Clinton's Downturn: Careful What You Wish For

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Nov 07, 2007 at 12:30

Whether or not the fallout from last week's debate has actually hurt Clinton in the polls is still open to question. On the national level, CNN shows her lead down to 44%-25% from 51%-21%. Rasmussen also shows Clinton at her lowest levels in a month, although she showed no immediate post-debate decline. ABC News / WaPo is a third poll to show a Clinton decline, although about half of their poll was conducted before the debate. By contrast, Gallup shows no decline in Clinton's national lead, and neither does Newsweek, although it should be noted that the pre-debate Newsweek poll was conducted three months ago. Before the debate even took place, Fox and Zogby also showed a downward trend for Clinton, while Pew and Quinnipiac did not. Overall, that is a lot of caveats and contradictory information from which to try and draw a trend. About half of all national polls shows Clinton down, and about half do not. In fact, this was the case in the week immediately before the debate, too. The best guess right now is that Clinton's national numbers have dropped from the high forties to the mid-forties.

One thing, however, it for certain: the debate itself did not cause this drop for Clinton. How it could it have? Two and a half of the polls showing a downward trend for Clinton were conducted before the debate. Another poll showing a downward trend for Clinton, Rasmussen, didn't actually start showing that trend until four days after the debate. And, most importantly, only about two million people actually watched the debate, and these polls are sampling voter universes of about 50-60 million people. It wasn't the debate. There is just no way that is possible.

What did happen, however, is a replay of the first 2000 debate between Bush and Gore. Clinton might have faced a series of attacks, and she might have fumbled the immigration at the end, but where she really got creamed was in the post-debate news coverage. In that coverage, she was almost universally seen as having stumbled, to the point where she has seemingly been forced to apologize to the press for not admitting this earlier. I don't know exactly how not admitting you did poorly in a debate became a gaffe for Clinton, but it is probably connected to the outrage, outrage I say! that the press has felt when Clinton played the "gender card," or something. I think that is what she is actually being forced to apologize for.

There is also a continuum between pre-debate and post-debate coverage of the campaign, one that suggests a connection between the polls showing a Clinton decline before the debate, and those showing one afterward. For the first three weeks of October, the press ran with the "Clinton is inevitable" narrative. However, at some point, they grew bored with that story, and picked up the "Clinton is going to get attacked" and "when will Clinton stumble" narratives. Obama's claim that he was going to attack Clinton more forcefully was, as Media Matters showed, all the rage in the three days leading up to the debate. Both the attacks and Clinton stumbles were expected. In short, Clinton is now down a bit because the press told everyone for several days that, because of the attacks, poor debate performance and by "playing the gender card," she should be down. And so, they can move on from the boring, played-out inevitability narrative.

I imagine most people reading this blog are either happy that Clinton is somewhat down, or at least not disappointed. However, they should be careful what they wish for. In this case, what appears to be a Clinton drop in the polls was largely fueled by the same media machine that, most of the time, happily reinforces Republican narratives as conventional wisdom. The lesson here, I think, is to remember that the corporate, established media is still very good at creating national convention wisdom as they see fit. While in this case that conventional wisdom might make many people in the netroots happy, most of the time it won't. It is still a powerful institution that Republicans and conservatives are better able to control than Democrats and progressives, and we shouldn't forget that. After the fact re-branding of debates remains of the biggest reasons George Bush is President instead of Al Gore, for example. Their after the fact coverage of Howard Dean's concession speech in Iowa, or General Petraeus's rosy portrayal of Iraq are even more gratuitous examples. Most of the time, it feels as though the conventional wisdom machine works against us, and even in instances where we might enjoy the conventional wisdom that is being created (and I admit that I enjoy it simply because a blowout campaign is a boring campaign), we shouldn't forget that.
Chris Bowers :: Clinton's Downturn: Careful What You Wish For

Tags: , , , , (All Tags)
Print Friendly View Send As Email

For most of the last year (0.00 / 0)
The following relationship has existing for Clinton

National - 10 = Clinton's NH support
National - 20 = Clinton's Iowa support

Rassmussen hsa a poll out this morning showing Hillary at 34 in New Hampshire, which would translate into 45 nationally.  This is consistent with some of the more recent national polling, but not consistent with the USA Today number.

This suggests either the Rassmussen NH number or the USA number is an outlier OR that the mistakes in the debate are having more traction in NH than Nationally.

There is a NH poll due out on Sunday from UNH - so we might get confirmation of the Rassmussen poll.  More importantly though, if the relationship above holds in Iowa Hillary should be in the mid-20's - and in a flat footed tie.

If that is true,  we might be seeing a significant break in the race. 

I don't buy it... (0.00 / 0)
Clinton's stumble here was at least half created by her own press machine.  Her greatest weakness and strength going into the debate was the fact that she was a front runner.  She has been thought of as running a "perfect, or flawless" campaign up to this moment... even by bloggers, not just the traditional media (I do not have time at work to get the links but I am sure even bloggers here have said that).

That has set her expectations bar far far too high.  Any slip up (and the way she sounded on immigration, social security, and the archives questions) amounted to a slip up or a chink in the armor of a flawless campaign and thus viewed with high expectations means she lost a part of that.  Many (including myself) saw this coming eventually.

My 2 cents.

don't buy it (4.00 / 2)
What slip up is there in her social security response?  She says return to fiscal responsibility and then address any remaining concerns.  Even Alan Greenspan doesn't think social security is a top tier problem.  Medicare on the other hand is  but no one is dealing with that.

On the archives, should she say we'll release everything now when they legally cannot do that?  That would be really suicidal when the release didn't happen.

As far as Spitzer's drivers license question, that was not a yes/no answer and required a bit of discussion.  Not that you would know it from the reaction of the other candidates or the press.  Seems to me she was trying to be honest and explain a position but the answer had to be yes or no and that would be dishonest.

What has caused any skippage, if it indeed continues, is not the debate itself but the same kind of gotcha coverage as Gore  got in 2000.  If you think any other democrat will not get the same kind of coverage when they running against the republican, then grow up it ain't gonna happen.

[ Parent ]
You may be right on all counts... (0.00 / 0)
But even if you are it doesn't mean it wasn't a bad strategy.  Perception is key.  She has been running a calculating very strategic campaign up until the debate.  Even if you are right on all counts, the perception of her answers was not taken well by anyone, and she lost her cool.  Thats what needed to happen, and it has.  Yes... other candidates will have to deal with this, but they have to navigate expectations better than she is.

[ Parent ]
counts (4.00 / 2)
How is going along with the republican meme that social security is in trouble and requires a fix now anything other than a lose for democrats?

It may be a short term win because they got to agree with Russert but not in the long run.

[ Parent ]
It is not about going alont with meme... (0.00 / 0)
It's about having a sound strategy. I don't entirely disagree with what she said... Its about the manner in which she performed at the debate.  Look at JFK v. Nixon.  Debates (unfortunately) are not about issues, its about perception.

I do not think that her fall means republicans win on control of the press.  I think she looks mortal and it is her own fault. The issues (again unfortunately) are not what this is about... in my opinion.

[ Parent ]
Russert's meme (4.00 / 2)
Obviously it is primary season, but I had a problem with the Democratic candidates following the Russert&co lead and instructions on how and when to attack Hillary for the very reason Chris Bowers discusses.  It is only meant to weaken the Democrats in the long run. 

Media post-debate spin is a major problem (4.00 / 1)
Bob Somerby's Daily Howler website has been flogging this issue for years and I agree that the media narratives have had a major negative effect for Democratic candidates and will continue to. I too am glad that Hillary came down a notch in the polls but we need to keep fighting against how the media "decides" the results of debates and decides what makes news. It always seems to be trivial Democratic "mistakes" (sometimes even truthtelling is taken as blunders, like Howard Dean saying the capture of Saddam Hussein would not improve our security) that capture media attention. Republican over-the-top behavior, including torture & lying us into war, never seem to gather much media interest.

Last Republican mistake: 1976 (0.00 / 0)
Yup, it was Gerald Ford saying the Soviets did not control Poland.  Amazing, the gotcha moment did not come against a "conservative" whopper (like many of Reagan's or Bush IIs).

[ Parent ]

Open Left Campaigns



Advanced Search

Powered by: SoapBlox