Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Tears of A Crown

On second thought...

Anyone who thinks they know how the presidential nominating process is going to play out is full of sh**.

Two months ago, John McCain's political obituary had been written; Rudy Giuliani led the national polls and Mitt Romney was the runaway leader in New Hampshire.Two days ago, Hillary Clinton's political obituary was being written: The dynasty was over, the queen was dead; the question was not whether Hillary should withdraw, but under what circumstances; George W. Bush was asking President Obama if he would consider starting a year early.

And then people started voting.

Today, we have winners who, not much more than a year ago, everyone expected to be the frontrunners: John McCain and Hillary Clinton. Will they be the eventual nominees?

Who knows?

However, the path to the GOP nomination for John McCain looks slightly more clear than Hillary's path to the Democratic nod. If McCain can beat Romney in Michigan and Huckabee in South Carolina, it's pretty clear sailing. But if Huckabee wins SC, what then? Rudy Giuliani's "chaos theory" suddenly looks like it might bear fruit in Florida and Super Tuesday. On the Democratic side, this looks like it could be a binary race between Obama and Clinton. Sorry, John Edwards.

However, a few things New Hampshire showed:

1) Despite everything, maybe the Clinton name still means something in the Granite State (or maybe the MACHINE is better at stealing elections there, as one partisan Democrat hinted to me tonight).

2) Hillary Clinton is never so dangerous as when she is portrayed as the victim. Her popularity increased post-Monica; she "won" a debate -- and essentially the election -- in 2000 when Rick Lazio pushed a paper in herface and demanded that she "sign it! Sign it!" In that light, Hillary's "emotional moment" on Monday may have touched a chord with undecided women who decided to support her at the last moment.

3) On a related note, there was the Saturday debate: Hillary was asked about the fact that more voters "liked" Obama more than her. She responded, smiling, "That hurts my feelings." The crowd chuckled, Hillary said, "Barack is a likeable guy." But Obama almost sneered, "You're likeable enough, Hillary." It was an unnecessary snide line, delivered at a moment when he could have been gracious (Something like, "Senator, of course, you're likeable, and you have made history as the first First Lady to win office in her own right. Yes, I'd like to make history of my own, but we certainly praise the service you've given this nation.") . Instead, his actual abrupt comment was against character: At a moment when Hillary was being warm/likeable (Obama-like?), while he was being cold and, well, bitchy -- characteristics often associated with Hillary.

4) Finally, it would be dishonest not to mention the elephant in the room -- race. On MSNBC, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson and NBC political analyst/polling expert Chuck Todd raised what is often referred to as the "Bradley effect": The Obama internal polls gave him a lead of 14 points (similar to the last CNN poll). Hillary's internal polls gave Obama an eleven point lead. Yet, she won by three points. The "Bradley effect" refers to the 1982 gubernatorial race of African American Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley who the polls showed leading by double digits the night before election day: He lost narrowly to white Republican George Deukmajian. In 1989, African American Lt. Gov. Doug Wilder was leading the Virginia gubernatorial race by about ten points; he won by less than one percent. A similar series of events occured in the New York mayoral race that year with Democrat David Dinkins leading Republican Rudy Giuliani in heavily Democratic New York City by double digits .

To be blunt, in contests involving black candidates, there often appears a hidden (or deceptive) vote in polling that works to the disadvantage of the black candidates. It doesn't always occur: Harold Ford's loss in Tennessee U.S. Senate race in 2006 was certainly within the margin of error of pre-election polls. But when all the pre-election polls were wrong (and not just by the margin of error) as they were in New Hampshire, one has to entertain at least the possibility of the "Bradley effect."

I don't know if that occurred Tuesday. But any punditswho say they definitely know what is going on this year are, know.

UPDATE: Well, hey there! Karl Rove agrees with me on the debate moment! And here's the video:

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