Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Momentum and Coast Bias
The closer I look at the numbers, the better yesterday looks for Obama. You'll remember, I was expecting a 70-delegate loss, not because of team Obama's expectations spin, but because of the real average of the recent poll numbers in each state. For weeks, keeping Hillary's gain to less than 100 seemed like a worthy goal. Now, not only did he not lose 70 delegates yesterday, it is looking like he actually expanded his slim delegate lead. Obama won more states, and won more delegates yesterday than Hillary did. The margin was slim, indeed. But a win is a win. After 5 big days of Democratic voting, Obama has won the delegate battle now in all but one - New Hampshire - and that one was something of a shock.

I do understand Kevin Drum's feeling of let-down:
[A]lthough Obama obviously made up a huge amount of ground over the past two weeks, what it felt like to me was disappointment. He seemed to be coming on so strong that it seemed inevitable he'd win one or two of the big Hillary states — or at least make them into close races — but he didn't. In the end, Hillary won California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts by double digit margins. It really seemed to take a lot of wind out of the Obama surge.
Still, I think he's off the mark, because we did indeed see that wave of momentum yesterday - and it put Obama over the top into a surprising delegate victory for the de facto national primary. It's just that the wave didn't crash the coasts like we had anticipated. Hillary's the one that matched or beat expectations in NY, NJ, MA and CA.

But look at what happened virtually everywhere else. While the bright lights of the media focused on her solid win in 93-delegate Mass., Obama pounded her 2-1 in 72-delegate Minnesota. Yeah, she opened up a 10-percentage point lead in 107-delegate NJ, but he turned an expected win into a 30-pt. rout in 87-delegate GA, and an anticipated nailbiter (according to the polls) into a double-digit victory in 52-delegate AL. The size of his homestate win in IL neutralized hers in NY. And while she was winning big in Ark and Ok, the size of his victories in UT, ND, ID, CO, AK and KS were even more astonishing. I know, I know, many of those are caucuses and, somehow, Obama's supposed to have a bizarre advantage in the caucuses (??). My feeling is - no matter what the voting method is, when you beat someone 80-20 like he did in Idaho, you've got a wave of overwhelming support. And the 12 delegates he gained in that 18-delegate state count every bit as much as, indeed 20% more than, the 10 he lost in 68-delegate Tennessee.

The truth is the Clinton campaign thought they could play to the coasts, sell out give up on black voters, split the rest, and wind up with a 100-delegate win and momentum. Frankly, the coasts did their part, but a wave surged in much of the rest of the country. So, yeah part of the story is Obama's momentum stopping short in those few big states. But an equal story - if not bigger - is the absolute thumping he gave her in DE, GA, IL, AL, UT, ND, ID, KS, AK, CO to widen his earned-delegate lead, if only slightly.

If he had won MA, NJ, and CA but only 5 or 6 others and wound up with the same slim delegate gain of 9 or so overall, wouldn't the media be crowing about his momentum surge and huge unexpected victory? They think those bookend coastal states are the only real ones. I cry big-state bias!!

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