Clinton, McCain victories throw battle for White House wide open

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 January, 2008, 12:00am

Hillary Rodham Clinton faces the challenging task of re-establishing herself as the clear Democratic frontrunner after dealing rival Barack Obama a stunning defeat in a New Hampshire elections race that also saw Republican John McCain stage a dramatic comeback.

Senator Clinton rebounded on Tuesday night from her loss to Senator Obama in last week's Iowa caucuses - the first key race in this year's presidential election - and defied media, polls and pundits to narrowly defeat the 46-year senator of Kenyan descent who packed rallies with his message of change.

The win reinvigorated her bid to become the nation's first female president.

'Tomorrow, we're going to get up, roll up our sleeves and keep going,' Senator Clinton told supporters moments after being declared the winner in New Hampshire.

Senator Obama said unpredictability had become the hallmark of the race. 'Anyone who thinks they know how voters are going to respond at this point are probably misleading themselves,' he said. 'And I think voters are not going to let any candidate take anything for granted. They want to lift the hood, kick the tyres. They want us to earn it.'

Former senator John Edwards, who came third in the Democratic race, said he had no intention of dropping out. Instead, he hoped to keep the race a three-way contest. 'Two races down, 48 states left to go,' he said.

In another dramatic comeback, and a reprise of his 2000 New Hampshire primary win over George W. Bush, Senator McCain beat Mitt Romney in the Republican primary, dealing the former Massachusetts governor his second crushing defeat in the nominations race. The first came in Iowa at the hands of Baptist preacher-turned politician Mike Huckabee, who came third in New Hampshire.

Iowa and New Hampshire traditionally set up the presidential front-runner, but did little this year to clarify the race for the White House. The candidates are now fanning out for more nominating contests with a variety of plans to tweak staffs and strategies, rest and raise money.

Senator Clinton's New Hampshire win could position her as the leader when 22 states hold contests on February 5, but Senator Obama may have an advantage in two upcoming races - caucuses in Nevada on January 19 and a South Carolina Democratic primary a week later.

'I am still fired up and ready to go,' he told supporters. 'We know the battle ahead will be long. But always remember that, no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.'