On the morning after the New Hampshire primary, one strong conclusion can be drawn: the media collectively blew it. This should be seen as downright liberating to the 48 states which have not voted yet. Because it means that everyone who hasn't yet voted should now rightfully conclude: "Those guys don't know what they're talking about. I'm voting for who I really want to win. Who knows, maybe they will!" To paraphrase (no relation to Hillary, of course) the immortal words of George Clinton: Free your mind, and your vote will follow.
Now, normally I do my fair share of condemning the mainstream media for their stupefyingly obtuse and superficial behavior (to be honest, they make it really easy for me to do so). But on this one, I've got to take the heat with the rest of them. I, too, blew it. I saw the polls, and (while not believing in any single one of them) I did believe in the trend. I thought Barack Obama had it sewn up. Until the results started coming in. As Mark Twain (or maybe it was Disraeli) once said: "There are three types of lie: a lie, a damned lie, and statistics."
While I was wrong, I had no lack of company. Pretty much everyone in the chattering classes also got it wrong. We all read the same polls, and we all came to the same conclusion. And we were all wrong.
I realize that the Monday morning quarterbacking is already under way. As a pundit (or someone who plays one on the web), I am at this time supposed to be telling you why we all blew it... and reassuring you that it won't happen again.
Maybe it was Hillary's emotion the other day, swaying women voters. Or it was Hillary's going negative against Barack. It was the warm weather. It could have been the fact that most people hang up on pollsters. Or it was the sampling and weighting methodologies of the polls themselves. Or the large margin of error involved in a state so small. It was Venus rising in Sagittarius, with Mars on the ascendant in Virgo. It was the "Bradley Effect," which all black candidates face between the opinion polls and the ballot box. It was independents going for McCain, who didn't turn out for Obama. It was the fact that more women voted than men. It was the huge turnout. It was the weekend debate before the voting. It was because Kang and Kodos from The Simpsons were really running the election.
Or whatever. You can expect plenty of that sort of microscopic analysis of exit polls from all sides for the next few days and weeks. Political pontificators of all stripes will be falling all over each other to point fingers and explain why everyone got it completely wrong.
Not me. I'm just going to admit we all blew it, and look for the silver lining. Because there is one, and it's huge. It's not good news for political reporters and opinionators, but it's great news for the voters.
Now, don't get us opinionators wrong -- we absolutely love a scrappy good election fight, and all of us will be absolutely salivating over the prospect of a real race now (instead of a "coronation"). Heck, we'd all be in nirvana if both campaigns wound up resulting in actual open convention fights! It gives us more to write about, for months on end!
But while most in Medialand will have their own novel explanation for why everyone getting it wrong was a complete aberration and couldn't possibly ever happen again because lightning simply doesn't strike twice... I, personally, am completely embracing the idiocy of all of our predictions.
We got it WRONG! Doesn't that tell you (yes, you!) -- the media consumer -- something crucial? It means that we don't really know what we're talking about... and that the only poll that matters is the one that happens on election day. Which means that you should spit in the eye of everyone who tries to tell you: "the race is over, you shouldn't even bother voting" -- and go vote for who you believe in anyway.
Because sometimes the voters surprise the media. And who's to say it won't happen in your primary? So get out there and vote for your candidate. Take whatever I -- and everyone else -- say with an enormous grain of salt. A virtual boulder of salt.
Because you just might prove us to be wrong.
And what could be more fun in an election than that?
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com