By Joel Wendland
After a narrow, but surprising victory for Sen. Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, we can expect, at best, deep confusion in the US media about the direction of the Democratic campaigns. But one thing is for sure, the Obama camp is not confused.
With record turnout, which with only 74% of the precincts reporting (11:35 pm) has already about matched the previous New Hampshire turnout record posted in 2000, the 2nd biggest story of the night, as in Iowa, has to be the wave of people who poured into the polling places.
The big story will be how the pollsters and the media got the outcome wrong. Pre-election polls said Obama would win by 8% or even double digits. At this point it appears that he will lose by about 2% or 3%. Notably, the top Democratic candidates will end up with more votes than all of the Republicans.
But during his speech this evening, Sen. Obama revealed no indications that the 2nd place finish was a setback. He relied on what has been part of his campaign message all along; his presence there tonight was improbable from the start.
His candidacy, he said, is about the change that is happening in America. "Together we are ready to take this country in a fundamentally new direction." [Interrupted by chants of "we want change"]
"All of you who are here tonight, you can be the new majority that can lead this nation out of a long political darkness."
Obama called for a "new American majority" that can make universal health care affordable, end tax breaks for corporations that send jobs out of the country, give working families a tax cut, improve education and boost teacher pay, and end the "tyranny of oil." Obama called for caring for our vets and for refusing to use 9/11 to "scare up votes."
"When I am president of the United States," Obama said, "we can end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home." [Chants: Obama]
Further along, "No matter what obstacles stand in our way," he said, "nothing can stand in the way of the millions who are fighting for change."
Taking on his critics who say his message of hope is just dreaming and idealist and reflective of his lack of experience, Obama said, "There is nothing false about hope."
Somewhere in the speech, Obama said to those who think we cannot win, I say yes we can. The crowd launches into chants of "Yes we can."
The theme is picked up as the speech winds down. The idea "yes we can" was the sense of hope and optimism that the founders of the country felt when they took on the British. It is what slaves and abolitionists felt when they ended that barbaric system. It was the sentiment of immigrants and pioneers who sought a better life. The spirit of "yes we can" helped workers who fought to organize unions, women who sought win the vote, a president (JFK) who looked for a new frontier, and a King who fought for justice and equality.
What will happen in Nevada next week and South Carolina the week after? Who knows, but it is increasingly clear that the media and the pundits aren't going to decide this race. It is also pretty clear that voters are energized by the possibility of ending the Bush administration and not handing the reins of government over to his ideological allies.
P.S. MSNBC reports that Obama and Clinton get the same number of convention delegates.