I’m Back

I have returned.

After two weeks in California, I have to admit at times it was definitely a struggle to prevent myself from hopping online and getting sucked back into the game of politics, especially considering we had both the Iowa and the New Hampshire primaries going on, but aside from a one day trip off the wagon to cover Iowa, I was successful.

But now that I’m back, I’m sure no one would expect me to come back in a great mood…

The reason for this is pretty simple; despite the surge of success that was the Iowa victory, Barack Obama fell to Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire by two points.  What is worse is that the Clinton campaign has obviously spun this successfully as something of a comeback, and just when it looked like the Obama campaign was on the verge of breaking away on a clear path to the nomination, the contest for the Democrats seems tighter than ever.

I have to even admit to being a little distraught for a few days, but when you cut through the spin, all New Hampshire really means is that Obama has a more challenging road ahead of him.  Given the fact that he has went toe to toe with the establishment candidate, the favored candidate by the party, the so called inevitable coronation of Hillary Clinton, I think it reasonable to believe that Mr. Obama is ready for challenges.

And what about New Hampshire?  Was it really the big upset that so many are saying it is?  Did the media really get it all that wrong?

The answers to the last questions being, respectfully, no, and only sort of.  First, let’s take a look at what really happened without bias.  Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama by two points; a lead that in scientific polls is often called a statistical tie.  Further, though Hillary might have one the percentage game, it would seem that Obama walked away with a little more of the prize than she did, as Terry from Positively Barack helpfully points out.  They both matched each other in delegates, but Barack managed to come out of his loss in the Granite State with more super delegates than the former first lady.

Thus, from a purely technical standpoint, Obama actually came out the better, but Hillary won in raw percentages, which was a boon for her campaign considering that she got a bulk of the headlines coming out of NH.

But what about those last minute polls that predicted Barack Obama would slaughter Hillary by double digits?  Yes, the media kinda took a dive here, but this was for the same mistake that political commentators both professional and amateur make all the time; they were paying more attention to individual polling numbers than they were the trends.

If you had been watching New Hampshire polling from the beginning, and not put quite so much emphasis on the eleventh hour polls, the final results would not have come as much of a surprise.  New Hampshire started off clearly in Hillary’s favor, but as we drew closer to New Hampshire, we saw Clinton and Obama coming closer and closer together until they were in a statistical dead heat.  Where the media erred is in not questioning enough this last minute data that had Obama skyrocketing to a double digit lead.

To the media’s credit, this is understandable for two reasons.  The first is because not all data that doesn’t track with the trends is necessarily statistical noise; sometimes opinion really does change that fast.  The second kind of backs the first up in that New Hampshire voters are notorious for making their decisions at the last second.  When you combine the two bits of conventional wisdom and throw in the fact that actual voting day was here, it’s not unreasonable for political pundits to give a little more credibility to the polling data than if these results had come out a week before.

Personally, I believe those last minute polls were both statistical noise, yet at the same time early indicators of movement in public opinion.  That’s to say, I think as a result of Iowa, Obama support was again on the rise in New Hampshire, just not quite as quickly as the polling data may have suggested.  In other words, the Obama wave was coming, just not quite fast enough.

Had voting day arrived perhaps a day or two later, I think we would have had a different outcome.  But it didn’t, and now Hillary is back in this race.

In truth, I think Rachel Maddow had it right when speaking during the aftermath to Chris Matthews when she explained that New Hampshire wasn’t an upset for Clinton, but instead a more truthful characterization would be that Hillary failed to upset Obama in Iowa, and Obama failed to upset her in New Hampshire.  Thus, with the first two states out of the way, I think Obama still comes out the better.

This primarily for two reasons.  The first is that he won Iowa.  This wasn’t an upset, mind you; polls had clearly shown that he was poised to win the state by a narrow margin for at least a week or two prior to the caucuses.  But in the overall narrative, Hillary Clinton was still the favorite, Obama was still the underdog, and he faced serious electability issues, particularly the race issue.  It’s all fine and dandy to have  the “first serious black candidate with a real shot”, but it’s something else to be proven in hard numbers that he can actually win a state.  A very much white state no less.  Winning Iowa proved that Barack was not just a “fairytale”, but a real deal contender which makes him not just the heart candidate, but a head candidate as well now.

The second reason is based on John Edwards.  Edwards is going to keep on campaigning, but while he took second in Iowa, his New Hampshire showing was absolutely abysmal.  While you take what the pundits say with a grain of salt on the close calls, the easy calls you might want to listen.  Everyone and their grandmother has said that Edwards needed a win, at the bare minimum, in either Iowa or New Hampshire to have a shot, and he has lost both.  As a result, I think you’re going to see Edwards become increasingly mitigated until he drops out of the race.

While Clinton may have scooped up some of Joe Biden’s support in New Hampshire, that’s about the only bit of support she could hope to pick up from dropping candidates.  Edwards, who has put some effort in tying himself closer to Obama in substance going into New Hampshire, is likely to see his support go towards Obama more likely than to Clinton as he falls in the contest.

And unlike Biden, Edwards actually has some decent support around the horn, just not enough to be a big player.

All of this is to say simply that, the contest is very far from over, and Barack is looking far more competitive now than he did before the primaries actually begun.  We look next to states like South Carolina, where I expect Barack to win over a larger than expected amount of the black vote due to recent developments coming from an esteemed congressmen, developments from the Clinton campaign, and the win in Iowa.  And we turn to Nevada, a state Clinton was almost guaranteed to win, but with the endorsement of some pretty large unions for Obama, I think he puts the Reid ran state in play.

We’re going to talk about this and so much more when I go back to my normal schedule starting Monday.  So for not, rest up, have a great weekend, I’ll see about having some music up for you tomorrow night (and maybe even Michelle Malkin in a cheerleader outfit), and be ready to roll up some sleeves on Monday.

Because I’m back.

4 Responses to “I’m Back”

  1. Welcome back old boy. Once we are able to whiddle the mountain of boxes in our Dining room down to a small hill then I expect to return as well. Maybe I’ll ease back with a something light post… now get yer ass on the chat!

  2. Mark says:

    Welcome back, Kyle!

  3. Dynamic says:

    Welcome back! You were missed – I only have three blogs on my list (four if you count Kos), so I’m looking forward to having you back in action. 🙂

    And thanks for bringing some of that California weather up North with ya!

  4. Thanks guys…it’s good to be back.

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