Women Deliver N.H. for Clinton; Moderates and Indies for McCain

Surprise win for Hillary Clinton; John McCain returns to glory.

ByANALYSIS by Richard Morin

Jan. 9, 2008—, 2008 -- Mainline Democrats, economically stressed voters and women -- especially gray-haired ones -- delivered New Hampshire into Hillary Clinton's hands.

On the Republican side, moderates, independents and late deciders proved crucial for John McCain, who also was boosted by a big advantage on personal qualities such as leadership, experience and straight-talking.

The New Hampshire results instantly revived Clinton's candidacy after her third-place finish behind Barack Obama and John Edwards in the Iowa Democratic caucuses. Similarly, McCain erased the sting of his Iowa fourth-place, far behind Mike Huckabee.

But the race for the nomination remains wide open in both parties, with no clear front-runner. The political landscape in the states conducting primaries in the next month is very different than in New Hampshire or Iowa.

Independents, for instance, constituted 37 percent of the Republican electorate in New Hampshire, and voted decisively for McCain; he only tied Mitt Romney among mainstream Republicans. But in Florida, which conducts its primaries at the end of the month, only 17 percent of all GOP primary voters in 2000 described themselves as independents, while eight in 10 were rank-and-file Republicans.

Similarly, liberals made up a 56 percent majority of Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire and divided evenly between Clinton and Obama. But in South Carolina, where Democrats vote Jan. 26, fewer than four in 10 Democrats identified themselves as liberal in 2004. And while virtually every Democratic voter in New Hampshire was white, blacks constitute about half the electorate in Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina -- potentially a source of strength for Obama.

DEMS -- Clinton lost men and women alike to Obama in Iowa. New Hampshire was different: She again lost men, by 40-29 percent, but won women by 46-34 percent -- and women, as usual here, accounted for a bigger share of voters.

Most notably, Clinton won women age 65 and up by a smashing 57-27 percent. Among senior men, by contrast, she and Obama ran evenly.

The economy was the single biggest issue to voters in both parties, and that worked for Clinton as well. Among those who called it their top concern, she beat Obama by 9 points, 44-35 percent. Clinton also won lower income and lower-education voters: she beat Obama by 15 points among voters from less than $50,000 households; he won by 5 points in $100,000-plus households. Similarly, among people who didn't go beyond high school, Clinton won by 18 points; among people with more than a high school education, Obama won by 3.

Moreover, among voters who said they're "getting ahead" financially (just 14 percent) Obama won by 17 points -- reflecting his better showing generally among upscale and better-educated voters. Among those holding steadily financially (the biggest group, 57 percent) Obama and Clinton split the vote, 39-38. But among the three in ten (28 percent) who are doing worse financially, it was Clinton 43 percent, Obama 33 percent -- enough to make the difference.

And in terms of party allegiance, Clinton won Democrats by 45-34 percent; Obama won independents -- 44 percent of all voters in this contest -- but not by a wide enough margin to counter Clinton's edge among party regulars. Turnout among self-identified independents -- always very high in New Hampshire –was lower than its peak, 48 percent in 2004 and 50 percent in 1992.

Looking ahead, "change" was still the top quality voters sought, as in Iowa; and Obama still owned it. Fifty-four percent said they were most interested in a candidate who can "bring about needed change" -- the top attribute by a wide margin -- and they favored Obama over Clinton by 55-28 percent. Clinton's pushback on change clearly did not cut.

However, Clinton came back even more overwhelmingly among the two in 10 who cared most about experience, with 71 percent to Obama's 5. And, as in Iowa, Obama showed vulnerability on empathy; among people looking mainly for the candidate who "cares most about people like me," he got only 19 percent support, while Edwards and Clinton were almost even at 37 and 41 percent, respectively. (Edwards had dominated among "empathy" voters in Iowa, rather than splitting them with Clinton here.)

The generation gap was more narrowly focused in New Hampshire than it was in Iowa. Obama won by a vast 60-22 percent among the very youngest voters, under 25 years old, but that subsided to a dead heat among those age 25-29; in Iowa he won both those groups overwhelmingly. At the other end of the spectrum, Clinton won by 16 points among seniors -- thanks, as noted, to senior women.

Clinton led among those who chose a candidate early, while Obama's support was greatest -- 43 percent to Clinton's 28 percent - among people who decided which candidate to support sometime last week. Clinton became somewhat more competitive among those who decided more recently.

Obama experienced a sharp rise in stature in the state: Forty-four percent of Democratic voters picked him as the candidate who has the best chance to win the general election in November, vs. 35 percent who called Clinton the most electable. That compares to an ABC News/Washington Post poll a month ago in which far more likely voters called Clinton the most electable -- 54 percent, vs. 22 percent for Obama.

Obama also pulled even with Clinton in ratings of who is the strongest leader; 35 percent of Democratic voters chose Obama, compared to 38 percent who named Clinton. In his strongest suit, Obama was the overwhelming choice for the candidate who would do the most to unite the country, 51 to 28 percent.

Clinton, on the other hand, was chosen by more voters as the candidate who was most qualified to be the commander in chief.

REPS -- Moderates and independents carried McCain to victory. Moderates (just over a third of voters) went overwhelmingly for McCain, 44-27 percent; he also won liberal Republicans, who are somewhat more numerous in New Hampshire than elsewhere (11 percent of voters). Among conservatives, by contrast Romney won, 38-30 percent. A majority of all GOP voters -- 55 percent -- identified themselves as conservative.

McCain won independents by 13 points over Romney, 40-27 percent, while the two men split mainline Republicans about evenly, 35-34 percent. In Iowa McCain claimed only 12 percent of the Republican vote and a quarter of independents, who comprised only 13 percent of GOP caucus attenders.

McCain won New Hampshire in 2000, also on the strength of support from independents. The question again is whether he can expand his support in states where fewer of them turn out.

McCain also benefited from a good showing in the recent debates: Among the four in 10 Republicans who said the debates were very important in their choice, he won 39 percent support to Romney's 31 percent. Perhaps as a consequence, McCain won by 41-31 percent among voters who decided in the past three days (including today).

On candidate qualities, people looking for the candidate who "says what he believes" broke 53-15 percent for McCain over Romney. Among those looking for the most experienced candidate, 51 percent voted for McCain, 35 percent for Romney.

By contrast, voters looking for a candidate who "shares my values" favored Romney, 38 to 22 percent for Huckabee, 16 percent for McCain and 12 percent for Ron Paul.

Republican voters also saw McCain as the candidate who would be the strongest leader (41 percent, vs. versus 29 percent for Romney). About as many, 43 percent, said he was the best qualified to be commander-in-chief, compared with 27 percent for Romney.

That weakness on "values," as well as among conservatives, are question marks for McCain moving ahead. So is the fact that 45 percent of McCain's own voters said they were supporting him "with reservations," vs. 33 percent of Romney's.

Evangelicals accounted for 23 percent of voters in New Hampshire, vs. 60 percent in Iowa. They also voted differently: McCain was surprisingly competitive in this group, Huckabee 28 percent, McCain 28, Romney 27, essentially a three-way dead heat. In Iowa, Huckabee won 46 percent of evangelicals, Romney 19, McCain just 10 percent.

Huckabee's dissimilar showing among born-again Christians in Iowa and New Hampshire suggests that he might not automatically expect evangelical support as the Republican campaign moves on. Either that -- or New Hampshire evangelicals are just different.

McCain ran particularly well among the best-educated voters, beating Romney by 41-32 percent among voters who with a college degree, about half of the GOP electorate.

Half of all Republican voters said the economy's in bad shape; in this group McCain beat Romney 42- 21 percent. Among the 49 percent who said the economy's in good shape, by contrast, Romney won by 8 points, 41-33 percent.

About three in 10 Republicans said the economy was the most important problem facing the country, the top-rated issue; McCain won them by 41-21 percent. He also beat Romney among voters most concerned about the war in Iraq, and about terrorism.

Romney came back among the quarter of Republicans who said immigration was the top issue, beating McCain by almost a 3-1 margin in this group. Similarly, among those who favor deporting illegal immigrants back to their home countries (half of all GOP voters), Romney beat McCain by 40-24 percent. However, among the three in 10 who felt illegal immigrants should be offered a chance at citizenship, McCain won by more than 3-1.

Republican voters divided on the hot-button issue of gay and lesbian civil unions. Among the 38 percent who supported civil unions, McCain won by 43-26 percent; he and Romney roughly split the vote among the 60 percent who oppose gay civil unions.

-Analysis by Rich Morin, with Gary Langer, Bob Shapiro, Claudia Deane, Peyton Craighill, Pat Moynihan and Brian Hartman.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events