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What New Hampshire Primary Means

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand.

Coming up, did last night's election results from New Hampshire turn our undecided voters into deciders?

CHADWICK: First, there was a theme in the results from New Hampshire, at least for winners Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): Let's give America the kind of comeback that New Hampshire has just given me.

Unidentified Man #1: Hillary is a manager.

Unidentified Man #2: If she was president, I think she would do a great job.

Unidentified People: Hillary. Hillary.

Unidentified Woman: I've always been a fan of John McCain, so I voted for him.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona): We sure showed them what a comeback looks like.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

CHADWICK: Well, not exactly the comeback couple, but two candidates, John McCain and Hillary Clinton. Despite all forecasts by pollsters in the last couple of days, Senator Clinton won New Hampshire and says she's in it for the long haul.

BRAND: To get a lay of the land, we'll turn now to NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving. He's just back from the snows of New Hampshire.

Ron, going in, you know, the polls told us Obama was going to win, sometimes by double digits. Well, he didn't. What happened?

RON ELVING: Once again, the polls missed a late surge. Now, in defense of polls, there was one from Suffolk University that had it down to one point on the last day. They turned out to be spot-on prescient. And also in defense of the polls, on the Republican side they were exactly right. What was missed this time - and we've seen it before - is a late surge for the person who had been counted out but bounced back. And it's important to remember here that Hillary Clinton was ahead in New Hampshire for a very long time - all through 2007. And she was up by 19 points in one poll as late as December. So the later development here was that Barack Obama became an insurgent. He became the challenger. Then came last week - his Iowa breakthrough. And he had a huge bounce. He went way up in the polls, but it settled back to Earth and a lot of women came home to Hillary.

CHADWICK: Here is one thing that's consistent in Iowa and New Hampshire, Ron - voter turnout.

ELVING: Immense voter turnout. Five hundred thousand votes. More than. About 510,000 votes in New Hampshire. Now, bear in mind, the state had never mustered so many as 400,000 before. The previous record was 396. So it was especially big among Democrats - 280,000 - and especially big among women. Well over 50 percent of the women of voting age in New Hampshire turned out to vote in this election. They favored the Democrats. The Democratic electorate was 57 percent women and they went for Hillary by 12 points. Now, that's your story right there, because women in Iowa narrowly, barely, favored Obama.

BRAND: And, Ron, not to be too simplistic about this, but there was that moment late in the game where she did, you know, show her human side, as everyone says. She welled up a little bit. Not even welled up. She got a little misty-eyed. She got a little emotional. Could that have been the moment where women said, you know what? I am going to give her a second look and give her another chance and - or maybe it was the performance at the debate, where you had Barack Obama and John Edwards kind of ganging up on her.

ELVING: All those things worked together. I think it's going to be remembered as the tale of the tear. I know it struck a lot of people on Monday as exhaustion. She had just had it. She had had a terrible weekend. Everyone thought she was tapped out. But it's clear now. And it was clear within hours, really, after that tear first affected people - first showed up - that it was crystallizing a sense of her human side. Women were reacting to it quite positively, quite sympathetically. And you know what? I feel as though she finally stopped trying to be impressive all the time - stopped trying to be perfect and just seemed to ask for some understanding. And that spoke to a lot of people, particularly women.

CHADWICK: Ron, looking at the numbers today from yesterday, do you see anything on the Republican side that surprises you?

ELVING: Not on primary day. The surprise came weeks ago. The surprise came late in 2007 when John McCain started recovering his altitude. You remember the summer that he had and how his campaign was left for dead. Well, he rose all through the autumn as the other Republican candidates were descending for one reason and another. And then you get that Romney lost to Mike Huckabee in Iowa. That helped him seal the deal; that's John McCain sealing the deal in New Hampshire. And there had been some thought over the weekend - some quarters, people watching the debates - that Mitt Romney might be coming back some. But no, we didn't see that yesterday. There was no surprise in the Republican results.

BRAND: Well, the juggernaut continues. The candidates are moving on. Ron, what's the lay of the land as we head into Michigan and Nevada?

ELVING: Michigan is supposed to be mano y mano for Mitt Romney and John McCain. It's one of Mitt Romney's home states, after all. But John McCain carried it in 2000, has a lot of admirers there. And Mike Huckabee might actually be able to play in Michigan. Nevada's got a big Mormon vote. It's got a big evangelical vote. And it's got a big military vote. So I think that'll be a very interesting test for those three.

The Democrats are a little weird in Michigan because most of the names aren't on the ballot. It's a long dreary story. And in Nevada, well, it's the last show for Bill Richardson. He's been holding on for a Western state and this will be the end for him. Probably the last show for John Edwards. And a test of the new two-person race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It's a new day.

BRAND: Senior Washington editor Ron Elving; as always, thank you very much. And we'll be checking back in with you sooner rather than later, I'm sure.

ELVING: Thank you both.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois, Presidential Candidate): I am still fired up and ready to go.

Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Former Republican Governor, Massachusetts, Presidential Candidate): On to Michigan and South Carolina and Florida and Nevada and states after that...

Mr. RUDOLPH GIULIANI (Former Mayor, New York City; Republican Presidential Candidate): Twenty-nine primaries and caucuses between January 3rd and February 5th.

Sen. CLINTON: So tomorrow we're going to get up, roll up our sleeves and keep going.

BRAND: A few of the presidential candidates speaking in New Hampshire last night. We'll hear more moments from the campaign throughout the program. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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