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« Morning Thoughts: Fired Up | Blog Home Page | Clinton Tops Obama In 4thQ »

NH Winners And Losers

NASHUA, New Hampshire -- Headlines this morning are dominated by Hillary Clinton's surprise victory and the culmination of John McCain's comeback, but beneath the surface, other candidates had moments to be proud of, or depressed about, on their own.

Winners

Barack Obama -- Yes, he finished in second place when polls had him way up. But in the long run, Obama may look back on New Hampshire as a win in at least one sense: With John Edwards again finishing behind him, it is clear that Obama has won the "Anybody-But-Clinton" primary. While Edwards promises to stay in the race until the convention, his stock is severely damaged, and he is in imminent danger of becoming old news. Obama's votes plus Edwards' votes, both in Iowa and New Hampshire, overwhelmed Clinton's portion of the electorate, giving him hope that, by adding Edwards people to the coalition, Obama can still beat Clinton.

Rudy Giuliani -- The February 5 strategy remains dangerous, but it all kicks off a week earlier in Florida, where Giuliani hopes to compete strongly. Recent polls had shown Mitt Romney gaining on him in the Sunshine State, but with Romney's second consecutive loss and his looming showdown with McCain in Michigan seeming to favor the New Hampshire winner, Romney could be less of a factor -- and could be out of the race altogether -- by January 29. Giuliani, with one less big-moneyed opponent, can be happy for McCain and somewhat more pleased with his situation at the same time.

Losers

John Edwards -- Clinton's win probably sealed Edwards' fate. After finishing second in Iowa, Edwards did his best to characterize the race as between himself and Obama. Now, he is a distinct and distant third, reports suggest his money is drying up and he trails both Clinton and Obama badly in the state where he was born, South Carolina. Add to that two big Nevada unions who have cast their lot with Obama and Edwards' chances further dim. He never performed well in New Hampshire, and this year, unlike 2004, it could prove the fatal blow.

Ron Paul -- New Hampshire was supposed to be Paul's state. The libertarian tilt of the Granite State, combined with a surprisingly strong enthusiasm for Paul among younger voters, had everyone -- this writer included -- predicting a bigger than expected showing, putting Paul as high as third place on the GOP side. It wouldn't have been hard: Third-place winner Mike Huckabee won just 11% of the vote. But Paul's supporters were either vastly overstated or didn't bother to show up, and he finished what has to be a disappointing fifth, with just 8%. Paul's insurgent campaign could have done something special in New Hampshire; instead, they underperformed even their own showing in Iowa. There may be a budding libertarian movement, but it's becoming clear that Paul is not the right messenger to help it on to victory. Add to that a New Republic article citing Paul's political newsletter, which published racially insensitive writings in the early 1990's, and it's been a very bad week for the Paul campaign.