Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What the??

How in the world did Hillary resuscitate a moribund campaign in 24 hours? How did the polls -- not just the day-befores, but the exits -- get it so wrong? Everyone's got a theory! Pick your favorite!

The Tonya Harding Moment. The talking heads seem to be latching onto the emotive, teary-eyed moment yesterday when Hillary sounded less like a telemarketer and more like a person. She didn't quite feel our pain -- like her husband likes to do -- but she felt her pain. And that meant she's not a cyborg. It also didn't help that Edwards responded by saying she wasn't macho enough to be President -- rekindling suspicions of sexism and generating a wave of last-minute grrl-power sympathy. Evidence: The exits say late-deciding voters went overwhelmingly for Hillary -- along with female voters.

The Howard Beale Moment: Less remarked upon has been this moment from the Saturday NH debate when Hillary said (paraphrasing here), "Let's cut the bullshit!" I thought it was absolutely brilliant (although I have a special fondness for assertive women), but the mostly male pundits immediately pilloried her for being "angry" and "vicious" -- which seem to be the pundits' code-words-of-choice for when Hillary acts like a you-know-what. But such naked sexism may have backfired (just as with the reaction to the crying), while also proving that Hillary has a bit of fight in her.

Indeed, too many commentators have sotto vocce suggested that Hillary gets only two choices: she can be a b-----, or she can be weak and emotionally unstable. That's a pathetic, outdated dichotomy -- and it would be sweet irony indeed if the visceral reaction of New Hampshire voters against such tired cliches drove Hillary to victory.

The Bradley Effect. Or did it have something to do with Obama or, more troublingly, race? Some researchers have noted that the final vote tallies for African American candidates tend to drop precipitously from their support in the final polls -- ostensibly because Americans don't like admitting to another person they're not voting for the black guy. It's possible this effect overstated Obama's support -- he had anywhere from a 7 to a 13 point lead yesterday. This effect wouldn't have shown up in Iowa, either, since those caucuses are public. This would bode ill for upcoming matches in South Carolina and Super Tuesday. Evidence: No one can really prove this at all.

Anyway, if you're into identity politics, there's your explanations! But it could also be due to...

The McCain Drain. NH voters unaffiliated with either party can request a Democratic or Republican ballot. Is it possible that a good number of New Hampshire independents -- those naturally inclined to vote for Obama -- decided that Obama had the race so wrapped up that they could give their vote to McCain, thus saving us all from the Huck & Mitt Show? That might be a little too much strategery for the average voter, but it wouldn't surprise me. Evidence: Someone crunch the exits and tell me!

The "We're Part of History!!!" Bubble. There's always been something slightly...messianic about the support for Obama. His post-racial promises, his post-politics appeal, the poetry of his campaign -- any other 'P'-words you can think of. This weekend, it almost seemed like supporting him became a statement as much about your values as his. The same hipsters who loudly order a fair-trade latte, who pay with their hemp wallet, who sport a Kinks t-shirt -- they all rushed to get their hands on those purple "Stand Up For Change" signs. And they told everyone that asked -- especially pollsters -- that they were part of the Obama wave.

But, whoops, then they either 1) didn't bother to show up to vote (scooter broke down!) or 2) changed their mind after the contact high wore off. This would be the slightly-better-for-America counter-part to the Bradley Effect thesis: it's not that such voters told pollsters one thing and did another because they're racist; they told pollsters one thing and did another because it impressed their barrista.

The Polls Are Always Screwed Up Theory. They messed up in 2000, 2004, 2006 -- why start getting it right now? Is it possible that calling listed landline phone numbers between the hours of 5 and 8 PM to demand 15 minutes of people's intimate thoughts on their vote for President doesn't exactly capture 98% of the electorate anymore?! Tell me that's not true!

The Bill Clinton Jedi Mind Trick. Somehow, some way, Bill Clinton angrily calling Obama a "fairy tale" today activated some deep-seated, genetically engineered, governmentally controlled gene in the Democratic voter, commanding him or her to vote for Hillary and then commit seppuku to hide the evidence. You think I'm kidding -- but read Free Republic tomorrow. Sith apprentice Michael Whouley might also have something to do with it.

The Wrath of Old People. Hillary did very well again among voters over 40 -- just as she did in Iowa. But this time, they counted for more of the electorate. Older voters have always been a bit immune to Obama's appeal, and it's possible they simply came through for Hillary in greater numbers, enough to tip her over the edge.

Indeed, it might be the wrath of the whole historic Democratic coalition, according to this excellent summary of exit-poll cross-tabs: union households, low-income voters, Catholics, etc. They all broke for Hillary. Independents, professionals, and upper-income voters all stuck with Obama.

What's amazing about Hillary's rebuilding of the old-school liberal coalition (if it holds up) is that Hillary is the ostensible moderate in the race -- the one who was supposed to have pissed off all these voters by tacking right in the last six years. Meanwhile, all the the post-docs and professionals and too-cool-to-care urban indies -- the ones who are supposed to be discerning fiscal moderates, the ones who loved Atari Dem Gary Hart and New Dem Bill Clinton -- are flocking to the liberal candidate, Obama. This is a total inversion of traditional Dem politics.

Of course, in truth -- labels aside -- there's very little daylight between Obama and Clinton on most issues. But that just means we could be witnessing the fracturing of the left into camps divided more by temperament than by policy. Do you want new, untested, idealistic, brazen, and inclined to fight -- or old, experienced, pragmatic, cautious, and inclined to deal? That may say more about your Presidential preference than any policy questionnaire or issue space.

Upset over the quality of the BCS bowl games, the New Hampshire voters want to see this thing go 12 rounds. This is the most likely explanation, in my book. After the LSU-Ohio State snoozer (and the impending NFL routs), voters want something competitive to keep them awake until the Groundhog pops up. And damnit, so do we!

So next week, when you're sitting in property or antitrust and can't stand the boredom, but you have something interesting to read in Slate or the NY Times or Huff Post about national politics, say a quiet 'thank you' to the good people of Nashua, Hanover, and Dixville Notch. By engineering the perfect finish, they made sure this damn thing will never end.

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24 Comments:

Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

Ah, it wouldn't be morning in America without an EW wrap-up. I think your point re: attitude is a good one, and probably the strongest explanation.

Re: inverting traditional coalitions, I think there's a little more complexity there due to differences in economically liberal and socially liberal voters. My impression is that those voters - union workers, low income households, etc. - were never as socially liberal as the democratic party elite, but they appreciated the party's economic concerns. As the perceived-to-be most moderate candidate with indistinguishable economic positions, those voters may fall for Hillary.

And another possible theory: could it be people voting for the candidate that resonates the most with them? I imagine young people would love to elect a president that hasn't done anything, because they're young, they haven't done anything, and by golly, they can go straight to the top of the world too! On the flip side, older folks that have shoveled shit year in year out implicitly reject the changemongering johnny-come-lately and flock to the candidate that's also put in the dreary hours. Maybe?

Second to finally, to the students in antitrust starting next week. It's a really good class. And if you're politically inclined and bored, go to the American Antitrust Institute and read the position papers from the Obama and Edwards candidacies. Then compare and contrast them with what you learn in class. Feel free to draw lines through portions of their statements that directly contradict what you're learning.

Finally, when are we going to get some more juicy legal distinctions between the candidates? Which one is clamoring to overturn the PSLRA? Who had to send back their Lerach money? Does anyone know what a patent is? (Obama has claimed to in a policy statement) Appointment philosophies for judges and attorneys general? And is anyone hiring for their OLC yet??

1/09/2008 7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. Keep the updates and analysis coming throughout the primaries, please!

1/09/2008 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I was suprised that Hillary came in first, I am so glad because it gives Americans more time to study the positions of both candidates carefully. Although he has great speeches Obama hasn't shown me much and I am looking forward to seeing the differences between the two. So far the only thing I know about him is that he did not stand up for choice when he had the opportunity as a state legislator in a safe seat. That doesn't sit well with me at all. (See, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/chi-0705030101may03,0,1225441.story) Still, I am open minded and willing to go either way.

1/09/2008 11:36 AM  
Blogger Earl Warren said...

Tom, thanks for the great insights. I think your second graf in particular is pretty instructive about the Obama/Clinton differences.

The original New Deal coalition fell apart in the 1970s and 1980s mostly because low- and middle-income white voters began to genuinely distrust the Democratic elite on issues of race, foreign policy, and social issues. (See Tom Edsall's Chain Reaction for a great summary of this.) The first issue has somewhat faded with the demise of affirmative action and crime as salient issues; the second has turned into a perpetual GOP advantage that 9/11 "rejuvenated;" and the third continues to be the explicit GOP strategy for winning voters who have no economic business associating with the GOP. (See Tom Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas.)

So you may be on to something when you suggest that Hillary has pegged her appeal to winning back these voters -- who are typically white, lower-income, and possibly union. With no economic differences between Clinton and Obama, these social/generational issues grow magnified -- just as they do in a general election.

In this vein, it may also be useful to contrast the "apostasy" of each candidate on the liberal dogma. No candidate can be elected President without breaking with his or her base on at least some issues. But which issues they choose can be instructive about both their philosophy and the state of the country.

Bill Clinton famously told Sister Souljah she was a hate-monger; promised to end welfare; and vowed to be tough on crime -- enraging Democratic elites but appealing precisely to the social anxieties of many middle-class voters in the early 1990s.

Hillary's apostasy has been of the same order, only with different flavors and a measure of foreign policy thrown in: she's supported an amendment against flag-burning, supports DOMA, opposes gay marriage, has angered NARAL by calling abortion a "sad, tragic choice," supported the Iraq War resolution, and has been hawkish on Iran. Every one of those positions -- whether genuine or calculated -- can be understood as trying to diffuse historic Democratic weaknesses among the low-income electorate.

Meanwhile, consider Obama's limited apostasy: he has flirted with merit pay for teachers, challenged the UAW in Detroit to support higher mileage standards to protect the environment, and challenged African American men to take fatherhood more seriously. All of those issues resonate more with urban, professional elites than lower-income white families. Taking on the UAW and the CTA won't play well in Flint or Charleston -- but it sure will in Palo Alto or West LA.

The dichotomy isn't perfectly neat -- but it will be very interesting to see whether each candidate tries to recapitulate their message to tap into the well of support for the other.

1/09/2008 1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When do first year grades typically come out?

1/10/2008 7:38 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

Hilarious question.

1/10/2008 8:10 AM  
Blogger Max Power said...

Damn EW, if only you could play poker, throw a football, or generally interact with other people half as well as you write about presidential primaries, you'd be totally set.

2 points. First, thank you for mentioning the Bradley Effect, as honest discussion of this has been sorely lacking. I was watching MSNBC for like 2 hours on primary night before anyone had the nerve to mention it (and that pundit immediately backed off after the others attacked him for even thinking such a terrible thing).

Second, as to her "Tonya Harding Moment," I'm amazed by a NY Times article today saying her staff was concerned that the moment would play badly. One adviser said, "We have absolutely no idea how her getting this emotional will play with voters."

Really? None of that highly paid staff realized that acting like a human being might be helpful instead of hurtful? There seems to be a general consensus that Gore (and Kerry to some extent) lost in part because they were too scripted, too guided by focus groups and handlers. Hillary seemed well on her way to making the same mistakes until NH. I'm not convinced, that despite the obvious benefit from the near-tears moment, that Hillary has learned her lesson. I was disappointed in her victory speech that night--an opportunity to tell a couple jokes, show a little emotion (i.e. act like a person) was bypassed, and she reverted right back to her telemarketing persona. This isn't to say that Hillary should be crying all the time, but here's hoping she sometimes follows her instincts, instead of instructions, again in the coming weeks.

1/10/2008 9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is my impression grades could come out any day now and that it varies by professor. last year i had my first semester grades shortly after starting back for the spring semester.

1/10/2008 9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a couple fyi's to the 1Ls -

1. grades do not all come out at once - they come out piecemeal on bearfacts.

2. someone else on here can confirm, but i am pretty sure the updates happen at 8:45 a.m., not midnight like the site says.

3. this 2L has learned that seminars are NOT easier to do well in than regular classes. do your diligence on that prof's grading policies before you sign up.

1/10/2008 10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, and i agree - killer post, EW.

1/10/2008 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: grades.

Last year grades didn't go up until well into the second semester because of some "glitch" (in the matrix, I'm sure). I was a 1L last year, and my grades didn't start appearing until the second week of classes or so. However, there hasn't been a system problem since then, so it shouldn't take that long for them to go up this time. But you never know--this is Boalt/Berkeley.

Now does anyone know why some grades go up and then go back down again? I think Crim Pro grades were up a long time ago, and now they're down again. Any clue as to why this happens?

1/10/2008 1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:33 here..nevermind. Now listed under prior term grades.

1/10/2008 1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um. Not to rain on most of your theories, but Obama's final vote tally was within the margin of error. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/nh/new_hampshire_democratic_primary-194.html

Obama didn't lose it. His supporters came out as expected. He did well in the college towns. He did well among the under 40 crowd (although not as well as in Iowa). Hillary won the poor, less educated woman's vote, just as she did in Iowa.

Parse the poll numbers just slightly and you'll realize that about 10% of the vote is unaccounted for amongst Obama, Edwards, Richardson, and Clinton. Maybe the 10% of the vote unaccounted is from poor, less educated women? Maybe people decided at the last minute that they didn't want to support a sinking (or already sunk) ships like Richardson (who did worse than predicted), Biden, Dodd, and broke for Clinton? Maybe supporters of smaller candidates just gave up and punched clinton when they couldn't find their candidate's name on the ballot (there were 21 names on the ballot...by the way, what kind of state has a primary for the Veep nomination? http://www.sos.nh.gov/Dem%20ballot.pdf).

Who knows. Answers to these questions are like assholes: Everyone's got one and they all stink.

Lost in the punditry is the fact that both Obama and Clinton got 9 delegates each. It was a tie. End of story, move on to Nevada and South Carolina.

Lost in the punditry is the fact that Mitt Romney, not John McCain nor Mike Huckabee, currently leads in pledged delegates.

As to the 1L grades question:
Grading is powered using hamsters on treadmills with a carrot dangled in front of their noses. The hamsters get very tired after about 30 minutes each day. Sometimes they actually get the carrot and stop running before the 30 minutes. In other words, grades come out when the hamsters damn well feel like releasing grades. Get over it, have a beer, and move on with your life.

1/10/2008 1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anyone know whether the bookstore is open yet?

1/10/2008 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It opens tomorrow, I think.

1/10/2008 7:51 PM  
Blogger tj said...

Check this out:
McCain puts up the biggest fight against Dems

Anybody really surprised?

1/12/2008 9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shouldn't the bigger story be that -- despite Hillary's supposed fatal electability issues -- she beats McCain by 2 while Obama only beats him by 1? I'd think the Wicked Witch of the East v. Mr. Hope Himself should have a bit bigger gap than that.

1/13/2008 12:43 AM  
Blogger Earl Warren said...

My worst fear about a McCain nomination is that the Dem nominee would try to hang Iraq around his neck -- which is what the Daily Kos frothers will demand -- when he or she should really hang EVERYTHING ELSE around his neck. In trying to become palatable to the right wing, McCain has adopted positions indistinguishable from Bush on choice, taxes, spending, domestic programs, social security, health care, etc. -- all of which should make for easy targets for the Dem nominee. I don't think McCain actually believes half of that far-right nonsense -- which is why I think he'd be the least-worst GOP President -- but, hey, not my (or my party's) problem.

1/13/2008 12:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The racial swiping between Hillary and Obama camps this week has been bizarre. How can Obama possibly think it's a good idea to label Hillary as a racist? Talk about self-defeating behavior...It smacks of desperation.

1/15/2008 10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL. Smacks of desperation?
"If you have a social need, you're with Hillary. If you want Obama to be your imaginary hip black friend and you're young and you have no social needs, then he's cool."

No wonder I like Obama. I want a hip black friend! And an imaginary one too!

1/15/2008 11:51 AM  
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