Washington Babylon — January 9, 2008, 1:06 pm

The Post-New Hampshire Road

Plus: Media Stockholm Syndrome

It was amusing to watch the news last night and see so many pundits explain why they had essentially been right all along about the New Hampshire primaries, even though everything they’d predicted about the outcome during the past few days had been dead wrong. Then they began making new and improved forecasts about the political future with the same confidence as ever.

Meanwhile, some of the campaign correspondents seem to be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, so faithfully do they repeat the talking points of the candidates they are covering. The worst here was Ron Allen of NBC News. Mitt Romney’s entire campaign strategy was based on winning Iowa and New Hampshire–both of which he lost decisively despite the expenditure of untold millions in those two states. It will take a near-miracle at this point for Romney to rebound, and yet there was Allen talking about Romney’s optimism and laying out a case for his resurgence.

Despite all the polling, political races are–as New Hampshire proved–difficult to forecast, but pundits and reporters find it irresistible to do so. (Me too. My powers of prognostication are generally suspect, but the item I wrote last Friday–which said Hillary was not yet finished but that Edwards was, and suggested that McCain would win New Hampshire and thereby effectively knock out Romney–held up well.)

It’s especially tempting to try to be the first one to make the call. Hence, an item on the New Republic website following the Iowa caucuses said that “Hillary Clinton is toast…Obama wins New Hampshire by double-digits, then crushes Clinton in South Carolina, at which point the race will be over.” During the New Hampshire debate on January 5th, the American Prospect website even spotted the precise moment at which Obama clinched the nomination. “Get your kids out and put them in front of the TV,” said the item. “The Clinton Era officially ended at 9:34 p.m. EST when Edwards paired with Obama to bury Hillary as a non-agent of change.” (This reminded me of one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons, in which Bart replays for Lisa a videotape showing the precise moment that Ralph Wiggum’s heart breaks).

In retrospect, that may have been a key moment marking Clinton’s revival, given the sympathy it seems to have generated for her. Indeed, I’d bet that Edwards’s idiotic and mean-spirited attack on Clinton when she famously “teared up” did as much as anything to undercut Obama’s momentum.

So, having stated that it’s impossible and unwise to make predictions, where do things go from here?

The Democratic race is obviously impossible to call, other than to make the obvious observation that Edwards had little chance before Iowa, less afterwards, and none now. Otherwise, it’s hard to see how anything becomes clear before February 5th.

Hillary could have sewed up the race if she’d won Iowa and New Hampshire, and Obama might have done the same but it’s hard to see how the individual or combined results from Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina would be decisive.

On the GOP side, I said in my post last Friday that if McCain won New Hampshire he’d had a slight advantage over Huckabee, and that seems to now be the case. The other three GOP contenders are all but finished. Thompson’s campaign isn’t going anywhere. Giuliani is still waiting for Florida to roll around–but that’s weeks away, and meanwhile a poll released yesterday showed he’d fallen to fourth place there. Romney can keep spending money but even if he were to win Michigan (difficult given his two crushing defeats of the past week) it’s hard to see him getting much of a bounce.

I know that’s not terribly precise–but if New Hampshire taught us anything, it’s that handicapping presidential candidates so soon is a dangerous business.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2015

A Sage in Harlem

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Man Stopped

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Spy Who Fired Me

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Giving Up the Ghost

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Invisible and Insidious

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

[Browsings]
William Powell published The Anarchist Cookbook in 1971. He spent the next four decades fighting to take it out of print.
“The book has hovered like an awkward question on the rim of my consciousness for years.”
© JP Laffont/Sygma/Corbis
Article
The Fourth Branch·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Both the United States and the Soviet Union saw student politics as a proxy battleground for their rivalry.”
Photograph © Gerald R. Brimacombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Article
Giving Up the Ghost·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Stories about past lives help explain this life — they promise a root structure beneath the inexplicable soil of what we see and live and know, what we offer one another.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Article
The Spy Who Fired Me·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In industry after industry, this data collection is part of an expensive, high-tech effort to squeeze every last drop of productivity from corporate workforces.”
Illustration by John Ritter
Article
Invisible and Insidious·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly.”
Photograph © 2011 Massimo Mastrorillo and Donald Weber/VII

Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:

1

Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.

An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Driving Mr. Albert

By

He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.

Subscribe Today