To: Independents in the CUIP Networks
Fr: Jackie Salit
Re: Some thoughts on the New Hampshire results
So far, 2008 has been the year of the underdog.
In Iowa, the voters carried two insurgent underdogs to the top: Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee. In New Hampshire, the voters did the same, though the dynamics had changed and the choices were different. Hillary was the new underdog going into New Hampshire, having been roundly defeated in Iowa. John McCain, who had slid to the bottom of the pack, was the underdog on the Republican side. The voters in New Hampshire lifted both of them up.
Americans love underdogs. Especially when they perceive that the pollsters and the media are interfering with the political process. The media relates to politics as a blood sport, and they turned Obama's very dramatic Iowa win into a semi-coronation, but Obama didn't have time or the on-the-ground capacity to combat that.
My guess is that the Obama campaign's New Hampshire ground operation was not as strong as his Iowa ground operation. Even though caucuses can be very difficult to mobilize for, they require a kind of organizing that is more conducive to holding onto your base when various crosscurrents kick in. Primaries are more challenging in that regard.
When the "underdog"factor started to kick in for Hillary in NH, the Obama campaign wasn't able to weather the storm. By contrast, the Clinton ground operation in NH was very strong. Add to that, the McCain Factor which pulled independents out of the Democratic primary and into the Republican primary, and Obama couldn't put it over the top.
Based on election data results and exit polling, it looks like about 202,000 independents/undeclareds voted yesterday, making up about 38% of the total electorate that turned out. Based on exit polling, it would appear that about 121,000 independents/undeclareds voted in the Democratic primary (indies were 42% of the DP electorate) and about 81,000 independents/undeclareds voted in the GOP primary (indies were 34% of the RP electorate).
The CNN exit polling indicates that Obama got 41% of the independent vote and Hillary 34%. That would mean Obama got the votes of about 50,000 independents and Hillary got about 41,000. Extending this on the RP side, exit polling says McCain got 39% of indies which would put his total independent vote close to 32,000.
Obama suffered as a result of McCain's independent draw. Polling originally anticipated that 67% to 70% of independents/undeclared would choose Democratic ballots. Obama would have been the beneficiary of that. But McCain succeeded in pulling enough independents out of the DP equation to grab a win for himself as 60% of independents chose to vote DP yesterday, lower than originally expected. Current numbers indicate that Clinton beat Obama by 7,500 votes. That means that if roughly 1-in-4 McCain independents had voted for Obama instead, Obama would have been able to close the gap with Clinton.
Another interesting question to come off the results is the issue of what happened with women. 46% of women who voted in the Democratic primary gave their votes to Hillary. Obama had the support of 34% of women. As we know, however, Obama won among independents 41% to Hillary's 34%. An interesting question is, what happened with independents women? Did Obama do better among women independents than he did among women Democrats? I wouldn't be at all surprised if that turned out to be true.
Aside from exit polls showing that Romney polled 27% among independents, we still don't have the independents breakout for other candidates. We will continue to pursue that.
Finally, another statistic of interest from New Hampshire we'll be tracking is the percentage of independents who re-declared as "undeclared" when they were done voting. In a series of radio and print ads (independents from 30 states contributed to make the media buy) NH-CIV & CUIP reminded voters they could "redeclare as an undeclared" as soon as they had voted. That number who did so is part of the story about the long term growth and viability of the independent movement.