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by Alexander Cockburn

Obama, Huckabee and the Also-Rans

The women of New Hampshire saved her. On Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton confuted premature announcements of her political demise. She won the Democratic primary by a narrow 2 percent, 39-37. The prime reasons for her victory were a) women and b) the lower profile in New Hampshire of the war in Iraq.

In Iowa, Barack Obama won the women's vote by more than 5 percentage points over Hillary Clinton. In New Hampshire, Hillary got 47 percent of the women's vote, more than 34 percent of women went for Obama. After looking at the devastating numbers in Iowa, the Clinton campaign rushed out mailers stressing Obama's supposed softness on the abortion issue. Hillary Clinton's moment of tearful victimhood with New Hampshire women was clearly effective, as was the footage of a post-debate session where the Democratic and Republican male candidates fraternized jovially, uncertain how to deal with the only woman in the locker room.

As the Democrat in the race who most fiercely and unapologetically defends her support for the attack on Iraq in 2003, Hillary Clinton's win in New Hampshire was paralleled on the Republican side by John McCain's victory. In 2000 McCain beat George Bush in New Hampshire, 46-30. In 2008, with 86,000 votes, he beat Romney 37-32.

In New Hampshire, the two candidates most closely approving of the war and the least emblematic of change came out on top. In her victory speech, Hillary Clinton said she wants "to end the war -- the right way." John McCain, with the same pause, said he wants "to bring them home -- with honor."

The Clintons learned quickly from the Iowa disaster. Hillary Clinton, as she stated in her victory speech in Manchester, "found" her "own voice," a disclosure perfectly in tune with the confessional dramatics of Oprah Winfrey and Dr Phil. The Clintons learned too how to calibrate an assault on Obama. That was Bill Clinton's role. His carefully prepared outburst the day before the primary, assailing Obama for lies and malicious slanders on his own character, was an eerie reprise of his furious outbursts during the Lewinsky affair.

As in Jacobean tragedies, the time is coming for the stage grips to haul the dead and dying off the stage. Gone: Fred Thompson (1 percent of the vote in New Hampshire, after an incredible amount of press); Mike Gravel, 396 votes; Dennis Kucinich, 3,800 votes, the same number of UFOs Shirley MacLaine sees on a clear night; Bill Richardson, 12,845 votes, 5 percent. Giuliani? It doesn't look good for him. This is the Northeast. It's his quarter of the Homeland. He got 19,500 votes, 9 percent ahead of Ron Paul. Paul got around 18,000 votes. Romney? He's a Northeastern governor. If he can't score in New Hampshire, where else can he, aside from Utah?

Among the corpses to be dragged off should be those of the pundits and the pollsters, not excluding James Zogby, often on the money. He called it right in Iowa. In New Hampshire, he was exactly right on Richardson and Edwards but had Obama at 42 and Hillary at 29, a huge polling gaffe. Were the New Hampshire voters simply not divulging their true feelings? The "closest" of all the polls on the Democratic side was the Suffolk/WHDH survey, and its last poll had Obama up by 5 points, still wildly wrong. That same poll had Romney winning by 5 points.

Ron Paul has to decide. If Hillary wins the Democratic nomination, whoever the Republican, there will be no straightforward, uncompromising antiwar candidate in the race. Paul thus far has won such support as he got in Iowa and New Hampshire thanks to the fact that they are both open states that allowed independents to vote in primaries for a Democrat or Republican. Most future primaries don't allow this option. Paul has about $20 million raised from the most enthusiastic supporters yet visible in Election 2008 -- antiwar, pro-Bill of Rights. Nader should immediately run as an Independent candidate or on the Libertarian ticket, the latter being the easier option for him.

Message to the young supporters of Obama: Politics is not one quick dash. You have to stay and work. The Clintons have been at the game for 30 years. They don't give up. They've come back from the dead many, many times.

© Creators Syndicate

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Albion Monitor   January 10, 2008   (

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