In the Iowa Caucuses of January 3 2008, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton won large shares of caucus support, a result which the news media termed a win for Barack Obama. On January 8 2008, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama won large shares of primary support in New Hampshire, a result which the news media termed a win for Hillary Clinton. In the week’s time between the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary, Christopher Dodd, Joseph Biden and Bill Richardson dropped out of the presidential race. That’s a lot happening in one week’s time, and people have been reacting to it with a sharp rise of interest in the 2008 presidential election. We can see that rise in interest empirically through our sales of Election 2008 bumper stickers, magnets, campaign buttons, t-shirts and yard signs. Since the Election Day debacle of 2004, we’ve kept track of committed support for various presidential contenders, indicated by sales of this political merchandise. While polls measure fickle opinions, our measure tracks the stronger commitment marked by the laying down of cash to promote a candidate in public. The more strongly committed are more likely to caucus and to vote. The following is the percent share of sales of our Election 2008 gear in the past week of January 6 to January 12, 2008:
Let’s compare this past week’s results with the week before, and all the weeks before that of 2007:
What I see here is the separation of remaining candidates (Mike Gravel would show up as a flat line at the bottom) into two groups: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the one hand find their popularity rising while John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel find their support declining.
This picture of committed public support through the purchase of supportive bumper stickers, buttons and such contrasts with the picture we’d get if we paid attention to the delegates actually won in the two state contests so far:
Neither Dennis Kucinich 2008 nor Mike Gravel have won any delegates yet, but the other three candidates have won hardly any either, in the grand scheme of things. Barack Obama has won 25 delegates, Hillary Clinton has won 24, and John Edwards has won 18, making him close behind Clinton and Obama. But really now, when it comes to the literal delegate count Kucinich and Gravel are hardly in a lost position. Barack Obama is in the lead, yes, but he has just 1% of the delegates needed to clinch the nomination.
As much as the American people want this to be an open race, it still is an open race. Keep on keeping on supporting your favorite presidential candidate, even if they have lost elections elsewhere. The good news for democracy this year is that it looks like a majority of Americans will have a chance to register their preferences in a way that really shapes the outcome through primary voting or caucusing. If enough people stay steady with the person they believe in the most, and if enough of those people agree with you, then there’s nothing to keep your candidate from rising in the delegate standing as elections come to your neck of the woods.