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Clinton powers to N.H. comeback over Obama

Hillary Clinton proved Tuesday that more than one Clinton can be "the Comeback Kid." "Over the last week, I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice," she  said at a victory celebration Tuesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Hillary Rodham Clinton proved Tuesday that more than one Clinton can be "the Comeback Kid."

"Over the last week, I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice," Clinton said at a victory celebration after her win over Barack Obama. "Now, together, let's give America the kind of comeback that New Hampshire has just given me."

Clinton, whose husband used a second-place finish in New Hampshire in 1992 to propel himself to the White House, had trailed Obama in recent polling. In the last days, though, she overhauled her campaign operation here and took a new tone to the trail. Aides, meanwhile, executed the long-laid ground game that even rivals acknowledged was masterful.

The New York senator and former first lady hugged both former President Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, before taking the podium and saying, "thank you, thank you so much" repeatedly.

"I come tonight with a very, very full heart and I want especially to thank New Hampshire," she said. "For all the ups and down of this campaign, you helped remind everyone that politics isn't a game. ... We came back tonight because you spoke loudly and clearly."

"Tomorrow, we're going to get up, roll up our sleeves and keep going," Clinton said to enthusiastic applause.

More women than men voted
In the end, though, key voting blocs were there for Clinton in New Hampshire — or weren't there for Obama, depending on how the campaigns frame it. According to exit polling conducted by The Associated Press and the networks, far more women voted than men; Clinton won 45 percent of them compared to 36 for Obama.

Also according to exit polls, fewer younger voters turned out in New Hampshire than in Iowa, depriving Obama of crucial support.

Clinton's organization delivered. She hired the state's top political organizers, including the executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party that helped orchestrate 2006's landslide wins in the state House, Senate and Executive Council. She also picked up the popular chairwoman of the party and other party elders. She also picked up key advisers, including Howard Dean's guru Karen Hicks and belatedly Al Gore aide Doug Hattaway.

The homegrown, Granite State feel of the Clinton organization mimicked that of Sen. John Kerry's 2004 win here.

The campaign organized down to the precinct level. They built lists of endorsers and volunteers. They spent more than $5 million on 5,000 television ads in New Hampshire media markets.

Despite that, as the summer wore on, Clinton's poll numbers leveled out. Obama built a similar organization and his name identification crept upward.

When asked Tuesday morning what she planned to tell supporters Tuesday night, Clinton only offered a cautious "We'll see."

As her optimistic smile made its way to polling places and businesses, record turnout hinted she faced a more difficult than predicted challenge from Obama. Her husband, the former president, starting spinning a loss here and blaming the calendar for not giving the campaign time to adjust after Iowa.

"The only thing I hate is New Hampshire should have had the customary 10 days after Iowa. If they had, I wouldn't have any doubt about the outcome of this. It's just hard to overcome the media deluge," Bill Clinton said in Seabrook, returning to his frequent criticism of how reporters have covered his wife compared to Obama.

"It's just almost impossible to vote five days after Iowa without being unduly influenced by the media coverage from Iowa. So, you know, that colored the polls — the switch in the polls for two days — and then we've had a three-day election."

Even without the time, it was enough.