I Don’t Know What They’re Talking About, Or, This Sort Of Thing Didn’t Win The Fights In The Matrix Either

Hillary Clinton “won” in New Hampshire. By what looks like about 7,700 votes, or 2% of the Democrats and independents voting in the Democratic primary.

Beginning almost immediately thereafter, the media began spinning the results like it was some kind of a Hillary Clinton Renaissance. Me? I just don’t see it that way.

As of the time I’m writing this, she’s about 2% ahead of a tie. Where I come from, that is not a decisive victory. It borders on qualifying for “squeaker” status. Don’t mistake this for some kind of a slapback or a momentum-changer.

Clinton dodged a bullet. Nothing more. Sure, it’s gonna keep things interesting, but this is little more than a shot of adrenaline for the Clinton campaign, which is still exposed as badly vulnerable.

As for the delegates, Clinton and Obama did tie, earning 9 each tonight. Counting the superdelegates and their endorsements, Obama actually walks out of New Hampshire with 12 to Clinton’s 11 — which is a win for Obama. She’s the one who is supposed to have the edge on the inside game.

For Clinton, it’s certainly a far better result than coming in second place once again, which would have driven a stake through her heart. But a 2% margin of victory is not a rebirth of a campaign. This is avoiding clinical death while the paramedics administer CPR.

Clinton needs to do more than win by 2% and split the delegates up for grabs evenly to impress me that she’s recovered from the body blow she took in Iowa. Then again, I didn’t think her husband taking second place in New Hampshire back in 1992 qualified him as a “Comeback Kid,” I thought it meant he lost to Paul Tsongas. But look where he wound up.

(By the way, I always kind of liked Paul Tsongas. Economic moderate-to-conservative, social liberal. Hmm. Doesn’t seem like much has changed. Foreign policy wasn’t that big a deal in the 1992 election, as I recall.)

On the Republican side, I kind of like a comment made by Mitt Romney tonight: “Well, so far that’s two silver medals and one gold. Thank you, Wyoming!” A far more upbeat sort of statement than “Well, shit, that’s fifteen million of my own dollars lit on fire for second place twice in a row and winning a caucus no one’s ever heard of.”

Next stop: Michigan, one week from today, in a contest that only counts for the Republicans because the DNC has stripped Michigan of its delegation due to the early primary date. (Indeed, Michigan Republicans have forfeited half of their delegation because of the early date, too.) This will be followed by South Carolina primary, which will be on Saturday, January 19 for the Republicans and the following Saturday, January 26, for the Democrats.

An interesting question to look at is, McCain won, as expected, in New Hampshire. Can he carry that win into Michigan? One poll in Michigan shows an effective tie there right now between Huckabee and Romney; two very recent polls show what amounts to three-way ties, one with those two and McCain, and the other with those two and Giuliani.

Huckabee is way out in front in South Carolina, which ought to be Fred Thompson’s last stand. South Carolina is practically home turf for Thompson, and he failed miserably tonight in New Hampshire, garnering one percent of the vote. (Giuliani came in fourth place, with nine times as many votes as old Fred, and he proved he could outpoll Ron Paul.) The logical choice in terms of policy and political simpatico for Thompson would be to throw his delegates to McCain, but there’s no telling whether or when he would do that.

(But when you stop to think about it, what incentive does any candidate have to get out of the race before February 5? So South Carolina ought to be Thompson’s last stand, but he’ll hang around for another two weeks.)

And if you heard it here first, you haven’t been paying attention: Don’t count Hizzonner out yet just because he didn’t do well tonight. Sure, waiting until there’s nothing but big pots to play for may be something of a gadget play, but Kirk Gibson got a come-from-behind home run to win a World Series game that sports fans are still talking about. (How’s that for a mixed sports metaphor?) Florida on January 29 will be Rudy Giuliani’s Austerlitz, and if he can’t win there, Super-Duper Tuesday will be his Waterloo. He needs to, um, start running some advertisements already.

I think Giuliani’s got something up his sleeve, though, and here’s my prediction — a Super Bowl ad. So far as I know, no politician has ever bought a Super Bowl ad, because it’s so damn expensive, and there has never before been a need to reach a national audience so early in the election cycle. But that’s all different now. Last year it was $2.5 million for a 30-second spot, which is a lot of money to blow on a single commercial. But on the other hand, 50% of Americans will see it live and the other 50% will be hearing about it the next day — and close to 50% of Americans will go to the polls two days after the Super Bowl. Besides, what the hell else has he spent all of that money on? Is he saving it for Texas?

So what does this moderate Republican think of all that? I think I could be reasonably happy with John McCain as the party’s nominee. Significantly happier than I would be with Romney or Huckabee. So I consider the results from New Hampshire good news.

But as for the Clinton Comeback? I don’t buy it, not a bit.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

One Comment

  1. You’re making the mistake of think elections are about “votes” and that they are contests between “candidates” vying for office. This is terribly outmoded. Elections are about what the media expects to happen, and what storyline they can construct pre or post voting. It’s the age of entertainment, dude, not the age of democracy. It’s all narrative. The people of New Hampshire didn’t cast votes, they merely suggested an alternate through-line for the plot.

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