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« Peggy Noonan Offers Hillary Some "Friendly" "Advice" | Main | NY Times Erred: Delegate Not Leaving Clinton for Obama? (updated) »

February 15, 2008



Which pundits are you speaking of? The pollsters release all of their reports with roughly equal fanfare. And the "experts" (read: people who have looked at poll results) were projecting likely Clinton wins in Ohio and Texas in the same breath as the current Obama win streak, right after mega-Tuesday. Nothing that's happened since Feb. 5th has been a surprise, except perhaps the size of the wins in Maryland and Virginia.

Talking heads will start harping on Obama's weaknesses just as soon as their focus groups suggest that people are tired of hearing about Clinton's weaknesses. Remember, the political junkies will have a lot of ad time to sell in the next three weeks and they will hunt out stories. We're already seeing plenty of coverage of the "all dreams, no concrete ideas" story, which can be dispelled by a quick trip to Obama's web site or a casual look through his legislative record.

The dominant meme in the lead-up will probably be some variant of "Hillary's last stand": that she needs a dominant performance to halt Obama's "momentum", or the nomination will be lost. You can label it a pro-Obama slant, and in some sense that's true, but really, it's just the best story. CNN wants personality-driven drama, because that draws viewers, which pays the bills. Watch a NFL pregame show (or better yet, don't) and you see the same thing.


Indeed, I think you're digging for bias here. Sure, there's bias everywhere, but when it comes to polls, they all get rushed to press first thing. It's an easy scoop and lord knows our media likes it easy.


I think we may see some hints of reluctance as the media relinquishes the 72-hr "Obama inevitability" story, but they will. Both campaigns will be working furiously and there will be plenty of other superfluous tussles to cover.

There is a downside to Clinton's firewall tactic, but I think on balance it was necessary, in order to serve notice that no results should be called before March 4. They understood how tempted the media would be to work that story.

I don't take it as hard evidence of bias against Clinton though - just inertia. Remember, when they were working it against Obama months ago, it created uneven expectations that he had to overcome by taking a clear lead.

D. Cupples


I'm guessing that you have some media experience, as you've mentioned things I hadn't considered (e.g., focus groups).


The Rasmussen polls were released early today and yesterday. Here's what CNN is billing as "top news" (not one mention of Clinton's possible lead, which IS NEWS given that she got trounced in the Potomac states and many media folks are already coffin shopping):

# Police: Campus gunman came off meds 22 min
# Ex-officer murdered pregnant lover
# Obama knocks Clinton for lobbyists ties
# CDC: Flu season 'getting worse'
# Ticker: Clinton ad: Obama making false attacks
# Is sexism less offensive than racism?
# O.J. Simpson: Girlfriend put herself in ICU Video
# Dad carries son 6 miles to get wheelchair
# Naked truth about Naked Cowboy case
# Dad bolts, leaves baby at car crash scene Video
# KTVU: Police: Man calls 911 27,000 times
# Angry ex tries to get man's dog killed Video
# TV's David Groh, who played 'Rhoda' ex, dies
# Court: No rearrest in Holloway case
# 'Rambo 4' viewers face 10 years, 20 lashes Video
# CNN Wire: Latest updates on top stories

I didn't perceive any bias re: Clinton or Obama in the months before the primaries, because both were in the media a lot. On the night the Iowa caucus, I watched Keith Olbermann (following John Edwards' lead) crown Obama THE Change Candidate.

This was absurd, given that every Dem candidate was campaigning on MAJORLY changing what our nation has become over the last 7 years. When the media starts helping campaigns create slogans, questions about bias are far from "left field."

Incidentally, I blogged about that weeks before I started feeling uncomfy about SOME of Obama's campaign statements:

Another example: weeks before California, Hillary was ahead by 20 (or so) points in most polls. Days before, Obama gained major ground and was slightly ahead, tied or only slightly behind (depending on the poll).

To win our nation's largest state by 8 or 9 points after such shifts in the polls was a bit of a comeback for Clinton -- but most MSM didn't really focus on that. Instead, the story was about how Obama didn't do so badly.

Before California but after NH, the media amplified the feverish accusations of racism after Hilary said that MLK had needed LBJ (and Congress) and that she would be one of those presidents that would help reformers like MLK.

She delivered a positive message, yet many media outlets skewered her for something she neither said nor intended.

Maybe Adam's right, and the pundits don't really support either Clinton or Obama: maybe they're just trying to inject human drama. But it certainly appears as though some major media prefer giving Obama the good spotlight.

Note: I mean NO OFFENSE to Obama's supporters, who aren't responsible for what major pundits do and say.

D. Cupples

One more thing: the media that had so blatantly erred about NH should have become cautious about hyping ALL pre-election polls. When polls showed Hillary losing the big lead in CA and failing dismally in SC and the Potomac states, the media didn't cautiously refrain from hyping the poll numbers.

Now, Hillary appears to have a double-digit lead in two delegate-rich states: OH and TX. Yet, I don't see any hype. Incidentally, I just checked MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC and CNN (about 8 pm). They aren't covering Clinton's supposed lead, though the general pessimism about her campaign DOES make her "leads" newsworthy (comebacks usually are).

None of that is proof of media bias. But if Obama's strong leads in the polls weren't getting coverage while Hillary's were, wouldn't you wonder just a bit?

D. Cupples


I'm not upset or ranting, I just keep finding things. Below are some of the "top" campaign-related headlines at the front pages of various medias' websites (still no mention of Clinton's OH/TX numbers).

-Michelle Obama On Love, Family & Politics
-Huckabee Keeps Fighting
-Cinton Wins New Mexico Democratic Caucus

-Obama knocks Clinton for lobbyists ties

-Black lawmakers rethink Clinton support
-A Democratic battle in the Badger State
-Newsweek: Al Gore to the rescue?
-McCain scolds Obama on campaign funds
-Former President Bush to endorse McCain

-Bill Clinton Dis?: Obama not in '90s club
-President's Father to Endorse McCain

-McCain Follows up Obama Jab
-Clinton Loyal Superdelegates Flirt with Obama


No real media experience here, just a healthy dose of capitalist cynicism. It's important to remember that major media sources are in the business of making money. While journalists are probably not being directly pushed into specific stories, the business side does nudge the focus of the broadcast/publication to fit what they think draws eyeballs.

Looking at that CNN ticker, I see three Obama/Clinton stories. One would probably count as pro-Obama ("Obama knocks Clinton for lobbyists ties"), one would probably count as pro-Clinton ("Ticker: Clinton ad: Obama making false attacks") and one is a stealth pro-Clinton story ("Is sexism less offensive than racism?", which brings up some of the same issues as Damozel's blog posting a few days ago). So in terms of what *is* being reported, there doesn't appear to be any overt bias.

That said, the poll results are not being publicized, which does present the possibility of bias by omission. I won't flatly deny that possibility, but I offer two counter-explanations:

1) It's not a comeback, it's expected. Both Obama's recent wins, and Hillary's leads in Ohio and Texas, were predicted weeks ago.

2) CNN, et al, are try to avoid poll saturation. They will start reporting this story in the weeks after the Wisconsin primary, gradually building to a crecendo in March.

I'm not saying these are absolutely the reasons, but the current lack of coverage still passes the sniff test for me.

As an aside, I think the pollsters deserve a little bit of a pass on New Hampshire. Analysts were too confident in their predictions BASED on those polls, for sure. But I'm not convinced there was any massive screw-up in polling methods. I tend to think opinions simply shifted a lot in the last day. As far as California, clearly Zogby screwed that one up, but the overall poll numbers (as reflected on aggregators like still projected a Clinton win. Any media source that said otherwise was doing sloppy work.

D. Cupples


Admittedly, I may be stuck in last month's thoughts. I just looked around the Internet and found that pundits ARE starting to question Obama.

See e.g.,

The upshot: you're likely RIGHT about media fickleness.

RE: my list of headlines (above): tonight I didn't search for stories. I went to the media outlets' front pages, which is where most people start and follow links.

Still, California was a sort-of comeback for Clinton: her sizable win was expected weeks earlier but it WASN'T expected in the few days leading up to CA. After the Kennedy and Shriver endorsements, I thought Hillary would lose California.

Here are some of the pre-CA poll results that I blogged about (SUSA came the closest):

SUSA Zog Ras. Mason-Dix

Clinton 52% 36% 44% 45%

Obama 42% 49% 45% 36%

I couldn't copy/paste the links from my blog post, so here's that link:

I don't think pollsters are bad. I just think that political polls' reliability is BY NATURE questionable. Even Zogby admitted to Jon Stewart that to get 900 people to participate in a phone survey requires about 5,000 calls.

That calls into question the notion of random (and broad) sampling, because only people who don't screen calls AND are willing to tell their opinions to strangers on the phone end up represented in the polls.

And it wasn't just NH: some polls called Iowa wrong, too. I blogged about that here, which will give you a better idea of my thoughts on the matter:

Major media players should know about polls' limits by now, yet they keep creating voter optimism and pessimism by trumpeting about pre-election polls. This issue troubles me, which is why I've blogged about it repeatedly.


I will have to cut the media some slack on this one. There is a huge difference between the poll hype in Virginia and the lack of poll hype over Texas. The polls hyped in Virginia were polls taken right before the election. The election in Texas is still two and a half weeks or so away.

On March the 2nd or so, I am sure the media will be massively obsessed with the polls in Texas and Ohio.

D. Cupples

You may be right about the timing of the poll hyping. Then again, at this point, much of the media is predicting Clinton's demise -- making the polls more newsy. Who knows?


Also, while I can see Hillary winning Ohio and Pennsylvania. As a resident of Houston, for me Texas is one great big I don’t know.

Hillary is ahead in the polls in Texas right now, but look at the trend line on and extrapolate it two and a half weeks forward.

Here is some more bad news:

Texas is a red state. There aren’t very many states redder than Texas. Red states are usually good for Obama.

Texas is an open primary state. That is usually good for Obama.

The awarded delegates are weighted toward how the districts voted in 2004. This is important because while half or so of the Democratic voters are Latino’s (which is good for Hillary), a huge number of them probably voted for Bush in 2004 and so their vote doesn’t count as much. Latino’s in Texas were almost certainly more pro (former Texas governor) Bush than Latino’s outside of the state.

On top of that, with the open primary, a percentage of the Latino’s might end up voting for the most vocally pro immigration candidate that they can, which in this weird race would seem to me to be McCain.

McCain will have won the Republican nomination. Combine that with the open primary and a lot more Independents and Republicans will likely vote for Obama than would have been the case if the Republican race were unresolved.

The areas that voted Democratic in 2004 also have a much higher concentration of African Americans. African Americans tend to vote Obama.

Hillary seems to do better among working class union voters. The government of Texas almost seems to be on a crusade to wipe out the unions. The percentage of union workers in Texas is almost certainly way below the national average.

To me, it seems too early to call Texas. Texas is just too weird and complicated of a state. Texas is the only state in the union that can honestly claim to have once been an independent country. It really is that weird.

D. Cupples


I definitely agree: it's too early to call TX (though I didn't know all of the points that you mention).

Frankly, I think that any time before a large majority of votes are counted is too early to call a race, because polls (even exit polls) aren't fully reliable. Why does anybody need to broadcast predictions 5 hours, 5 days, or even 5 weeks before actual election results are in?

I was just suggesting that since pundits have been trumpeting every positive poll-showing of Obama for some weeks now, it might be fair to similarly (read, just as enthusiastically) trumpet about Hhillary's positive poll-showings.


Thanks for the interesting post JSmith. But, being the pedantic trivia goon that I am, I must point out that Vermont and Hawaii have also been independent states.


D. Cupples,

I definitely think Hillary can win Texas, but….., it isn’t nearly as certain of a win as some Hillary supporters seem to think. My guess, March the 4th, all eyes will be on Texas.

I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the Republicans will muck with the open primary. Even if they don’t muck with it in an organized fashion, they may end up mucking with it in a disorganized fashion. There are a lot Republicans here who truly hate Hillary for reasons I don’t understand. They don’t seem to hate Obama in the same way for some reason. Some Republicans may decide that they can’t bring themselves to vote for McCain, so they may decide that they will vote against Hillary. They could also decide that there is no point in voting for the Republican candidate since he already has a lock and decide they would rather vote against Hillary.

I am also guessing Ohio will be more predicable and that Hillary will win there.

I really don’t understand what Obama did in Virginia to win the way he did. Hillary should have won Virginia. I have no idea if he can do that in Texas, although I won’t rule that out.

I am also guessing that another great big round of poll obsessing will start soon. This time over Wisconsin and maybe Hawaii.


I hope I didn’t come across as saying Texas is independent in the way Vermont and Hawaii are. It isn’t. Vermont is much more independent than Texas, but, overall, less odd and strange.

Texas is a very big very red state with pockets that liberals such as my self hide out in. Austin is an obvious example. Houston is not uniformly conservative either. Texas isn’t all that bad of a place to live in if you pick the right areas.

For more interesting, maybe counter intuitive, trivia:

The mayor of Houston is actually Democratic.

Whites are actually a minority in Harris County and Houston.

Houston is the fourth largest city in the country.

For some reason, some people seem to think Houston is like in a desert or something. Sort of like those old cowboy movies with tumble weed. It’s not. Houston is practically a swamp. The area around Houston is very, very similar to south Louisiana.

There are no zoning laws in Houston. I really wish they would change that.

Houston has an enormous Asian district. You can’t really call it a China town though because there are a lot of Koreans, South Vietnamese, and other Asians there too.

I am pretty certain, although not completely sure, that Houston has the third largest gay community in the country in the Montrose area of Houston.

Here’s more.

Texas is a much odder and more complicated state than most people seem to think.



I'm just referring to the historical record. Vermont, Texas, and Hawaii are the three U.S. States that were, at one time, independent nations.

The only place in Texas I've ever been (ouside of airports, anyway) is Austin, so I don't really have any good personal sense of the state. It's certainly not a monolithic place.

D. Cupples

JSmith, I've heard that Texas is very diverse. one relative is from Lubbuck, and one lives in San Marcos. I've visited once: SM, Austin and San Antonio (not extended stays). It does seem like a pretty interesting place, though.



I didn't actually know that Vermont and Hawaii were independent countries until you pointed that out.

One other thing that I forgot to mention. Houston's namesake Sam Houston was the only person to be Governor of two different states (Texas and Tennessee), a US Senator, and president of a foreign country (the Republic of Texas).


I did some more digging into this.

It is worse than I initially thought.

Not only does Texas have an open primary, which I already knew about, but it also has a caucus too.

Apparently, Democrats can vote twice on election day. Once in the primary (which has 126 pledged delegates) and once in the caucus (which has 67 pledged delegates).

Texas is a weird strange state, even for those of us who live here.

D. Cupples

JSmith, you find some very interesting facts. Since I don't live in Texas, I can't call it "weird," but it definitely is different!

jennifer hagstrom

Did you speak too soon?

D. Cupples

I don't think I spoke to soon. First, I was talking about broadcast media (not newspapers), which is why I copied headlines from NBC, CNN, et. al.

Second, the WaPo article doesn't give Hillary fanfare for being ahead in the polls in TX and OH: it talks about some workers in Ohio who like Hillary.

At least it was on the front page -- so we know that Hillary isn't yet coffin bound. THANKS for the link.


Obama needs to sit his mixed self down somewhere trying to be down with the black community when he's not even Black he's half Black. He's just a scam by the republicans to win the White House for another 4 years. Clinton is the best way and the only way the democrates in Texas Ohio and Wisconsin should vote.


The Washington Post article starts off with a white person in a small town that would like Hillary to win.

Then it moves to an African American that would like to see Obama win. It mentions that he believes that Obama winning will help overcome past and present racism. It also mentions that the Obama supporter is willing to risk losing his job and shell out a lot of his own money to help Obama win.

It then mentions that another Hillary supporter over heard someone in a checkout line “gushing” about Obama, and the Hillary supporter told her that she shouldn’t vote for Obama because his middle name is Hussein, with italics to help emphasis the racism of that statement.

It then concludes with the Hillary supporters saying that they will support Obama if he wins.

I really wouldn’t label this a pro Hillary article at all. It definitely makes the Obama supporter look better than the Hillary supporters.

It does come across as very pro Democratic Party though.

A better title for the article would be “We talked to two poor white people and one poor African American in a town in Ohio that no one has ever heard of before and conclude that you should vote for Obama if you are against racism.”

It doesn’t once mention that Hillary is by far the most likely candidate to win Ohio though.

On another front, after some more digging, I found out some more info on the Texas primacacus. This thing is so complicated that I doubt less than 1% of Texans understand how on earth this crazy thing works. Next round, the DNC should ban any state from holding a primary/caucus as crazy as the one in Texas.

The best sources of info on this and how it effects the elections so far that I have found is coming from websites posted by……… Obama supporters.

Oh, yeah, the Obama people posted their guide that they are sending out to their voters on how to deal with the Texas primacaucus on the web. Hillary should either make her own guide or use someone else’s, like Barack Obama’s. Hehe. Here it is:

Some of them have also run predictions:

In summary, the goofy way the Texas primacacus thing is done, gives inordinate weight to Austin, which is loaded with college students and young liberals. The second most weighted group is African Americans in Houston, and to a lesser extent Dallas. An under weighted group is Latino’s.

In the above link, their guess on the outcome:

Popular vote: Hillary 51.5% Obama 46.42%
Delegates: Hillary 94 Obama 98

The DNC needs to ban states from pulling this sort of nonsense in future races.




I would be surprised to hear even a Republican say something as racist as that out loud.

D. Cupples


As I head to bed, I'm having multiple belly laughs over your proposed re-titling of the WaPo article. BRILLIANT! And thanks: it's always nice to end the day with a laugh.

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