Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Hampshire Serves Humble Pie to Pundits

Rumors of Hillary Clinton's political demise have been greatly exaggerated.

I'm delighted she won tonight. Not because she's my first choice candidate (she isn't), but because I have been REVOLTED by the way the media has turned on her in the past week - especially the circus they've made over her so-called "Ed Muskie moment." I'm so glad that she put to rest, at least for now, the idiotic notion that because she dared show a rare moment of vulnerability, she's somehow weak or unfit to be the leader of our country...this from the same people who love to paint her as a robot or frigid bitch. Of course the other half of the anti-HRC coin, which will no doubt continue to get a lot of spin from her haters, is the cynical assumption that she somehow faked the emotion as a ploy to get voters' sympathy. I've watched the video and I don't believe that for a second. And I have a hunch that quite a few of the women who decided to vote for her today agreed with me and were equally disgusted by the media response. Either that, or they read Gloria Steinem's op-ed in the N.Y. Times this morning. Regardless, while I in no way believe that women should vote for Hillary just because she's a woman and so are they, I was proud to be a woman tonight, and proud of my fellow women in New Hampshire. I am NOT, however, impressed by the Clinton campaign's attempts to put their own spin on the "moment of tears" as the decisive factor that convinced women to support her. Hillary: you know better. That just gives ammunition to the accusations that your tears were staged.

Such fun seeing the talking heads choke on their own words! True, I believed the polls as much as anyone else, and in the last five days went from anticipating a close race to expecting that Obama would clean up in New Hampshire. But I never thought the race should or would be over for Hillary even if she did lose NH. While I'll admit I'm interested to see what explanations the "experts" come up with to explain the gap between the polls and the results, my gut tells me three things tipped the balance in favor of Clinton: (1) the fact that quite a lot of voters were undecided until the last moment, (2) independents deciding to vote in the Republican polls for McCain, rather than for Obama, (3) not Hillary's teary-eyed moment, but the ridiculous response to it, combined with the media's premature anointing of Obama, which made voters (esp. female voters) balk. And no, I don't believe that any voters said they'd vote for Obama and then voted for Hillary because they secretly don't want to vote for a black man - though I'm sure that theory will get more currency than it deserves.

Props to Obama for a terrific concession speech. That man is a sensational public speaker, no doubt about it. Hillary's not quite as inspiring, but I was quite moved when she made that observation about finding her own voice. I hope it's true.

Now things are going to get really interesting...I don't know much about Nevada, but South Carolina now looks tighter than ever. And February 5 will be even more of a doozy. It seems clear from the results of both Iowa and New Hampshire that HRC's strength still lies with the rank-and-file Dems, the bluecollar workers, older voters, and women; Obama's with the educated, the young, and, perhaps most crucially, independents. Without independents he's very vulnerable in the Democratic primaries. But I think I read somewhere that among the states that have primaries on Feb. 5, they're split pretty evenly between closed primaries (meaning no independents) and open. And then there are the caucuses. There's also the X factor of Edwards possibly withdrawing from the race *before* then, if things go badly for him in South Carolina. Where will all those votes go? So even "Tsunami Tuesday" could conceivably be inconclusive.

I have to say Edwards almost lost my vote this past week for the sneaky self-serving way in which he responded to HRC's much-ballyhooed tearing up. (His supposed double teaming with Obama against Clinton at the debates didn't bother me so much, for whatever reason.) That said, if he's on the California ballot I'm still leaning slightly towards voting for him. If he's not, I'll have some soul-searching to do.

On the Republican side: McCain's resurrection is complete. I sincerely respect this guy, probably more than I do any of the other Republican candidates, but doesn't he look a little like Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies?

As a Democrat, I don't want him to get the nomination, because I think he's the biggest threat to whatever Democratic candidate ends up running, and he has the potential to turn pretty damn conservative if he gets elected. (As a Democrat, I want Romney to win the nomination, because he has no charisma & is therefore the easiest to beat, but also would probably be the most moderate of all the candidates if he did get elected...unless he pulls a Dubya.) Luckily, the GOP nomination is as much of a question mark as the Democrats', if not more so.

Now THIS is what I call a Presidential RACE!

Update, 1/9/08: Rebecca Traister has an outstanding piece in Salon today that eloquently captures exactly how I've been feeling about Hillary Clinton and the media treatment of her in New Hampshire in the last week, why it made me see red, and why one of my [female] friends and I texted each other in glee when Hillary pulled out her narrow win, even though neither of us was (or is) a Hillary backer.

Also in Salon, Glenn Greenwald quite effectively goes to town on the devolution of news media into the sorry state that was so fully & embarrassingly on display in New Hampshire.


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