Very true, I think to myself, soberly. A rush of data should be contextualized; not every shift in how a race is proceeding is worth breaking out and analyzing, any more than every apparent misstep in grainy television coverage of a horse race demands 600 words.
But, you know, then it turns out that the New York Times also released a new poll on Friday, conducted in concert with CBS News. And, God help us all, it's worth looking at.
Let's first put it into broader context. The survey shows Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton with a lead of six points over prsumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, a nine-point difference from Fox News's recent survey. Democratic challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders leads Trump by a more robust 13 points, in the unlikely event that's the eventual November contest.
The poll also included the first question about the Democratic Party primary contest we've seen in a while, letting us track Clinton's two races -- the one against Trump and the one against Sanders. She leads in each, according to averages from RealClearPolitics, but each is changing.
Against Sanders, Clinton's lead has grown since a month ago -- contrary to the insistence of the Sanders campaign that momentum is on their side. Against Trump, her lead has shrunk. In CBS's polling in April, Clinton led Trump by 10 points -- it's been a four-point drop since then. But, then, Sanders did four points better last month, too.
So why's Trump closing the gap? There are probably a few reasons. The Times/CBS poll shows that Trump is still viewed very negatively by Americans, but at about the same level as is Clinton. (Sanders is viewed more positively than both.)
What's changed, though, is that Republicans have warmed up to the guy. As the Times writes, "[U]nfavorable views toward Mr. Trump among Republican voters have plummeted 15 percentage points since last month; 21 percent now express an unfavorable view of him, down from 36 percent in April." We pointed out last week that consolidating the Republican base would make Trump's favorability numbers look more like Clinton's, and voila.
The subtext to that is this: With their nominee settled, Republicans are rallying around him. There's more evidence to this effect than is worth delineating, but this is not uncommon for presidential races.
And it implies that the coin has another side to it: When the Democrats finally have only one candidate left, the same effect should be expected to apply. If we compare how Sanders and Clinton fare against Trump with how they fare against one another in exit polling, trends emerge. Younger voters give Sanders more support than Clinton against Trump; older voters give Clinton more support. White voters give Sanders more support; black voters, Clinton. Democrats give Clinton more support; independents (including non-Democratic-leaning ones) give more support to Sanders. Those all line up with the splits we've seen in exit polling in the Democratic race.
There's a chicken-egg issue here: Does Clinton do worse with those groups in the primaries because they don't like her in general, or is she doing worse against Trump because those groups are opposing her in the primary? If it's the latter, that support should swing back her way once the Democratic race is officially over.
This poll (and the polling average) doesn't tell us who's going to win in November. Polling is not going to tell us that for a while. What this tells us is that questions about Republicans uniting behind Trump have been answered, and that Democrats haven't unified yet. It tells us, in other words, that we're right where we might expect: in the awkward overlap that each party wants to avoid where they watch the competition start jogging off to the general. That seems like it's worth 600 words (well, 680) of explanation.