The Art of the Political Comeback

By: Matt Holmes Email
By: Matt Holmes Email

Wednesday January 9, 2008

Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain each had to overcome great odds to win their respective primaries in New Hampshire.

Those victories were not by coincidence.

"It takes a strong ground game, a good organization. Which means having a lot of volunteers, a lot of paid staff on the ground, finding out who would be willing to vote for a candidate and also actually making sure they get to the polls on election day," explains Matt Smyth, Communications Director for the UVa Center for Politics.

Smyth adds a candidate with personality is well-suited for a comeback as well.

"We're certainly in the internet age, but shaking a hand, a smile, talking to a potential voter has shown to still have a large impact."

What about vulnerability? Clinton was emotional in her comments Monday at a New Hampshire diner, something her friends say aided her comeback.

"She stopped hiding behind the campaign organization and she showed Hillary to the voters," says David Slutzky, who sits on Clinton's Virginia Steering Committee.

Smyth agrees that Clinton's emotion may have won over some undecided voters.

"There's momentum and there are moments. What we saw from Hillary Clinton was certainly a moment."

As the campaign moves on, Slutzky says Clinton is the clear front runner for her party's nomination.

"Twenty percent of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention are what are called Super Delegates...60 percent of that crowd that has already made an endorsement has endorsed Hillary."

Others aren't so sure.

"I think what we saw coming out of New Hampshire is that there's really no clear front runner in either party," Smyth says. "Each individual state is going to have to make its own decision regardless of what the national polls are saying."

Smyth says much will be decided on February 5, the so-called "Super Duper Tuesday," but the Virginia primaries just a week later could also have a significant impact on one or both of the parties' nominations.

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