What today's Q-Poll showing Democrats losing in key states does and does not mean.

You’ve probably read about this Quinnipiac poll already. The short version, for those who haven’t: Biden, Clinton, and Sanders all lose to Bush, Rubio, and Walker in Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia. Virginia is the toughest nut for Republicans, but there isn’t a single combination above where any Democrat leads any Republican. So, Game Over, then?

Hardly. The election’s not tomorrow, and this poll will not reflect the final results except by sheer accident. Never use a poll to predict an election that will not be held for another year. Never. Even if your favored candidate is doing so.  But what you can do is look at it and use it to try to get a feel for the current situation – and when I do that here I’m left with three major conclusions:

  1. Hillary Clinton’s current strategy isn’t working. Shocker, that… and you can complete that line as “Shocker that a partisan Republican hack would conclude that Team Clinton has been merely spinning its wheels since the latest Official Introductory Campaign Launch,” sure.  Funny thing, though: sometimes the partisan Republican hack happens to be right. The entire point of the Hillary Clinton campaign is that it is supposed to be this slightly ponderous juggernaut that will inevitably smash through first the obstacles to the Democratic nomination, and then the political rule of thumb that the American electorate prefers to flip the White House every eight years. Losing outside the margin of error in Colorado and Iowa does not support this particular narrative. Being even nominally behind in Virginia supports it even less.
  2. Probably no other Democratic strategy would work right now, either. The darkly entertaining thing about this poll is that it’s not an argument for Bernie Sanders, or a dark-horse Joe Biden swoop-in-to-rescue. Both poll more or less worse than Hillary Clinton does. The only Democrat that gets helped here is Martin O’Malley, and that’s only because nobody at Quinnipiac bothered to poll how poorly he’d do, so at least O’Malley doesn’t have this particular indigestible lump of current political reality in the pit of his stomach.
  3. As usual, everybody was looking at the wrong thing lately. There’s been not nearly enough analysis over what Donald Trump’s campaigning style will mean for the Republican party (spoiler warning: nothing much) and far too much analysis about what Hillary Clinton’s will mean for the Democrats (spoiler warning: bad polling in swing states). Mind you, a partisan Democratic hack would have put that differently. Then again, partisan Democratic hacks have more to worry about right now, like whether they can somehow purge Hillary Clinton’s most reliable courtiers and replace them with a slightly less rancid and moth-eaten set of political advisers.

And that is how it is going. Not beginning of the end, but end of the beginning: because surely the Democrats will realize at this point that they need to start doing course corrections. …And yes, that was a little sarcastic. One of the most simultaneously frustrating and/or entertaining things in American politics is watching one of the two major parties try to steer itself away from the rocks; and it’s the Democrats’ turn at the wheel*. The real question is whether they’ll learn something from the crash.  You’d think so, but it doesn’t always work out that way…

Moe Lane (crosspost)

*Better and better – and our own base’s sour opinion to the contrary – the GOP is largely managing the easier trick of staying out of the Democrats’ way on this one.