Friday, March 28, 2008

The Bitter 19%-28%

I generally believe that opinion polling does what it claims to do, but this is a recent and much-discussed polling result that I very much doubt:

19% of Obama supporters and 28% of Clinton supporters claim they'll vote for McCain if their preferred Democrat is not nominated.

Two grounds for skepticism: first, November is very far off and a great deal will happen between now and then. The political fixations and tensions of the present moment are likely to be forgotten seven months from now. By November, American politics will be well out of the weeds of the Clinton-Obama contest. It seems impossible to think so now, but it will be so.

Second, I think Clinton supporters and Obama supporters are just mirroring the intensity of the rivalry. They're saying and thinking things about the other candidacy that they don't, in their hearts, really believe. The most committed portion of each side would like to see the other side back down, and the threat to vote for McSame is a bluff to that end. I have had moments where I've come close to telling myself or vocalizing that I'll never vote for Hillary Clinton. But it's not true. I will vote for her if she emerges with the Democratic nomination (assuming she does so without actually destroying the party). I would hold my nose as I did so, but between Clinton and McSame, I would vote for Clinton, and likewise, Democrats who favored Clinton in the primary and facing the choice of Obama versus McSame will choose Obama.

President Obama. Get used to that.

I take this as a valid scientific poll that accurately captures the sentiments and dynamics of the race as it stands today. But the race, and its underlying sentiments and dynamics, will change a great deal as the general election nears.

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