McCain wins GOP primary in New Hampshire
By DAVID ESPO and PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press
Writers 5 minutes ago
CONCORD, N.H. - Arizona Sen. John McCain won the New
Hampshire primary Tuesday night, completing a
remarkable comeback and climbing back into contention
for the Republican presidential nomination. Sen.
Hillary Rodham Clinton dueled with Sen. Barack Obama
in an unexpectedly tight Democratic race.
"We showed the people of this country what a real
comeback looks like," McCain told The Associated Press
in an interview as he savored his triumph. "We're
going to move on to Michigan and South Carolina and
win the nomination."
The Arizona senator rode a wave of support from
independent voters to defeat former Gov. Mitt Romney
of Massachusetts, a showing that reprised his victory
in the traditional first-in-the-nation primary in
It was a bitter blow for Romney, who spent millions of
dollars of his own money in hopes of winning the
kickoff Iowa caucuses and the first primary and
finished second in both.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa
GOP caucuses last week, was running third in the
Republican race in New Hampshire.
Among Republicans, McCain was winning 39 percent of
the vote, Romney had 28 and Huckabee 12. Former New
York Mayor Rudy Giuliani had 9 percent, Texas Rep. Ron
Clinton, the former first lady who finished third in
Iowa, was mounting an unexpectedly stiff challenge to
Obama in the nation's first primary. Interviews with
voters leaving their polling places showed she was
winning handily among registered Democrats, while her
rival led her by an even larger margin among
With votes counted from 14 percent of the state's
precincts, she had 40 percent to 35 percent for Obama,
who is seeking to become the nation's first black
president. Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina
trailed with 17 percent.
Clinton's performance, based on the early returns,
surprised even her own inner circle.
In the hours leading up to the poll closing, her
closest advisers had appeared to be bracing for a
second defeat at the hands of Obama.
Officials said her aides were considering whether to
effectively concede the next two contests caucuses
in Nevada on Jan. 19 and a South Carolina primary a
week later and instead try to regroup in time for a
22-state round of contests on Feb. 5.
These officials also said a campaign shake-up was in
the works, with longtime Clinton confidante Maggie
Williams poised to come aboard to help sharpen the
former first lady's message. Other personnel additions
are expected, according to these officials, who spoke
on condition of anonymity while discussing strategy.
Obama, who won the leadoff Iowa caucuses last week,
looked for an endorsement from the powerful Culinary
Workers union in Nevada in the days ahead. South
Carolina's Democratic electorate is heavily black and
likely to go for the most viable black presidential
candidate in history.
The Republican race turns next to Michigan, where
McCain and Romney already are advertising on
television, and where both men planned appearances on
Wednesday. Huckabee also was expected to campaign in
By custom, the first handful of New Hampshire votes
was cast, at midnight, in Dixville Notch in the far
northern tip of the state.
By tradition, the first primary held the power to
propel winners into the rush of primaries that follow
and to send the also-rans home for good.
And by registration, New Hampshire's balance of power
rested with its independent voters, more than 40
percent of the electorate, neither reliably Democratic
nor Republican, with the power to settle either race,
McCain, an Arizona senator, in particular, appealed
for their support in the run-up to the primary. He
battled Romney, the former governor of next-door
Massachusetts, and to a lesser extent Mike Huckabee,
the former Arkansas governor who won last week's Iowa
According to preliminary results of a survey of voters
as they left their polling places, more independents
cast ballots in the Democratic race than in the
Republican contest. They accounted for four of every
10 Democratic votes and about a third of Republican
ballots. The survey was conducted for The Associated
Press and the television networks.
Republicans were split roughly evenly in naming the
nation's top issues: the economy, Iraq, illegal
immigration and terrorism. Romney had a big lead among
those naming immigration, while McCain led on the
Half of Republicans said illegal immigrants should be
deported, and this group leaned toward Romney. Those
saying illegal immigrants should be allowed to apply
for citizenship leaned toward McCain, while the two
candidates split those saying those here illegally
should be allowed to stay as temporary workers.
Among Democrats, about one-third each named the
economy and Iraq as the top issues facing the country,
followed by health care. Voters naming the economy
were split about evenly between Obama and Clinton,
while Obama had an advantage among those naming the
other two issues. Clinton has made health care a
signature issue for years.
About one-third said if Bill Clinton were running,
they would have voted for him on Tuesday.
"It has all the earmarks of a landslide with the
Dixville Notch vote," an upbeat McCain quipped he
got four votes there to Romney's two and one for
Giuliani as his campaign bus headed to a polling
place in Nashua. The crowd of supporters was so big,
that voters complained and a poll worker pleaded with
McCain to leave. Seconds later, the bus pulled away.
Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, Texas Rep. Paul
and California Rep. Duncan Hunter completed the
Obama, too, hoped independent voters would come his
way, as they did last week in Iowa, where he won the
first test of the campaign. Clinton, the New York
senator and former first lady, ran third in Iowa.
Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina was second.
Obama drew huge crowds as he swept into New Hampshire,
and as the front-runner drew plenty of criticism from
Clinton and her husband. Asked if he expected more,
Obama said, "Oh, I don't think it will be just in the
next few days. I think it'll be, you know, until I'm
the nominee or until I quit." He said he understood
Clinton, for her part, retooled her appeal to voters
on the run. She lessened her emphasis on experience,
and sought instead to raise questions about Obama's
ability to bring about the change he promised.
Win or lose, she said she was in the race to stay
never mind Edwards' suggestion that the voters of Iowa
had told her that her presence was no longer needed.
There was no letup in the television ad wars.
TNS Media Intelligence, a firm that tracks political
advertising, said Clinton spent $5.4 million to reach
New Hampshire voters, and Obama spent $5 million. The
total for Edwards was $1.7 million, reflecting a
smaller campaign treasury. New Mexico Gov. Bill
Richardson, fourth candidate in the race, could afford
As happened in Iowa, Romney spent more than his rivals
combined on television for the New Hampshire primary.
After losing Iowa, he could ill afford another defeat
after basing his campaign strategy on victories in one
or both states. Reflecting the stakes, he clashed in
weekend debates with Huckabee over the Iraq war and
with McCain over immigration as he tried to right his
On Tuesday, Romney put a positive face forward. "The
Republicans will vote for me," he said. "The
independents will get behind me."
McCain, too, was in need of a victory. Once the
perceived front-runner, he suffered through a
near-death political experience last year when his
fundraising and support collapsed. He rallied, and by
the final days of the New Hampshire race, held a
celebration of sorts to mark his 100th town hall
meeting in the state he won eight years ago.
David Espo reported from Washington. AP writers Liz
Sidoti, Nedra Pickler, Scott Lindlaw, Glen Johnson,
Beverley Wang, Charles Babington, Holly Ramer and
Clarke Canfield contributed to this report.