Hillary victorious; pundits eat crow

Image: Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton shakes hands withsupporters as she celebrates her victory in New Hampshire on Tuesday.Stan Honda / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: msnbc.com

I wrote a piece the other day about the apparent implosion of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in New Hampshire.

My editors asked me to put a "new top" on my piece once the results were in. Unless, of course, I was wrong, in which case I would go immediately to Plan B.

This is Plan B.

Is this a great country or what? Voters actually decide things!

And what the Democratic and independent voters said in New Hampshire is that they want the conversation about their choice for the presidency to begin, not end.

Hillary Clinton has won the primary.

There will be no immediate coronation of Sen. Barack Obama. Hillary lives, to say the least. So, by the way, does former Sen. John Edwards.

Just 48 hours ago, it seemed like the Obama wave was going to crest over New Hampshire. Several polls projected he would win the Democratic primary – and with that victory, he would come close to locking up the nomination. Top Clinton supporters were saying the same thing, looking for ways to abandon the senator from New York and embrace the one from Illinois.

Here's what I think happened on the way to the New Hampshire coronation...

Hillary lost the female vote in Iowa. She apparently won it, big time, in New Hampshire.

Hillary’s heartfelt explanation of her reasons for being in politics apparently was effective, especially among women.

New Hampshire
Voters there don’t like to do what Iowa does and, more importantly, what the national media predicts they are going to do. It’s the Live Free or Die State. They cherish their unpredictability, which they proved once again.

Health care
In the last week or so, Hillary scored among older women against Obama by attacking his health care plan, saying that it did not require that all Americans be covered by mandate. The Obama campaign put up a response ad on the radio. It wasn’t enough.

Jean Shaheen
A key to Hillary’s good performance was the work of former governor and now Senate candidate Jean Shaheen, one of the best organizers the Democratic Party has seen. As a young teacher 24 years ago, she led Gary Hart to a surprise victory in New Hampshire. She saved Hillary, in part by successfully appealing to older women.

Saturday debate
I thought at the time that Obama was mailing it in. He was flat and filibustering. Hillary got angry at one point, defending her record of accomplishment against the minimal achievements of her rivals. The conventional wisdom was that she hurt herself. I think she helped herself.

Obama overconfidence
The worst thing you can do in politics is to assume that things are static – that there is such a thing as a straight-line extrapolation. Just because you've won one race in one way, doesn't mean the next will follow the same pattern. Events change future events. It's an interactive universe.

Nasty ObamaOut of character, Obama snidely said to Hillary that she was "nice enough" after she protested that she was a nice person. That didn't play well, especially among women.

First/second thoughts about Obama
Hillary and Bill started late attacking in Obama. Too late, I thought. But the questions she raised – about his positions on the war, energy policy, the Patriot Act and health care – took a toll.

Now the real discussion of Obama will begin.