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New Hampshire Primary: Winners and Losers

After 36 hours of reflection, we're not sure we're any closer to fully understanding just what happened in Tuesday night's New Hampshire primary. The comeback victories by Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) took an already cloudy picture of the fight for the two party nominations and made it almost unreadable.

The lack of clarity in the overall race, however, doesn't mean that there weren't some clear winners and losers from the vote on Tuesday night. So as the candidates prepare to duke it out in Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina and beyond, we thought we'd offer our take on the highs and lows from the primary that was.

Agree? Disagree? Are we missing obvious winners or losers? The comments section awaits.

WINNERS

Mike Dennehy: Dennehy, one of a handful of longtime McCain loyalists who stayed on after the staff implosion over the summer, proved his New Hampshire political acumen once again on Tuesday. Dennehy -- along with former McCain chief of staff Mark Salter -- spent almost all of his time in the Granite State over the past three months and it paid off, helping the Arizona senator to score a win he desperately needed.

Jon Ralston: The political pundit without peer in Nevada, Ralston now gets a chance to strut his stuff in front of a national audience as attention turns to the Silver State's Jan. 19 caucuses. Ralston is already making his mark -- he was first out of the gate with the news that the Culinary Workers Union would support Sen. Barack Obama and that the union had employees handing out fliers at hotels on the Strip within hours of the formal endorsement yesterday.

EMILY's List: Since we slammed EMILY's List as a loser in our Iowa caucus post-mortem, it's only far to give them credit for what the group, which supports pro-choice Democratic women, did for Clinton this time around. As in Iowa, women made up 57 percent of the Democratic electorate, but this time they went overwhelmingly for Clinton by a 47 percent to 34 percent margin. Were those gains entirely attributable to EMILY's List? Of course not, but the group's voter contact and turnout program that targeted 54,000 New Hampshire women who were either likely voters or newly registered voters certainly helped Clinton's cause.

Nick Clemons/Guy Cecil: The two key cogs of Clinton's field operation in New Hampshire deserve huge credit for figuring out a way to win, even as it appeared that the Obama avalanche would snow them under. Clemons came into the primary season as the most coveted Democratic operative in New Hampshire, and Clinton's win will do nothing but burnish that reputation. Cecil joined the campaign late -- following a stint as political director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee -- but moved to New Hampshire over the campaign's final month and proved his worth to Clinton's effort moving forward.

LOSERS

Judd Gregg: The New Hampshire Republican senator has picked the wrong horse in each of the last two competitive New Hampshire primaries. He was a prominent endorser of then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 2000 and went with former governor Mitt Romney (Mass.) this time around. Each time, Gregg's pick was vanquished by McCain (Ariz.) Not good. (Ben Pershing, the latest addition to the washingtonpost.com blog family and a personal Fix friend, has more about the limited value of Congressional endorsements over at Capitol Briefing. Read it and make sure to welcome Ben.)

Twang Candidates: Sons of the South didn't fare well in flinty New Hampshire. Former governor Mike Huckabee (Ark.) proclaimed his 11 percent, third-place showing a victory of sorts. But, given his Iowa caucus win and the resultant media coverage, it seemed as though he could have come at least slightly closer to McCain and Romney in the state. Former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) was looking for a surprise showing in New Hampshire -- maybe a narrow third place finish behind Clinton? -- but he finished more than 20 points behind the leader of the pack, making it tough for him to continue to argue this is a three-way fight for the Democratic presidential nomination. And then there was former senator Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) who took one percent of the vote, receiving less than 3,000 total votes. Of course, there's an exception to every rule: New Hampshire voters embraced Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton in 1992 and did the same for his wife this time around.

The Pundit/Prognosticator Class: As has become readily obvious over the past few days, we got it wrong. A series of traditionally reliable public polls showed Obama with a clear lead and rallies for the Illinois senator seemed to affirm that the energy was on his side. The results showed it wasn't. The Fix stands chastened.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 10, 2008; 3:46 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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