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New Hampshire postmortem
Posted by: mcq on Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I don't know about you, but about 9 or 9:30 last night I could sense that the numbers for Hillary Clinton weren't going to change. That, in fact, she was probably going to win New Hampshire.

Of course by that time, the Republican race was over, speeches given and candidates zipping out of the state.

But Clinton? Wow. Because she had been written off by just about everyone out there, to include me. I'd been sucked into the polling frenzy which showed Obama not only winning, but in most cases winning by double digits. Instead Hillary Clinton gave the Obama bandwagon a flat tire.

So what happened? Well some possible explanations are:
  • Obama is more light than heat. He's a good campaigner, he thrills crowds, they flock to hear him, but when it comes time to pull the lever, eh, not so much. The "I dated Obama, but married Clinton".
  • Obama's supporters believed the polls as well. So, as Mary Katherine Ham said, they had a heck of a tail-gate party but forgot to attend the game.

  • Hillary Clinton just did a bang up job. When the going got tough she got tough as well. She got out there and did what was necessary, and her campaign did as well (although her campaign is claiming the "tears" helped).
  • Clinton's (and that would include both of them) "experience over inexperience" message gained some traction. People began to listen and consider that point. 58% who said they wanted change voted for Obama, but Clinton won.
  • Clinton had the superior GOTV effort and in this case, the weather favored her instead of Obama.
And so on. There are going to be more theories as to why this happened than you can shake a stick at - in fact, here's Mickey Kaus with a few of his own.

I think it was a combination of all of the above and some other stuff. I could probably go on for a number of paragraphs, but as hard as it is for me to say this, she was the "comeback kid" (relatively speaking) last night. And that makes this one hell of a horserace. But a point Dale made last night should be kept in mind as well - this win came as just as much of a surprise to the Clinton campaign as it did to everyone else.

On the Republican side, no real surprises. NH just has a thing for John McCain.

Instead the story about NH is Hillary Clinton and the polls.

What in the world happened to the polls. On the Republican side, they were pretty much dead on - I'm talking about the pre-primary polls. But on the Democratic side, they weren't just off a little, they were wildly off.

And the exit polling, for Democrats, wasn't much better (although the exit polling for Reps, again, was almost dead on).

Here is the exit poll data from Fox News as they presented it at 8pm last night:
Reps - 35% McCain, 30% Romney, 13% Huckabee. Dems - Obama 39%, Clinton 34%, Edwards 18%.
Very close on Edwards, but nowhere near the final result for Clinton/Obama.

I remember Michael Barone saying that for whatever reason exit polling in NH was very "dubious". Yet if you look at it, only Clinton and Obama were wrong. And the results the exit pollers got were very believable because the polls, who were so wrong, supported what they were getting.

My guess is this had a lot to do with the way the NH primary is conducted, with its large independent vote and a history of deciding late. But if the polls were to be believed prior to the vote, then there was a whole lot of switching going on. But then there was a whole lot of hard work going on by the campaigns as well.

Needless to say, there are a whole bunch of pollsters sitting around scratching their heads. And there's a campaign staff doing the same thing as they try to figure out how what they thought was a sure victory turned into a second place finish.

What effect will this have in South Carolina? Well I hate to say "let's watch the polls", but that's about all we have at the moment. I think HRC gets a bit of a bounce out of this - how about you?
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Previous Comments to this Post 

I thought that I heard Barone comment later that the final analysis of the exit polls showed Clinton with a 2 point lead.
Written By: Martin McPhillips
Those were the exit poll numbers Fox put up there at 8pm as faithfully copied down by your scribe. I’m not sure when that "final analysis" was made, but it must not have been at 8.
Written By: McQ
In the comments last night at your liveblogging post I noted Barone making the "revised" comments at around 10:30. I thought that I heard him say that they showed her with a 2 point lead.
Written By: Martin McPhillips
I thought this was interesting:

Intrade’s stellar prediction job.

75 percent swings each time a new event occurs suggests that the predictive value of the current price at any given point in time is just about worthless, leaving us with just a one-bar summary of the CW.
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
glas, that fits fine with my own take from a little while back:

The Iowa Bingo Machine

I can’t say I’m usually in line with Krugman, but this time I am.
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Anyone else notice the dearth of MK posts today about how the republicans chose a religious nut who compares homosexuals to necrophiles while the Dems chose the Harvard-educated law review editor?

1st casualty of NH- MK’s narrative!
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Those who were hoping for the post-mortem of the Hildabeast’s campaign forgot the essentials: garlic, holy water and a sharpened wooden stake.
Written By: John
God Bless America
Written By: darohu
URL: http://

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