Candidates press on after New Hampshire

January 9, 2008 5:51:02 PM PST
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama dug in Wednesday for a campaign unlike any other, a woman and a black man drawing record voter turnout in an unpredictable race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

John McCain claimed the role of resident underdog in the Republican race, despite his big win in the New Hampshire primary.

Adding to the most wide open presidential campaign in a half-century, associates of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg disclosed he had authorized polling and voter analysis in all 50 states in a possible precursor to an independent candidacy.

Clinton, the former first lady, reflected on her memorable moment of emotion the day before she gained her New Hampshire victory. "Maybe I have liberated us to actually let women be human beings in public," she said.

Obama saw it differently. "We have to make sure that we take it to them just like they take it to us," he said. Despite his defeat, he pocketed the support of two key Nevada unions in advance of that state's Jan. 19 caucuses, and predicted a win in the South Carolina primary a week later.

After a grueling, months-long slog through Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton and Obama face a brief lull in the calendar, but collide in four weeks time in primaries and caucuses in 22 states in the equivalent of a nationwide primary. Former Sen. John Edwards vowed to remain in the race despite a weak third-place finish in New Hampshire, but New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson dropped out.

McCain made simultaneous appeals to independents and Republicans as he campaigned in Michigan for a victory that could drive former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney from the race. "The Republican establishment has never embraced me in my entire life. But I think we just proved that we can get the support of enough to win an election," he told reporters on his way to Grand Rapids. He added he would try to remind evangelical voters "that my social conservative record has been consistent and unchanging."

New Hampshire win or no, he said in Grand Rapids, "I'm always an underdog. I always want to be called an underdog."

Romney withdrew television advertising in South Carolina and Florida, two states with primaries later this month, despite telling supporters the race was just getting started and raising $1.5 million during the day for the campaign for the nomination. "We feel the best strategy is to focus our paid messaging in Michigan," said his spokesman, Kevin Madden.

The former Massachusetts governor's sole victory to date was in last weekend's scarcely contested Wyoming caucuses. The candidate trying to become the nation's first Mormon president leads in the early competition for national convention delegates, but that is cold comfort for a man who spent millions of his own money in a failed attempt to sweep the early contests and establish himself as the man to beat in the race for the Republican nomination.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's plan to campaign in Michigan complicated the McCain-Romney rematch and injected a new note of uncertainty.

Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses, and McCain have been the equivalent of a tag-team against Romney. But in Michigan and South Carolina, they will be in direct competition. Even so, said Huckabee, "I don't see us going out there and taking the gloves off."

The question of nominees aside, the first contests of the election year produced far higher turnout among Democrats than Republicans, a possible sign of trouble for the GOP in the general election campaign this fall. In New Hampshire, nearly complete returns showed more than 284,000 votes cast in the Democratic race, to 233,000 on the Republican side.

In Iowa, an estimated 220,000 voters attended Democratic caucuses, well in excess of the previous record of 124,000. Republican caucus-goers totaled about 114,000.

Bloomberg, a second-term mayor of New York, has repeatedly denied interest in a White House bid, but associates said his decision to gather information on a possible run was made months ago. His spokesman, Stu Loeser, declined to comment.

Interviews with voters leaving polling places in New Hampshire showed that women voters, who sided with Obama in Iowa, powered Clinton to her upset win in New Hampshire. They accounted for an unexpectedly large 57 percent of the turnout, and she gained 46 percent of their votes, to 34 percent for Obama. She also won among Democrats, while he outpolled her among independents.

The same survey also suggested that economic concerns, apparently growing nationally as an issue, worked to Clinton's advantage. She easily defeated Obama among voters who said it was their top issue. Obama was preferred by voters who said the war was their top concern.

Clinton and Obama were basically tied among voters most concerned about health care, an issue on which she has often criticized him.

Increasingly, ready cash was becoming a factor in both races.

McCain's aides said he had raised about $1 million in the first eight days of the election year, and looked for an increase with the New Hampshire victory on his ledger.

Obama's campaign said the Illinois senator had taken in more than $8 million and gained 35,000 new donors since Jan. 1, including $1.5 million online since midnight Tuesday. Obama raised $22.5 million in the last three months of the year for the primary election and an extra $1 million for the general election, the campaign said.

Clinton's campaign said she had raised more than $1 million in Internet donations in the hours since her primary victory.

She met with advisers in her Washington office, and her only scheduled public remarks of the day came in a round of early morning television interviews.

Appearing on Fox, she agreed that Monday's oft-replayed display of emotion, when her voice quavered as she was asked how she dealt with the grind of the campaign, had made a difference. "Maybe I have liberated us to actually let women be human beings in public," she said. "You know, we are. Let's be that."

Clinton's aides said she would continue to devote time at her campaign stops to answering questions from voters, something she did not always do in her losing Iowa campaign.

She said she felt good about the New Hampshire vote because "it gave me a chance to ... really regain my footing and to make clear that I'm going to put all my years of experience to work on behalf of the people of our country."

Edwards, who finished a weak third in New Hampshire, set up shop in South Carolina. "It's the first time we've had a primary that has a large African-American population. So I think it's a place that's a good test for all three of us," he said. He pitched himself as a native son.

"I'm not someone who has to have somebody explain to them what's happening with the mills closing, jobs leaving, what's happening with the school system in South Carolina," Edwards said. "You need someone who understands it personally."

Despite his determination, one union that backed him in the 2004 campaign, UNITE HERE, cast its lot with Obama. Its president, Bruce Raynor, suggested it was time for Edwards to leave the stage to Clinton and Obama. "One could argue that it's not over until it's over, and of course that would be true, but it's my judgment and our judgment that there are only two realistic candidates for the Democratic nomination at this point," he said.

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Associated Press writers Liz Sidoti in Grand Rapids, Mich., Glen Johnson in Boston, Jim Davenport in Sumter, S.C., Sara Kugler in New York and Scott Lindlaw in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.


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