Sunday, January 13, 2008

Why I was wrong about Hillary in New Hampshire

Along with most of the MSM, I displayed a flagrant and egregious lapse in punditory judgment last week by letting hope overcome experience. This time a week ago, it appeared that Sen. Hillary Clinton's political goose was all but cooked, with an impending defeat in New Hampshire following so close on the heels of a stunning loss in Iowa.

As we know all to our collective chagrin, such was not to be. Despite polls showing Clinton down by double digits, she managed to eke out a three-point victory over Sen. Barack Obama. In as much as
her upstart rival may have underestimated the inscrutability of the Granite State, I naively underestimated the tenacity of Sen. Clinton and the effects of the following:

The "Bradley effect" - Named for California Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Mayor of Los Angeles Tom Bradley, the Bradley effect (alternately known as the Wilder effect for former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder) describes a circumstance "which has led to inaccurate voter opinion polls in some American political campaigns between a white candidate and a non-white candidate." (H/T:
Wikipedia)

Specifically, there have been instances in which statistically significant numbers of white voters tell pollsters in advance of an election that they are either genuinely undecided, or likely to vote for the non-white candidate, but those voters exhibit a different behavior when actually casting their ballots. White voters who said that they were undecided break in statistically large numbers toward the white candidate, and many of the white voters who said that they were likely to vote for the non-white candidate ultimately cast their ballot for the white candidate. This reluctance to give accurate polling answers has sometimes extended to post-election exit polls as well.

Researchers who have studied the issue theorize that some white voters give inaccurate responses to polling questions because of a fear that they might appear to others to be racially prejudiced. Some research has suggested that the race of the pollster conducting the interview may factor into that concern. At least one prominent researcher has suggested that with regard to pre-election polls, the discrepancy can be traced in part by the polls' failure to account for general conservative political leanings among late-deciding voters.

Although there is precedent for this phenomenon, my sense is that - as it pertains to Obama - this factor has the least explanatory power, as there was no similar effect seen in Iowa (although by its very nature, a caucus would allow for less expression of closeted racism on the part of white voters.)

According to Peter Brodnitz of the Polling Report newsletter, there was no evidence of such an effect in the 2006 Senate race in Tennessee between Harold Ford, Jr. and Bob Corker, with Corker winning by a 51 to 48 percent margin "which meant that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the polls actually had underreported Ford's support and not overstated it." Moreover, recent data from the Pew Research Center seems to indicate that Americans may be ready to vote for a qualified African American presidential candidate.


The tracks of her tears - A recent Rasmussen Report speculated that "Hillary's tearing-up moment may have played a role" in generating a late surge in her favor, although I would submit that it is patronizing to suggest that voters in New Hampshire are so politically labile as to be swayed by Ms. Clinton's dubious display of emotion (after all, the woman who asked her the question -
freelance photographer Marianne Pernold Young - voted for Obama.) Although they hardly explain her victory in and of themselves, her "tears" did have the effect of humanizing her, and complimented her gritty performance in the ABC News debates a week from yesterday. Whatever the case, exit polling indicates that 73 percent of those who voted for Hillary made the decision to do so within three days of the election.

Obama as victim of expectation - With internal polling data from both the Clinton and Obama camps that had Obama ahead significantly, as well as
external polls showing him having a significant lead, it may be possible that Obama voters sat this election out. ABC News' Gary Langer proposed as much last week.
I'd add another theory – admittedly again lacking supporting data. The Iowa and New Hampshire contests were compressed as never before. Obama rode a wave of enthusiasm out of Iowa; Clinton was deflated. Obama supporters in New Hampshire may have been encouraged, Clinton supporters demotivated, to express support for their candidates. And Clinton voters may have been less apt to pass likely voter screens based on expressions of intention to vote, enthusiasm, strength of support or attention to the contest.
Alternatively, the independents that fueled Obama's victory in Iowa may have swung to Sen. John McCain in New Hampshire (although more independents voted for Hillary than McCain.)

The Clinton machine - From Hillary's comment to the Today Show's Matt Lauer referring to Obama not having done the necessary "spadework" that she has, to Bill Clinton describing Obama's opposition to the Iraq war - and his campaign more generally - as a "fairy tale" to Hillary's seeming disparagement of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. last Monday (How can a politician be so tone deaf as to do this just prior to MLK's birthday?), the Clinton camp shows that there is little to which they will not stoop in their brutish pursuit of power.

And the Clinton's own "spadework" continues: Bill Clinton contented himself with claiming that his "fairy tale" remark was misconstrued, while Hillary followed in the master's footsteps by accusing the Obama campaign of distorting her comments vis-a-vis MLK's legacy. And earlier today, the founder of Black Entertainment Television took shots at Barack Obama in South Carolina in the service of Sen. Clinton. Robert L. Johnson cited Obama's past drug use, and expanded upon Hillary's unfortunate juxtaposition of Obama and MLK. (H/T: The Caucus)

What remains to be seen is whether the Obama/MLK kerfuffle will raise the ire of South Carolina Rep. James E. Clyburn, the highest ranking African American in Congress. Up to now Clyburn has pledged a studied neutrality, but the New York Times reports that "recent remarks by the Clintons that he saw as distorting civil rights history could change his mind."

Having recently scored several big endorsements, to include those of Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Sens. Claire McCaskill and former Democrat nominee Sen. John Kerry, Obama will do well against Hillary. But he may yet lose because he has nothing to lose. While a defeat in either the primary contests for the nomination or the general election would be a staggering blow to the Clinton legacy, it will serve as no defeat at all for Obama to go back to his safe seat in the Senate, presumably to burnish his credentials in national security, military affairs, economic policy, taxation...

Rest assured gentle readers. As it pertains to the eventual demise of Clintonism, my crystal ball was only in error as far as the timing. For Hillary, one of three things will take place, two of which have an equal and undetermined likelihood. She will either be blown out - hopefully early on after a series of defeats in the primary process - or she will win the Democratic nomination and be destroyed in the general election. (If Virginia voters are any indication, present trends make that a distinctly likely possibility.) Both less likely and less desirable is the possibility that Hillary will win the nomination and the general election, only to befoul the Oval Office to the point where she and her party are run out of Washington in a rout come 2012.

Four More Years!

1 comment:

Op Ed said...

I Got What America Needs Right Here
By Jimmy Carter
January 9, 2008 |
The Onion Issue 44•02
Sometimes I’m a little stupid, maybe, a little slow in the head, so I’m wondering if you can help me get something straight. Maybe you can help me understand one fucking thing right now, America, and explain to me what in the Christ is going on here. ‘Cause, unless I’m missing something, this country is in the middle of a motherfucking shitstorm, and I have no fucking idea what you’re gonna do to get out of it. I mean, are you seriously considering voting for one of these shitbags you got here in ‘08? Fat fucking chance.
Way I see it, America needs a president who’s gonna somehow un-royally screw up the Middle East, do some serious cleaning up after you dropped your pants and took a steaming dump all over the fucking environment, and—boom!—restore dignity, honor, and all that shit to these United States.
See, I got solutions to all your problems—I got ‘em right here in my big, hairy ballsack.
You better get down on your hands and knees and kiss Jimmy Carter’s rosy-red Georgia-peach-picking ass and beg me to run your fucking country again, because there’s no way I’m ever gonna come to you fuck-knobs and politely ask you if I might please be a presidential candidate in your precious fuckin’ election. So you can just bite my cock. I’ve had it with you jerkoffs and your jerkoff candidates.
You actually seem to think one a’ these assholes is gonna prance in and wave a magic wand and make everything all nice again. Look at you, sitting there like a common fucking schnook and eating all their bull about bi-fucking-partisanship, and how they have all the goddamn answers. Let me tell you something: These fags are dogshit compared to Jimmy fucking Carter, all right? I was arbitrating Mideast crises when this bunch was still sucking on their mamas’ titties.
But who comes to me, huh? Fucking nobody. Why ask old Jimmy anything? What the fuck could he know about peace in the Middle East? It’s not like he fucking won the Nobel Peace Prize for that shit. You myopic pricks. Back in ‘79, I sat Sadat and Begin right down and made those two dicklicks shake hands. It was beautiful—I had all the pieces lined up and I smiled and waved in my best fucking suit and tie right there on TV. And what do you do, you pieces of shit? You screw the whole goddamn pooch.
Cocksuckers.
Oh, what’s that I hear? The weather’s all screwy? You got a global warming problem? Boo-fucking-hoo! I was telling you morons to turn off your lights and unplug all your shit at night to conserve energy in 19-fuckin’-75, for chrissake. Gee, I wonder what woulda happened if we’d all switched to solar power like I fucking did back when we had a fucking chance to do something about it. Think we’d still be sucking Saudi Arabia’s dick like a five-dollar whore? I sure as fuck didn’t get no fancy Oscar for that little spiel, though, did I? No. But Al Gore, that cum-sucking pig, steals the shit from me and now he’s the greatest thing since Jesus Christ made a fucking sandwich.
Well, he can lick my asshole right after George W. Bush, that fuck.
You want compassion? Somebody who’s looking out for the little guy? Why don’t you take a look at Jimmy Carter, ’cause unlike, oh, every motherfucking candidate out there, he spent the last fucking quarter-century building houses for the homeless. And what does he get for it? A fucking hernia. Some fucking gratitude, you selfish twats. You talk to me about compassion? I’ll shove a crucifix so far up the Democrats’ asses they’ll be asking me to buy them dinner and kiss them good night.
Funny thing about me: I actually fucking know shit! Not like these goombas trying to weasel their way into the White House. I practically wrote the book on collapsing bridges, inflation, and the working poor, fuck-o. I even got a degree in nuclear engineering or some shit. You know how easy I could swoop down right now like a guardian angel and solve all your fucking problems? Snap. Bam. Do it in my fucking sleep. Just fucking try me.
So you want me to run for president again? Yeah, sure, absolutely, I’ll do it. I’d be honored to do it—with my fucking dick in your mouth, you worthless scumbags.
You had your chance with Jimmy Carter, and you fucking blew it. So get fucked. Fucking country.