09 January 2008

Bartlet for America

While cynical, it appears I was right last night in my assessment of what the voters want, or at least what New Hampshire's voters want. It appears that a tearful moment straight from the heart is worth between 10 and 13 points at the poles. This is a note for all future Democrat candidates, when in trouble after Iowa cry, don't scream. While Hilary Clinton is certainly a capable politician, her support of the war and previous role as Wal-Mart's corporate lawyer, where she had a long history of anti-union behavior, prevents me from getting excited about her.

To be honest it is crass to put this all down to Hillary's Oprah moment (particularly when Oprah is firmly in the Obama camp). New Hampshire's Primary system is unusual in that it lets anybody vote in the primaries, you can register at the polling station for a particular party, and then unregister immediately after voting. This means that when media groups restrict their phone polling to likely voters of a particular party, you get a very blurry snapshot of the final turnout, as unaffiliated voters are an unquantifiable factor. While this had more of an effect in the Republican contest, with Independents turning out for McCain, the other factor in the Democrat vote is the make-up of the constituency, rural, older and with very few minorities. In Iowa the vote was a very young one, which favored Obama. In New Hampshire the increase in voter turnout was fueled not by students or first time voters, but by middle-aged women, who voted by 45% to 36% for Clinton. It will be interesting to see how the vote splits in states with more diverse and/or urban populations.

The record turnout is a positive sign, people in both parties were motivated to get out and have their voice heard. The Republican outcome was also interesting because neither the evangelical movement or excessive money proved decisive. Once again though the fact remains that New Hampshire, like Iowa, is not reflective of the country as a whole, and serves mainly to fuel media hype and column inches until the next big thing. See you on the 15th (though only for Republicans)!

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