The national poll averages from October forward:
What it means:
According to the chart, Clinton’s national poll average was basically unchanged between the beginning of October and the middle of May, starting at about 41 percent and ending at about 42 percent. Although Clinton verged on 50 percent of the average poll and dipped to just below 40 before the New Hampshire primary, her numbers remained relatively steady. Meanwhile, Obama’s numbers started at about 22 percent in October and rose faster than CO2 levels in the atmosphere, breaking 50 percent at the end.
One interpretation of the average poll data—my interpretation—is that as the field of candidates thinned and undecideds got off the pot, they migrated to Obama in huge numbers, first after the Iowa caucuses and then before Super Tuesday. Clinton, on the other hand, was a candidate whose market share was fixed. She never really expanded from her core of support, despite the many style, substance, and personnel changes she made during the campaign and no matter how much money she spent. And even then, she just barely lost the delegate count.
So the real story, which the Post and the Los Angeles Times detail nicely in their separate ways, is that Obama won by winning, not by Clinton losing.
As for the why; here’s my two cents.
Virtually from the day that the 2004 campaign ended in John Kerry’s defeat, everyone knew that Hillary Clinton was running for President. Thanks mostly to the popularity of her husband and partly to the fact that Democrats wanted to win in November, she started out as the front runner even before she, or anyone else, had declared their candidacy.
But, almost as soon as happened, the Democratic Party seemed to go on a search for the “stop Hillary” candidate.
First, it was thought that Al Gore would come back and seek a nomination that would have been his hands down, and when he won the Nobel Peace Prize it seemed a foregone conclusion that he was running, but he announced that he wasn’t running back in October 2007.
Then, there were some who thought that former Virginia Governor Mark Warner would become the anti-Hillary, but he decided to run for what seems to be an increasingly safe Virginia Senate seat.
But not just any candidate could have taken on and beaten the Clinton Machine. John Edwards tried and failed. Bill Richardson tried and failed. So did Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Tom Vilsack, and all the others who didn’t make it much past February.
Obama won, yes, but he won because he capitalized on the fact that Hillary was perhaps the most beatable front-runner we’ve ever seen in a primary race.
H/T: Andrew Sullivan