Published in the New York Post on January 9, 2008.
Hillary Rodham Clinton’s stunning comeback victory in New Hampshire duplicates the feat of Bill Clinton who overcame the draft and Gennifer Flowers in the Granite State primary in 1992.
But Hillary did Bill one better. He placed second. She won. Those who counted Hillary out don’t know her and don’t know the Clintons.
The clear message of the New Hampshire primary is there is no front-runner, but it’s a two-way race between the queen and the challenger that won’t be decided by an early knockout.
But Hillary approaches the balance of the month in very good shape.
The Battle of Hillary, in a sense, is over.
She has been challenged and hit, but stayed on her feet. She has weathered the negatives, lost her momentum, and still emerged, in effect, tied for the lead.
Now the Battle of Obama is about to begin.
The negative researchers and detectives who staff the Clinton campaign – we call them the secret police – now go into overdrive combing through the Illinois senator’s life for any shred of poison to use.
What did he say (or what does a disgruntled student recall him saying) in each of his constitutional law classes? What causes did he work for as an organizer in Chicago? How did he vote on every issue that came before the Illinois legislature? What are the precise details of his financial life going back to the beginning?
Obama had it right when he joked yesterday that he saw a dump truck pull up alongside him and start beeping! And the theme of Hillary’s attack will be that Obama cannot win, that he’s not “electable.”
By that, she will mean, but never say, that a black man cannot be elected president in middle America. As surely as Bill used the race card by attacking rap singer Sister Souljah in 1992, Hillary will use race to win in 2008.
Hillary has withstood the full force of Obama’s momentum. Now we will see if Barack can stand the onslaught he is about to face.
A big question for Obama is whether John Edwards will stay in the race. With less than 20 percent of the New Hampshire vote, he is clearly splitting the anti-Clinton vote.
In recent days, he has gone out of his way to praise Obama. Could he be running for vice president again?
On the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani has paid the price for his refusal to campaign actively in the early primaries. He now must contend with John McCain.
The voters of New Hampshire did America a favor by knocking Mitt Romney back and possibly out of the race.
The GOP race will boil down to McCain, Giuliani and Mike Huckabee, a tough choice for down-the-line conservatives, but a choice among candidates who are most electable in November.
Whether or not Huckabee can win is debatable. But McCain and Giuliani sure can depending on which Democrat they end up facing.