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Clinton's New Hampshire Win Upends Primary

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Just yesterday, newspapers were giving the names of Hillary Clinton advisers about to lose their jobs. Everything looks different now that she's won the New Hampshire primary. On the Republican side, victory went to John McCain, who actually did change his top advisers when his campaign seemed to collapse last year. Those two victories mean the two major parties are far from settling on their nominees.

And we have two reports this morning starting with NPR's Audie Cornish.

AUDIE CORNISH: Despite all the polls to the contrary, it was Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, giving the victory speech last night.

(Soundbite of political speech)

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): You helped remind everyone that politics isn't a game. This campaign is about people, about making a difference in your lives, about making sure that everyone in this country has the opportunity to live up to his or her God-given potential.

CORNISH: But since her surprising third-place finish in Iowa, Clinton flipped the script in New Hampshire. Suddenly, she was taking a lot more questions from voters, reaching out at campaign stops and even allowing the public to see her up close, like when she teared up at an event Monday in Portsmouth.

Marcia Lynch(ph), a Clinton campaign volunteer from Boston, believes that moment may have tipped the balance.

Ms. MARCIA LYNCH (Campaign Volunteer; Resident, Boston): I actually think that might have been a strong moment for her to show a very true, real compassionate side of herself and to show deep passionate feelings, and maybe she should do that a little bit more.

CORNISH: Clinton's win puts an end to the premature political obituary writing and it puts Senator Barack Obama back on the defensive going into the next caucus and primaries. But in his concession speech, Obama sounded anything but defeated.

(Soundbite of political speech)

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): We always knew our climb would be steep. But in record numbers, you came out and you spoke up for change. And with your voices and your votes, you made it clear that at this moment in this election, there is something happening in America.

(Soundbite of cheering)

CORNISH: Win or lose, Obama clearly touched a nerve among New Hampshire voters, leaving many people here inspired, like Scott Polts(ph) of Concord, who'd remained undecided until late in the contest.

Mr. SCOTT POLTS (Resident, Concord, New Hampshire): I just - I like his charisma. To get a predominantly white state to be behind you like that, you know, it's pretty impressive.

CORNISH: None of these developments fazed the folks at the John Edwards campaign.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Group: Edwards, Edwards, Edwards, Edwards, Edwards, Edwards, Edwards…

Mr. JOHN EDWARDS (Former Democratic Senator, North Carolina; Presidential Candidate): Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

CORNISH: Campaign officials there figure the Clinton upset slows the momentum of Barack Obama and sets up a potentially vicious battle between the front-runners.

To their campaign, Edwards just needs to hang on long enough to reap the benefits of a potentially long and drawn-out nomination process. Edwards told supporters in New Hampshire that while he was two states down, there were 48 more to go.

(Soundbite of political speech)

Mr. EDWARDS: I want to be clear to the 99 percent of Americans who have not yet had the chance to have their voices heard that I am in this race to the convention, that I intend to be the nominee of my party.

CORNISH: Also vowing to continue the fight is Bill Richardson. The New Mexico governor finished a poor fourth here but insists that his candidacy will be revived once the campaign heads west.

Actually, Michigan is next up on the calendar, but the candidates are not campaigning there. The national Democratic Party has penalized the state for moving up its primary, thus the candidates will compete next in Nevada, with its strong Hispanic presence. Then, it's on to South Carolina. It was the only state primary Edwards won in 2004 but with African-Americans comprising 50 percent of the Democratic electorate, this could be the state that launches an Obama comeback. Either way, the fight for the Democratic nomination goes on.

Audie Cornish, NPR News, Manchester, New Hampshire. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.