Feb 21, 2008

US08: Obama riding the degrees of separation to victory

Crucial to Barack Obama's success has been the degrees of separation rule – that personal charisma diminishes as the inverse power of the distance from the candidate, writes Guy Rundle.

Two days ago there was a flurry of excitement when it was announced that a couple of polls had Hillary and Obama running neck-and-neck in Wisconsin. It's a measure of how far her fortunes have fallen, that running evens in this northern blue collar state was deemed worthy of news.

Could she make it back? The pundits said no. The pundits were right. In the end Wisconsin went to Obama, nearly 60 to 40. It's less of a stonking victory than some of the other northern states – Nebraska, for example – but most of these were caucuses, and Wisconsin was a primary. The running theory has been that Obama has been able to win caucuses in some of the traditionally conservative Democrat states because of the self-selecting nature of the caucus process. If you're willing to come out in a North Dakota winter to stand in a school basketball court arguing for three hours about two candidates with virtually identical programmes, you're hardcore. Obama's victories in the caucuses weren't due to stealing Hillary supporters, so much as they were persuading people that he was someone worth walking through snowdrifts for.

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