Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Flighty Unserious Spinned Truth

I decided to come home for lunch, so I'm posting here:

OK, my analysis of the results last night was not "spin" nor do I think it can be fairly characterized as such. When writing here about politics I've tried to give sound analysis not based on emotion and wishful thinking. Take a look at my Super Tuesday preview, was that a spinned version of the situation? Or was it a fairly accurate portrayal of the night, even in hindsight? I humbly suggest that it was the latter.

Look, I don't think the race is over, by a long shot. But about a week ago Hillary was up by 10 to 20 points in most of the states that voted last night, and was the favorite for the nomination. Many people thought that she would come out of this night a hundred delegates or more better than Obama. I thought she would win the night as well, but by something less than that. Instead, all of the analysis I've seen shows her down slightly or tied with Obama in terms of delegates won.

After these results, it's fair to say that the race is about even. By definition, that's a good night for Obama and a bad night for Clinton (if you don't believe me, take a look at the indexes on intrade). In keeping with my Napoleonic War analogy from the preview, Clinton captured Moscow, but found it burning.

Now comes the long hard slog to the convention. The reasons for being optimistic about Obama are not wishful thinking but hard facts:

1.) For the rest of the month of February, he has friendly states that more resemble the ones in which he's done well than the ones in which he's done poorly. VA, MD, and DC next tuesday are, together, bigger than Pennsylvania and could be very good for Obama based on demographic reasons I've articulated.

2.) Obama has outraised Clinton at a clip of greater than 2-1 ($13.5 million to $32 million). Obama has always had a wider base of donors that he could keep going back to, whereas Cliton has relied on people who are already maxed out. $13.5 million isn't shabby, but it looks like Obama will have more resources over the next few months. For example, here in the DC media market I've seen about a dozen Obama ads targeting next Tuesday's primary and zero Hillary ads. Money and ads aren't everything, but they aren't nothing.

3.) Yes, Clinton still has some big states left on her calendar to be optimistic about, specifically, Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania. But Ohio and Texas don't come for another month, and Pennsylvania doesn't come until April 22nd. Obama has time he didn't have in California to build momentum and to make greater inroads into the Latino community. Also Ohio and Texas are unlike California in that they are not traditional Democratic strongholds with the support infrastructure Clinton had in CA.

A few other notes:

Both Jon and I acknowledge that the current primary system clearly is not optimal. But, let's be clear: Clinton was not the real winner last night because she won more popular votes. That would be like me saying that that the Patriots are the best team in the NFL because they had scored more points than anyone else, which is, painfully, not true. The goal of both campaigns was to win delegates, if the system judged winning and losing on a different criteria, campaign resources would have been spent differently. I also suspect that the reason Clinton came out so far ahead in popular votes was because her strong states were Northeast states and CA, which had primaries, while Obama's strong states were in the Midwest and West which primarily hold caucuses.

Finally, this will be a hard fight, but also a necessary struggle for control of the party between the Howard Dean/netroots wing and the Clinton/DLC wing (this was never more evident than in CT where Lamont voters went for Obama while Lieberman voters went for Hillary).

It will be decided by one factor: who has more non-MI and non-FL delegates under their control when the convention starts. If it's Obama, and he needs to exclude FL and MI, then the convention vote will uphold the DNC. If it's Hillary, it won't matter anyway and she'll vote to include them.

Will it be tough? Yes. But people have short memories, and Democrats who care enough about the Democratic primary to get upset by it aren't going to turn around and vote for 4 more years of Republicans.

EDIT: I checked some sites, and the popular vote was actually very close somewhere around 7 million to 7 million with a slight lead for Hillary.


Jonathan said...

A more thorough post later, but note that at the beginning of last night, because of the exit poll insanity, Hillary was at 40 percent and shot back up. Overall, the rest of the night was recovery and everyone is now confused. The simple truth is that more voters matters and is nothing like most points. We aggregate wins in sports as the ultimate mechanism of decision. There's no underlying ethos behind it, because it is a support. In a democracy it sure as hell does matter whom a majority of people voted for, or at the very least should. Meanwhile, the states of FL and MI continue to be disenfranchized and something has to be done about this. I am way more concerned with fairness to the electorate than to Obama and his supporters. The truth is that more Democrats want Hillary than want Obama. That matters. A lot.

Jonathan said...

The 40 percent I am referring to was her Intrade number as of 7 PM. BTW Intrade is no longer terribly accurate it: a) seems like it just follows the conventional wisdom and crazy exit polls; b) campaigns have been pushing supporters to buy their candidates on Intrade as a matter of subtle hype. Obama, now being the candidate of the wealthy upper crust has the advantage her.

Dennis said...

In Florida and MI Obama did not campaign (he had one national ad that was also shown there), and in MI he wasn't even on the ballot. Meanwhile Hillary went back on her promise to get out of MI and played to Florida voters by saying their primary should now count, and scheduled events there.

I think Hillary probably would have won Florida if it were on Super Tuesday, but its likely the margins would have been similar to CA (a ten point win). In MI the potential outcome would be much less clear. I'd like to have a primary or caucus in both states where everyone competes fairly, but neither side will probably concede to that.

On another note, I've actually seen the popular vote was tied on Tuesday night at around 7 million to 7 million, so it's not at all clear that most democrats prefer Hillary.