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January 4, 2008

Experts: There's no telling what will happen in N.H.

As private planes touched down at New Hampshire airports before dawn today, they brought presidential candidates hoping to capitalize on last night's successes or come back from its disappointing losses.

But local experts are divided about whether and how much the results of last night's Iowa caucuses will influence Granite State voters.

"The electorates in New Hampshire and Iowa are very different," said Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, which conducts political polling.

Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses last night, with 38 percent and 34 percent of the vote, respectively, within their parties.

Among Republicans, Mitt Romney finished second with 25 percent and Fred Thompson third with 13 percent. Among Democrats, John Edwards came in second with 30 percent and Hillary Clinton came in third with 29 percent.

The Democratic contest in Iowa was close enough that the three front-runners remain competitive, Smith said.

The latest UNH poll, conducted a week ago, showed Clinton with 34 percent and Obama with 30 percent, a statistical dead heat. Edwards received 17 percent of the Granite State vote in that poll.

Edwards comes into New Hampshire with a smaller campaign organization and less money than the other two Democratic front-runners, Smith said, weakening his chances of pulling off an upset here.

But Edwards spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield rejects that analysis.

"We have an organization here (in New Hampshire) with the capacity to compete with anyone," she said.

On the Republican side, Romney suffered a loss that had UNH political scientist Dante Scala saying the former Bay State governor is entering a "world of hurt" in the Granite State.

"He comes here having lost badly in Iowa to someone whom he outspent by a significant margin," Scala said. "There's no way in which New Hampshire is a safe harbor for Romney."

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