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New Hampshire post mortems

Cable news is an annoying repetition of “what happened?” and “why were the polls off” in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary.  Most people seem to be saying that it must have been Clinton’s show of emotion, or the way that she was beat up on for showing emotion.  Or they are speculating that people lie to pollsters, that they are afraid to admit that they won’t vote for a black candidate.  These are, of course, totally data-free explanations.  Rachel Maddow’s explanation was more interesting, and based on some data – the polls had Hillary ahead for months, with Obama getting a little blip that didn’t really translate into votes in the end.

Over at Daily Kos, DHinMI has a far more interesting analysis – one that is based (amazingly!) on data.   Looking at the exit-polling numbers, basically Clinton’s did better in densely populated areas, while Obama did better in sparsely populated areas.  From this, DHinMI suggests that the difference may have been in “ground game” – that Clinton was better at organising and getting her supporters to the polls.

The press will be analyzing the debate, or the “cry” and the response to it from John Edwards and Barack Obama, or Bill Clinton’s finger waving, and try to figure out what changed in the polling from Saturday to Tuesday.  That’s what the press will naturally do, because they can’t imagine something they never saw, and that was independent of what was on broadcast and in the papers on Sunday and Monday, could explain why the results were so different than the polls predicted.  It’s likely that some men who may have voted for Obama shifted to Republican primary to vote for McCain, which would have drawn off some support for Obama.  But this win by Clinton doesn’t appear to have been brought about by anything else that changed in the last two days.  No, it appears at this early stage of analysis that the pieces were in place for this win all along, and that the “secret weapon” of the Clinton campaign was their field program to significantly boost turnout with their strongest demographic, single women and women with less than a college degree.

Whether he’s right or wrong, at least he has a testable, data-based hypothesis.  Maybe the media could try something along those lines one of these days.  After all, you’d think a large press organisation would be far better equipped to do this than would a blogger.


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