Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Clinton Trounce Obama Bounce: What Happened?

By Joe Sims
A record turnout, the women’s vote, along with union and low-income households gave Senator Hillary Clinton a narrow 3 percent victory over challenger Barack Obama in New Hampshire. Obama according to press reports did well among youth, independents and upper income voters, but failed to maintain the degree of support shown in Iowa among women, resulting in a slight narrowing of his electoral coalition and Clinton’s margin of around 10,000 votes. It is also important to note that Obama won the peace vote, according to exist polls.

While the polls had the Republican race picked successfully, the Democratic predictions proved very wrong, at least among some of the main polling organizations which had Obama leading with a ten to 13 point advantage. What happened?

Some have attributed the shift to Clinton performance in Saturday’s debate, others to a heartfelt moment on Sunday where the New York senator displayed a vulnerability that galvanized women and doubtless also men voters. Clearly the latter was a key factor with the demand for women’s representation escalating and voters rising to the occasion. However is this enough to explain the discrepancy between the numbers before New Hampshire’s final and most important poll, i. e., the vote?

It’s possible the pollsters got it wrong. Saturday’s early number showed a dead heat. In fact Clinton’s pollster issued a widely ridiculed memo, titled “Where’s the Bounce?” questioning whether Obama had really gotten a significant lift from Iowa. Perhaps he was right after all. (Actually Obama did get a lift, as he was 17 points down just a few weeks ago in New Hampshire).

Or another phenomena might be at work, namely the “Bradley factor,” the concept – based on the gubernatorial bid of LA Mayor Tom Bradley - that in the case of African American candidates, voters say one thing to pollsters, but do another in the voting booth. If this is the case, the difference between Iowa and New Hampshire might be that in the former, delegates got up and make a public pledge. In the latter the decision is made in the voting booth with no one looking on. It will be interesting to see what interpretation and spin is given to New Hampshire’s huge turnout and almost evenly divided Democratic vote.

Still the main factors underlying the Democratic race were not in any way disproven by yesterday’s vote. The desire for change, the importance of peace, the imperative of unity. That large numbers of voters cast their first ballots for an African American and a woman remains a huge plus. The right wing has reason to worry.

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