So was it the attractions of her tears? The received wisdom in the wake of the New Hampshire primary is that Hillary Clinton gained the edge on Obama – 40% to 36% – not despite breaking down in tears during one of the interminable personal question moments, but because of it. Breaking down showed her to be human, vulnerable even.

It’s quite possible, but any real determination of it is effectively unknowable, and the attempt to find some sort of trigger as to why Clinton gained a surprise non-surprise victory over BO (and that’s why you ain’t seeing any JFK style initials based campaign in 08) is simply a media-neurological effect – the attempt to backtrack to a single cause for a complex effect. A 40-36 result, over the whole field, is not significant, effectively a draw.

It saves Clinton’s bacon, but only because she didn’t lose. It is in no way a decisive victory, and Obama is left utterly undamaged by it, since he never expected to win NH anyway. The fact that Clinton is being celebrated for her surprise victory in what was a month ago considered to be a done deal demonstrates the fragility of her campaign.

The real loser was John Edwards, who was hoping that a Hillary loss would make him the prime anti-Obama candidate. Since Edwards is the only serious contender with anything approaching a progressive-left plan to reconstruct the smoking ruin of American social infrastructure, that is a damn shame – Obama and Clinton are both to varying degrees third wayers, who would maintain business-as-usual.

Thousands of journalists are now scrambling to give explanations for the Clinton comeback after the Obama surge forecast — avoiding everything but the age-old nostrum about the difference between the physical and the social sciences — that in the latter, whatever you look at down the test-tube is also looking back at you.

Despite the hype about grassroots democracy in the ‘Macguillacuddy’s Ridge’ etc straw poll caucus etc, the media would still like to see the public as an inert mass whose behaviour can be exactly described — rather than people who react and form opinions based on the news they receive.

One likely explanation of the NH result is that Obama’s surge persuaded registered independents leaning towards Hillary to vote in the Dem primary, rather than as spoilers in the Republican one — or that Republican spoilers registered as ‘independents’ decided to queer Obama’s pitch.

Really, who knows? The upshot is, it’s still a three-horse race. Edwards is the long shot, but there’s a lot of southern states in Tsunami Tuesday that could give him the necessary heft. But it’s looking like it will come down to how California swings (NY is seen as Clinton territory). What is emerging as a nightmare for the Democrats is that 2008 might turn out to be the first nomination in a generation to be decided by a Convention floor flight, with all the ammunition that might provide for the GOP, as the candidates go head-to head.

For the rest of us, it is of course, a deep and cherished hope.

Crikey prediction: Hillary will win Michigan. Crikey admission: she’s the only one on the ballot.