Here’s an analysis of exit polls and, no, it wasn’t The Moment that made the difference. Traditional Democrats and women made the difference and their minds were made up a while back, not two days ago.
Some pundits will probably reference Saturday’s debate or Clinton’s near-crying moment as reasons she surged late. The exit polling does not back this up. Obama won voters who decided sometime between a month and three days ago. And the two split voters who decided today – 39% to Clinton, 36% to Obama. Clinton dominated among voters who said they decided earlier than a month ago, 48% to 31%.
This supports the idea that Clinton won by mobilizing the traditional Democratic coalition that is demographically inclined to her. You don’t just win elections by persuading people you’re the best candidate. You win elections by getting those people out to the polls. This appears to be what Clinton did. Accordingly – the implication is that the polls were wrong not because of last-minute shifts. They were wrong because they underestimated Clinton’s ability to draw out her base.
The “Mondale model” for a traditional Democratic coalition has promise for Clinton in many other states, with one significant wrinkle — black voters are an important part of the coalition. To succeed, she must carry a good part of that vote, too.