Sometimes, the day’s political news offers up an unintentionally interesting juxtaposition of stories. For example, take today’s Associated Press article detailing how the Clinton campaign plans to use New Hampshire as a firewall to slow the momentum that either Barack Obama or John Edwards would get from an Iowa victory, and juxtapose it with the new WMUR/CNN poll, also out this morning, which shows that Hillary Clinton has lost her 20-point lead in the state, and is now essentially tied with Obama.
Given this circumstance, the idea that New Hampshire provides a safety valve for the Clinton campaign is no longer operative; the Democratic race here is now just as competitive as the one in Iowa. On the Republican side, Mitt Romney can legitimately claim that his 13-point lead over Rudy Giuliani and John McCain serves the same function for a Mike Huckabee win in Iowa, but with Huckabee in fourth place and single digits in New Hampshire, this is perhaps less of a concern for Romney than Obama is for Clinton.
The firewall piece goes on to note how the Clinton campaign plans to build its defenses through an attack on Obama’s healthcare plan, and a renewed focus on Clinton’s toughness and experience. As I have discussed in earlier posts, New Hampshire will not likely be won through a comparison of health care plans (or any policy issue, for that matter), and my sense is that the Clinton pitch on experience has reached its ceiling as a candidate selling point in the state. Instead, the Clinton campaign needs to think hard (and quickly) about how to counteract Obama on the specific dimensions of voter reaction that drove his surge in Iowa, and are now doing the same in New Hampshire.
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