Don’t Call It a Comeback (or an Upset)


Okay, so Clinton won New Hampshire. I watched CNN and MSNBC and listened to NPR and everyone was going on about what a comeback this was–a comeback of historic proportions even. Please. I think the word is losing meaning.

HRC has been leading in the polls in New Hampshire forever until just the last few days. If it weren’t for the recent polls showing Obama pulling away, it would just be the expected result. All this means is that those polls were wrong. Why? Now, that is an interesting question. I have some ideas, but I don’t want to talk out of my ass in so revered a forum as DCKz . . .

Wait, who am I kidding?  That’s what I’m all about!

1. Clinton may have gotten a bump from the whole “near crying” incident on Monday, 1/7/2008–which would have been too late to be reflected on any polls but was ubiquitous in the news coverage. This flash of humanity may have appealed to many. What made her so emotional? Was it the plight of a child with leukemia with no insurance? The story of a laid-off factory worker? No, she was just feeling self-pitying about the exhaustion of the campaign trail: “It’s not easy. It’s not easy.” I have no problem with her tearing up. I couldn’t bust my ass day after day like does, but seriously, whatever. Here’s Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. on Hillary’s tears:

2. It is in the realm of possibility that some of Obama’s lead in the polls could be due to the social desirability of supporting a black candidate (see this article for a good description of this well-know social-psychological phenomenon). People are polled over the phone; there is a real person on the other end asking them the questions. In the polling booth, they are alone and no one can see whom they check (The Bradley Effect). In Iowa, it didn’t work this way. The caucuses are done face-to-face where social desirability is even more likely to be a factor (The Reverse Bradley Effect, as it were).

In short, people don’t want to appear racist because they know it is socially unacceptable, so they are more likely to say they support a black candidate when asked by pollsters. This doesn’t mean that New Hampshire voters are more racist, the difference could be due to the fact that the primary was a secret ballot and the caucus was not. I don’t think social desirability and voting method explains the whole difference here, but I would be surprised if it weren’t responsible for some of the difference.

More theories at Kausfiles. Also check out Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter’s three “pop psych theories” on how HRC won. My favorite: the “Reese Witherspoon Effect.”

That’s what I’m going to call my new band.


4 Responses to “Don’t Call It a Comeback (or an Upset)”

  1. slivermoon22 Says:

    Well, fine, don’t talk out your ass. I will talk out mine. 🙂

  2. Paul Bibeau Says:

    Good post. I think the Hampshirites may have also been responding to what they saw as a media coronation of Obama. Not to take away from the guy himself — he has some very good points — but some of the coverage has been annoyingly uncritical. This week’s Newsweek profile of Obama was a valentine, for example. I remember a campaign for some student office back in college, where the candidate actually tried to pretend he had supernatural powers… that he could heal the sick and the lame. I’m seeing some of this in the coverage. It’s possible the voters are putting the brakes on this kind of thing.

  3. You knew I guy in college who claimed he had supernatural powers just to get elected? What an ass!

    That makes a mockery of leaders who have true mystical powers like Jim Jones and Hugo Chavez.

  4. Paul Bibeau Says:

    There’s a fascinating piece on why Hillary won in the WSJ…

    And it’s by Rovecifer. Reading it, you can’t help but wonder whether he’s trying to give readers an honest assessment, or to skew future primaries some way. Does he actually want Hillary to win, because he thinks that will make it easy for the GOP? Or because it will make it harder, for his rival McCain? Or because he thinks Democrats will automatically do the opposite of what he says, and therefore he says exactly what he means, knowing it will have a reverse effect? Trying to comprehend the mind of Rovecifer is like staring into the sun… it invites madness.

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