Saturday, May 10, 2008

Absolutely No Momentum

There's no difference between no momentum and "absolutely" no momentum. The term "absolutely" is a useless word, prime to be struck by my editing pen. But I mention it here for emphasis: The 2008 Democratic Primary campaign has shown absolutely no momentum for either candidate.

Obama voters have voted for Obama. Since Super Tuesday, this category includes African Americans, younger voters, and those who make more money and have completed college. Clinton voters have voted for Clinton. Since Super Tuesday, the Clinton voter is typically blue-collar and/or older. Clinton has also done well among women, unless they are African American, and her support in this category wanes among younger women and among women who've completed college (since that would overlap with a demographic favorable to Obama).

In contest after contest since early February, the make up of either candidate's support has not changed. Each primary is a census on a given state's make up against those demographics. We now know that the younger or college-educated Democratic audience in Indiana is almost the same size as the blue collar or older one.

I admire the fact that Democrats across the country have stuck to their hunches. They have not been swayed by talk of momentum (proof there hasn't been any). From a broader perspective, the way the media has covered this race is humorous. Under the no-momentum theory, a casual observer could have predicted a Clinton victory by ten points in Pennsylvania back in February. It's just the way the demographics in Pennsylvania fall, and the way the "Democratic census" in that state would work out. Yet the morning after, we heard pundit after pundit saying that Hillary had momentum. We heard it for a week.

Truth be told, the media are dieing to say that someone, anyone, has momentum. Because a horse race with no race is boring. After Pennsylvania, many reporters couldn't wait any longer, and proclaimed that Clinton had finally received the big "mo."

Except they were wrong. The results in North Carolina and Indiana are exactly as one would have predicted back on Super Tuesday, looking and the Democratic make-up in each state. At that time, you could have called North Carolina for Obama by a dozen and said Clinton would win Indiana by a couple.

But while the results showed no momentum, the media said the opposite: That Obama had momentum and the race was over. We heard Tim Russert say early Wednesday morning that we now know who the Democratic nominee will be.

While Obama might readily win the nomination, he has not picked up any momentum from Tuesday's victories. New polls today from West Virginia show Clinton extending her lead there. Using the theory of no momentum, let's make some predictions on how the remaining contests will unfold. To do this, I will look at the demographics of each state versus the results on Super Tuesday (yes-- results from early February). Here goes:

1) Clinton wins West Virginia by 24.
2) Clinton wins Kentucky by more than 20. Could even be 30.
3) Obama wins Oregon by 7.
4) Obama wins Montana by 9.
5) Clinton wins Puerto Rico by 12.
6) Obama wins South Dakota by 6.

Let's see if I am right.

It's important to call each primary what it is. They are not snap-shot polls of the electorate. They are reflections of the unique demographic mixes of each state. When Clinton wins West Virginia on Tuesday, it will not be because she has momentum and has won over voters, it will be because the group of voters that she appeals to will be much larger. We shouldn't read more into it than that.

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