John McCain's campaign had been dead for five months.
Hillary Clinton's for five days.
But the frontrunners we started this campaign with a year ago have both regained a real shot at their parties' nominations.
Who'da thunk it?!?
The Arizona senator's Phoenix act, though more easily foreseen going into today's contest, is in many ways the less probable. I was among the media masses penning McCain's political obituary after he burned through $30 million and left himself less cash than Ron Paul (pre Guy Fawkes day, no less).
Give Mac credit for perseverance -- and the insight to understand that all the money in the world couldn't solve the electability problems of RuPaul Rompson.
Despite McCain's convincing New Hampshire victory -- which importantly included a victory over Mitt Romney among Republicans as well as independents -- I'm not entirely clear that McCain is now the GOP frontrunner.
Huckabee's going to cruise to an easy victory in South Carolina. That's a done deal. Which leaves McCain and Romney again to do battle in Michigan. Romney's still got deeper pockets and a deep family connection to the state where his dad was a popular governor.
Romney's also plastic enough and smart enough to end the negative campaigning that hurt him so much in the Granite State and give the voters of Michigan a neatly packaged version of whatever it is they want to buy.
But if McCain can thread the Michigan needle, I think he'll have truly boxed out Rudy as the neocon maverick, and set up Florida and beyond as a battle royale between the Huck and the Mac. (A Romney comeback in Michigan, however, creates space for Rudy and we're back to the clusterf&%k for the White House.)
Hats off to Hillary. Her Lazarus act was as unforeseeable as it was jaw dropping. Even her internal polls, apparently, had her down 11 going into voting today. I still haven't seen the data that explain what the hell turned that around for her.
From my vantage point, Obama did nothing wrong. He played the gracious handsome frontrunner to a T. He looked and sounded like a melange of Kennedy and Dr. King. Even his concession speech tonight was brilliant. There was no Dean scream. He didn't even rise to the bait as Team Clinton's attacked his "false hopes" and "fairy tale" campaign. You can argue in retrospect that he badly misplayed the expectations game, but as movement candidate reaching for the Big Mo, you can't fault him for trumpeting his tidal wave.
Obama did his job. Clinton just pulled a rabbit out of her hat.
Clearly, her victory came with the support of her sisters in arms. Fifty seven percent of the New Hampshire Democratic electorate were women and they gave her a nine point edge. That's pretty much the ballgame.
Obama romped with the under 25 crowd, who again showed up. And he won with independents, as expected.
Did too many of them think the Democratic race was in the bag -- a 13 point spread in the polls will do that to a voter -- and defect to the McCain/Romney matchup?
Or was it that independent women boycotted the GOP's warmongers' penis party and cast their lot with Hillary?
Or maybe it was the quiet racism of the Bradley effect.
There's a mystery here that still begs explanation. What's terribly clear tonight, however, is that Democrats now have a world-class race on their hands -- which is probably good for the eventual nominee, and the party.
There will be a giga-ton of organizing going on nationwide between now and February fifth, to boost turnout, goose the youth vote, and bring new people into the process. The much discussed "enthusiasm gap" between Democrats and Republicans seems destined to grow.
And this race isn't likely -- or is at least less likely -- to devolve into nasty mudfight, now that Clinton will no longer be tempted/forced to resort to desperate measures in the next weeks just to stay alive.
As a fan of politics as sport I feel like we all just witnessed something remarkable tonight. Doug Flutie's hail mary comes to mind. And I think New Hampshire did progressives a tremendous favor by insisting Obama's path to the nomination be something other than a cakewalk.
The competition is already making each of these candidates into stronger politicians. The Tin Woman showed us her heart yesterday -- Terry McAuliffe called it "the humanizing moment" -- and today says she "found her voice." (Leave be notions tonight that a 60 year old woman should have found her voice a couple decades ago -- she did win, after all.)
Obama is going to have to dig deep -- and perhaps show us a little earthiness to match his ethereal oratory.
On to Nevada! May the best candidate win.