It’s just after 7.30 am US time as I write this, on the morning after the biggest political upset in recent American history. In a previous post I speculated about the banana skins that might slip up the Obama victory parade. I just didn’t expect them all to come at once.
We are now at a very odd moment in the campaign. Last night all the people who mattered flew out of New Hampshire. They drove to Manchester airport, got on planes, and went to South Carolina, Michigan, Florida and California, to continue the fight. So in one sense the campaign will continue, and quickly. But in another it stops now.
Now, only two things matter. First, for a few days, the only important thing in the public eye will be the battle for the explanation for what on earth just happened. The last time this happened in America was just after the presidential election in 2004, when the dominant frame of the “values voter” did battle with the influence of the “exurbs” to be the quickest instant explanation. (See, for example, this article by the conservative writer David Brooks, which was extraordinarily influential in helping people to understand President Bush’s victory. There was also in 2004 a snap poll which asked a misleading question about the relative importance of values vs foreign policy in deciding who to vote for; it too helped to shape the debate.)
Second, as ever, is cash. Ezra Klein, one of the most talented young bloggers in America, yesterday asked if the Clinton campaign was running out of cash. The thought was that given that Hillary was going to lose, her famous money machine might even break. Now we can expect it to come back to life with a jolt. And even more interestingly, what had previously been predicted to be the most expensive campaign in history is about to get even more costly. The campaigns must now go and fight for the really big states—Florida, California and New York. None will have ground operations in these states. And buying television adverts in these places costs a small fortune. So the big question becomes: who wins the new money race?
So for the next few days, the spinners and op-ed merchants will do battle. The moneymakers will make frantic calls. And this is even without mentioning that wise pollsters have an awful lot of explaining…