Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Hamphire Primary Results

My basic reactions, based partly on a Los Angeles Times exit poll:
-the NH Dems are split. This is a more important story than Hill's repeat of Bill's "comeback kid." - NHers think that Obama has the best chance of the three major candidates to beat the Republicans. Hillary didn't squeak ahead on the basis of electability (experience, etc.). They think Edwards has the worst chance to beat the Republicans. I think this is completely backwards and don't understand these people at all.
  • Voters saw no ideological differences between the candidates. This is too bad, because it means the campaign remains a popularity contest dominated by image positioning and generational identifications (Clinton gets the old, Obama the young).
  • Too much college: 54 percent of voters report having a college degree, which is exactly twice the percentage of college degrees in the general population. (These folks skew for Obama).
  • desperation time: "change" beat "best chance to win" by an incredible 54-6 percent as the main factor in one's selection.
  • the only Dem candidate who would really change foreign policy by, for example, withdrawing troops from Iraq is Bill Richardson, and he came in at 5 percent.
  • Forget Iowa and New Hampshire. Iowa is a white state (2.5 percent Black). New Hampshire is, amazingly, even whiter! (1.1 percent Black). Their votes are really not representative of "America," and yet some estimates say nearly half of all campaign media coverage is devoted to Iowa and NH, giving these country states truly illegitimate power.
  • No Fear for Tears. It's good Hillary wasn't dinged for having a teary moment when asked how hard it is to get out of bed every morning. Many news stories actually dragged out Edmund Muskie from 1972 to ask if wet eyes could sink her campaign. That's a sign of the empty-headedness of the media, of course, and also of sadly authoritarian foundation of American political life, in which the secret test question is always "are you willing to kill for America." Hillary has repeatedly said yes, and people seem still to believe her.
That was one of the few interesting moments in these incredibly scripted and mentally lowgrade campaigns. The question seems to have prompted Clinton to have an unbidden thought about how hard her campaign life is. Maybe she felt, for a fleeting moment, that her life is joyless and sacrificial in general. I think it probably is, in spite of the fame and power. Hard, hard hard - this is a problem with American politics. It shuts down a lot of options before we even know it.

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