The pundits and pollsters were wrong. Again. So, again, was the Internet vote.
After predicting a win for Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses last week, Sen. Barack Obama won easily. In the Jan. 8 New Hampshire primary, Obama was anointed the leader going into the vote thanks in part to Internet polling, but it was Clinton who came up with the victory, beating Obama and his social networking-centric campaign, 39 percent to 36 percent.
More critically for Obama, his wide lead in most Internet metrics didn't translate into the support he enjoyed Jan. 4 in the Iowa caucuses.
It was in Iowa Jan. 4 that Obama's work through the Internet, including through social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, paid dividends. Before the caucuses, Obama was the leader in a number of online measurements, including the most support on those social networking sites. His victory was the first one for a candidate leading in Internet metrics, and he won the majority of votes cast by young voters, first-time voters and women under 30.
Obama's victory in Iowa, given his campaign's work on the Web, raised the question of whether online support could translate into offline votes. It appeared so in Iowa, but it was a different story in New Hampshire.
Going into the primary—even as voting got under way—polls had Obama running away from Clinton by 10 percentage points or more. However, that never materialized, as Clinton grabbed the early lead and kept it throughout the night.
Clinton also benefited from a lower young voter turnout in New Hampshire than in last week's Iowa caucuses, where Obama rode to victory on the strength of young voters, many of them organized and energized through Facebook and MySpace.
Whatever spin Obama got off the Internet in Iowa wasn't working as well in New Hampshire. In a blog posted late in the morning Jan. 8, TechPresident's Joshua Levy noted that Hitwise and Compete, which track Web site visits, showed that most of New Hampshire's Democratic voters were going to Obama's site, and cited a report that showed that coming out of Iowa, Obama had more "online buzz" than Clinton.
Read more here about Obama's Iowa victory.
On the Republican side, Hitwise found the majority were going to that of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the winner in Iowa. Compete said most Republican voters were visiting Sen. John McCain's site.
Huckabee finished a distant third in New Hampshire, behind McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who has raised more money online than other Republican presidential candidate, again finished far back in the pack with about 8 percent of the vote.
For both the Republicans and Democrats, the New Hampshire results showed the races for their parties' respective nominations are still wide open as the campaigns move on to Michigan, South Carolina and the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday primaries, where 24 states are scheduled to hold caucuses or primary elections.
Clinton's victory righted her campaign for the White House by capturing the majority of female Democratic voters, reversing the trend in Iowa, where she finished a disappointing third behind Obama and John Edwards. In New Hampshire, Edwards slumped to third, well behind Clinton and Obama.
According to the Associated Press and television network exit polls, more women than men voted in the Democratic primary. Clinton took 45 percent of those votes, while Obama pulled 36 percent of female voters.
"Over the last week, you spoke, I listened to you and I found my voice," Clinton told her jubilant supporters. "We are in this for the long run, and tomorrow we're going to get up and get going. I welcome all of you to go to HillaryClinton.com and join us."
In her victory speech, Clinton couldn't resist referring to her husband's famous comeback win in 1992's New Hampshire primary when Bill Clinton overcame a potential personal scandal to finish second. Clinton went on to win the White House.
"Let's give America the comeback New Hampshire has just given me," Hillary Clinton said.
Obama seemed undaunted by his second place finish, noting, "A few weeks ago, no one could imagine what we did in New Hampshire tonight. I'm still fired up and ready to go."