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. It also raised the possibility of a long battle for the party nomination between the most viable black candidate in history and the former first lady.
“I am still fired up and ready to go,” a defeated Obama told cheering supporters.
McCain’s triumph scrambled the Republican race as well.
“We showed this country what a real comeback looks like,” the Arizona senator said. “We’re going to move on to Michigan and South Carolina and win the nomination.”
McCain rode a wave of support from independent voters to defeat former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.
It was a bitter blow for Romney, who spent millions of his own money in hopes of winning the kickoff Iowa caucus and the first primary but 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.
Clinton had 39 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary to 37 percent for Obama. Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina trailed with 17 percent. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was fourth, pulling less than 5 percent of the vote.
Despite running a distant third to his better-funded rivals, Edwards had no plans to step aside. He pointed toward the South Carolina primary on Jan. 26, hoping to prevail in the state where he was born and where he claimed his only victory in the presidential primaries four years ago.
Among Republicans, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the leadoff Iowa GOP caucuses last week, was running third in New Hampshire.
McCain was winning 37 percent of the Republican vote, Romney had 32 and Huckabee 11. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani had 9 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul 8.
Clinton’s triumph was unexpected. Obama drew huge crowds as he swept into the state after winning Iowa. Confident of victory, he stuck to his pledge to deliver “change we can believe in,” while the former first lady was forced to retool her appeal to voters on the run. She lessened her emphasis on experience and sought instead to raise questions about Obama’s ability to bring about the change he promised.
The Republican race turns next to Michigan, where McCain and Romney already are advertising on television and where both men planned appearances on Wednesday. Huckabee also was expected to campaign in the state.
Republicans were split roughly evenly in naming the nation’s top issues: the economy, Iraq, illegal immigration and terrorism. Romney had a big lead among those naming immigration, while McCain led on the other issues.
Among Democrats, about one-third each named the economy and Iraq as the top issues facing the country, followed by health care. Voters naming the economy were split about evenly between Obama and Clinton, while Obama had an advantage among those naming the other two issues. Clinton has made health care a signature issue for years.
About one-third said if Bill Clinton were running, they would have voted for him on Tuesday.