I was relieved to see Clinton bounce back in New Hampshire. It's not that I'm in her camp, just that I'd like the race to go on for awhile. It is somewhat bizarre that so much emphasis is put on the caucuses in Iowa when they are representative of nothing except the opinions of the people who go to the caucuses in Iowa. The media coronation of Obama was absurd.
Jon Stewart (who gets a little better each night dealing with his no-writers situation) had John Zogby, the prominent pollster, on his show Wednesday night, and their exchange was fascinating. Jon kept trying to press the point that it would be better for the country if the MSM quit expending so much energy trying to figure out who was going to win ahead of time, and focused on reporting the issues and positions, and then reported who actually won. To his amazement, Zogby didn't really contest that point -- his stance seemed to be, that might be true, but he's a pollster, so he runs his polls and delivers the results and what the media do with those results is not his issue.
Jon expressed the most amazement, though, at the answer to his question, "Does the polling data simply reflect what people are thinking or does it actually influence the way that people subsequently vote?" Zogby said, "I don't know."
On the issue of why the Obama/Clinton projection was so wrong, Zogby gave a number of plausible reasons. There's been a fair amount of blovistic chatter claiming that this shows that polls are just meaningless. But, in fact, most of the time the polls are pretty accurate -- that's what makes this result interesting. What it does reveal in this case is that the situation is extremely fluid and many people are not making up their minds until they get to the point of actually casting that vote. If I were going to be voting in a primary, I wouldn't be able to tell you today who I'd vote for, and I've been following all of this pretty closely. It's like ordering in a restaurant where I almost never know what I'm actually going to order until I open my mouth and tell the waiter.
I won't be voting in the primary, however. Alabama has an open primary and is participating in the February 5 carnival, so the vote here will actually count for something; but it doesn't seem right to me to vote in the primary when I'm not now and never have been a member of a political party. Why should I have a voice in choosing the nominee of either major party if I'm not willing to cast my allegiance for that party? (I realize that this is an extreme minority viewpoint).
My fondest hope for the primary is that we come out of February 5th with the issue still undecided -- although the field will undoubtedly be much smaller by then. We are finally getting to the point where people are starting to pay attention to the nuances of the differing positions, and I think it would be good for both parties for the potential nominees to have to spend at least another month or so further defining and explaining their positions.
I'd prefer that Edwards hang on a little longer because of his emphasis on the economic divide that the country ought to be dealing with. Once he's out of the race, we'll lose that thread, and I think it's an important one. On the Republican side, I'm happy to see Romney struggling. Whenever I hear him speak I can't help remembering Mary McCarthy's famous comment about Lillian Hellman.
I'm disturbed, though, by the rise of Mike Huckabee. Like many people (apparently), I respond very positively to Huckabee as a person. He seems very natural and very genuine. A nice guy (although the further one digs into the details of his time as governor in Arkansas the more the glow wears off). But I have no confidence that he would actually protect and defend the constitution any more than W has. I want a president whose decisions will be driven by a deep understanding and belief in the democratic principles on which this country was founded, not someone whose decisions will be driven by their religious faith, whatever that faith may be.
And what about Bloomberg and the potential for an independent candidate? According to a story in today's NYT, there's a growing backlash in New York from people who think that he should quit dancing around the issue and make up his mind -- preferably that he is not going to run, but is going to get on with being the mayor of New York. But if the contests are still pretty open after February 5th, the calls for him to go for it are going to increase. And then things would get really interesting.