Here’s a dirty secret about polls: People want to back winners more than they want to be honest about their own preferences.
Following the Iowa caucuses, both Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio made gains in national polls. For voters in California, New York, Louisiana, and every other state that isn’t Iowa or New Hampshire, nothing changed following the caucuses. The candidates were still the same people with the same experience and policies and backgrounds. Nothing substantive happened to change people’s minds.
Except some candidates won, and some lost. And Americans hate associating themselves with losers. We throw people under the bus with a speed that is stunning. And nothing leads us to kick out one beloved political or pop culture figure like another person coming along who is shinier, sexier, winningier.
Sanders tied Clinton in Iowa when the common wisdom was he would lose. Rubio finished third, and it was not only a strong third but the national media couldn’t stop crowing about how well he’d done. So come Wednesday morning, the two winners from Iowa were Sanders and Rubio.
Lo and behold, they went zipping up the polls. Same old candidates, brand new results.
For Clinton, this phenomenon will haunt her another week and a half: she’s going to lose badly in New Hampshire but should win South Carolina and Nevada. If she can win those decisively, the barely committed poll respondents who are swayed by whoever the latest winner was may change their minds yet again. Or it could be too late by then.
Trump’s advantage is that he has a big lead in New Hampshire and far fewer religionists to undermine his campaign. He has a chance to stem the Rubio tide. Clinton needs to lose by as little as...