Well, that was unexpected…I must say, if nothing else, “false hopes” had a really good night. But, hey, I guess I should’ve known better. As The Wire continually reminds us, despite all evidence to the contrary, maybe a new day is never dawning. (You know, I should really develop some new interests. Maybe it’s time to become a gardening blog or something.)
Anyway, looking at the numbers, it looks like the difference voters in New Hampshire were women, who returned to Clinton’s corner in droves (47% to 34%), and older voters, who’ve been there all along (65 and over: 48% to 32%, 50-64: 39% to 30%, 40-49: 44% to 33%.) Well, at least the kids are alright. (18-24: 60%-22%, for Obama.)
That all makes a certain amount of sense, I guess. Women more readily see Clinton as a candidate of change by her very nature, and, as I wrote at great length about over the weekend, many older voters seem to buy what she’s selling regardless: another eight years of cautious, obfuscating, Grand Theft Auto-blaming and very “experienced” incrementalism.
To be honest, on its face, New Hampshire going Clinton doesn’t bother me all that much. It’s an older, whiter state, and for all its vaunted independence, it’s usually just contrarian for its own sake, like bad Slate columns and Armond White. Once Clinton became the underdog after Iowa, it was a natural pick-up for her.
What does concern me, tho’, is the bizarre polling problem we saw tonight. Some polls are occasionally wrong, sure, but every poll — not one poll, every poll — had Obama up between five and twelve points this morning. Ok, well, there were a lot of undecided voters, and clearly most of ‘em broke for Clinton. So be it. More disconcerting, however, exit polls — taken after the votes were made, mind you — also had Obama up by five. So, how did we finish down two at the end of the night (with the polls still getting the GOP race exactly right?) How did every poll miss out on that seven point swing, a swing based on post-voting data? I suppose it’s still an open question, but the elephant in the room is the Bradley Effect, and, I gotta say, I’m pretty disgusted right now with my fellow white people. Vote for who you want to vote for, but don’t lie about it before or after the fact. If someone has a better explanation about the disparity in exit polls, I’m all ears. Update: Pollster has a good overview of the various prevailing current theories.
As for what explains Clinton’s victory, I must confess: even given what I said above, I’m at a bit of a loss. This is mainly because I thought the polls reflected, you know, the actual standings. The only real possible game-changer lately, other than just a collective New Hampshire uprising against media expectations (which is stupid – it was their poll answers creating and driving those expectations), was the “Diner Sob”, as Slate is billing it, the other day. Apparently, a sizable majority of New Hampshire’s older/women voters looked in to Clinton’s heart at that moment, and liked what they saw. Iron Eyes Cody for President! I dunno…admittedly, I’m feeling rather Menckenesque at the moment. Still, I’m reminded of Bernie Birnbaum, John Turturro’s character in Miller’s Crossing: “What were you gonna do if you caught me? I’d just squirt a few and then you’d let me go again.“
Bleah. A no-good, lousy night, to be sure. Unless you’re John McCain — for him, the news is great on both sides of the ledger. If the current paradigm wins, so do Republicans. Now, I have no real inclination to vote Republican, but the fact remains: When it comes to campaign finance reform –the change issue — McCain has far, far better creds than Clinton.
Still, it’s not over yet, and adversity builds character, right? We’ve split the first two games, and now attention moves to Nevada and my home state of South Carolina. Neither are necessarily unfavorable terrain for Obama, so if he can weather the post-New Hampshire bounce over the next week, we’re still good to go. But it’s definitely harder now, no doubt. Florence, come to our aid! (For old times’ sake, if nothing else.)
By the way, New Hampshire? Eff you, you tired, gaseous windbag of an “independent” state. Robert Frost, Alan Shepard, and Christa McAuliffe notwithstanding, you haven’t contributed anything to the polity since Daniel Webster. From now on, I’m hiking in Vermont.