The End of the Road? Hillary Clinton’s Visit to Mt. Rushmore


The Post has a ton of fun with Sen. Hillary Clinton’s photo-op visit to Mount Rushmore yesterday. First, the front page takes the opportunity to be puntastic not once, but twice with its “ROCK BOTTOM” banner and the clever subhead, “Hill at Rushmore as Dems deal her monumental blow.” Inside, the “MT. CRUSHMORE” pun is put into play.

The “monumental blow” dealt to the Clinton campaign is that Democratic National Committee has told its rules committee that if they decide to allow delegates from Michigan and Florida to be seated at the convention, then the maximum number would be no more than half. This is to “punish” the two states for holding their primaries early. Sen. Barack Obama told reporters that the nominations should be settled after Tuesday’s primaries in Montana and South Dakota, the last ones!

More interesting is the Post‘s spin on some recent Gallup poll data about how Democratic candidates fare against Sen. John McCain in states in which the Dem candidate won the primary. In states where Clinton won the primary, she beats McCain in the general election, 50% to 43%. In those states, McCain beats Obama 46% to 45%. In states where Obama won the Democratic primary, McCain beats him by the same 46% to 45% and McCain beats Clinton 47% to 45%.

The Post places this info under the headline “O losing in states he’s won,” but is one percent even losing? A perusal of the actual poll data shows a plus- or minus-2 percentage-point margin of error in the states where Clinton won the primary. Take out Florida and Michigan, and that margin goes up to plus- or minus-3 percent. That makes the 50-43 breakdown of Clinton and McCain the only statistically significant number in these polls. The states where Obama won the Democratic primary had an error margin of 3 percent as well.

So, what does this actually mean? It’s simple: the cliché about “lies, damned lies and statistics” still holds. Poll numbers are meaningless at this point in an election anyway (and in some cases, meaningless at any point). We still have more than five months until the general election. Will numbers like this bring about a “unity ticket” between Clinton and Obama? That remains to be seen.