Wednesday, January 09, 2008

From New Hampshire — Not so fast

Wow what a night.

The first thing to say on a general level is I'm glad the contest will continue especially on the Democratic side. I think Iowa and New Hampshire have way too much say in who is selected to run for president. The media was just about ready to crown Obama the nominee (just the say way it did with Clinton last year). I think it is important that as many people as possible participate in the process. That Iowa and New Hampshire should not have the final say.

Now to the press fumbling the Democrats story. Here's a link to Howard Kurtz’s column in the Post. In it he says:
This was delicious. The coverage had been so out of control there was speculation about when Hillary might have to drop out. Polls giving Barack Obama an 8- or 10-point lead were accepted as fact. The news surrounding the former first lady had been uniformly negative for days. She’s done everything wrong, Obama has done everything right. She got too emotional in the diner. People just didn’t like her. She campaigned in boring prose and Obama in soaring poetry (to use her analogy). Bill was hurting her. A campaign shake-up was on the way. An era was ending. Some pundits were predicting a 20-point Obama margin.

Here are two stories on how the polls got it wrong. One from the Post and the other from USA Today. The USA Today story concludes:

Certainly there will be soul-searching on the part of pollsters and media-gatekeepers who in this situation believed so strongly in the predictive ability of polls that they built whole story lines and coverage threads around the assumption that Hillary Clinton was going to lose in New Hampshire. This is a cause for caution in the future -- but not, I believe, a reason to cast wholesale doubt on the value of public opinion polling in an election environment.

Except that won’t be happening. The TV media this morning poked fun at the headlines from papers saying how Clinton was finished (most of them were from Monday and Tuesday). But I didn’t hear much from TV talking heads about how they were wrong. There will be the usual “oh we need to be more careful” and then they will go ahead as they have before.

What this proves is that the polls and the talking head are one thing. But the thing that really matters are the people and how they vote. And that is a wonderful thing.

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