The force of the Hillary Effect

The Boston Globe; by Derrick Z. Jackson; October 18, 2008

Londonberry, N.H.

THE BRADLEY EFFECT is fading into the Hillary Effect.

The former is the phenomenon that the polls overestimate how much white voters will support a black candidate. The latter was in full force Thursday at Barack Obama’s first rally of the homestretch of the presidential campaign. Huge numbers of women from New Hampshire and Massachusetts who breathed fire into Hillary Clinton’s campaign after Clinton was stunned in Iowa by Obama cheered jubilantly with the original Obama believers.

Until recently, polls indicated that a quarter of Clinton voters were so steamed over her elimination that they threatened to vote for Republican John McCain. A month ago, McCain had a slight lead in two polls in New Hampshire. Obama now leads by 10 percentage points in Real Clear Politics averaging of the last state polls. From listening to former Clinton voters, you know why.

“It took two to three weeks for it to all settle down,” said Sue Martin, 68, social studies textbook editor from Atkinson, N.H. She was a Clinton volunteer in the Salem office. “Back then, I thought he was way too young. But he’s grown a lot.”

“Up until the last month, I was going to write in Hillary,” said Janice Keene, a 58-year-old retired elementary school teacher from Londonderry. “I was quite disappointed. But our country needs change, especially the middle class.”

“I still feel Hillary was robbed,” said Geraldine Sanders, 68, of Candia, who assists Alzheimer’s patients at a residential treatment center. “You might say that, politically, I grew up with Hillary. She is a very strong woman. But my mother was a great Democrat and I can’t forget that.”

Whatever hope McCain had of peeling off white women voters is evaporating. According to Real Clear Politics averages, Obama is up 14 points in Pennsylvania and 8 points in New Mexico, states Clinton won. Obama is up 10 points in Michigan, where Clinton ran unopposed. Obama has small leads in Ohio, Florida, and Nevada, where Clinton won or ran virtually unopposed. President Bush won Ohio, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico for the Republicans in 2004.

New Hampshire, while having only four electoral votes, is a final state McCain hopes to keep in play on Election Day. His running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, campaigned here this week. McCain clearly hoped that having a woman on the ticket would sway Clinton voters. But Clinton voters here said Palin is beyond the pale. In many cases her very selection accelerated their support of Obama.

Carol Kunz, a 42-year-old attorney from Manchester, said, “To compare the two women is insulting to women everywhere.”

Christine Hines, a 43-year-old homemaker from North Andover, said, “Palin’s right-wing politics curl my hair. How could any Hillary voter align herself with Palin?”

Carol Crowell of Haverhill, a 46-year-old executive editor in educational publishing, said, “My husband voted for Hillary too. But the idea that Hillary supporters would support someone the political polar opposite from Hillary on healthcare, education, and ending the war just because they’re women is crazy.”

The Hillary Effect is so much in play that Karen Fronterotta, a 50-year-old telecom sales representative from Kingston, N.H., is listed on the Obama campaign website as hosting a “Women for Truth and Change” party the Sunday before the election. She wants to get 30 women to pledge to get at least five of their friends to the polls for Obama. Sue Martin has switched from working for Clinton’s Salem office to working out of Obama’s Salem office.

“For me, it’s about changing the Supreme Court,” Martin said.

Lise Ragan, 56, joked about herself as “Jill the Publisher,” a play on McCain’s use of Joe the Plumber in the last debate. Ragan is an educational textbook publisher in Haverhill, Mass. She said the Palin ploy and the plumber play landed with a thud to her political ears. “You’re talking to the Hillary demographic here,” Ragan said. “I know that there might be tax repercussions in running a small business. But for me and most Hillary voters, the greater issue is the future of the planet.”

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