Megan McArdle tells us that the Economist has moved all of its material from behind the paywall (if you’re not a subscriber, you need to watch an ad to get in). It seems to me that this is good news for the Economist; I can’t imagine it’ll lose many subscribers, and it may gain some. It’s also good news for people like meself who like to take potshots at its odder articles; we can now be sure that our readers can actually read the original if they click on the link. This piece on the demise of Mark Warner’s and George Felix Allen’s respective president hopes is a case in point. Most of the article is pretty unexceptionable. The peculiar bit is this summation of the current state of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
But whatever the reason, [Warner’s] retreat has created a vacuum. He had positioned himself as the centrist alternative to Hillary Clinton, the early front-runner for the Democratic nomination and the darling of the party’s liberal activists. Southerners, Westerners and moderates are now shopping for a new candidate, perhaps Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico or Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana or former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, the vice-presidential nominee in 2004.
So Hillary Clinton is apparently the “darling of the party’s liberal activists.” Now, we don’t have any really decisive evidence on this – the only surveys that I know of which try to figure out what “liberal activists” want are the Pew survey (which focuses on Howard Dean supporters) and the Blogpac survey, which draws from a sample of MoveOn email list subscribers. Neither is definitive – but Pew finds that Clinton polls number 4 or number 3 among former Dean activists depending on which question you look at, while the Blogpac survey finds her to be joint fifth with Joe Biden, and to have higher unfavourable ratings than any other listed candidate. Given that Clinton has specifically tried to position herself as the centrist alternative over the last couple of years, this is about what one would expect. Equally bizarre is the suggestion that centrists might want to gravitate towards John Edwards. This could just be the result of sloppy thinking that telescopes “Southerners, Westerners and moderates” into a unified category, but to the extent that Edwards might appeal to Southerners and Westerners, it’s not because he’s a moderate. It’s because he’s running the most economically populist campaign that a serious candidate for the Democratic nomination has run in recent history. These claims don’t seem biased to me so much as clueless. The bit about Clinton in particular strikes me as the sort of thing one might believe if one listened more to Republicans talking about Democrats than to Democrats themselves. I don’t get the impression that the article’s author actually knows very much about what’s happening within the Democratic party. Not what you expect from a serious magazine.