Publisher's Note: It wasn’t race, it was the race
By Jody Reese
Since last week’s presidential primary, some in the national press have suggested that because polling had Sen. Barack Obama beating Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, Clinton’s slight victory must mean that when voters entered the voting booth they were reticent to vote for a black man.
I don’t believe that.
I’m not sure why Clinton won. The polls taken of people leaving the voting booths Tuesday show that undecided voters (and there were a lot of them) who were women broke Clinton’s way the day of the primary. Many in the national press argued they broke for Clinton because she’s white.
This claim of racism presupposes that the polling was accurate. New Hampshire has changed a lot in the last few years. It’s very possible that the pollsters were using bad census and voting data to weight the results. Its easy for pollsters to get polls wrong by giving too much weight to certain geographic areas or demographic traits, such as age. This could skew the poll results to Obama.
The polling also presupposes people can’t change their minds.
Much of the ballyhooed polling took place before the debate on Saturday night. Only two polls were conducted after the debate. About an American Research poll, pollster Dick Bennet is quoted on his Web site as saying, “We did not have a polling problem, we just ran out of time.” In other words, voters really hadn’t really decided before the poll was taken. The other polls were conducted by Suffolk University and had Gov. Mitt Romney beating Sen. John McCain by four points (almost the exact opposite happened).
Bennet makes an excellent point that the national press has overlooked. Three days before the primary, the candidates were still campaigning and still working to change people’s minds. If everyone’s mind was made up, then why would the campaigns keep working to win over voters? I had five campaigns visit my house over the weekend and several more call Monday and Tuesday to make sure I was voting and had a way to the voting booth. The race wasn’t over because some polls showed Obama out in front.
The national press also overlooked (and polling can’t account for) Clinton’s well- organized ground forces and the good weather on Tuesday that made it easier to get out elderly voters who favor Clinton and her former president husband.
It also may well be that some voters wanted to send a message to the national press that it wasn’t all over for Clinton.
But racism? No.
If racism didn’t beat Obama in Iowa, with similar demographics to New Hampshire, then it’s unlikely it played a role here. My guess is that a bigger issue for those troubled by Obama’s race is immigration and that would have brought them to Rep. Ron Paul or Mitt Romney.
On a personal note, it should be noted that I didn’t vote for Clinton. Claiming her husband’s experience as her own is laughable. Her background is similar to Sen. John Edwards’ and Obama’s — they are lawyers.