The Bradley Effect: A Reason for Obama to Choose Hillary Clinton as VP?

You can’t trust polls. Especially when black candidates are involved.

And that could mean big problems for Barack Obama, problems that argue for something that almost certainly won’t happen: choosing Senator Hillary Clinton for Vice President.

What is Obama’s polling problem? It’s called the Bradley affect. Rebecca Curtis describes this phenomenon in the Huffington Post:

The Bradley Effect’s named for the long-time African-American Mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, who ran for Governor of California in 1982. Election-eve, Bradley was so far ahead of his white Republican opponent that newspapers printed headlines saying “Bradley Wins!” But he lost by 50,000 votes. Why? White voters who’d claimed they’d support him changed their minds–in the voting booth.

In 1989, Douglas Wilder, the Democratic black Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia, ran for Governor, and stayed nine points ahead of white Republican Marshall Coleman all through the race. Yet on election-day, Wilder won by just half a point.

Also in 1989, African-American Democrat David Dinkins kept an eighteen-point lead over his rival for mayor of New York, white Republican Rudy Giuliani; until final tally. Dinkins squeaked by with two points.

In 1990, African-American Democrat Harvey Gantt ran against white Republican Jesse Helms for a North Carolina Senate seat. Throughout the contest, Gantt (like Obama) was predicted to win by 4-6 points. He lost to Helms by six.

Why the reversals? Some white voters lie about whom they support, so as not to seem racist. But most probably intend to vote for the black candidate, and simply, on the day of election, freak out. They feel suddenly nervous about the black candidate’s “competence,” or “experience,” and pick the “known quantity,”–the white guy.

This is scary stuff for the Obama campaign. The latest polls indicate that the race has become very tight.

Curtis goes on to argue that a counter to this effect would be the selection of Senator Clinton as VP. Curtis states:

An August Fox/Opinion poll found that Clinton’s name–(and that of no other mate)–gives Obama an 8-point boost. Obama needs the boost.

Why would the addition of Clinton to the ticket give Obama such a big boost? The answer: it would appeal to a key segment of swing voters: older white women.

A press release from AARP from earlier this month, based on a survey of voters 18 and over in several key states, noted the following:

AARP today released new research that defines critical, undecided “swing voters” in 6 key states this fall as well as the specific policy options that motivate them.

The research identifies who undecided, swing voters are –white, lower-to-middle income, older women – in six key states: Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Swing voters in the six key states are focused domestically on the economy and health care, but three-fourths (72%) believe the candidates are doing a poor or fair job of addressing these key issues.

“Undecided swing voters are older women, focused domestically on the economy and health care and do not feel that either candidate is adequately addressing these issues,” said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond.

There are four key words in that quote: women, older, and health care. Older women were a core Clinton support group, and health care was Clinton’s signature issue.

As I think about the campaign coverage of the past month, it strikes me that I recall little, if anything, being said about health care. And that helps John McCain, whose health care proposals are not as aggressive and universal in scope as Clinton’s or Obama’s.

Indeed, the combination of negative attacks on Obama’s character, plus the primacy of energy issues and now the hot war between Russia and Georgia, have taken away from the coverage of other domestic issues that would probably favor Obama.

So, perhaps it would be good to have Clinton on the ticket. But to borrow from the famous phrase by ex-Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino, “Hillary Clinton is not walking through that door, fans.” For reasons which are discussed in more detail elsewhere, it is extremely doubtful that the senator from New York will be Obama’s running mate.

If Obama is to deal with issues such as the Bradley effect and acceptance by older women, he’ll have to figure a way to do so without Clinton by his side.

3 thoughts on “The Bradley Effect: A Reason for Obama to Choose Hillary Clinton as VP?

  1. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  2. I’ve seen research showing that the Bradley effect doesn’t exist and I’ve also seen evidence that it does exist. The point, is that research on the Bradley effect is inconclusive. Nonetheless, choosing Hillary is still a wash because it will only energize the GOP base. The Right hates Hillary.

  3. I hope Hillary does not become vp so she can run in 4 years

    Obama will Never get all of Hillary Voters, He will only get only 25% to 1/3 of Hillary Voter,

    Obama will not even get half of Hillary Voter
    By Paul Valenzuela – Aug 20th, 2008 at 3:51 am EDT

    It saddens me all my life as a democrat, it going to be the first time ever I am going to have to Vote Republican,I did vote for Hillary,

    We all know Obama is not going to cut it as President of the united states.

    He has to many problems, Rezkl the slum lord, Rev wright, Micheal Obama,

    One of the His own campaign guy who was looking for the His VP ,, who was caught up in

    Country Wide Loan scandale and Then resigned, Obama is not a Rock star, but he is a Elitise

    He a full flip floper, back and fouth,, on every issue there is,, and yet so many are voting for him

    Obama Never won a debate, not one, The Media Baby him, He has No agenda and took and adopted all Hillary agenda even Cnn has reported how he adapted all of Hillary Health care and other issues,

    Why does Obama never took deal with hard question and when he is really given, a hard question.

    All Barack Obama does is Stammer like a stuttering fool, He can not deal with hard question.

    Now the Obama Camp are blamming the Reverand for the questions in southen california.

    At the lake forest california town meeting,

    This is so typical of the Obama Camp, just like how how he screwed all the other to get in office,

    The man is an empty suit, He a crook, I am a registered Democrat, who only voted for Democrat until now, So many democrat are not going to vote at all for barack Obama, there going to vote at all, I do not believe in throwing my vote away, so like many other Democrats, I am going to vote for McCain, I do believe who would be better,

    I wish barack Luck he going to need it , like

    this blog,, a copy being sent out everywhere,

    Soon as the Obama camp sees this blog the will remove it like so many others,

    You think the Mob, where bad, the Obama camp are so much worst,

    I can not wait to see Obama screw up on the debates ,, he going to blame everyone for a bad debate because he a stuttering fool.

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