Showing posts with label polls. Show all posts
Showing posts with label polls. Show all posts


The Veepstakes: Hillary Clinton

Any discussion about Barack Obama's potential running mates would be incomplete without Hillary Clinton. I first shot down the idea of an Obama-Clinton ticket back in February and have expressed reservations about it since then despite her obvious strength.

However, time has bolstered Obama's political footing. He is now in a significantly stronger position now than he was two months ago when Clinton was winning Pennsylvania and running up the score in West Virginia. Time has worked to Obama's benefit in that a lot of the hard feelings among Democrats have dissipated and the negative attacks have stopped. Now there is greater unity among the Democrats as they prepare for the fall campaign against John McCain. Hillary Clinton is out of the headlines, thus ceding the stage to Barack Obama. This lack of exposure is gradually weakening her leverage.

In addition to this, polling in various battleground states further weakens Clinton's hand. According to these polls, Obama is leading in Montana, Colorado, Virginia, New Mexico, Florida, and Indiana while trailing by fewer than 5 percentage points in Georgia, Mississippi, Alaska, and North Carolina. These states all voted for Bush in the 2004 election.

The longer Obama remains ahead of John McCain in these polls, the less likely he will need Hillary Clinton on the bottom half of the ticket. Clinton's strongest argument was that she could win the states Democrats needed to win in order to win the election. Also, by claiming that "she wanted her supporters to be respected," she was implying that her supporters were too angry to warm up to Obama and were ripe for McCain to harvest. Some of her supporters are indeed still upset about her defeat and, fairly or unfairly, are penalizing Obama for this. But the polls I cited earlier suggest that Obama is doing just fine with the support he currently has. This, of course, weakens Clinton's main rationale for her candidacy. Either Obama is overperforming, Clinton's supporters were bluffing, McCain is not able to capitalize on these supposed divisions among Democrats, or some combination of the three is happening.

In terms of the electoral map, Hillary Clinton could probably deliver Arkansas and make the neighboring states of Tennessee and Missouri more competitive. Bill Clinton could also be deployed to the Appalachian areas of western North Carolina, southwestern Virginia, central Pennsylvania, and southern Ohio and appeal to the rural Reagan Democrats there. Voters who have good memories of the economy during Bill Clinton's presidency may make voters in the economically depressed Midwest (e.g., Michigan and Ohio) a bit less likely to support John McCain as well.

In terms of her personal image, Clinton has rehabilitated herself in the eyes of Democrats who gained a lot of respect for her because of her grit and her ability to fight. Even Republicans concede that she is tough. She does not have a glass jaw and will not let any Republican attack go unanswered. If Obama is unable to sufficiently beat back Republican attacks with his traditionally soft approach, Clinton could easily clean up the mess because hand-to-hand combat is her political forte. So she could be an effective attack dog for Obama, which is probably just fine because that has traditionally been the role for potential vice presidents on the campaign trail. Of course, Republicans may criticize Obama for not reining Clinton in if she goes on offense, but any attempts to silence her would likely be met by anger from her supporters who are still sensitive about perceived sexism-related injustices Clinton (and themselves by extension) faced during the primary.

The negatives associated with Hillary Clinton are obvious and well documented:

1. The right despises her and her name on the ballot may do more to drive up Republican turnout than John McCain ever could. Democrats are more excited about this election than Republicans are, thus creating an enthusiasm gap. The prospect of the Clintons back in the White House could help neutralize this.

2. The issue of what to do with Bill Clinton would also loom over the campaign. Is Bill Clinton really disciplined enough not to throw the Obama campaign off message with his own histrionic antics? And is there any new Clinton baggage just waiting to bog Obama down? And would Obama's star shine more brightly than the former president's? Or his wife's?

3. Obama's message of "change" would become a bit diluted because of the "back to the future" element of including half of a political dynasty on his ticket. And this political dynasty's approach to politics is much more confrontational, thus further contradicting Obama's more genteel style.

Although Clinton could help him in the Upper South, Obama does not need Arkansas, Tennessee, or even North Carolina to win the election. Obviously, losing North Carolina would be deadly for McCain because if Obama wins North Carolina, McCain will absolutely have to win Michigan and defend Ohio. But because Obama is polling well enough in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio on his own, there is even less incentive for him to choose the junior senator from New York. Despite the recent lovefest in Unity, New Hampshire, Obama clearly does not want to pick Clinton and would like a convenient excuse to reject her. It's in his best interest to simply let things simmer for now though because that will buy him some time and increase the chances of Clinton disqualifying herself either through an unforced error or a new scandalous revelation. (Read Defusing the Hillarybomb for other options available to Obama.)

Despite all the obvious downsides, there is, however, one compelling reason for choosing Hillary Clinton. It has nothing to do with the electoral map or shoring up one's base:

Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.

Hillary Clinton wants to be President. And while she may have sounded conciliatory in her concession speech and her remarks at her joint appearance with Obama in New Hampshire, the fact remains that she lobbed some real hardballs at Obama that flatly discredited his candidacy. Republican-leaning 527 groups are probably creating negative campaign ads using her words against him even as I type this post. Even though her campaign is over, Hillary Clinton is still Barack Obama's rival and must be dealt with carefully.

If Obama does not tap her to be his running mate, she will return to the Senate, where she has a good chance of becoming Senate Majority Leader. That means all legislation must go through her before it reaches Obama's desk in the White House. Would Clinton be so nefarious as to drag her feet when it comes to getting President Obama's agenda passed for the sake of driving down his approval ratings and fostering a sense of buyer's remorse, thus opening the path for her to take over in 2012? Or will she try to flex her political muscle by butting heads with Obama over legislation and dictating the terms necessary for her to shepherd bills through the upper chamber of Congress?

And what if Obama does not choose Clinton and he loses to McCain? Obama's stock value would plummet while Clinton's would soar on the winds of vindication. As a result, Clinton would emerge from the election more powerful than Obama. In 2012, Clinton could run as the "I told you so" candidate, thus reminding voters of the dashed hopes of Obama's failed campaign. Tapping Clinton for veep would help ensure that their political fates are intertwined even in defeat.

In short, the true advantage of a Clinton selection probably lies not in electoral viability this November (as the conventional wisdom indicates), but rather in fewer headaches after the election--win or lose.

Next installment: Mark Sanford


On the Folly of Polling

One of the more interesting catchphrases I've been hearing in the news lately is the phrase "poll of polls," which takes the averages of various polls over a certain time period and creates a brand new average that is somehow supposed to be the most authoritative marker of where the race between the three remaining candidates stands. CNN and Real Clear Politics are regular practitioners of this so-called statistical "analysis." However, having studied a little statistics and research methods myself, I cannot believe these reportedly reputable media organizations are allowed to get away with this. There is such a wide variety of polls with various levels of credibility and bias that make averaging them into a consolidated barometer of public opinion a fool's errand. Here's why.

Point 1: Wording matters. Consider these two questions:

Question A: Whom do you support for President--John McCain or Barack Obama?

Question B: Whom do you support for President--Arizona Senator John McCain or Illinois Senator Barack Obama?

The names are in the same order, but extra information was included in Question B, thus potentially altering the responses. People who think Obama may be light on experience may look at the word "Senator" before his name and think more favorably of him. People may also look at the name "Senator" before John McCain's name and think negatively of him because he's running as a "maverick," not a Washington insider. Surely there are polls circulating that use both question formats. But unfortunately, the data are not interchangeable.

Point 2: Subtlety matters too. Look at these two questions:

Question A: Do you support Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama for President?

Question B: Do you support Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton for President?

Question C: Whom do you support to succeed George Bush--Hillary Clinton, John McCain, or Barack Obama?

Poll X may use the Question A format while Poll Y may use the Question B format. It may look only a subtle difference between the two questions, but in terms of statistical analysis and psychology, this makes a big difference. Some respondents are susceptible to the primacy effect in which items that appear first in a list are more salient. Others, however, are susceptible to the recency effect in which the last item in a list is the most salient. Some polls rotate these questions, but not all of them do, thus leading to potentially biased data.

Question C is an even more egregious example because by including the words "succeed George Bush," the question inadvertently "frames" the responses by providing extra context that could influence respondents' decisions before the response options are even presented. Voters who disapprove of George Bush may listen to "succeed George Bush" and be more inclined to choose a Democrat in the poll even though they are really more likely to support John McCain. Voters who approve of him may be more inclined to support the Republican even though they may have a greater affinity for one of the Democrats this time around. Or perhaps including the word "succeed" may conjure up the importance of leadership. Or personality. Or electibility. Why should polls that engage in such framing and polls that don't be treated as equals?

Point 3: Polls with smaller sample sizes should not be weighted as heavily as polls with larger sample sizes. In general, the larger a sample size is, the smaller the margin of error is. The only truly accurate poll would be one that asks everyone in the country about the presidential race. But that's obviously impossible, so polling organizations use samples to measure what a slice of the electorate is thinking. But if this "slice" consists of 400 people, why should it receive the same weight in the "poll of polls" average as a "slice" of 1200 people? That's bad statistics. That wouldn't pass muster in any university-level statistics course, so why should it pass muster with the media?

Point 4: A "registered voter" is different from a "likely voter." Some polls only measure the opinions of registered voters who may or may not vote in the election. Likely voters are more likely to participate in the election and are therefore more likely to be informed about the candidates. Other psychological variables may be at play also that set likely voters apart from registered voters. Are registered voters more likely to simply "guess" on a poll because they don't have any strong feelings either way about any candidate? Why should their responses even be compared with those of likely voters at all whose opinions are more likely to be informed? And what about unregistered voters who may decide to register and vote later on?

Point 5: Methodology matters. When are these polls being conducted? Who is being polled? Are pollsters questioning the person who answers the telephone? Are they questioning the head of the household? Who is more likely to answer the telephone at 10:30 in the morning? Who is more likely to answer the telephone at 8:30 in the evening? And how does calling during dinnertime affect people's responses? Surely these variables all have at least some subtle impact on how the results turn out. A poll with an overrepresented sampling of housewives might yield different results from a poll that oversamples single men. And what do pollsters do about voters who don't have landline phones? Many younger people only have cell phones, which make it harder for pollsters to reach them. Where do their opinions factor into the polling data? And is the pollster calling people using real people or robocalls? Are respondents speaking to pollsters directly or pressing 1 for McCain and 2 for Clinton?

Point 6: Timing matters. Why should a poll taken before a major political development be averaged with a poll taken after the development? Does a poll taken four days before a major event by one pollster have any relevance if there are polls taken two days afterwards by a different pollster with a different methodology? And what about polls that were taken one day before, the day of, and one day after this event? Some polls are snapshots that measure public opinion on just one particular day. Others gather data from a three-day period. How could these polls be given equal weight? This further dilutes the significance of the average that the "polls of polls" purport.

Point 7: Some people don't feel strongly about the remaining candidates. Consider this question:

Whom do you support for President? Hillary Clinton, John McCain, or Barack Obama?

If you don't support any of them, will the pollster treat you as "none of the above" or will they press you to choose whom you are most likely to support at present? If the latter is the case, that would presumably benefit the candidate with the highest name recognition, which automatically biases the results. And because different polling organizations use different methods of prompting respondents to choose a candidate even if they really have no preference, that further muddies the "poll of polls" results. Is a 47% level of support for Hillary Clinton really 47%? Or is it 42% because of the uncommitted leaners? Would you want to build your "poll of polls" average on such shaky data? And what do you do if you are a Libertarian or a Green?

It seems that people like dissecting polls so much because they are looking for any indication of trouble on the horizon for a particular candidate. They also provide more fodder for pundits to overanalyze and use to frame the next 24-hour news cycle. "The horserace" is fun for pundits, journalists, and political junkies everywhere, but given the overt flaws in the methodology of what they often obsess over (polls), they might be better off keeping their bombast in check because these polling averages and "polls of polls" simply don't hold water.


Polling Disconnect

Gallup recently released a new poll measuring head-to-head matchups between Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama and John McCain. In both instances, the Democrats were either tied with or marginally ahead of John McCain. These results fly in the face of other polls which overwhelmingly show that the majority of Americans think the nation is on the wrong track, that Iraq was a mistake, and that the percentage of voters who consider themselves Democrats is rising while the percentage of voters who consider themselves Republicans is falling.

Given these data and the advantages that Democrats enjoy on healthcare, the economy, the environment, education, and the generic ballot, why is John McCain performing so strongly against his likely Democratic challengers? Or is it more appropriate to ask why Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are performing so poorly against McCain despite all the advantages they have in the polls and with the electorate's sour mood?

I offer these five possibilities:

1. "Purity" on Iraq is overrated because it matters only to liberal Democrats. Barack Obama's trump card in the Democratic race thus far has been his superior "judgment" regarding the Iraq War. He argues that he got Iraq right from the beginning, whereas Hillary Clinton got it wrong. That is fine, but opposing the war from the very beginning does not bring a single soldier home, nor does it end the fighting in Baghdad. Obama may have displayed his superior "judgment" on Iraq by opposing it initially, but the problem is that it ignores the reality on the ground right now. We don't have the luxury of going back in time and having a revote on the issue. The next president, be it Obama, Clinton, or McCain, is going to inherit a messy, volatile, and urgent situation in Iraq. Americans want to know what the plan is from here on out, not what the plan should have been three or four years ago. There are not enough antiwar liberals in the general electorate to make Obama's position a winner on his Iraq "judgment" alone.

2. John McCain is seen as sufficiently bipartisan. His halo may have dimmed a bit, but the fact remains that McCain benefits from not being seen as a fire-breathing partisan Republican. To be sure, he is a Republican and votes like a Republican. But he has bucked his party and even confronted the President on a few important issues even if they were politically unpopular. Democrats, moderates, and independents probably view his support for "comprehensive immigration reform" as refreshingly pragmatic, rather than predictably dogmatic. His participation in the "Gang of 14" gave Republican partisans fits, but the broader electorate was more likely to view his bipartisan gestures as meaningful attempts to inject a bit of sanity into our political dialogue. He was one of the few Republicans to openly criticize the war's management even though Republicans were clearly circling the wagons (to their own political detriment, as the 2006 election results suggest). This is not token opposition in the eyes of many middle-of-the-road voters. This is not a bunch of protesting when the cameras are running only to vote with your party base in private. McCain has had some substantial disagreements with his party and the White House on several key issues. To Republicans, this may make McCain suspicious. But to the broader electorate, this may make him sufficiently bipartisan. McCain's independence provides an effective foil to Obama's "new politics."

3. Diehard Obamaniacs and Clintonistas are serious about their dislike for their preferred candidate's rival. Last month I argued that nothing but hot air was responsible for the polls that showed a significant portion of Obama and Clinton supporters willing to vote for McCain instead of the Democratic nominee if their preferred candidate did not win the nomination. But what if such polls are true? Unfortunately, the Gallup poll I cited at the beginning of this post does not provide any crosstabs that would reveal how the politicians' support broke down along political lines. While it is true that Clinton and Obama are beating up on each other significantly right now in advance of the Pennsylvania primary, one would think that these Democratic voters consider themselves Democrats before they consider themselves Obama supporters or Clinton supporters. But given the closeness of the Gallup general election polls, polls suggesting irreparable damage to the Democratic Party cannot be dismissed.

4. McCain is getting a free pass by the media and his Democratic rivals. With the Republican race all sewn up, there simply isn't much news for the media to cover. Instead, the cable news networks are focusing more on the sparring between Obama and Clinton. This fighting renders both candidates less attractive and makes McCain look more appealing and more statesmanlike by comparison. McCain may have his warts, but as long as the media focus on turmoil in the Clinton campaign or the specter of Jeremiah Wright, nobody will know. And how can the Democrats attack McCain when they are too busy attacking each other? This would suggest that the Democratic nomination needs to end sooner rather than later. They can't drain their huge warchest and focus solely on defining and wounding McCain otherwise.

5. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are overrated candidates while John McCain has been underrated. The media have focused a lot on Barack Obama's unusual life story which takes him to multiple continents. However, he has been dogged by questions of his experience and is sometimes regarded as all fluff with no substance. Those criticisms are not new. However, the problem is that while Democrats may have decided that his political resume is sufficient (based on his strong performance in the primaries and caucuses thus far), the broader electorate is still not sold on the first-term senator. Throw in controversies like Jeremiah Wright and that further repulses Republicans and independents. So could Obama's ceiling be lower than was originally thought?

In the case of Hillary Clinton, many loyal Democrats revere her because they loved her husband's presidency. Clinton has shaken hands with the right people, given the right speeches, met with the right community leaders, and built up the right relationships with the right people. She represents the establishment wing of the Democratic Party. And despite Bill Clinton's muddying the waters by injecting race into the campaign, he still remains at the head of the party and is still generally liked. Hillary Clinton commonly argues that "she's beaten them (the Republican attack machine) before and she knows how to beat them again." Based on her defeat of Rick Lazio in her 2000 Senate race and the fact that her husband had won two presidential elections, she has a point. However, could she be overstating her electoral strength?

Ross Perot was clearly responsible for clearing the path to the White House for Bill Clinton in 1992, as he likely siphoned off more votes from George H.W. Bush than the self-described Comeback Kid because of his focus on economic issues. In the 1996 election, a fairly popular Bill Clinton was only able to win 49% of the vote against a very weak Bob Dole. And Clinton's coattails were not long enough to bring Al Gore to the White House in 2000. When Hillary Clinton ran for the Senate in overwhelmingly Democratic New York in 2000, she beat her opponent Rick Lazio by 12% even though Al Gore won the state by 25%. Her reelection in 2006 was a rout, although the Democratic wave that year certainly helped pad her margin of victory. The point of these four issues is that even though the Clintons have not lost an election since 1992 (not including the proxy election of 2000 between George W. Bush and Al Gore), their victories are arguably unimpressive. The fact remains that Republicans despise Hillary Clinton and her appeal to independents is limited. So it would seem that even though Hillary Clinton could win, she would not win convincingly. That would explain why she fails to crack 48-50% in the head-to-head polls.

John McCain had been savaged relentlessly by Republicans during the primary season for not being strong enough in his conservatism. But ironically, Republican voters ended up serendipitously selecting their strongest general election candidate. So it would make sense for him to be performing so strongly in the polls.

But this is all conjecture. Regardless of which of these five scenarios is true, one fact seems abundantly clear: despite all the Democrats' apparent structural advantages, the November election is likely to be more competitive than Republicans and Democrats think.


Calling the Democrats' Bluff

Gallup has recently released a poll that sheds light on the extent to which the ongoing fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has damaged the Democratic party. According to the poll, 28% of Clinton supporters would back McCain over Obama in the general election while 19% of Obama supporters would back McCain over Clinton. These findings suggest that both Clinton and Obama have rendered each other unacceptable to a significant amount of each other's supporters. The idea that 1 in 5 Obama supporters or 1 in 4 Clinton supporters would back McCain over their own party nominee should give all Democrats pause.

However, while Gallup's findings may make for good fodder for the punditry, I believe it would be prudent to take a step back and view this poll with a bit more skepticism. Democrats may be angry and polarized, but they are not so rash as to completely undermine the issues important to them. Instead of a true warning sign, this poll gives angry Democrats the opportunity to vent their frustrations a bit and do so in a way that should not inflict long-term or permanent damage to the Democratic Party.

There are simply too many ideological differences between the Democrats and John McCain to make partisan Democrats pull the lever for him at the ballot box in November. Consider the following:

1. The Democratic Party clearly wants to find a way out of Iraq, either through immediate withdrawal, the implementation of timelines, or via a redeployment to the surrounding countries. John McCain will probably not give them that. And he may even be more likely to get involved in a military confrontation with Iran.

2. Control of the Supreme Court is something Republicans are keenly aware of, especially given the age of Justice Paul Stevens, who is perhaps the most liberal of the nine justices. (He turns 88 next month.) One gets the sense that this is not as much of an issue for Democrats though. But should Justice Stevens retire and be replaced by a conservative appointee, that would have a tremendous effect on issues that conservatives have been trying to overturn for decades--especially abortion rights. Democrats are generally pro-choice when it comes to this issue. John McCain, who is under pressure from social conservatives, would probably appoint a Supreme Court justice in the mold of John Roberts, Sam Alito, or Clarence Thomas. In other words, voters to whom abortion rights matter will not vote against their self interests by supporting someone who will likely restrict them.

3. Democrats are trying to brand McCain as an extension of George Bush. The new line of attack seems to be "John McCain is running for George Bush's third term." Democrats overwhelmingly disapprove of the Bush presidency, so why would they vote for someone whom they argue would only continue it? So many polls suggest that voters want the next president to take the nation in a new direction. Are Democrats really prepared to throw all this out the window and support McCain just because their own candidate didn't win the Democratic presidential nomination?

The idea that Obama's supporters, who are likely more liberal as a whole than Clinton's supporters, would even entertain supporting McCain is not credible. The only way I could see 1 in 5 Obama supporters defecting to McCain is if that 1 in 5 consists of independents and moderate Republicans who are drawn to Obama's message of unity and bipartisanship. Wealthy, well-educated liberals are not going anywhere. Liberals don't vote for conservatives, just as conservatives don't vote for liberals. Black voters are not going anywhere. Republicans traditionally lose the Black vote by about 8 to 1. Young voters are not going anywhere. A 24-year old will simply have trouble relating to a candidate who is three times older than her.

The same could be said for Clinton's supporters. The 1 in 4 voters that would prefer McCain to Obama probably consists of older White blue-collar Reagan Democrats who would vote against their own economic self interests and support the Republican nominee because they are more uncomfortable with Obama's candidacy than other more liberal voters. The Jeremiah Wright controversy probably greatly offended them and rendered Obama unacceptable in their minds. Or perhaps this 1 in 4 consists of voters who have too many reservations about Obama's perceived inexperience.

The rest of Clinton's coalition, however, is not going anywhere. Women are not going anywhere, especially with the Supreme Court hanging in the balance. Latinos are not going anywhere either, especially since John McCain will be much tougher on illegal immigration than either Clinton or Obama.

In short, Obama's and Clinton's supporters are justifiably angry. However, it would be incredibly shortsighted of them to punish the party and work against their own self interests by supporting someone who is so antithetical to the causes and values that are so important to them. Therefore, we should not read too much into the Gallup poll. Rather than jumping aboard McCain's ship, a more likely outcome would be for these disaffected Democrats to simply stay home on Election Day. That would be bad for the Democrats, but not nearly as bad as hemorrhaging support to the Republican nominee.

When the Democratic race is finally decided, the nominee will have a bit of work to do in order to win over the support of those who voted for the nominee's former rival. It would seem that it would be easier for Obama to win over Clinton's supporters than for Clinton to win over Obama's supporters because if Obama does not become the nominee, especially despite winning more states, more pledged delegates, and more popular votes, the enthusiasm among his supporters will immediately disappear and there will be a sense that the election was "stolen" from their preferred candidate. But even if that happens, most voters usually "come home" on Election Day, even if they have to hold their noses at the polls. Remember, even John Kerry was able to get 48% of the vote. So right now, the Gallup numbers look more like hot air than a real political emergency.


On Electoral Behavior and the Credibility of Polling

The polling industry was rocked when Hillary Clinton won a come from behind victory in the New Hampshire primary despite the fact that the question raised by almost every poll taken immediately beforehand was not whether she would lose, but rather by how much. Pundits commonly talked about the Bradley effect, in which voters lie to pollsters about their willingness to support a candidate of color only to abandon this candidate in the privacy of the voting booth because of their own unspoken prejudices. Other pundits looked for other possible causes for Clinton's "silent surge." These reasons ranged from being emotionally-based (e.g., Clinton's crying) to institutionally-based (e.g., Clinton did better among Democratic establishment-types) to psychosocially-based (e.g., the male candidates were slighting Clinton much like the way many women feel the men in their professional and personal lives slight them). All of these explanations had some legitimacy.

The sheer margin of Barack Obama's surprisingly strong finish has emerged as the dominant storyline coming out of the South Carolina primary. However, there's another storyline that warrants further examination--the fact that the polls got it wrong again. According to Real Clear Politics, most major polls taken before the primary had Obama winning by anywhere from 7 to 15 points. (Obama ended up winning by 28.) And the Rolling Stone was warning that the high percentage of undecideds could spell potential disaster for Obama.

So what happened this time, especially since the polling for Clinton and Edwards turned out to be far more accurate?

Explanation 1: There is something of a "reverse Bradley effect" in which voters who really do support Obama tell pollsters they don't simply because they don't want to contribute to the popular media/political storyline about how diverse Obama's supporters are or how much Obama is relying on the Black vote. As I wrote about here, there was a very real possibility that pundits, the media, and (almost certainly) the Clinton campaign would try to spin Obama's victory as the inevitable result of an electorate that was simply too difficult (e.g., too Black) for any other candidate to overcome. If this is indeed what's going on, then that would make it even more difficult to accurately poll Obama in the future. Who are the nonsupporters saying "yes" to Obama out of political correctness, and who are the true supporters saying "no" to Obama out of political strategizing?

Explanation 2: Voters concluded at the last minute that the Clinton campaign did not deserve their vote. Exit polls showed that more voters, including more White voters, thought that Hillary Clinton had run an unfair campaign. Had the election taken place a few days later, perhaps this disdain could have been reflected in the polls. So if this scenario explains what happened in South Carolina, then the polls were right all along and simply suffered from the fact that this disdain on behalf of the voters was a lagging indicator.

Explanation 3: John Edwards is being used as a repository for hidden votes. The South Carolina press was particularly bullish on Edwards and speculated that he could make a real run for second place. Could this perceived surge in Edwards' support really have been a reflection of this hidden Obama vote? Edwards performed miserably among Black voters despite aggressively courting them in his campaign ads. Were Black voters feigning support for Edwards because they didn't want to inflate Clinton's numbers? Obviously, if Clinton's polling displayed an upward trajectory, she would spin that as having "cross-racial" appeal or simply being a stronger candidate overall than Obama. This, in turn, would fuel "is Obama in trouble?"-types of stories. Similarly, one of Clinton's perceived advantages was how she could lock up the women's vote. However, she lost women to Obama by 24 points and tied Edwards among men. Were men feigning support for Edwards even though they were really for Obama? Were these phony Edwards supporters also gaming the system?

Explanation 4: Voters are sick of polling and campaign advertisements and are simply telling the pollsters and campaign workers what they want to hear in order to get them off the phone as quickly as possible. In the days leading up to the primary, I would commonly receive about 10-15 calls a day from campaign workers asking me who I was voting for or reminding me to vote. I also received countless other recorded messages from the candidates themselves or other celebrities telling me why I should support candidate X. It irritated me to no end, as these calls commonly interrupted my dinner, study time, conversations with my wife, or other phone calls. And they clogged up my answering machine and mailbox as well. So whenever someone from the Smedley campaign, for example, called me about voting, I would commonly tell them I was already planning to vote for Smedley and didn't need to be convinced to vote for him or reminded to vote in general. That would usually cut the conversation short and allow me to get back to whatever I was doing before I was interrupted for the umpteenth time. I can only wonder how many thousands of other voters felt the same way. If this frustration is as real as I suspect it is, then polling would obviously be skewed.

A good task for further study would be to develop a means by which these kinds of voting behaviors can be credibly assessed. Come Super Tuesday, the consequences for getting these polls wrong could be a lost election, millions of dollars wasted, and hundreds of man-hours lost pursuing ineffective campaign and advertising strategies and tactics. Each of the four most probable nominees (McCain, Romney, Obama, and Clinton) has a unique demographic characteristic that could potentially benefit or hamper their electibility (age, religion, race, and gender, respectively). And each of the four has an ideological or political vulnerability that they must compensate with (mistrust among conservatives, flip-flopping on several key conservative issues, a thin political resume, and a polarizing approach to politics, respectively). And of course, they all have unique strengths as well (appeal among independents, an aura of competence, the ability to inspire new voters, and nostalgia of a relatively popular presidency, respectively).

For the sake of the polling industry and a better understanding of modern electoral behavior, how these variables interact with modern campaigning and political warfare begs further scrutiny. The challenge, however, lies in going beyond superficial thinking (e.g., "Obama should win the Black vote. McCain should do well with independents.") and figuring out how all these variables interact with each other on a more complex level.


Clinton and Obama: What happened in New Hampshire?

The results of the Iowa caucuses produced an absolute stunner last week when Barack Obama beat both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards by hefty margins.

Not to be outdone, the New Hampshire primaries produced an even bigger stunner when Clinton somehow turned a roughly 7-12 point deficit in most tracking polls into a 3 point victory over Obama, the candidate who had all the momentum and enthusiasm. And this all happened in about a 24-hour span.

Needless to say, there will be a flurry of "Comeback Kid: Part II" stories in the media to describe Clinton's improbable victory. However, because absolutely no one predicted this, something unforeseen was at work that nobody had picked up on.

What on earth happened? Here are my theories, listed in no particular order:

1. Stopping Barack Obama was more important than supporting Hillary Clinton. You all know the story. Obama is a first-term senator who recently left the Illinois state legislature. He has a brief resume and has often been criticized for not offering much specifics. His detractors have been clamoring about this for months, but he has never really been penalized for it. Perhaps New Hampshire voters viewed their primary as the last chance to put the brakes on this freight train before it left the station? Had Obama beaten Clinton as soundly as the polls suggested he would, Clinton would have been sent into a tailspin and would have had to endure certain defeats in Nevada and South Carolina before staging Super Tuesday as her Waterloo moment. Clinton's arguments about the importance of "experience" and Obama being "risky" may have had some resonance. Obama inspires voters to look for a healer, but Clinton reminds voters we are looking for a commander in chief. If this is what happened, this is a very potent line of attack that likely weighs heavily on the minds of many people. The Iowa caucuses eliminated all of the "experience" candidates on the Democratic side and there wasn't enough time for the sole surviving second-tier candidate (Bill Richardson) to effectively present his case to the voters. Advantage: Clinton.

2. Obama was a victim of his own success. Is it possible that Obama's supporters thought his lead was so strong that they didn't have to turn out for him at the polls? Close races drive up voter turnout. Blowouts depress voter turnout. The McCain-Romney race was considered much closer, and McCain's base turned out for him. If this is what happened, then the blame would have to lie with Obama's supporters, who were reminded that bumper stickers, pep rallies, and yard signs don't win elections; votes do. Also keep in mind that the weather was unusually mild. Is it possible that Obama's younger base decided to stay home and take advantage of the rare 50-degree weather by spending Election Day in the mountains, rather than at the polls?

3. The Douglas Wilder effect is alive and well. About 20 years ago, Virginia's Douglas Wilder became the first Black ever to be elected as a governor in the United States. Prior to his election, almost all tracking polls (including those of his White opponent) suggested that he would win the race by about 10 points. However, he ended up winning only by 1 point. The Douglas Wilder effect means that voters may tell pollsters one thing because they want to seem politically correct, but reveal their true biases in the privacy of the voting booth. Is this what happened in New Hampshire? The Douglas Wilder effect is what Blacks mean when they worry about Obama's "electability." The Iowa results encouraged Black voters, but the New Hampshire results likely gave them pause. Both states are 95+% White, so Blacks are likely hopeful, but cautious at the same time about Obama's chances.

4. The "politics of pile-on" made women angry. Clinton was the recipient of a lot of tough attacks at the ABC debate last weekend. And she famously "became emotional" at a recent campaign event when she was asked how she was able to keep going on the campaign trail even though it entails so much stress. John Edwards took a swipe at her shortly thereafter by saying you have to be "tough" to be President. Pundits and the media wondered out loud if Clinton's "tears" were genuine or staged. And there was the recent debate question about how Clinton feels knowing that so many people simply don't like her. All of this combined to form a maelstrom that finally, even if only briefly, broke Clinton down and led to those tears. Men who were watching that event likely told their wives, daughters, female coworkers, and female friends that "this inability to handle pressure and contain themselves" is why women should never be President. These women likely took this personally and instantly identified with Clinton, as they too are often working multiple jobs where they may feel disrespected by their male bosses and male coworkers, only to come home and have to take care of the children, cook dinner, and deal with a husband who is not always appreciative of them and how hard they work. These women might not even "like" Clinton, but they do respect her as a hardworking professional...a professional woman. Remember the 2000 Senate race she had with Rick Lazio in which Lazio entered Clinton's personal space, got in her face, and tried to intimidate her. Women watching that debate likely recoiled in anger about that and punished him at the polls. If this is what happened here, then the media are to blame because they have been unfairly tough on her. Also, Barack Obama probably wants to backhand John Edwards and tell him to get out of the race because his remarks about "toughness" didn't help.

I do not know which of these factors is most responsible for explaining the results of the Democratic primary, but there will likely be a serious discussion about the validity of polls and the methodology involved because nobody was expecting this. Why were all the polls wrong? Obama was expecting to win handily, and even Clinton was hoping to keep her loss to him in the single-digits. Where this hidden Clinton vote (or anti-Obama vote?) came from is anybody's guess, but the fact that this vote stood in such stark contrast to everyone's most rational expectations of this race is a testament to the unpredictability of politics and will keep this race from being a blowout. Obama will not waltz to the nomination and he will have to do more than "inspire" his way to victory. Clinton knows she will have to retool her campaign because the old way of doing things simply isn't working as well as it used to, as Obama's strength shows.

I plan to write a more general post later about the consequences of the Democratic and Republican primary results in terms of what they mean for various candidates, but I just had to assess the disconnect between everyone's predictions and reality regarding Clinton and Obama because it was just a bit too unexpected.

What a race...


John Edwards: Then and Now

The 7-10 wishes all of its readers a Happy New Year.

While the real Christmas may have been a week ago, a second Christmas for politicos everywhere will take place in just two days: the Iowa caucuses. After crisscrossing the state and giving speeches, fundraisers, and interviews for the better part of 2007, the results and effectiveness of these efforts will finally be able to be ascertained.

I've written a lot about the Clinton vs. Obama storyline, as those two candidates have generally led the Iowa polls for the past six months. However, one candidate is not going away. Assuming Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, and Joe Biden don't gain any traction, this candidate is Hillary Clinton's best friend and Barack Obama's worst nightmare. This candidate is John Edwards, and what a journey he's had.

Last February I wrote about Bloggergate and the political fallout involved. While this gave Edwards several days of bad press, this mini-brouhaha goes to show you that in politics, it's far better to make your mistakes and get your unflattering stuff out there for all to see a year before the election, rather than a month or even a week before. (Imagine where Mitt Romney would be right now had he addressed his Mormon faith last spring when nobody was paying attention! Mike Huckabee would probably be a nonstory right now!)

In March, Edwards was befallen by a personal tragedy--this time involving his wife Elizabeth, who was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. I argued that Edwards should drop out of the race because he would run the risk of being seen as placing his political ambitions above his wife's health, a mindset that could destroy his chances with female voters.

In July, I addressed the budding caricature of Edwards as an elite hypocrite who gets $400 haircuts and lives in a huge estate while claiming to be an advocate for the poor. Voters who are a bit more discerning may view the haircut and house size as nonstories, as most politicians probably live in large houses and splurge on things that average people don't, such as cars, clothing, and vacations. However, a lot of voters may penalize Edwards for this, although I'd venture that voters who hold Edwards' haircut against him were likely never to vote for him to begin with. Nevertheless, it gives Edwards' opponents another weapon they could use to portray him in a negative light.

Edwards really started slipping in August, as he relinquished his lead in the Iowa polls to Hillary Clinton, pulled his campaign staff out of Nevada, opted for public financing, and risked having his wife overshadow him because of her attacks on his opponents. These developments caused me to wonder if Edwards could even survive until Iowa. Shortly after that, I accused Edwards of childishness, as the nastiness of his rhetoric paled in comparison to the absurdity of his denials of these attacks.

Fortunately for Edwards, his fortunes began to change in November as Clinton made a rare misstep at a debate and doubts about Obama's toughness were creeping in. While Edwards had been attacking Clinton for months, I argued that he could pivot from attacking her to attacking Obama for not being able to fight. Restless Obama supporters might have been receptive to this charge, seeing that Obama was running in place in most polls at the time.

And finally in December, Obama began to catch fire and his ascension crowded out all other political news. I speculated that Edwards stood the risk of getting lost in the shuffle not only because Clinton and Obama were sucking all the political oxygen out of the room, but also because Richardson, Biden, and Dodd could pool their support and open up a new front that Edwards could not match--experience and gravitas.

And now we are just two days from Iowa. Despite all of these stories and developments I just mentioned, many of which are unflattering, John Edwards is quietly keeping himself in contention in Iowa. He was even leading a recent Mason Dixon poll. Because of Edwards' impressive campaign organization in Iowa and his strength as a second choice candidate, it is quite possible that he can actually win the caucuses on Thursday. Surely Obama and Clinton were not expecting Edwards to stick around this long, but they must now contend with the fact that he can overtake both of them.

But what would an Edwards victory mean?

Should Edwards win Iowa, Hillary Clinton would send him bouquets of flowers and boxes of chocolate because as far as Clinton is concerned, coming in second to Obama is far worse than coming in third to Edwards. The Clinton campaign believes Edwards is an easier rival to overcome than Obama because Obama has so much money and so many supporters. This would allow him to compete with Clinton in all 50 states. Clinton doesn't think Edwards can do that, as he is generally polling a distant third in most national polls. Plus, an Obama victory in Iowa would instantly certify his electability and create a deluge of favorable media coverage for him and a cascade of "Is Clinton finished?" stories for her.

Coming in second to Edwards would fatally cripple Obama because that would blunt his momentum in New Hampshire and allow Clinton to win there. Because independents can vote in any primary they like in New Hampshire, they might turn out for John McCain instead of Obama if Obama doesn't win Iowa first.

Edwards' populist message is not resonating as well in New Hampshire, a fairly wealthy and more fiscally conservative state. He is also polling considerably worse in New Hampshire than in Iowa, so he might not get a big enough bounce out of Iowa to overtake Clinton there. However, he might get enough of a bounce to overtake a wounded Obama.

An Edwards victory in Iowa followed by a Clinton victory in New Hampshire would turn South Carolina into the do-or-die state for Obama because he could ill afford to go into Super Tuesday 0 for 3. I live in South Carolina and I can tell you that Edwards has been advertising heavily here. If Edwards makes it to South Carolina, he would be able to credibly argue that not only is he the "change" candidate, but also the electable "change" candidate. He would be able to argue that he (and not Obama) is the non-Hillary candidate that can win in November while putting more states in play than she can. Obama would have a hard time countering this argument because he would not have any victories in Iowa or New Hampshire to back him up.

Black voters in South Carolina would either have to give Obama one final chance, or they will defect to Clinton, a known quantity for Black voters. However, Obama could not court these Black voters too aggressively, lest he be seen as "Black candidate" rather than a "unity candidate who happens to be Black." Edwards would probably make a play for Black voters by stressing his commitment to fighting poverty and rebuilding New Orleans. Whites would respond to this message of fighting poverty as well, given the rural nature of the state and the abundance of poor mill towns here.

For Edwards to win the nomination, he needs to get Obama out of the race as soon as possible. He can deliver a major uppercut in Iowa and a knockout punch in South Carolina. I've argued many times that there simply isn't enough room in the race for both of them to coexist. They are both running as "outsiders" and "agents of change." Both have high name recognition and exude youth and vigor. Edwards has the advantage of having run a national campaign before, but Obama has the advantage of a huge war chest. Edwards' decision to accept public financing will hamstring his campaign in the future if he has to go one on one against Clinton. However, that will also afford him the opportunity to identify Clinton as a part of "the system" he rails against.

The "inexperience" label is one that has generally been used to describe Obama, but not Edwards even though Edwards only has one term in the Senate under his belt. To beat Clinton, Edwards needs to channel a bit of Obama's message because Obama has tapped into something very real and Edwards is the best positioned to capitalize on this. Obama supporters probably view Clinton as a last resort, so Edwards stands to recruit these supporters in the event that Obama's candidacy falters. Here's the argument that Edwards should make if it comes down to him and Clinton:

"Even though Clinton and I agree on most issues, I am the candidate that is able to bring more Americans together. Fairly or unfairly, I am the candidate that is more acceptable to more voters. Clinton talks a lot about being able to 'beat the Republicans.' Well, I would argue that this statement embodies the problem we have with our politics because 'beating them' is not as important as getting some of them to join us because the problems we face are not just Democratic problems or Republican problems. They are America's problems, and we have to confront them together."
(Please remember that I am not a member of any campaign.)

In short, if Clinton wins Iowa, her inevitability will be confirmed and she will likely run the table and win the nomination.

If Obama wins Iowa, his electability will be confirmed and he will likely run the table and win the nomination.

If Edwards wins Iowa, he will still need to do some work later on in order to eliminate his rivals and remain competitive throughout the primary season. Because his path to the nomination is a bit more complex, even though he may be tied for first or a very close second in Iowa, he is still solidly in third place when it comes to his chances of winning it all and making it to the national party convention in Denver.


Edwards the Invisible, Edwards the Vulnerable

A month ago I wrote about how John Edwards could pivot from attacking Hillary Clinton to taking advantage of the frustration that had been building among Barack Obama's supporters because of his perceived lack of "fight."

Since then, a lot has happened in the Democratic presidential race. Hillary Clinton has not had a single good week of press since the debate in Philadelphia. Some of her problems were of her own creation, such as how flummoxed she became over the driver's licenses for illegal immigrants question. Others were unnecessary distractions from her campaign, such as the revelation that one of her staffers in Iowa was responsible for the rumor spreading over e-mail about Obama being a Muslim. And then there was news that was great for America, but not so great for her (or Bush), such as the recent National Intelligence Estimate saying that Iran's nuclear weapons program was much less threatening than Bush had been making it out to be. (The problem for Clinton here is that she was much more hawkish on Iran than her Democratic opponents.)

The other major change has been in the polling--particularly Barack Obama's well-timed ascent. He has pulled ahead of Clinton in Iowa and has significantly closed the gap in New Hampshire. He also now has megastar Oprah Winfrey campaigning for him. And he is being a bit more aggressive in his attacks on Clinton. It seems like Obama has all the momentum and is peaking at the right time.

So what does this mean for Edwards? Well, you may have noticed that while Clinton and Obama continue their back and forth, Edwards has become considerably less aggressive. During the summer, Edwards was adopting a highly combative tone. This coincided with Clinton overtaking Edwards in the Iowa polls. Edwards strategy back then was to throw as many grenades and set as much bait as possible in an attempt to get his rivals to respond to him and generate media coverage for his campaign. However, I thought Edwards sounded angry and petty, and I criticized him for that here.

But now that the race has changed and Clinton is the one who is lobbing stinkbombs at Obama (such as quoting his kindergarten teacher about his presidential ambitions), Edwards has changed his tune. Say goodbye to throwing mud at Clinton, and say hello to sitting on the sidelines with a smile on your face. Edwards is now quietly sitting back and letting his two rivals slug it out. After a long year of campaigning and attacking each other, Edwards is banking on the idea that the voters are growing weary of all the pettiness taking place and will reward Edwards for taking the high road and staying above the fray. The thinking here is that Iowa voters will get sick of the negativity and bickering between Obama and Clinton and throw their support to Edwards. The old political adage, "If A attacks B, then C will be the nominee" seems to be Edwards' strategy here.

But is it enough? It seems that there is a new threat that Edwards may have to worry about. Consider this: The Democratic candidates are all trying to carry a particular mantle. Clinton is the "experience" candidate. Obama is the "change" candidate. Of course, Edwards is also trying to be the "change" candidate, so he is having to compete with the better funded and better polling Obama. This is perhaps his biggest problem. Now it seems like Edwards is trying to run as the "outsider" candidate.

Fair enough.

But what does one make of the Iowa voters who are throwing their support behind Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd? According to Real Clear Politics, the average level of combined support for these three candidates in Iowa is from 10-15%. Richardson has been in the low double digits and high single digits for months. Biden is consistently polling outside of the margin of error. And Dodd is pulling in a steady 1-3%, which is higher than Mike Gravel, whose numbers are commonly in asterisk territory. The point I am trying to make here is that there are a lot of voters out there who either 1) are looking for something other than change, experience, or an outsider, or 2) do not believe Clinton, Obama, or Edwards are credible messengers of what they purport to represent. Because of how much the media has concentrated on Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, this 10-15% of Iowa voters is obviously paying enough attention to the race to dig a bit deeper and focus on all the candidates, not just those who are grabbing all the headlines. And if neither Clinton, Obama, nor Edwards has been able to make the sale to these voters yet despite all their campaign ads and all their media coverage, it is quite possible these voters view that trio as a last resort.

What could these 10-15% of voters be looking for if it's not change, exerience, or an outsider? Perhaps not coincidentally, Richardson, Biden, and Dodd each have more government experience than Clinton, Obama, and Edwards combined. And they have impressive records of their legislative accomplishments and a firm grasp of foreign policy. These are not sexy things for a politician to campaign on, but they do form the meat and potatoes of competent governance. Pay special attention to the word competent. That is the one buzzword that hasn't gotten a lot of play in the media. And these three veterans can all run on competence and back it up with their records.

Will Richardson, Biden, and Dodd instruct their supporters to throw their support behind the one of them who emerges as the most viable in the caucuses? If these three camps work together, they could plausibly break the 15% threshhold of viability that is required to survive in the Iowa Democratic caucuses. And of course, there is likely a significant portion of supporters of the top three candidates whose support is soft. Perhaps they are unaware that they have other options. After all, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards have sky high name recognition in Iowa. Richardson, Dodd, and Biden don't. So if one of those veterans emerges in the caucuses, they may be able to peel off more support from the top three candidates than the punditry believes.

As an added bonus, Richardson, Biden, and Dodd could all take the competence mantle and all run on change, experience, and being an outsider. "Change" can be viewed as a change from the incompetent Bush to competent leadership. Their "experience" can easily trump Clinton's. And because they are not the media darlings, they could claim to be "outsiders" in that they are not media flavor of the month politicians.

I wondered in August if John Edwards would make it to Iowa. It looks like he will, but what will happen after that? Should Obama win Iowa, how could Edwards continue? After all, Obama is also running on "change" and being an "outsider." Should Clinton win Iowa, how could anyone continue? And should Edwards win, does anyone think Clinton or Obama is going away? Not with all the money they have! But now what if Richardson, Biden, or Dodd emerges from Iowa with a strong second or third place showing even if Edwards wins? Does he have enough resources and enough political heft to stave off yet another avenue of attack?

Edwards is really in trouble. He's not completely doomed just yet, but he is clearly in the most precarious position of all the Democrats right now. He has no real niche all to himself.


Current State of Affairs (D)

The 7-10 has returned after a long, restful, festive (and stomach-bursting) Thanksgiving.

Last week was a particularly slow one for political news, but there were a few good stories worth commenting on. The Scott McClellan story shined a whole new light on the Valerie Plame saga, for example, but I will write about that at a later date.

But for now, I want to talk about last week's ABC News/Washington Post poll that showed Barack Obama ahead of Hillary Clinton in Iowa. Obama polled at 30%, Clinton polled at 26%, and Edwards polled at 22%. This was the first time in about two months that Obama has polled higher than Clinton in Iowa.

Why is this important? For starters, positioning is never as important as momentum. Hillary Clinton had been trouncing her opponents in almost every poll this year (especially after Edwards began to fade in Iowa). However, it doesn't really mean much to win in September if you trend downward in December. Voters want to support candidates who have momentum. Momentum creates a bandwagon effect. It changes the media storyline and gives you free favorable press coverage. Mike Huckabee has momentum. Stories about him auditioning for vice president have been replaced with stories about how he could snatch an Iowa victory away from Mitt Romney. Ron Paul has momentum. Stories about him have changed from being the out-of-place antiwar GOP whipping boy on the stage in the debates to being the guy who shattered single-day fundraising records.

And for now, Barack Obama has momentum. How much talk do you hear now about him being too reticent to throw a punch? And what about Hillary Clinton? How much talk do you hear now about her "inevitability?" Polling data such as those I cited earlier have totally reframed this contest. Yes, Hillary Clinton is still trouncing the rest of the Democratic field nationally and in other state polls, but nobody is talking about that now. The only thing people hear is that "there's a real race in Iowa and that Clinton could potentially lose the whole thing."

A second reason why this matters is because this makes Obama seem more credible in the eyes of voters. On anecdotal evidence alone, I can tell you that there are a lot of voters out there who "like Obama, but don't think he can win." These doubts could be a realization of the fact that Clinton is much more politically savvy than him. They could be a lamentation of the notion that America is "not ready" for a Black president just yet. They could be worries stemming from his lack of executive experience and his short tenure in Washington. But whatever the source of these doubts may be, seeing Obama on top of the polls surely makes some of these voters challenge the doubts they had about his candidacy and may make them more likely to support him more enthusiastically and be more confident about his chances. And that often translates into increased fundraising.


The poll's internal data show further evidence that Obama may be surging at the right time. Among likely Democratic voters in Iowa, 55% say they are seeking "new ideas" while 33% say they are seeking "experience." Back in July, "new ideas" was only trumping "experience" 49%-39%. Obama has obviously been running as the "new ideas" candidate who frequently talks about "a different kind of politics." Clinton has obviously been the "experience" candidate who can "take on the Republican machine." The widening of this gap between "new ideas" and "experience" suggests that Obama's message is beginning to resonate.

Secondly, Obama is seen as more "honest and trustworthy" than Clinton by a 2:1 ratio (31%-15%). He is also seen as more "willing to speak his/her mind" than Clinton by a 3:2 ratio (76%-50%). Even John Edwards outperformed Clinton on these two issues. It seems that Clinton's widely panned debate performance in Philadelphia has wounded her. The driver's license question followed by all the excuse-making ("politics of pile-on") and gender-baiting ("the all boys club of presidential politics") and position-shifting (before finally settling on a "no") all likely fed into these negative perceptions about her, at least when compared to Obama. To be fair, Obama's mangled response to the very same debate question should have wounded him similarly, but he was able to change the subject more adeptly.

So what does this mean for the rest of the field? Since there are only about six weeks before the Iowa caucuses, it's becoming a bit easier to make predictions about who will make it to New Hampshire. In presidential politics, there are generally only three tickets out of Iowa. (The winner flies first-class, the runner-up flies coach, and the third place finisher takes Greyhound.) The presidential race post-Iowa is a whole different beast because the field is winnowed down to a manageable three or four candidates. The presidential debates become more important then, as there are fewer candidates on stage to prevent someone from breaking out. And that's why every Democrat not named Clinton should be encouraged by Obama's rise in the polls.

I had already written about why the second-tier candidates need Obama about a month and a half ago. But in light of recent polling data and more debates under our belts, now it's time to update that analysis and provide a few more predictions:

The three tickets out of Iowa will go to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the winner of the Bill Richardson/Joe Biden/Chris Dodd race.

Hillary Clinton has enough money, name recognition, and campaign staff to survive a defeat in Iowa. If she wins Iowa, the only way she will lose the nomination is if she is afflicted by some unforeseen scandal or if she commits a grave unforced error. Of all the Democratic candidates, she is clearly the one with the most room for error as far as Iowa is concerned. And the longer the field remains large, the more she benefits from it.

Barack Obama has enough money and supporters to survive a defeat in Iowa, but he is much less able to survive such a defeat than Clinton. He is the single most important candidate in the field right now because he is what's keeping the ABH (Anybody But Hillary) candidates alive. Should Obama win Iowa, look for John Edwards to drop out and endorse him. And even if Clinton were to win Iowa, an Edwards endorsement might give Obama the buzz and firepower he needs to stop Clinton.

If John Edwards does not win Iowa or does not finish ahead of Obama, he is finished. Second place might be good enough for Clinton, Obama, or any other candidate, but it is not good enough for him. And even if he wins Iowa, he will not dislodge his main rivals (Obama and Clinton) from the race because they simply have too much money. Obama is a particularly thorny problem for Edwards because they both are running as youthful outsider candidates who want to change the system. Edwards is also making a conscious effort not to rip into Obama the way he is ripping into Clinton. After all, how can you criticize a rival when that rival is running on your same message? (The message is "change," by the way.) So it seems like he is politically trapped. And for this reason, I don't think Edwards will win one of the three tickets out of Iowa, even if he finishes in the top three.

If Bill Richardson does not place at least third in Iowa, he is finished. More specifically, this means he needs to defeat either Clinton, Obama, or Edwards. If Richardson places fourth behind all of these candidates, he is finished even if Edwards subsequently drops out. On the flip side, it is possible that one or more of these candidates will falter in the final weeks, so Richardson could potentially place second or even win Iowa. However, if Biden or Dodd place ahead of him, he is finished. Regarding Edwards and Obama, there's only enough room for one "change" candidate in the field. Regarding Richardson, Biden, and Dodd, there's only enough room for one "veteran statesman" in the field.

Joe Biden has said he only needs to place fourth in Iowa to remain viable. That seems to be an attempt to lower expectations. He is running fifth or sixth in most Iowa polls now even though he has picked up more Iowa endorsements than all the candidates except for Clinton and Obama. If fifth or sixth is where Biden ends up in Iowa, then he is finished. However, he seems better able to defeat Richardson because of his stronger debating skills, so fourth place is not out of the question. And if Edwards drops out, then Biden would essentially be the "third" and final Democrat left in the race.

Chris Dodd has not said much about his expectations, but if he does not beat either Richardson or Biden in Iowa, he is finished. Dodd's main advantage and disadvantage is that he is perhaps the least known of the "second-tier" candidates. This is good in that people aren't criticizing him for his weak debate performances like they are with Bill Richardson. But on the other hand, people aren't buzzing about him the way they often buzz about Joe Biden's debate performances. Dodd is essentially the invisible candidate. Perhaps his ground game in Iowa is much stronger than it appears, so it's rather difficult to accurately gauge Dodd's strength. Will Dodd surprise us all? Or is he already a dead man walking?

Dennis Kucinich is already finished, but even with a defeat in Iowa, he will not end his campaign as long as the war in Iraq is still being prosecuted. Dennis Kucinich '08 reminds me of Jesse Jackson '88 in that both candidates are running to promote a cause and remain in the nomination race long after it becomes obvious that they will not win. Perhaps the eventual Democratic nominee will integrate parts of Kucinich's platform into their eventual general election strategy. This prospect should please antiwar liberals and seems to be the closest he can come to getting on the national stage.

As for the Republicans, at first glance, it seems like New Hampshire will be more important than Iowa simply because the field is currently in such disarray. However, they will have their You Tube debate in a few days. After that debate, I will analyze their state of affairs and flesh out what Iowa means for them.


Hillary Clinton: A Second Warning to Democrats

I found this Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that has information that should give Democrats some pause:

"By 50% to 35%, the poll shows, Americans prefer that a Democrat gets elected to succeed Bush next November. In a direct matchup of leading candidates, however, that margin shrinks to 46% for Clinton and 45% for Giuliani."
Read that again. A generic Democrat significantly outperforms a generic Republican, but when that Democrat is named Hillary Clinton and she's up against a Republican named Rudy Giuliani, she can only manage a tie. In other words, there is a very real risk that Hillary Clinton will turn a very winnable election for Democrats into a third consecutive Republican presidency.

A few months ago I wrote about how Hillary Clinton would be an unwise choice for Democrats. I argued that she would energize and unite a restive and fragmented GOP base, shrink the electoral map, create problems for other Democrats down the ballot, and have difficulty governing as president because of how many Republicans would love to give her payback in terms of dragging their feet when it comes to her legislative goals. However, since then, Clinton's ascent in the polls has continued and talk about her "inevitability" has increased.

Go back to the poll I just cited. If Americans prefer a Democrat in the White House by a 50-35 split, that means 2008 should be a change election. Change can mean many things: a change in leadership, a change in ideas, a change in governing style, a change in domestic priorities, a change in Iraq, and a change in foreign policy in general. It would be very hard for a Republican to run as a "change" candidate because by virtue of their party and their support for Bush's policies (even if they don't do so vocally), they represent the status quo. What could a Republican do on the campaign trail? If they bash the president, they may turn off the 25-30% of the electorate that forms the core of Bush's base. It is this 25-30% of voters that keep his approval rating from sinking much lower than 30%. But if they embrace Bush or defend his policies, they cede their ability to be the "change" candidate. Thus, Republicans are essentially trapped.

Enter Hillary Clinton. For all of Clinton's strengths, she would be a boon to Republicans because she gives them a very useful tool: a get out of Bush free card. If Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, the election will go from being a referendum on Bush and Republican leadership to being a referendum on Hillary Clinton. Given today's sour electorate, Republicans don't stand a chance in 2008 if the election is about repudiating Bush. But if it's about "stopping Hillary," their chances of retaining the White House increase significantly. And that explains why Rudy Giuliani is performing so strongly in his quest for the GOP nomination. That also explains why he and other Republicans often lampoon and deride Hillary Clinton in their stump speeches and at the debates. Simply put, running against Hillary Clinton allows them to avoid running away from Bush.

The recent debate in Philadelphia has provided a treasure trove of warning signs for Democrats about Hillary Clinton. John Edwards has been working hard to take advantage of this. What started off as a flare-up over driver's licenses for illegal aliens has morphed into stories about "the politics of pile-on," Clinton "not having her best debate performance," and now Bill Clinton reviving his battles with Republicans from the 1990s. This unflattering media coverage gives Republicans tons of ammunition they can use against her while also giving the electorate an unpleasant reminder of all that was wrong with the 1990s and the Clintons. It also drowns out coverage of more substantive issues the other Democratic presidential candidates are talking about. Instead of talking about where the Democrats stand on Iran and Pakistan, everybody is talking about Hillary Clinton still not answering questions directly and Bill Clinton equating being asked about driver's licenses for illegal aliens to being swiftboated like John Kerry was in 2004 (which is nonsense).

Democrats interested in winning in 2008, or at least avoiding another Florida/Ohio nailbiter, would be wise to consider other candidates because there's too much evidence suggesting that she is more likely to deliver frustration and/or another electoral defeat than the change she promises.



I have been busy lately, so I haven't had much time to update The 7-10 or do much of anything else. But here are a few links to keep you and your mind busy until the smoke clears and I have more time to spend scouring the web for news to feed your political mind:

Is this man responsible for the nonsensical mess that is supposed to be our primary season? Speaking of which, it looks like New York wants to join in the frontloading fun as well. Lovely. Good luck to the second tier candidates who wish to compete in the expensive New York City market.

Looks like Newsweek agrees with me regarding how voters tend to look for a president who represents the opposite of what the previous one did. Is an "Urban Cowboy" (Giuliani) a little too similar to the "Tough Talking Texan" we have in the White House right now?

It's amazing how losing an election can send you from self-aggrandization to self-repudiation in a few short months.

As of last week, Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton were leading the endorsement race among congressional members. I'm not sure what this means outside the Beltway, although it might lend itself to organizational support at the state and local levels.

Does this response from the Conservative Political Action Conference go far enough in repudiating Ann Coulter's recent inflammatory remarks? And does Mitt Romney wish that this landmine happened before the advent of YouTube? (More on this later.)

Could Chuck Hagel be the best hope Republicans have for retaining the White House in 2008 even if he splits a ticket with a Democrat? Or is telling fellow senators to go sell shoes a bit too close to the truth for the establishment to handle?

Regarding Bush's foreign policy prowess in comparison to that of other presidents, 1104 scholars can't all be wrong. Also, at what point do record low poll numbers cease to have any significance regarding the current president?

I recently heard a quote attributed to former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan: "When it comes to the presidency, people don't elect resumes. People elect men." That might not be an exact quote, but the spirit of it helps explain why George W. Bush was able to prevail over Al Gore and John Kerry, both of whom had superior resumes. Noonan's words seem to be validated by the 2008 campaign which has Clinton, Obama, and Edwards ahead of veteran politicians Richardson, Dodd, and Biden. Similarly, Romney and Giuliani are giving McCain a run for his money while veteran Duncan Hunter is stuck at the back of the pack. Why does character trump policy?

How likely is it that voters are suffering from a bit of buyer's remorse after last year's elections put Democrats at the helm of Congress? Not likely, at least after this little article in Congressional Quarterly.

Have Democrats found a new strategy for dealing with Fox News? Did Obama and Edwards start something big?


More Gore

Al Gore is not going away. If anything, he's breathing down the necks of Obama and Hillary while all but sending the rest of the Democratic presidential candidates into virtual obsolescence.

Need more proof? There's a new poll out from USA Today/Gallup:

Democratic voters' first choice:

Hillary Clinton: 36%
Barack Obama: 22%
Al Gore: 18%
John Edwards: 9%


Democratic voters' second choice:

Hillary Clinton: 59%
Barack Obama: 43%
Al Gore: 34%
John Edwards: 21%

Look at those results again. Al Gore has the support of 1 out of 5 Democrats for the nomination and he's not even a declared candidate. And he's the second choice of 1 out of 3 Democrats! This means a little more than half of all Democratic voters would be inclined to support another run by the once-derided "Ozone Man." Again, Gore is not even on the campaign circut. If anything, he has tried to downplay the idea of another run for the White House without actually shutting the door completely. Is his coyness working? Is this a case of the Democratic voters wanting what they can't have? Could a Draft Gore movement be in the works?

I've said earlier that Gore is well-positioned for another run because he has rehabilitated his image considerably, developed immense personal wealth that would help him with a campaign, and maintained an extensive fundraising network. Could Democratic voters lament the lack of experience that Obama and Edwards (and to a lesser extent, Hillary) have in their resumes and then look to Gore? After all, Gore's resume is rivaled only by Bill Richardson's. But unlike Richardson, Gore has name recognition.

The big loser in this poll has to be John Edwards. He's really been invisible in the media as of late. The Coulter flap brought him back to the spotlight, but his "Coulter Cash" capitalizing on this whole sordid affair is not particularly flattering and it made him look opportunistic, thus potentially feeding into the caricature of him as an ambulance-chasing, opportunistic lawyer. Seems like Edwards is stuck in no man's land between the frontrunners Hillary and Obama, and the second-tier candidacies of Richardson, Biden, and Dodd. For Edwards, who has practically been living in Iowa since 2004, to be polling behind Gore, an undeclared candidate, it must be quite a blow to him.

Actually, a lot of the second tier candidates have to be pulling their hair out these days because even though they are clearly more experienced than Obama and Hillary, they are still only registering asterisks in the polls. CNN has an excellent article about the frustrations Dodd, Biden, and Richardson are having regarding gaining traction. I don't think they'd mind so much if they were trailing Gore, but for them to be trailing Obama and Edwards, I'm sure it's driving them crazy.

Anyway, the main point is that Gore is a sleeping giant. Or maybe he has one eye open. The porch light is on at the very least. A Draft Gore movement could result in the elder statesman assuming the mantle of reluctant warrior. If Hillary or Obama become too bloodied by the fall, look for Gore to "be compelled" to enter the race.


How Radioactive is Bush?

President Bush's approval ratings have been mired in the 30s and low 40s for months now. People commonly cite disapproval with Bush and his policies (e.g., Iraq) as the reason for the Republican wipeout of 2006.

However, apparently these polls only tell half of the story. National polls are samples of the national electorate, which means that people of all political stripes are represented. When you break these data down into subsets, you'll find that the approval rating among Democrats is different from that of Republicans. There are gender deferences, racial differences, socioeconomic differences, religious differences, and differences concerning marital status as well.

There's a new poll out from USA Today showing Bush's approval rating to be 37%, which is not spectacular by any means. However, his approval rating among Republicans is 76%. 76%! That means three out of every four Republicans are standing by Bush and support his policies. This is a strong display of base support, although his support among Independents and Democrats is still anemic.

This presents an interesting dilemma for the 2008 GOP presidential candidates. Actually, it poses a dilemma for all GOP candidates, but especially senators and House members in competitive districts. Running away from Bush might help you win a general election, but it will only hurt you in a Republican primary. The USA Today article correctly states that Republican candidates need Republican support, plus a few Independents in order to win. It's not the other way around. Running away from Bush and opposing him might win you some Independent votes, but that comes at the risk of alienating your Republican base voters.

So what are Romney, Giuliani, and McCain supposed to do? McCain has essentially fused with Bush because of his support for the Iraq troop surge, which is immensely unpopular among the general electorate. So he may win the nomination, but lose the election. Giuliani and Romney have generally kept their distance by offering only tepid support for Bush while not criticizing him outright. Perhaps they are trying to keep themselves viable for the general election at the expense of endangering their primary chances.

Not to be forgotten, how does this bode for Senators John Sununu (NH), Norm Coleman (MN), Susan Collins (ME), and Gordon Smith (OR)? All of those are blue states with moderate GOP senators up for reelection in 2008. They have to figure out a way to remain true to their moderate (and sometimes conservative) principles, supporting Bush without supporting him too much, and not enraging their constituents in the process. If they oppose Bush too much, they might end up with a primary fight on their hands that would only drain their financial resources and make them weaker when the general election comes around. If they support Bush too much, those blue state voters will vote for their Democratic challengers. So they are in trouble.

House members are in a somewhat better situation. A lot of GOP moderates were purged in the 2006 elections, so the GOP House minority has become a bit more conservative. There are still a few GOP moderates, such as Chris Shays (Connecticut), Mike Castle (Delaware), and Tom Davis (Virginia). They've survived each election of Bush's term so far, but will they finally be tossed out in 2008? Or have they endeared themselves enough to their constituents to be able to weather a strong challenger who strongly disapproves of Bush and his policies?

Bottom line: Bush may still be revered among GOP voters, but one can't forget that he is toxic to the broader electorate. It is this fact that GOP candidates should take note of because supporting Bush too much opens them up for a tougher general election fight while not supporting him enough opens them up for a primary challenge in which their loyalty to Bush will be tested.


The Coronation of Hillary

I just read an article in the Hartford Courant about new polling data in Connecticut about their voters' choices for the Democratic nomation. The results broke down as follows:

Hillary Clinton: 33%
Barack Obama: 21%
Al Gore: 9%
Chris Dodd: 8%

Now think about this for a second. Chris Dodd has been in the Senate since about the time I was born more than 30 years ago. So obviously people in CT know who this guy is and can vouch for his competence, leadership, and expertise. But do you mean to tell me that Connecticut voters are willing to shun their native son for Hillary, a carpetbagger who claimed neighboring New York as her home about 8 years ago? And Obama, the current flavor of the month? And Gore, the guy who is not even a declared candidate and has all but explicitly ruled out another run for the White House?!

What does that tell you about the state of American politics? Why do we even have primaries and caucuses? Why don't we just annoint Hillary and Giuliani as the nominees now and get the election out of the way? This is a shame. Tom Vilsack is meeting a similar fate in Iowa, his home state. John Edwards is holding his own in North Carolina, but just barely. Bill Richardson seems okay in New Mexico, for now at least.

The primary process is unfairly skewed in favor of the well-connected, the famous, and the deep-pocketed. We often tell our children that they can do anything they set their minds to, including becoming president. But I don't think so. It boggles the mind that so many voters in so many states are willing to overlook the candidate they know so well in favor of the "away team."

One of Dodd's staffers said that the poll results were not particularly surprising because the Connecticut electorate largely has yet to view their 30-something year senator through a presidential lens. And that's a valid point. But is Hillary truly better known among Connecticut voters than their own senator?

I guess I just answered my own question. That's what this is all about. It's name recognition. Nothing more, nothing less. Hillary is a national figure. Dodd is a regional figure and a creature of Washington. I happen to know the names of almost all 100 senators, but I realize that Joe Public probably couldn't even tell you how many senators actually exist in our government. Either way, this really puts lesser known candidates into a bind. In order to raise their national profile among the electorate, they need to assume positions of national influence. But in order to assume such a position, they need a strong national profile. This explains why Hillary and Giuliani are on top right now even if their views are not congruent with their respective base's desires.

If name recognition is the prerequisite to viability, perhaps it really will come down to Giuliani vs. Gingrich on the right, and Hillary vs. Gore on the left. All the second- and third-tier candidates better find a way to resonate with voters soon because Hillary (and Rudy) are going to take on an air of inevitability that will allow them to cruise to the nomination.

That may be great for them, but it's a bum deal for democracy.


On Biases

One reason why the 2008 campaign is drawing so much attention among the chattering classes is the "first" factor. The nation has the chance to elect the "first" Black president (Obama), the "first" female president (Hillary), the "first" Latino president (Richardson), or even the "first" Mormon president (Romney). All four of these candidates are viable in my estimation. The fact that they can transcend racial, gender, or even religious barriers is a testament to the progress America has made regarding prejudice and tolerance.

Or has it?

There was an interesting USA Today/Gallup Poll that came out a few days ago that asked respondents the following question (which I paraphrased):

If your party nominated a generally well-qualified __________, would you be comfortable voting for that person?

This question was completed by adding the words "Black," "woman," and "Mormon." Here are the results:

84% of respondents said they would "comfortably" vote for a Black candidate; 9% would vote for one, although they would have some "reservations" with doing so; 5% said they would not vote for that candidate; and 1% had no opinion.

78% of respondents said they would vote "comfortably" for a woman, 10% would vote with "reservations," 11% would not vote for such a candidate, and 1% expressed no opinion.

58% of respondents would vote comfortably for a Mormon candidate, 14% would vote for such a candidate with "reservations," 24% would not vote for such a candidate, and 4% expressed no opinion.

I could spend all day talking about the implications of this poll data because it's a real eye-opener. But unfortunately, it's an eye-opener for all the wrong reasons.

Let's examine these issues one at a time.

Considering that the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts are not even 50 years old, it is encouraging to see such high levels of support among the citizenry regarding Black and minority candidates in general. It would be pollyanaish or naive to lament the fact that there is still a sizeable chunk of the population that continues to harbor such prejudices in this day and age, but instead of focusing on the 1 out of 20 open racists (The US population is 300 million; 5% of that is 1.5 million, which is roughly the population of Montana and Wyoming combined), it would be better to rejoice in the fact that about 9 out of 10 people could presumably be counted on to put their money where their mouth is.

However, is the support among the so called "comfortable" voters really that solid? When Douglas Wilder became the nation's first Black governor, the election results were far closer than the polls had suggested. One could only conclude that White voters would tell pollsters one thing while doing something entirely different in the privacy of the voting booth. However, that was in 1988. Now it's almost 20 years later. Massachussetts elected the nation's second Black governor ever in Deval Patrick, and he won in a landslide. And even though Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee lost his Senate race last November, he actually performed 3-5 points better than the polls predicted. So maybe, just maybe White voters are more tolerant of being governed by Blacks than Blacks are willing to give them credit for.

The arguments against a female candidacy tend to center around one issue: the need to display strength and firmness when addressing conflicts. How would a female president have responded on September 11? Or when the levees broke? Or when the bomb ripped the federal building in Oklahoma City to shreds? Could a woman really be trusted to go toe to toe with the world's worst dictators and hold up against the pressures that come with the presidency?

Of course, a potent counterargument would be that men have done a lousy job of handling these issues, so perhaps a woman really is needed to "clean house." Psychologically speaking, women are more relational or communal characters, while men are more individualistic. Perhaps a woman's desire to find common ground or at least reach out to others could be useful in the diplomatic sense.

I suspect, however, that there's a large section of the male electorate that has an insecurity with successful women, especially if the woman in question makes more money, has more education, or has more accomplishments under her belt than they do. This is often true in the dating world, as men often feel threatened by women who occupy higher positions on the socioeconomic ladder. Think about it. It's much more common for the husband to be the working professoinal while his wife is the part-timer, the housewife, or the full-time worker in a junior position. It's much less common to see an attorney wife with a truck driver husband. If a wife is an attorney, I'd be willing to bet that her husband is a university professor, a dentist, or a scientist of some sort. The idea that a successful woman can threaten a man's ego is a foolish reason not to support a female candidate for president. However, this is a very real issue to many people. Thus, these poll data seem about right to me.

Admittedly, the results of this poll regarding the Mormon candidacy took me by surprise. 3 out of 5 people is not a particularly high level of support when it comes to being open-minded enough to potentially consider you before you even begin to express your policy positions. And the fact that your religion makes your candidacy a nonstarter for 1 out of 4 people is almost mind-boggling. I do not know how this 24% broke down in terms of political orientation. My kneejerk reaction is to assume the bulk of these people are religious conservatives or evangelical Christians that view Mormonism as a cult. Those on the left seem a bit more inclusive or tolerant regarding other faiths, as is exhibited by the "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays" debate.

So let's just assume for the sake of argument that most of these stalwarts are evangelical Christians. While I am not an authority on the Mormon faith at all, you would think that the fact that a Mormon is a believer in God would endear Mormons to mainstream Christians on at least a basic level. After all, their ire seems to be trained more towards athiests.

Unfortunately, the Mormon Church has had its image tarnished by polygamy and racism. The polygamy practice, however, largely died about 100 years ago. The racism charge is almost as laughable because this supposedly Christian nation is the same nation that sanctioned slavery, codified Jim Crow, established internment camps, and publicized lynchings. So it seems like the pot calling the kettle black in this regard.

Obviously, the Mormon candidate in the race is Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachussetts. I highly doubt Gov. Romney is going to legalize polygamy during his tenure in the White House. After all, he's the only top tier GOP candidate who is still on his first wife. And even if Romney did decide to take up the polygamy crusade, do you honestly think Congress will go along with him?

The "Mormons are racist" line of thinking, by the way, makes even less sense to me. While the North was certainly not a racially harmonious paradise in the past, I have a hard time accepting the notion that Romney is a racist simply because he is a Mormon. How could Romney ever have gotten elected as the governor of Massachussetts of all places with such views?

I personally don't care one way or the other about the teachings of the Mormon Church, but the arguments against a Mormon candidate just don't wash with me. These arguments seem to be based on fear. Actually, you could say that about all of these counterarguments. However, my sense is that there are a lot of voters out there who are inclined to send a message next Election Day, even if they don't agree with the candidates' views. Sometimes a President can transform a populace by his (or her!) very existence. Such a candidate can get the nation to talk about these issues in a way that no civil rights or feminist leader ever could. This bodes well for Romney, Obama, Clinton, and Richardson.

Copyright 2007-2008 by Anthony Palmer. This material may not be republished or redistributed in any manner without the expressed written permission of the author, nor may this material be cited elsewhere without proper attribution. All rights reserved. The 7-10 is syndicated by Newstex.