Leading from the Left

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Wow! So much for the Polls!

"Wow" is all I can say. Every poll predicted an Obama victory in New Hampshire yesterday...by an average of 8.3%. I watched the returns coming in last night with friends and none of us could believe what we were seeing. Hillary came back from way behind and snatched a victory that shocked the pundits and the pollsters alike.

How did she do it? How did she turn things around so quickly?

We will probably never know for sure what did it, but I have a theory. Here's what we do know: women voters, who only 48 hours earlier had been split between Clinton and Obama, returned to Hillary's side by a 13 percentage point margin. But what brought them home?

For what it's worth, here's what I think.

Hillary lobbed a one-two punch in the final days. First, in the debate on Saturday she fought back when 'the boys' ganged up on her; she had to raise her voice to break back into the conversation, but she did it and showed some passionate anger. You may not have seen the exchange, but at one point both Obama and Edwards were teaming up against her. I suspected at the time that women and men would see that exchange very differently. Women saw men unfairly piling on a woman who was down; and they saw a woman who had to raise her voice to be heard. Too many women have been in similar situations to see it any other way.

If that had been all that happened, I don't believe the impact would have been particularly great. But her emotional, voice-cracking explanation on Monday of why she was in the race ("Some people think politics is a game, but it's about our children, our future" and "I've seen what they're doing and I don't want our country to go backwards.") touched a chord in a way that almost defies words. Hillary gave a heartfelt rationale for why she's in the is race, and she did it in language that everyone could understand: not with mind-numbing facts and statistics, but rather with emotion and humanity.

People finally--finally--got a glimpse of the warm, caring Hillary that her friends and family see. And it worked.

She said it all in one sentence in her victory speech: "I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice." Indeed.