Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Well, now it's a horse race. The last time somebody cried in New Hampshire--Ed Muskie in 1972--it destroyed his political future. This time, when Hillary teared up in the coffee shop on Monday, it appears to have convinced some voters that she was actually human after all.
Of course, that wasn't the whole deal. Women voted for Hillary in much larger numbers than they did in Iowa, as did traditional Democrats. The Clintons have a strong history in New Hampshire. Another thing--the underdog factor. Never, ever underestimate it in American politics.
Also, Obama did something that frontrunners (including Hillary) almost always do, to their peril--play it safe. Although he pulled in big crowds in New Hampshire when speaking, he failed to add to his message or build on his momentum. Thomas Dewey did the same thing in the general election in 1948 and, although everyone remembers Harry Truman as the comeback kid of that campaign, Dewey really lost the election by being afraid to jeopardize his frontrunner status. And the polls in that campaign were as wrong as they were in New Hampshire. In 1948, Elmo Roper, a pollster as famous in his day as Gallup is in ours, had Dewey 44 to 31 per cent and announced that he was going to stop polling: “My whole inclination is to predict the election of Thomas E. Dewey by a heavy margin and devote my time and energy to other things.” Newsweek published its own poll of fifty respected political reporters. Who would win the election? Dewey, said the pundits, 50-0.
On to Michigan (for Hillary--other Democrats are boycotting that state for moving its primaries up), Nevada, South Carolina and finally Super Tuesday on Feb 5. This race, on both sides, is one of the most exciting in memory. John McCain's victory--this one I did predict--puts him in a very strong position, but the dirty tricks are going to be coming fast and furious. Tomorrow I'll provide a sampling of the subcurrent of nastiness already attending this political season.
PS--If you get a chance, read the particularly vile and misogynistic New York Times column of Maureen Dowd's this AM. Hillary's tears, according to her, were "Nixonian" and her comeback last night a "Lifetime" channel movie.

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