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A Great Night for Hillary, a Crappy Night for Pollsters

The results from New Hampshire represent a crushing setback for pollsters, who will now have to down a heaping helping of humble pie.
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Nashua, New Hampshire -- The results from New Hampshire represent a crushing setback. Not for Barack Obama -- after all, only three weeks ago he was 12 points behind.

No, the biggest losers of the night were the pollsters, who will now have to down a heaping helping of humble pie. Like Lucy Ricardo, they have a lot of 'splainin' to do. That includes CNN, which over the weekend had Obama up 9 points and USA Today/Gallup, which had him up by 13.

This was obviously a great night for Hillary Clinton and her running mate, Bill. But also a very good night for the democratic process (record turnout), and for the long-term prospects of Barack Obama.

The voters clearly want the nominee they pick to have fought for it. They don't want a coronation. And now Obama has a chance to prove to the skeptics his mettle under fire.

And were it not for the over-inflated expectations puffed up by the pollsters, Obama coming within two points of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, which has long been Clinton country -- with a superb organization and the support of the state's Democratic establishment -- would have been seen as a great showing.

But none of the endemic New Hampshire Clinton advantages would have delivered victory were it not for Hillary -- either through desperation or exhaustion -- finally letting down her guard and showing her human side. Or as she put it, "I found my own voice." She got angry in the debate; she got emotional on the stump. Indeed, her victory in New Hampshire was a resounding repudiation of the Mark Penn plan to keep her in a bubble, allow no questions in the last few days of Iowa, and act as if her nomination were inevitable.

"Something is happening in America," Obama said during his concession speech, citing the extraordinary turnout and the country's longing for change.

As an African American Obama supporter said to me tonight, "It's always harder than we think. It's always a struggle. But we shall prevail."

He was referring to the black experience in America. But he might as well have been speaking about any real progress that's been made in this country -- from the Emancipation Proclamation to the Clean Air and Water Acts.

And it's a fitting rallying cry for anyone looking for real change through the '08 race.