Since the Obama campaign is now in a state of collapse as (jokingly) claimed by Lee, I feel obligated to respond and explain how the Clinton campaign is now in a state of denial.
Before Iowa, a 2% victory over Obama in New Hampshire would have been portrayed by the media as a win for Obama and a sign that the Clinton campaign was in trouble. Today, Clinton's slim margin of victory is being described with headlines like Big Clinton Comeback Upends Race and Clinton's Stunning Victory.
The media is falling all over itself to push this line because all of the polls that they have been creating and feeding us for the last week were so far off the mark. Some had Obama up by double digits. Only a few had the race even within the margin of error.
I've seen some pundits trying to explain this outcome by claiming that independent voters may have decided to vote in the Republican primary since they felt Obama had the Democratic race wrapped up. If that were the case, then John McCain's margin of victory would have been much greater than the polls predicted. But the average of the polls on the Republican side were nearly dead on target. Only the polls on the Democratic side were wrong.
What could explain that? Could Hillary's teary-eyed moment have swung undecided voters dramatically in her direction in the last 24 hours? Possibly. Another possibility is the so-called "Doug Wilder effect" where people tell the pollsters that plan to vote for an African-American candidate but then do the opposite in the polling booth. Probably the most likely explanation however is that the polls didn't reflect how undecided voters who made up their minds in the last 24 hours would vote; and these people seemed to break heavily for Hillary. Engram has a good explanation of this and I think it makes the most sense.
So while Lee may want to discount polling data from here on out I will still be reporting on them because I think they are valuable in determining the mood of the electorate. In particular, the exit polling done by CNN is very instructive. Obama scored a huge advantage among independent voters while Clinton crushed Obama among Democrats:
Forty-three percent of self-styled independents said they voted for Obama, and 31 percent said they backed Clinton. Independents made up 43 percent of all voters polled. But Clinton was ahead of Obama 45 percent to 34 percent among those who said they were registered Democrats. Those voters made up a majority -- 54 percent -- of all respondents.
Quoting Lee who says this doesn't matter:
"We need to choose the best-qualified candidate, based on whatever criteria we personally want to apply to that decision, and stop letting polls make our decisions for us".
I would counter that this election shouldn't be about who is the most "qualified" to be president because all of the Democratic contenders (including Richardson and Edwards) are plenty smart and talented enough to handle the job in my opinion. The determining factor for me is whether we are going to get a 5% margin of victory or a 15% margin. It's whether we want a huge coattails effect or a limited one. It's whether we want 60 seats in the Senate or 55. All of those things are more likely with Obama at the head of the ticket than Clinton.
Appealing to independents will matter a great deal especially if we are going to be running against John McCain. A McCain vs. Clinton race would be extremely tight and unlikely to trigger much of a coattails effect on either side.
The other interesting difference between Clinton and Obama is their appeal to older and younger voters:
"Age is also playing a big factor -- older voters are overwhelmingly outnumbering younger voters -- a proportion that is clearly benefiting Clinton," Schneider said. "Sixty-seven percent of Democratic primary voters are over the age of 40, and they are breaking heavily for Clinton over Obama."
Clinton's advantage among the elderly could be crucial in a general election against McCain who probably also does well among them. Yet, if we are thinking about the next five elections rather than just 2008, Obama's appeal to younger voters would be far more helpful in broadening the franchise of the Democratic Party and expanding our ranks in the long run. One of the most positive signs we saw in 2006 was a huge swing toward the Democrats among younger voters. That's a trend I would like to see accelerated in 2008. Many studies show that the first few elections can establish a lifetime voting pattern. Obama is best equipped to help pull younger voters into the Democratic Party for years to come.
We should also ask ourselves who do the Republicans want to win? Would they rather go against Clinton or Obama? I think it's pretty clear that Rush and O'Reilly are salivating at the opportunity to begin pounding away on Clinton on a daily basis about Whitewater, the Rose Law firm, and all of the other scandals that so energized the Republican base for the eight years of the Clinton administration.
Hillary Clinton will make a fine president but this election should be about more than just one candidate. It should be about electing Senators and Representatives who will be instrumental in reversing and rolling back the incalculable damage that has been done to our country in the past 7 years. It should be about securing a genuine electoral mandate that will allow the Democrats to bring real change to the country. It should be about expanding the Democratic tent so we can drown out the Republicans and get something done.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!