Did The Exit Polls Kneecap Obama?

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Obviously if Hillary ends up holding on in Missouri (which the AP has apparently called for her) and California (where the exits suggest she's strong), she's more than entitled to bragging rights. Having said that, Obama is going to come out of tonight having won at least half of the states up for grabs, and very close to half the delegates, which either meets of exceeds the expectations for him going into today.

So why do the cable pundits seem so down on him? (I actually heard Brit Hume concede that he'll probably have enough delegates to fight on after tonight. Probably?) My sense is that this is almost entirely a function of the exit polls we in the media have been lathering ourselves in since 5:30 this evening. The polls showed Obama up in places like Massachusetts, New Jersey, Missouri, and Arizona, and many of us began to think Obama might even end the nomination fight tonight. When the actual numbers started pouring in, everyone was pretty wrong-footed.

The thing to keep in mind, though, is this: Exit polls aren't a reflection of on-the-ground reality. It's not as though Obama was actually up in all these places at 5 o'clock, and then Hillary, comeback kid that she is, reversed his charge and ground out a victory. The final results suggest he was never actually up in these places (certainly not by the margins the polls suggested.) It was a complete mirage.

Campaigns can be blamed for failing to manage expectations. But should they take the hit for the media's utter cluelessness at interpreting this data?  

If I were the Obama campaign, I'd be somewhat worried about this. Their best hope here is that he ends up eking out a narrow majority of delegates (which the campaign apaprently still thinks is possible), which might once again upset expectations and give them a little boost.

Update: The networks have obviously reversed the AP's Missouri call. Skip forward a few items for more on this...

--Noam Scheiber

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