Local Obama campaign optimistic about future races
Watching the early returns from the New Hampshire primary, Maya Soetoro-Ng held out hope that the numbers would change in favor of her half brother, Barack Obama.
When it was over, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton emerged the winner of the nation's first presidential primary, leaving Soetoro-Ng and other supporters of the Hawaii-born Democratic candidate to hope for better showings down the road.
"We're all, obviously, disappointed, but simultaneously very proud of how well he did," Soetoro-Ng said. "We've got a long race ahead of us, with much work to be done, and Barack and everyone in his campaign realized that even before tonight."
Clinton's rebound in New Hampshire slowed the momentum Obama generated by his victory in the Iowa caucus last week. Heading into yesterday's vote, Obama -- who trailed Clinton in polls just last month -- had opened up double-digit leads in some New Hampshire polls.
But Clinton battled back, helped largely by a shift among female voters, who strongly supported the former first lady in New Hampshire after abandoning her in Iowa.
"One of the true measures is how people handle things when they are down, and this victory shows you Hillary can run this country," said Hawaii Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, chairwoman of Clinton's campaign locally.
"Women rallied," added Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua). "As a person who can run the country and who happens to be a woman, she showed a woman could govern."
Obama, the junior senator from Illinois and a 1979 Punahou graduate, congratulated Clinton and pledged to continue to fight for the Democratic nomination.
Soetoro-Ng, a teacher at La Pietra-Hawaii School for Girls, was home in Hawaii to watch the New Hampshire results, after more than two weeks on the mainland campaigning for her half brother leading up to the Iowa caucuses Thursday.
She said campaigning took her to Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, New York and South Carolina, and regardless of how yesterday's vote turned out, she expects the support to be there at campaign stops down the road.
"There's a lot of momentum and there's a lot of energy, passion and mobilization," she said. "We're confident that the American people are going to pick the right guy in the end."
The definitive moment of the campaign is likely to come Feb. 5, Super Tuesday, when 21 states hold primary or caucus votes.
Yesterday's Republican primary in New Hampshire also had a surprise as Arizona Sen. John McCain topped Mitt Romney, dealing the former Massachusetts governor another second-place finish.
"They thought he was dead when he was a POW," said Rep. Gene Ward, a co-chairman of McCain's campaign in Hawaii, referring to McCain's years as a prisoner in Vietnam. "They thought he was dead last summer. And now look at this."
In last week's Iowa caucus, Romney was runner-up to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who finished third in New Hampshire.
McCain, who met his wife, Cindy, during a military reception in Hawaii in 1979, is a frequent local visitor. He also was a strong supporter of former island resident Orson Swindle's unsuccessful congressional campaigns in 1994 and 1996.
Ward (R, Kalama Valley-Hawaii Kai) said he has been coordinating the local campaign with Swindle and helping to raise money for McCain. As a former Navy fighter pilot and POW, McCain draws strong support from veterans, Ward said.
"In Hawaii, we have the biggest number of veterans per capita, and Hawaii has a huge natural affinity for McCain," Ward said.
The only other organized GOP presidential campaign in Hawaii, that of Rudy Giuliani, is headed by City Councilman Charles Djou, who said the former New York mayor has not tried to organize in the early primaries.
"The mayor continues to focus on the Feb. 5 primaries," Djou said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.