And sometimes, people are just wrong

Can journalists predict an outcome without necessarily wanting it to occur?

By Tim Grieve
January 9, 2008 10:24PM (UTC)
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For all the fun everyone's having at the media's expense -- how could so many professional journalists be so wrong about what would happen in New Hampshire? -- it's probably worth pausing for a moment to acknowledge that Hillary Clinton, her campaign and her supporters were every bit as wrong themselves.

Did some reporters and pundits take a certain amount of glee in foretelling Clinton's demise? Sure they did. But it's not as if they created the possibility out of whole cloth. The polls from New Hampshire -- the same polls that accurately predicted the order of finish among Republicans -- showed that Barack Obama was going to win big.


Clinton's own "internal tracking poll" reportedly showed her losing by 11 points. After booking a big Southern New Hampshire University gym for a victory party, the Clinton campaign moved the event to a much smaller hall next door. Before the polls even closed, the campaign had decided to bring in Maggie Williams to help right what seemed like a sinking ship. A friend who watched Clinton and her team work on her speech said they never saw victory coming. And in three days in New Hampshire, Salon's Joan Walsh says, she "didn't talk to a single Clinton supporter, on or off the record, who believed she would win New Hampshire."

Did Clinton's campaign and Clinton's supporters expect a loss because they wanted one? Of course not. They expected a loss because the polls -- including the campaign's own poll -- told them to expect one. That's not to say that Chris Matthews and his ilk aren't deserving of some of the negative attention they're getting today. But it is to say that at least some of the journalists and pundits and bloggers who said that a Clinton loss seemed likely might have done so only because they thought that a Clinton loss seemed likely.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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