PORTSMOUTH — Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential candidate and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, told a group of voters in Davenport, Iowa, recently that without a win in that state, her husband's hopes of becoming president will be just a dream.
"Iowa will make the difference," Mrs. Obama was quoted as saying by Quad-City Times reporter Tushar Rae. "If Barack doesn't win Iowa, it's just a dream, but if we win Iowa, then we can move the world as it should be."
The New Hampshire Obama campaign brushed off the statement as nothing more than Mrs. Obama's attempt to rally support for her husband in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.
"Mrs. Obama was just firing up the troops in Iowa, like she does in every state she visits," said Obama's New Hampshire spokesman Reid Cherlin. "We're putting together the best organization here in New Hampshire and all four early states, and we're organizing in the Feb. 5 states as well.
"We're building for the long haul, and our supporters here understand just how important New Hampshire is to our campaign," Cherlin said.
UNH Survey Center Director Andy Smith agrees with Michelle Obama about the importance of her husband winning Iowa.
"It's a possibility (that a loss in Iowa could scuttle the Obama campaign) because the Obama campaign is doing better in Iowa than in New Hampshire, although things could change," Smith said. "I think if Obama loses New Hampshire, he's done."
Obama has secured the support of Iowa's Democratic Party Chairman Gordon Fischer, The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported early last week. Fischer cited a University of Iowa poll showing Obama finished third among Republican voters.
"That's a pretty incredible indication of his crossover support," Fischer told the Gazette.
In Smith's opinion, there is only one candidate who could survive losing either Iowa or New Hampshire and that is New York U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton. Smith said Clinton could survive a loss in either of those states and still go on to win the Democratic nomination because of her name recognition. "Clinton could lose one or the other, but it would be tougher for her if she lost New Hampshire," the Survey Center director said. "New Hampshire has a bigger impact on the nominating process."
The 2008 Iowa caucuses are tentatively scheduled for Jan. 14. Nevada will hold its caucuses just five days later on Jan. 19.
N.H. Secretary of State Bill Gardner has not yet set the date for New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primaries, but state law requires that it be held at least a week before any similar election. Since Michigan is attempting to set its primary for Jan. 15, and Florida is aiming for Jan. 29, despite protestations from the Democratic National Committee, New Hampshire may have to set its primary as early as the first week in January. Gardner is speaking to his counterparts in Iowa to try to arrange a mutually viable date.
Thirty-nine states will hold their primaries or caucuses on Feb. 5, including many of the larger ones such as New York, California and Illinois, and the candidates coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire with victories will have the momentum going into those races. "Momentum is very important, particularly on the Democratic side with the Clinton campaign looking so strong," Smith said.