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An Occasional Note on the 2008 Campaigns, No. 3

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

An Occasional Note on the 2008 Campaigns, No. 3

::The H Bomb::

So. Clinton has a new campaign manager after all the losses in this weekend's contests. I hope her first words of advice to the candidate are that she stops using the H word. Repeating over and over that this is an "historic" election is inviting ridicule. One, it implies that Clinton thinks US voters are shallow enough to elect someone just because it'll be one for the history books.  

Two, what is historic about white males--the former candidates whose delegates both Obama and Clinton might need come convention time--being in a position of power? Three, all McCain has to do is choose Condoleezza Rice as his running mate and the Republican historic will out-historic the Democratic historic. Given her strong background in national security matters and as Secretary of State, Rice is a pretty unassailable choice.  

Oh, and that other H bomb--human. If coming across as "human" means guffawing about adolescent relationships with boys--as Clinton did in last night's 60 Minutes interview with Katie Couric--then, I beg you, send in the clones! That interview itself might end up being as historic as the famed televised presidential debate in 1960 when Nixon's sweaty brow is said to have cost him the election.  

::Getting racy::

The meme on the news bulletins this weekend is that Obama appeals only to blacks and highly educated, highly paid liberals. To be fair, they also give airtime to him at rallies saying that he's the only candidate capable of drawing independent voters away from McCain. Steve Kroft's interview with him on 60 Minutes left a much better impression of the Illinois senator's capabilities than the Couric disaster did for Clinton.  

Louisiana was one of the states that held a primary over the weekend, and I was interested to read a New Orleans take on his stump speech there. Ernie the Attorney writes that "His speeches seem the product of someone who listens and observes closely. Not a common trait anywhere these days, especially not in politics." In a second post, two days later, Ernie takes the Clinton campaign to task for manipulating information to distort her rival's voting record, in this case about an oil revenues bill that might have helped Louisiana.  

It will be a great disservice to US voters if the media boils this down to a gender vs. race battle, as seems to be the current trend in reporting. In an AP article in the Miami Herald on Sunday, a Louisiana voter was quoted as saying, "If she won now, we'll have another Republican in the White House. I think there are more sexists out there than racists." Having decided how the battle will be framed, reporters then go out and get the quotes that fit in that framework, a framework poured from the imperfect crucible of exit polls. 

::Fast-Food Sheep Entrails::

Exit poll data is the hydrogenated cooking oil of election reporting, it seems. Despite its having negative nutritional value, EPD is the ingredient used in order to turn a story that by nature should take hours to play out--actual election results--into instant take-out. Which may well influence how people voting late in the day cast their vote. 

Moreover, exit poll data over several contests takes on a life of its own and starts to drive the framing of election campaign coverage. Since they're usually a very small sampling, and people aren't obliged to say how they actually voted, exit polls give very little information that would stand up to scientific scrutiny. But media and campaigns seem committed to the notion that people vote the way other people in their media-defined category vote. 

"Working-class white women support Clinton and I'm one of those, so I will too." I don't think so. But then I'm just a voter, the least important person in US elections--a spectator at a sports match, where the only people treated as having individual power are the players on the field, the staff that support them, and the commentators and announcers.





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