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Idiot Pundits and Pollsters Strike Again

MANCHESTER, 8 a.m.

I guess it was premature to write those forward-looking analyses of President Obama's re-election strategy in 2012.

I don't want to suggest that the pundits look stupid this morning. More like complete freakin' imbeciles. Count me among those who thought Obama was a runaway train, that he'd blow Clinton out of the water. (It's early and I didn't get enough sleep, so we just went ahead and mixed the metaphor.)

You had to see the crowds! Feel the energy! Okay, so in retrospect a lot of those people were probably college kids on break from Massachusetts or Maryland. Still, many of us sensed that we were witnessing history, a transition to a new era. Turning the page.

"You have to BELIEVE," I told my jaded friend Von Drehle.

"In WHAT?" he said.

"In HOPE," I said. I was just trying to get in the spirit of things, and be a true news medium.

In retrospect, I regret posting that item about Obama turning water to wine.

A little after midnight, in Nashua at the gym where Obama had spoken to his stunned supporters, a nationally known pundit said to me: "I spent half an hour today on television talking about the Clintons IN THE PAST TENSE."

What happened?

Maybe it really was the "Ed Muskie in reverse" effect. That's the Sid Blumenthal phrase. Clinton cleaned up among women, and women made up 57 percent (so I am told) of Democratic primary voters. Perhaps women rallied to the cause after the Emotional Moment. You heard what the woman from Bow told me yesterday: She suddenly switched from Edwards to Clinton after seeing the news clip of Clinton tearing up in Portsmouth. And several other voters told me they absolutely loved the EM.

Last night at the Obama rally, Sue Tice, a librarian at the high school who seemed floored by the results, said of the turnaround, "I really wonder if it was yesterday when Hillary became a person."

And then there was the image of the boys ganging up on Clinton in the debate -- and that snarky comment by Obama, calling Hillary "likeable enough," which surely he meant to come out in a more jocular fashion. Never mind his intent: "Jokes don't work," said Dave Barry this weekend, and he knows a thing or two about that.

We've seen over the years that the New Hampshire Primary can turn on a gesture, a phrase, a single searing moment. Politics isn't left-brained, it's more reptilian than that.

We had buried Clinton by Monday night and had moved on to wondering what she'd do with the tattered remnants of her career. But guess what: the voters decide these things. It's too soon to know precisely how this race stands and where it's going and what's going to happen, but from where I'm sitting -- in the Manchester airport, ready to get the hell home -- she's the front-runner again.

And remember: Front-runners usually win.

By Joel Achenbach  |  January 9, 2008; 8:58 AM ET
 
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