Some Thoughts About The New Hampshire Primaries

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Past Primary campaign buttons from the collections of the NH Historical Society and the NH Political Library.

Image: WBUR, Boston's NPR affiliate.

I was hanging out in my local watering hole last night, watching the primary coverage for New Hampshire on television until the results were announced. While I was there, I overheard a particularly empassioned conversation between the bartender (a musician in his mid-forties) and a "regular" (a medical doctor in his mid-fifties) where they were abusing Hillary Clinton for "crying" because she lost the Iowa caucus.

"No crying! Politics are for men!" They crowed arrogantly to each other.

Did Hillary actually cry? That's not what I've been reading in the newspapers this morning. Anyway, they both attributed Hillary's narrowly winning the NH Democratic primary to this emotional "outburst". Do you agree with their observation?

As you know, I am not a fan of Hillary (I don't dislike her, either, I am simply .. neutral about her), however, I think that crediting a few seconds of an "emotional display" to winning a state presidential primary is completely ludacris.

People are missing the fact that this was a real primary and not a caucus, which means that the residents of New Hampshire were not participating in a socail event, they were secluded in a little voting booth where no one but themselves could see who they were actually voting for.

Anyway, here are a few of my thoughts about Clinton and Obama; even though Barack is reputed to be more liberal that Hillary, I have my doubts since Barack is apparently more attractive to independents than is Hillary, and independents are typically less liberal than the average Democrat, which explains why they swing from D to R and back again. Futher, from what I have read and seen (I do live in NYstate afterall), Hillary is more practical and down-to-earth than the more charismatic Barack (I have read both his memoirs afterall), which makes her plans and her track record more realistic and more achievable than Barack's, especially in view of the problems currently being experienced in this country. And what did you think of the fact that by winning, Hillary is the first woman to ever win a state primary? I think that's really impressive (and long overdue), despite my abivalence towards all the democratic candidates in general.

Interestingly, today's news coverage is mostly focused on asking how was it possible for Hillary to win NH? Um, huh? What happened in the media to cause Hillary to go from the predicted Democratic presidential front-runner to an also-ran after the Iowa caucus, which is simply a glorified party night instead of a real primary?

Based on all this falderall, it makes me think that the real (unspoken) prejudice is what I've often sensed with regards to Hillary; most people in this country simply do not like intelligent and articulate women who have strong personalities.

Okay, I can't resist. While I am talking about last night's primary, I wanted to point out a couple random observations of the NH primary coverage, for example; did you notice that Ron Paul's slice of the CNN pie chart did not have his name next to it, whereas Rudy Giuliani's identically-sized slice did? Did you notice that Hillary had a group of young voters behind her when she made her victory speech last night, instead of Madeleine Albright? I was just wondering what you thought of all that and if you noticed anything other oddities regarding the news coverage that I didn't see?

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Well. looking at it from outside the US (from Canada, actually), my strongest reaction is that it's a bizarre system through which to determine presidential candidates.

If I look at the % of the US voting population in Iowa and NH (let alone the % that actually took part), it seems to me that the rational reaction to both results ought to be, "Who cares??"

By Scott Belyea (not verified) on 09 Jan 2008 #permalink

what system would you propose instead?

i mean, i agree with you, but i haven't been able to think of a better alternative, although one could tie voting to a reduction in one's income taxes or something similar. but then, that would probably lead to people simply voting for the sake of a financial return rather than actually researching and thinking about their decision before poking a hole in their ballot.

what system would you propose instead?

Well, I do not feel myself competent to suggest an acceptable alternative, but I'm tempted to ask what could be worse?

Just about anything ought to be better than the feeding frenzy based on a miniscule % of the voting population which seems to be inevitable with the current system.

By Scott Belyea (not verified) on 09 Jan 2008 #permalink

From the outside looking in, I suspect that some people in the news media (CNN is what I get here) don't want Hillary to be nominated. Not, perhaps, because they disagree with or dislike her but because they think that she would lose in the presidential race.

I'm not sure why a woman is seen as being a liability, there have been a number of female leaders outside the USA.
But it does seem to be the exception.

By Chris' Wills (not verified) on 09 Jan 2008 #permalink

"one could tie voting to a reduction in one's income taxes or something similar. but then, that would probably lead to people simply voting for the sake of a financial return rather than actually researching and thinking about their decision before poking a hole in their ballot."

I kind of doubt whether most voters research and think about their decision NOW. I know a lot of informed people who don't vote out of cynicism or laziness, and misguided individuals who vote because of rabid partisan fervor with nothing behind it. (Old southern lady: "Oh, I could never vote for a Republican. They freed the slaves!" ACTUAL COMMENT!)

In Australia, voting is mandatory. You must submit a ballot, although those who wish to abstain can indicate such on their forms. Interesting Slate article about how such a policy might work in the US:

There are a lot of people here who see Hillary as some kind of 'threat' to the Presidency, or a return of Bill or the like. Apparently there are "a lot" of Dems who say that if Hillary gets the vote to run in the election, they'll vote Repub. (Sorry, I don't have sources.) Sounds kind of fishy to me, though, how Democrat can you be if a woman will cause you to drop trow and run for the hills? But I can definitely see the media taking that and running with it.

"what system would you propose instead?"

50 States. 5 primaries of 10 states each, (two weeks? three weeks?) apart, which state is in which primary is randomly decided each election year. No state is allowed to be in the the 1st primary twice in a row, and if a state ends up in the last primary more than twice that election year's selection is redrawn. The lots for 'which state is in which primary' are drawn one year in advance of the general election.

By Christopher Gwyn (not verified) on 09 Jan 2008 #permalink

Let's face it, neither of them are very progressive (which I prefer to liberal; I'm not a liberal. I am a progressive). Hillary's Iran vote I think is the real Hillary. She didn't need to do it. All the other dem candidates condemned her for it. It was stupid. She voted that way because that was what she though she should do, just as her vote for the war was the real Hillary (and remains so). Both Clintons are right of center dems, she even more so than her spouse. And Barack has a health plan that is farther right than any dem candidate that has one.

What Barack has going for him is the rhetoric of Hope, which is no small thing. JFK was a terrible President (I was an adult during his presidency and remember him as an unrelenting Cold Warrior) but his rhetoric was a tremendously positive thing. It wasn't just empty words. It inspired people to do things that they wouldn't otherwise do and that he had no inclination himself for doing. We need some of that rhetoric now, which is why I prefer Obama. Policy-wise I am an Edwards voter, but even Edwards is flawed. Kucinich has them all beat but isn't viable.

As for Paul, some good stuff but waaaaay too much bad stuff to go with it.

Whining or crowing about the pathetic details of an obsolete and asinine political system is of little value, especially given that the really important thing - the nation (and the people in it) - seems to bumble along fine regardless of what moron is obsessively-compulsively clinging to the White House.

Based on all this falderall, it makes me think that the real (unspoken) prejudice is what I've often sensed with regards to Hillary; most people in this country simply do not like intelligent and articulate women who have strong personalities.

Well, I for one, do like Hillary for precisely those reasons - she is articulate and intelligent. She respects evidence and reason and clearly states so - something I do not see from the other candidates. She also has specifically stated that she respects science and scientific opinion and pledges a "political hands off science" policy - a huge, big, plus in my book. That she is a woman is, frankly, irrelevant to me - other than that it would be a great historical first and about bloody time. She is my clear choice for president.

Hillary did not actually cry. She teared up and spoke in a bit of a choked and wavering voice.

The thing that happened in the media making this a shocker is Obama's rise in the polls since Iowa and polling at 10% to 13% over Hillary. This had all the talking heads digging a grave for Hillary's candidacy. There is much debate in political circles about why the polls were so wrong. Polling is almost never this far off. (13% to 16%)

Some say Hillary's display of emotion showed a human side and that led to voters reconsidering her, especially undecided voters whom tend to make up their minds at the last moment.

Others site the demographics. The Independents broke for McCain and not Obama. The Independents went for Obama in Iowa. Older women were overwhelming for Hillary, possibly because of all the sexist crap she has had to put up with during this campaign and they came out in big numbers. The youth vote, assumed to be Obama's, didn't show up in the numbers they said they would in the polls.

Edwards made a really tone deaf statement about Hillary's tears to the effect that maybe she wasn't tough enough to run the country because of those girlie tears. This probably pissed off some of his female supporters enough to switch to Hillary. I know it pissed me off enough to drop my support of him.

There is speculation that some voters supporting Dodd and Biden were unaware they had dropped out when they spoke to pollsters and went for Hillary when they found out.

Then there is the Wilder effect, in which white voters tell the pollsters they are going to vote for the black candidate to avoid looking like a racist and go for the white candidate when they get in the voting booth. There is even speculation that Hillary got a lift from being near the top of the ballot which supposedly gives a candidate as much as a 3% bump.

I think it was a combination of these factors and that Hillary has real support among Democrats. She should do well in states with primaries that allow only Democrats to vote, no Independents and no Republicans. For me, it's back to deciding between Obama's inspiration versus Hillary's perspiration. I'm leaning towards the sweaty nerd girl.

By carolyn13 (not verified) on 09 Jan 2008 #permalink

I've heard the Wilder effect also called the Bradley effect (after LA mayor, I believe). Someone on the radio this morning suggested something called the Hillary effect: won't admit publicly they're voting for Hillary, but fill in the oval for her behind closed curtains.

I think HC is a smart, competent woman who would make a fine president, but I'm not a major fan. Too much political calculus for my tastes. I reject, however, the charge that she is divisive and therefore unelectable.

The right-wing smear machine has convinced many people that she is evil incarnate ... or at the very least a royal bitch. It's true that there are now a significant number of people who have an irrational dislike (even hatred) of her -- or actually of the caricature the smear machine has painted.

I refuse to let those swift boat liars and profession take-down artists dictate who I should be able to vote for. HC may not be my first choice (I'm not sure yet who is) but I would gladly campaign for her in the upcoming election.

...and independents are typically less liberal than the average Democrat...

We even have figures to back that up. There's also a post there about what happened with the polls.

It's worth pointing out that there can be a difference between the position a candidate sets out and what they do in practice. The trick is obviously to sound like you're in the centre.

As for the system of deciding the candidates, it's just nuts. The Democratic Party is a political party, so the only people able to vote for the party's candidates should be members of the party. Instituting that rule immediately makes the whole process smaller (or will swell the parties' coffers).



You are right; it is I think more common to call it the Bradley effect. Some of the analysis I've read since making that comment discounts this as a factor in the screwy polls. Obama did get the percentage of votes the polls predicted within a 1% margin of error. So there were no hidden racists and no lazy youth vote.

The mystery now becomes why Hillary's polling didn't reflect the reality of her support. It may have been her letting her hair down enough to persuade voters to her side or it could have been bad methodology by the pollsters.

By carolyn13 (not verified) on 09 Jan 2008 #permalink