The expectations game is a fickle mistress. Two weeks ago, I doubt anyone would have been surprised at Hillary Clinton winning the New Hampshire primaries, and indeed the big surprise would have been that she and Obama essentially tied (both candidates got the same number of delegates).
Of course, two weeks ago we hadn’t seen the Clinton campaign’s apparent collapse in Iowa, nor the growing gap in post-Iowa polls. And so, in the course of less than a week, Hillary went from inevitable winner, to doomed candidate, to insurgent.
There’s no doubt that the results were surprising, precisely because of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire polls. But to call it an upset seems extreme.
In other campaign news, Bill Richardson is out, leaving an additional 2% of the Democratic voters up for grabs, and complicating the dynamic in Nevada (which was generally seen as his best chance to build up delegates and earn a seat at the table in a brokered convention). A critical union endorsement in Nevada broke Obama’s way, and John Kerry got on the bandwagon as well. I’m not sure how much weight the latter carries, since Kerry never was terribly well-loved, even by folks who worked hard to get him elected.
On the Republican side, I get the sense that McCain is working hard to consolidate institutional support, which would complete his abandonment of any claim to “maverick” status. It’s a dicey situation for him, since that “maverick” label is pretty much all he has to work with in the general election, but it was killing him in the primaries. I’ll keep saying it until it catches on: “Like all great indie acts, his early work was better.”
Update: s/New Mexico/Nevada/g Thanks to Kevin Parker for catching that brainfart.