Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Why Hillary Didn't Lose Sooner Than She did

So in the last post I addressed the question of why Hillary Clinton lost despite starting out as the "inevitable" nominee a year ago. I pointed out several factors that put her at a serious disadvantage. To be honest, any ordinary, run of the mill candidate with the kind of disadvantages Hillary racked up would have been "one and done" and would have dropped out after coming in third in Iowa. So how was Hillary able to hang, at least technically, on until now and even still be in the running until April? Here are several reasons (again, I'm sure there are others but these seem most interesting to me now).

First, "Inevitability": Hillary Clinton started out this process with what looked like an insurmountable lead. From January 2007 to January 2008, Hillary led Obama in national polls among Democratic primary voters by huge margins. You can see the tracking poll chart here. In a multi-candidate field, Clinton had something like 40% support for most of this time. Obama was hovering around 20% with Edwards and the rest dividing up the scraps. That kind of starting point is worth something. It meant that despite Obama's long term funding advantage and his taking the momentum after Iowa, Clinton was still defending sizable leads in most states rather than hustling to close the gap. Granted, she blew that lead in most cases but if she had started out behind or even perceived as more or less on equal footing (as Obama and Edwards were before Iowa), she would have dropped out much much sooner.

Second, "Come back Shane, come back!": Hillary Clinton relied heavily on the popularity of the Clinton administration's time in power. She frequently claimed credit for many of the good things people remember about the 1990s and encouraged people to see her candidacy as a chance to return to the good old days. Her heavy reliance on Bill's campaigning skills in South Carolina may have backfired in the long run but it probably kept her campaign from spirally completely out of control. Bill's presence appealed to a lot of people who all but said that they were hoping that putting a Clinton (any Clinton) back in the White House would bring back all those good things. Some supporters even believed that Bill Clinton would be a kind of activist "First Husband" and almost a co-President. To the extent that Bill was popular that was a vote getter.

Third, money: Despite her chronic debt problems Hillary was able to us her own personal fortune (she's loaned her campaign at least $11 million) and big money fundraiser contacts to maintain the flow of cash even as the ship was starting to sink.

Fourth, she didn't quit: Edwards caved in early. Many of his supporters think he quit too early. I've heard from people close to Edwards himself that he quit largely for "personal reasons" which I took to be an allusion to his wife's health. Regardless of the reason for his quitting, you can't win if you don't play. Hillary didn't quit at the first sign of disaster where some candidates might have and did.


The Law Talking Guy said...

Someone stop her. Now she's comparing this situation in Florida to Zimbabwe, with Obama playing the role of Mugabe. Of course, Mugabe is the person long in power, like the Clintons, and SHE's the one trying to change the rules to her benefit. BUt nevermind that, OBama is black, Mugabe is black. That's all she sees. This hole is getting so deep.

The Law Talking Guy said...

There it is.

The Law Talking Guy said...

It's worth noting that the Republicans nominated the only familiar figure from the past also. They also seemed to have this "let's go back to 2000 when things seemed brighter" mentality. Because of the WTA rules, McCain's early victories forced everyone else from the race even though he was only winning pluralities, not majorities. I think that will hurt him in the Fall.

On another note altogether, I think we can overestimate HRC's name recgonition by underestimating Obama's obscurity. People still don't know who he is, except maybe that he's a closet Muslim. Curiously, the Rev. Wright thing has had the positive effect of dampening the Muslim thing, except among the dumbest of voters. What I mean to say is that HRC wasn't even that popular - just that Obama was so unknown. As we go to the general election, that disadvantage becomes smaller and smaller.

USWest said...

The other apsect is that I think many HRC supporters were like me, ambivilent supporters who had doubts and mixed feelings. Obama supporters are hard and fast. And a lot of the mistakes that HRC made, she made after March. I am in CA. We held our primary really early, in Feb. If I were voting today, I think I might vote differently.

We must all remember that we don't yet fully understand the effects of a front loaded primary.

Raised By Republicans said...

It's interesting that US West says that her opinion of Clinton has changed over time.

The front loaded primary schedule (including by the way, the later placement of Florida and Michigan) was designed largely with Hillary in mind. Her close associates and advisors were in key places when the schedule was drawn up. The idea was to set a schedule that would favor the candidate with the biggest early money and name recognition advantage.

When it didn't work out as smoothly as intended...well, we got what we got.