What Really Happened in the New Hampshire Primary: Seniors Boosted Hillary to Victory

   By Richard Benedetto

  MANCHESTER, N.H. – So much for the youth vote.

    While the news media here relentlessly trumpeted the power and enthusiasm of young voters who reporters and pundits predicted were going to blast Barack Obama to a huge victory in the New Hampshire primary, in the end it was under-the-radar senior citizens who led Hillary Clinton to her amazing comeback win.

     Exit polls show that Obama and Clinton tied among New Hampshire voters between 18 and 64 years old, 48 percent-48 percent. But Clinton creamed Obama among the 65-and-over crowd, 48 percent to 33 percent.  And that was the difference between her return to frontrunner status and a candidacy headed for the junk heap.

     Reporters who bothered to go out to polling places here Tuesday could have seen it coming. At 10 a.m. at one Ward 6 precinct in southeast Manchester, van after van pulled up in front of a church hall and dropped off senior citizens, many with canes and some with walkers, eager to cast their ballots.

“Young people will be voting later,” one confident Obama volunteer said as she watched the seniors shuffle into the building.

   But while they might have materialized later, it wasn’t enough to catapult the charismatic Illinois senator to victory.  Polls going into the primary showed that seniors, especially senior women, were Clinton’s strongest support group. She won them in Iowa. And as evidenced by the vans pulling up to the precinct in Manchester, the Clinton campaign was well organized and tuned to get them out to vote in New Hampshire.

    True enough, Obama did get the lion’s share of the younger vote. And the under 30 crowd showed up more heavily this time than in the 2004 Democratic primary here. But so too did seniors.

   Among 18-24 year olds, many of them college students and first-time voters, Obama beat Clinton by nearly 3-1. But when you moved up one notch among younger voters to the more-mature-and-mostly-out-of-college 25-29 year olds, Clinton edged out Obama 37 percent-34 percent.

  Obama did better than Clinton among the still youthful 30-39s, but Clinton beat Obama with the 40-49 and 50-64 crowd. Thus, the tie among all voters under 65, which made the senior vote pivotal.

  Why is Clinton so popular with seniors?

   In large part, it is because she has assiduously courted them, first as a candidate for the Senate in New York and later as candidate for president. As senator, she has repeatedly visited senior centers, nursing homes and retirement communities promising to help them get better health care, prescription drug coverage and home care services from the federal government.  In New York, her Senate offices have a reputation for being responsive and helpful to seniors seeking assistance.

  Moreover, she is still seen as a champion of health care reform, even though her plan when she was first lady never passed. She gets an “A” for effort in the eyes of many seniors. Obama has no such record in that area, at least no such record that he has been able to effectively communicate to senor voters.

    Additionally, while Obama’s charisma and charm have strong appeal to starry-eyed and still idealistic young people, seniors are a bit more sober in their judgments and less swayed by the emotion of the moment.  With them, experience in public office counts more than hoopla.

    So now the pressure is on Obama to come back and win someplace. Does he continue to focus on the youth vote in states where it is not as easily organized and courted as it was in New Hampshire? Or does he try to cut into Clinton’s older-voter and senior advantage. Either way, it is an uphill battle for him.

 Richard Benedetto is a retired White House correspondent with USA Today and now teaches politics and journalism at American University. His latest book, “Politicians Are People, Too, was published in 2006.       


1 Comment

Filed under polls, presidential campaign, primaries

One response to “What Really Happened in the New Hampshire Primary: Seniors Boosted Hillary to Victory


    Media: ‘California finally had a say in the primary.’ – NOT
    -Pre-primaries were unfair to candidates, and made some drop out, so California once again did not have a chance to vote for their 1st choice.
    IA- Iowa was the only true vote count, and Edwards was 2nd.
    NH – ‘Polls were wrong in New Hampshire.’ – NOT.
    -Zogby exit poll for New Hampshire was Obama 39, Clinton 34, Edwards 25, Diebold hacked this count (exit poll accurate to 0.01%).
    SC- ‘Edwards took a trouncing in his native state.’ – NOT
    So Carolina is 52% black, not a typical population, not an accurate vote.
    NV – ‘Edwards took a trouncing in Nevada.’ – NOT.
    -Edwards was EVEN in Nevada, Clinton & Obama supporters lied, harassed and intimidated Edwards supporters out of their vote, delegates should be disqualified.
    MI & FL – ‘Clinton won these states.’ – NOT.
    -Clinton wrongfully stayed on ballot in Michigan and Florida for a fake media win, with no delegates awarded, not fair to other candidates.
    Media – ‘Super Tuesday a virtual National primary.’ – NOT
    -Excuse me, only half the states voted, all primaries should be simultaneous to be fair, and give equal time to all candidates.

    SD ROV/KUSI/ABC-SD Kristin Lindquist – ‘Scanning paper ballots takes a long time’ – NOT.
    -1650 precincts x 15 minutes x 150 workers – should be done in 4 hours.
    -Paper ballots were scanned at polls in 2004 with no delay, (ROV bubbled in for Murphy but not for Frye); this is fake delay story to discredit paper ballots and bring back hackable touchscreens.
    Craig.Gustafson@union trib – ‘2006 election with touchscreens went smoothly’-NOT. Dems won Congress by 11% in exit polling, tally was hacked to 7% a loss of 4%, please report.
    -65% of voters want paper ballots.
    -ROV should not count ballots under cover of darkness, but in the open light of day with citizen observers.
    -The half mail-in votes won’t be counted until Friday anyway.
    -ROV has not done proper testing of scanners, and scanners can be hacked, also – we need generic manual scanners, not those programmed by Diebold.
    -Do exit polls if you want quick results, and accurate.

    ABC-NY – ‘Clinton was projected in CA with 15% reporting’ – NOT.
    -Please do not predict winner until MAJORITY of counties report.
    -Why don’t you tell us the result of media exit polling instead?

    -IDaho went 80% for Obama, CAlif. only 30? Something wrong there.
    States with closed primaries and caucuses favored Obama, open primaries favored Clinton, with independents crossing over.
    -SD Props – Poway and Cajon School construction Props passed by exactly 63-36 each, very curious (55 needed), but Community College funding failed by 40-60, strange support for construction for schools but not for funding.
    -Indian Gaming won by 55-45 in 1st tribe, 56-44 in all others –
    Did some voters really differentiate among tribes?
    How curious that 55 is again needed, and exactly what they got.

    Geo Stephanopolous-NBC-NY – ‘Exit polls for Obama in MA & NJ showing Obama 50-Clinton 40 were not accurate, tally flipped to Clinton 50-Obama 40.’ – NOT.
    -Exit polls are accurate to 0.01%; this is the same as the polling-vote flip in New Hampshire.

    CA – ‘4 Northern California counties [San Fran] & LA ran out of Dem Ballots’ –
    SAN DIEGO/UT – ‘There was a shortage of Democratic ballots on college campuses.’
    -It was known that youth vote was energized for Obama, this seems a deliberate suppression of Obama voters, such as the long lines on Ohio campuses in 04.

    UT – L.A. ballot had extra bubble not next to candidate, but next to party7, if not filled in, would make ballot void – tends to suppress Democratic vote.
    -Courage Campaign is suing as a violation of California election law, but too late after surprise damage is done.

    Union Trib – ‘McCain Takes Command’ – NOT.
    -How biased to show your candidate larger and in headlines,
    when Clinton/Obama may win race, take command, troops safe, economy secure.
    KUSI – When McCain 33-Huckabee 32, you check winner;
    When Obama 49- Clinton 48, you say too close to call.
    -When Reeps get delegates, you say almost there;
    when Dems get delegates, you saw still a long way to go.
    ABC-NY Charles Gibson – ‘Clinton-Obama unfortunately liberal, too far left’- NOT. These are the corporate crossover candidates; the true progressive, John Edwards, was hacked and censored out of the race, much as the frontrunner Howard Dean was in ’04.

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