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Gary Younge
Polls and pundits

During the entire week that ended January 19 I must have vox-popped 50 people in South Carolina and I never met a McCain voter. McCain won the state with 33% of the vote. The next week I interviewed even more people. Most said they would vote for Obama, but most spoke highly of Clinton. Obama won in a landslide.

Yesterday in my neighbourhood in Brooklyn I did not meet one self-confessed Hillary supporter. From the bagel shop in the morning to the liquor store in the evening everyone had voted for Obama, would have voted for him if they could have, or would vote for him later. In the last three days I have not seen a Hillary sticker. Clinton won the state with almost 60% of the vote.

What does this tell me? That my life experiences are not representative. That the world I inhabit in no way provides a basis for punditry and prognosis. I know this. That's why I don't prognosticate on the basis of my own experience.

As the results trickle in this evening I wish others would know their own shortcomings. Last night Obama performed well. Were it not for the fact that a raft of commentators had once again been believing their own hype, the night would even have been regarded as a victory for him.

For the last few months he has been trailing across the country. For the last few days he has been catching up. Much like New Hampshire, the fact that he was even competitive was diminished by the fact that he didn't win. When all the votes are counted he will have held his own in the northeastern states and fared excellently in the Midwest. At the time of writing California is still too close to call. In all likelihood he will lose. The fact in itself would have been remarkable this time last week.

For the last month now we have seen poll-happy pundits mistake their own fantasy for fact. So excited by the possibility of an Obama victory that they lose all sense of themselves and their credibility. Not for the first time, Obama is doing far better than anyone expected. And not for the first time, the pundits are faring worse.

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