Fascinating. I love a good contest, I love the underdog more often than not, and I love watching politics pivot upon small but crucial moments.
But you have to wonder, when Hillary won the New Hampshire primary tonight: how is that polls got the public reaction so very wrong? I mean, wrong on the level that even the HRC camp was apparently surprised about not getting shitcanned.
As Dana Milbank notes in the Washington Post (with hyperbolic title-du-jour “She Lives”),
Even [Clinton’s] own aides had seemed to believe the worst. They had booked the big gymnasium here at Southern New Hampshire University — the same spot Howard Dean filled in 2004 — and put the numerals “20:08” on the time clock and the words “Hillary” and “Clinton” in the home and away spots. But instead, they decided to hold the event next door, in a dank auxiliary gym half the size — an irresistible metaphor for a dying campaign — and the crowd of 400 was too small to fill the place.
Last night Obama was up 13 points in a Gallup poll and most of the newspapers were already predicting a massive overhaul of Clinton’s campaign. McCain was fielding one interview after another asking about a November showdown with Obama.
Tonight? Not so much.
I’m reminded of the Iowa polls a week ago, when every indicator was the contest would be a three-way split — and only one paper got the Obama surge right. When interviewed, pollsters at the Des Moines Register noted they’ve got a winning set of calculations, as demonstrated by a consistently strong track record of accuracy.
So what happened today? Faulty or imprecise polling (as precise as random sampling can be, which is to say, not especially)? Slate is wondering if we’re witnessing the Tom Bradley effect / quiet racism defense from pollsters in its article “Did Obama Supporters Lie?”. It was as close in New Hampshire as Iowa was supposed to be, but the truth is that no one knows why. But expectations were raised / lowered, certainly.
Women voters in New Hampshire said in exit interviews that they were moved to reconsider Clinton after her emotional moment in the diner yesterday. Contrary to what Gloria Steinem wrote in today’s Times, at least women don’t hold other women to a double standard. Muske loses for weeping, but with Hillary women voters said they finally saw a genuine moment of care and candor.
But is that all? I wonder if the old West Wing episodes — when the President gruffly dismisses polls and sure enough, he defies expectations — isn’t more on the nose than we’d care to admit. Bill Clinton was beating up the press corps this morning for seeming so enthralled by Obama, but the truth is that reporters are only enthralled with hyperbole. They like to push the big story until it becomes its own truth: Obama cruises to landslide! And then the next story: Clinton’s comeback a remarkable political resurrection!
The most accurate lede of all, as of 9:45 on Tuesday night, from Politico: “Clinton victory makes fools of doubters”.
Seriously. Who thought it was gonna be a landslide, exactly?