People Perplex Pundits– Again

For the 2nd week in a row, I’m enjoying watching electoral results roll in (about 38% of NH’s vote has been counted as I write this), and enjoying the surprises they bring.
Last week, the big news was the victories Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee, both of whom surged late.
In the 5 days since, pundits aided by near-perpetual polling have come close to declaring Hillary Clinton politically dead, and close to declaring Barack Obama the Nominee, perhaps the presumptive President. They couldn’t stop talking about Obama’s overflow crowds in NH. Brian Williams showed us the Senator’s reaction to seeing his face on the cover of Newsweek.
Pundits– particularly on Fox News Channel– interpreted joking remarks by Bill Clinton (“I can’t make her younger or taller”) as an attempt to alibi a coming double-digit rout. They declared that Sen. Clinton’s choke-up in a Portsmouth coffee shop was a sign she foresaw devastating defeat, and that many voters would be turned off by her unexected display of emotion.
Cable TV, as always, was quickest to render judgment– 24 hours a day of news/comment certainly gives pundits plenty of rhetorical rope to work with. But consider this clever but suddenly hollow-sounding lead in the Times of London dispatch– “As she watches her support melt away, the horror on the face of Hillary Clinton sometimes resembles that of C.S. Lewis’s Snow Queen on seeing summer return to Narnia. ” Artful prose, but NH may have brought winter back.
Wow– on the tube, with 47% of the vote in, Chris Matthews just admitted he’d been premature in burying Hillary Clinton. MSNBC’s exit polling is showing that NH voters who decided in the last couple of days were evenly-split between Obama and Clinton. The same exit-polling shows, unlike in Iowa, Sen. Clinton got the lion’s share of women’s votes.
It makes me think that a lot of women might have responded like Joy Behar, one of the hosts of “The View”. When I saw the Portsmouth diner scene being replayed on that show this morning, I turned the sound up to hear Behar bemoaning media savaging of Hillary and her campaign, and heard her call for a “woman’s backlash” against such ganging up.
I asked my wife about it– she’s kind of a Hillary fan, but has no truck with her near-tears episode in New Hampshire. “I’m not opposed to women showing emotion”, she said, “but it’s not what I want to see in my leaders.”
But Sally may not be typical– with 56% of the vote in, NBC’s Political Director Chuck Todd is now saying the choke-up in the diner might well have driven lots of women voters back in the Hillary camp.
Well, you’d think the whole point of this posting is– only a fool would hazard any guesses about what’s to come. That said, I would draw some conclusions, based on what we’ve seen so far.
For the second contest in a row, Democratic turnout has dwarfed Republican. “Change” is everyone’s theme. Obama– “Change we can believe in”. Clinton– “An agent for change.” McCain talks about how he’s long advocated change in Iraq strategy, while Romney claims nobody from inside Washington can “turn Washington inside-out”.
In a fall campaign, all of this would seem to point to a Democratic year.
Also– though he can rightly claim “two silver medals and a gold” (the former Olympics organizer’s way of describing second-place finishes in Iowa and NH and a little-noticed win in Wyoming’s caucuses), Mitt Romney is not looking good, coming out of NH.
Massachusetts pols OWN that primary. Mass. Sen. John Kerry won last time around, as did Mass. Sen. Paul Tsongas in 1992, and Mass. Gov. Michael Dukakis four years earlier. Hey, even Amb. Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts took NH as a write-in candidate in 1964, though the moderate Brahmin was quickly buried by the conservative Goldwater revolution.
Apparently, Romney’s the first Mass. pol to ever not win in NH. Maybe his name will be enough to carry Michigan next week (Mitt’s father George was governor there), but it sure looks like the quick-start, big-buck Romney strategy is going nowhere fast.
The good news– no one’s pulling away in the Republican field, and it looks like Florida will be really interesting– Giuliani, Huckabee, Romney, and McCain could still be in serious contention.
OK– NBC’s just declared Hillary the winner. Time to log off, with the usual advice– “Stay tuned.”


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