked Obama's momentum from his victory in last week's Iowa caucuses and restored a neck-and-neck race for the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential nomination.

Women lifted Clinton to the top in New Hampshire, giving her 47 per cent and Obama 34 per cent on the Democratic side, television network exit polls said. Clinton, who would be the first female president, led among registered Democrats; Obama had the edge among independents who voted in the Democratic primary.

Clinton got hugs on the victory podium from daughter Chelsea, 27, and husband Bill Clinton, who was president from 1993-2001 and has campaigned heavily for her.

Journalist Carl Bernstein, who has written a biography of Hillary Clinton, said she had projected a more genuine image.

"She is no longer speaking from that protective shell," he told the Cable News Network (CNN).

Clinton, 60, also picked up on themes that her rivals had sounded in Iowa - Obama's stirring mantra of "change" and former US senator John Edwards' populist calls to fight big corporations and stand up for working Americans. Edwards finished second behind Obama in Iowa but was a distant third Tuesday.

"Tomorrow we're going to get up, roll up our sleeves and keep going," Clinton declared.

Bill Clinton became known as the "Comeback Kid" after his strong showing in the 1992 New Hampshire primary. The win paved the way to the nomination and the White House.

US Senator John McCain claimed the comeback title in Tuesday's Republican primary, winning a state where he triumphed in 2000 before George W Bush pulled ahead to win the centre-right party's nomination and the presidency.

"I'm past the age when I can claim the noun 'kid,' no matter what adjective precedes it," said McCain, 71. "But tonight, we sure showed them what a comeback looks like."

Last summer, McCain was running out of money and losing campaign staffers. But on Tuesday he easily defeated former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Iowa's surprise Republican winner, former Arkansas governor and Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee.

McCain appealed to independents, underscoring his potential for winning swing votes in the political centre. New Hampshire voters apparently rewarded his principled stands on Iraq - he called for a troop build-up long before Bush ordered a "surge" in 2007 - and against torture in the fight against terrorism.

Next on the primary schedule is Michigan on January 15, followed by the South Carolina primaries, Florida and a February 5 blowout featuring more than 20 states, including crucial decisions in California, New York and New Jersey.

"We're going to have fun," Edwards told CNN. "Ninety-nine per cent of Americans haven't voted yet."

15:08 Jan 09, 2008

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