By David Espo and Philip Elliott: The Associated Press
CONCORD, N.H. — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won New Hampshire’s Democratic primary Tuesday night in a startling upset, defeating Sen. Barack Obama and resurrecting her bid for the White House. Sen. John McCain powered past his Republican rivals and back into contention for the GOP nomination.
Clinton’s victory capped a comeback from last week’s third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses and raised the possibility of a long battle for the party nomination between the most viable black candidate in history and the former first lady, who is seeking to become the first woman to occupy the Oval Office.
McCain’s triumph scrambled the Republican race as well.
“We showed this country what a real comeback looks like,” the Arizona senator 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.”
Later, he told cheering supporters that together, “we have taken a step, but only a first step toward repairing the broken politics of the past and restoring the trust of the American people in their government.”
McCain rode a wave of support from independent voters to defeat former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, a showing that reprised the senator’s victory in the traditional first-in-the-nation primary in 2000.
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. Even so, the businessman-turned politician said he would meet McCain next week in the Michigan primary, and he cast himself as just what the country needed to fix Washington. “I don’t care who gets the credit, Republican or Democrat. I’ve got no scores to settle,” he told supporters.
After Iowa, Clinton and her aides seemed resigned to a second straight setback. But polling place interviews showed that female voters — who deserted her last week — were solidly in her New Hampshire column.
She also was winning handily among registered Democrats. Obama led her by an even larger margin among independents, but he suffered from a falloff in turnout among young voters compared with Iowa.