Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Democratic Primary Politics

Okay, so we are in Primary season and it's been quite a ride. Obama trounced Hillary in Iowa and then she spanks him in NH.

I guess now every sees that it was quite an achievement and speaks volumes about Kerry that he won both. Obama had more momentum and more of a splash going into NH and lost. I think now, people will appreciate a little better how difficult it was to fight through Iowa and sustain the momentum in NH. Back then, we were still worried about the Dean surge, Wesley Clarke and a possible Edwards bounce. I think this experience brings Obama down from the stratosphere where he was. I was irritated by him months ago when he mocked Kerry in a Letterman interview, I guess he would respond differently now that he's walked a tiny fraction of the journey Kerry walked back in 04.

That aside, the big story in my view is what to make of the variance between Obama's universal superior poll numbers and the final numbers in favor of Hillary. The poll numbers were not simply the media and university numbers, but campaign internal polling numbers.

I pretty much watched MSNBC's coverage all night and Eugene Robinson, a WaPo columnist, raised the Bradley Effect. That was quickly dismissed, but it reared its head all night refusing to die as a theory. Eventually Chuck Todd raised a compelling point that in the only cases in which we have seen this type of variance is when the candidates have been Black.

Here's Wikipedia on the Bradley effect:

The original term Bradley effect derives its name from a 1982 campaign involving Tom Bradley, the long-time mayor of Los Angeles, California. Bradley, who was black, ran as the Democratic party's candidate for Governor of California against Republican candidate George Deukmejian, who was white. The polls leading into the day of the election consistently showed Bradley with a lead. However,
Bradley narrowly lost the race. Post-election research indicated that a smaller
percentage of white voters actually voted for Bradley than that which had said
they planned to vote for him, and that voters who had been classified as
"undecided" had gone to Deukmejian in statistically anomalous numbers.

One month prior to the election, Bill Roberts, Deukmejian's campaign manager at that time, had predicted this behavior. He told reporters that he expected that
Deukmejian could advance approximately five percentage points from what his poll
numbers indicated, due to white voters giving inaccurate polling responses in
order to conceal a racial prejudice. Roberts's comments were disavowed by
Deukmejian, and the controversy that surrounded them ultimately led to Roberts's

Now Todd did note that with Harold Ford and with Patrick Duvall of MA, there was no evidence of the Bradley effect, so it is not a universal claim, so to speak. When challenged on this point about Iowa--White Iowa voters voted for Obama overwhelmingly. Todd response was the Iowa's process is public and New Hampshire's process is behind the curtain.

Robinson kept harping on the exit polling numbers that showed late-deciding voters split equally between Obama and Hillary so there's no explanation for the last minute surge unless people were not being forthright in the first place during the polling and even in the exit polling.

Hillary won the woman vote and the Democratic base vote. It is true that the gang-up on Hillary may have motivated women to vote in her favor, it does not explain how anyone can cover so much ground in such little time.

Now what does this mean? I don't know. What I do think is that, real or perceived, racism as reared its head and the SC Black Democratic base will not take kindly to this. I think Clinton will find out that there are limits to his adoption as an honorary African American. SC I think will go in Obama's favor or he'll make a very strong showing, second to Edwards. I don't see Hillary making a splash.

In the meantime, there's Nevada--Union and Latino voters make the difference here. It was rumored that Clinton was furious at Bill Richardson for having his supporters back Obama in Iowa. I think Bill Richardson plays a significant role here as the sole Latino candidate. If he seems to favor one or the other candidates, some in the Latino community may take their cue from him. But in general, given the confluence of concerns in both the Black and Latino communities, I think Obama, of the other three non-Latino candidates, has the most natural constituency. I see him resonating more with the Latino community. The question then could be the Unions. The Unions, universally, were embarrassed in 04 by jumping on bandwagons too early, with the exception of the politically astute and conservative Fire Fighter's Union which jumped on the Kerry bandwagon so early in the process it boggled the mind.

(Update: Via Political wire. Obama has secured the endorsement of the 60,000 Culinary Workers Union. Like totally huge!)

On the Republican side, we might as well just go ahead and crown McCain. Huckabee is another Bush and that dog won't hunt. Romney just does not have the natural appeal. Giuliani . . . well is Giuliani.

In the final analysis, I'm seeing an Obama-McCain race. That does not bode well for Democrats. Even a Clinton-McCain race does not look good. Oh well, we need to see how all this shakes out. I'm not excited about anyone in this race. I have more sympathy and resonance with Obama than with any other candidate. I definitely am not liking Hillary and Edward annoys me. Richardson tends have to a sloppy non-presidential look, so he's not quite under consideration. I suppose that backs me into the Obama corner, reluctantly.



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