After this week’s Republican debate in New Hampshire, I suggested that we might see John McCain surge in that state. Two astute reporters who are on the scene in New Hampshire have sensed the same thing I did from my arm chair in Maryland. David Broder writes that McCain’s debate performance has “rais[ed] at least faint hopes of his revival in the state where he defeated George W. Bush in 2000.” And Stephen Hayes, after touring with McCain in New Hampshire, found that the Senator “is having fun on the campaign trail–more fun than he did last spring when he was one of the frontrunners, and certainly more fun than during the summer of trouble. He is more carefree, more feisty, and more effective. Voters in New Hampshire seemed to notice.” Hayes concludes that “It is far too early to start writing the McCain comeback narrative. But it is equally early to be writing his political epitaph.”
The real question, though, is not whether McCain can surge in New Hampshire, but whether (assuming he does well there) he can follow up that success in other key states that don’t constitute, in effect, his home away from home. He trails badly in South Carolina and Michigan and he’s a blip in Florida. On the other hand, he should get some momentum from the upcoming congressional debate on Iraq, in which his three main Republican rivals will be unable to participate. And if he keeps winning candidate debates, that can’t hurt either.
In any event, McCain has to start somewhere, and New Hampshire at least gives him hope that he has a place to start.
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