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.

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



October 2014

Cassandra Among the

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

PBS Self-Destructs

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Monkey Did It

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


Rebecca Solnit on silencing women, a Marine commander returns to Iraq, the decline of PBS, and more
Cassandra Among the Creeps·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On silencing women
“The old framework of feminine mendacity and murky-mindedness is still routinely trotted out, and we should learn to recognize it for what it is.”
Photograph © Sallie Dean Shatz
Ending College Sexual Assault·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“This is not a fable about a young woman whose dreams were dashed by a sexual predator. Maya’s narrative is one of institutional failure at a school desperately trying to adapt.”
Photograph © AP/Josh Reynolds
"Clothes are a bit like eating: you have to dress yourself. You have to eat, and even if you eat pizza all day long, that’s still a choice."
Photograph © G Powell
“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Iraq has every disease there is; its mind is deranged with too many voices, its organs corrupted, its limbs only long enough to tear at its own body.”
Photograph by Benjamin Busch

Amount by which the total wealth of all American households declined last year:


A study concluded that commercial fish stocks may be gone by 2050 as a result of overfishing, pollution, and global climate change.

“All I saw,” said a 12-year-old neighbor of visits to the man’s house, “was just cats in little diapers.”

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


In Praise of Idleness


I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today