As the dust settles in New Hampshire, people are starting to talk about the winners and losers, and what it all means in the grand scheme of the election. Some are looking for excuses reasons why Obama didn't actually pull off a win when every poll conducted in the known universe last week said he would. Others are discussing the critically important question of whether the whole "tears" thing helped or hurt Clinton, and whether the emotions were real or fake. Then there's the pressing question of whether Fred Thompson's arrival in South Carolina was a calculated political decision, or if it just means that there's more than one thing he can't find with both hands and a map.
Ultimately, there were two very clear winners and one clear loser in New Hampshire - not counting the candidates.
The first winner is the voting public. At least in New Hampshire, it looks like that's a growing group. The total turnout there was about 351,847 in 1992, 396,385 in 2000, and - with 4% of precincts still not reporting - it was at least 507,612 last night. Turnout in Iowa last week also broke records. Let's hope that this trend keeps up for the rest of the year.
The second winner was the Democratic party as a whole. In New Hampshire, independents get to choose which primary to vote in. In both 1992 and 2000, more ballots were cast in the Republican primaries than in the Democratic primaries. This year, more people voted Democrat - 279,081, compared to 228,531 Republican ballots. In fact, so many independents voted in this years Democratic primary that it looks like the number of ballots cast there far exceeds the number of registered Democrats in the state. According to CNN, 26% of the 850,836 voters who were registered before the start of yesterday's election were Democrats. That should work out to about 221,000 people.
Which brings us to the loser - the Republicans. They really didn't manage to get NH voters excited about any of their candidates. Both Clinton and Obama received substantially more votes than McCain did, and Obama's second place finish netted more votes than the second and third place Republicans (Romney and Huckabee) did combined.