Read time: 3 minutes

When Voters Confound Expectations

Oh, now I remember. We’re supposed to wait until after voters express a preference to declare a winner of a contest. I have to say, it’s awfully

Oh, now I remember. We’re supposed to wait until after voters express a preference to declare a winner of a contest.

I have to say, it’s awfully inconvenient this way. The narrative had been worked out; everyone was in agreement about what was going to happen; and all voters had to do was go along. But noooo; they had to go ahead and vote the way they wanted to — as if this were some kind of open, democratic process — without any consideration for how it might make the rest of us look and feel. Downright selfish, if you ask me.

Before getting into this in any real detail, let’s first note the results of New Hampshire’s Democratic primary, with nearly all the precincts reporting:

1. Clinton — 39.1%
2. Obama — 36.4%
3. Edwards — 16.9%
4. Richardson — 4.6%
5. Kucinich — 1.3%
6. Gravel — 0.1%

There’s no shortage of angles to all of this, of course, and I’ll have more detailed analysis throughout the day, but first, let’s briefly go one at a time, taking a look at Spin vs. Reality.

Hillary Clinton — What Clinton fans are saying: Say hello to the new “comeback kid.” What Clinton critics are saying: If she hadn’t cried the other day, none of this would have happened.

Who’s right? Well, it’s probably too soon to tell. The New Hampshire victory was incredibly impressive, and arguably makes her the co-frontrunner — if there is such a thing — for the nomination going forward. Will she get a post-N.H. bump in the polls? Probably, but we don’t yet know how big and whether it will help in Nevada and South Carolina.

Barack Obama — What Obama fans are saying: One out of two isn’t bad, and New Hampshire has always been Clinton’s strongest state. What Obama critics are saying: Weren’t you guys up by double digits on Monday?

Who’s right? Probably both. A close, second-place finish is disappointing for the Obama camp, but the senator remains in pretty good shape, and is now in a better position to characterize this as a two-person race.

John Edwards — What Edwards fans are saying: We did better than the fourth-place finish four years ago. What Edwards critics are saying: It’s a two-person race, and Edwards isn’t one of the two.

Who’s right? Probably the critics. An Obama win would have been far better for Edwards. A Clinton upset, coupled by a lackluster, third-place finish, puts Edwards in a pretty tough spot.

Bill Richardson — What Richardson fans are saying: We gained a slightly higher percentage than we got in Iowa. What Richardson critics are saying: Time to gracefully step aside, Bill.

Who’s right? Critics are. If there’s a scenario by which Richardson makes a comeback, I don’t see it. As recently as Monday, Richardson was telling reporters he was looking to finish in the top three. He didn’t even come close.

Dennis Kucinich — What Kucinich fans are saying: We don’t care about election results; we’re going to keep fighting. What Kucinich critics are saying: Don’t you have a primary fight in your Ohio House district to worry about?

Who’s right? Probably both.

Mike Gravel — What Gravel fans are saying: We would have done a lot better, but our guy had the flu this week. What Gravel critics are saying: Gravel’s still running?

Who’s right? Critics are. Gravel made a splash in the early debates, but now that he’s not getting invitations to the events anymore, it’s hard to see what Gravel really hopes to accomplish.

Plenty more to come.

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