Senator Hillary Clinton’s ‘comeback’ bid to win the New Hampshire primary, after barely losing the women’s vote in Iowa last week, is remarkable. After consistently trailing Democrat contender Barack Obama in the polls, Mrs Clinton reportedly reclaimed it big time in the ‘Granite State’, with a 46 to 34 per cent win — largely made possible by women voters. Not that this is surprising in the US, where women usually make up more than half of those who vote for Democrats across the country. But what will push up eyebrows is the way poll pundits were thrown off track by the last-minute Clinton surge.
The convergence of two historic candidates — a woman and an African-American — for the first time was always bound to make poll predictions difficult. Add to this the compressed election calendar, with less than a week between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, and it becomes clearer why the pollsters were stumped. And given the fact that independents are expected to play an important role in these elections, many more surprises could be in store. These results indicate that it is going to be a remarkable fight for the Democratic nomination as the candidates move westwards and then south to states like Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina. Till February 5, when the so-called ‘Super Tuesday’ — with more than 20 states holding primary contests or caucuses — will decide the course of the Democratic race.
Will the professionalism and the financial resources of the Clinton campaign prevail, or Mr Obama’s message for ‘change’? With the country at war against terrorism, US foreign policy concerns seem to outweigh domestic issues as many candidates seek to distinguish themselves by breaking with the Bush White House on key foreign-policy matters. This highlights the campaign trails of both Mr Obama as well as Republican John McCain, the oldest candidate in the field, who won New Hampshire with his talk of pursuing Osama bin Laden “to the gates of hell”. With one of the strongest Republican contenders, Rudolph Giuliani, yet to enter the primary fray, the coming days and weeks will be interesting to watch.