Some things have happened since our October update. Multiple candidates have admitted the inevitable and dropped, including once-strong contenders Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. Michael Bloomberg, against all good sense, has joined, and proven that unlimited money to spend can buy you a seat at the table without all that boring year-long prep-work. And most importantly, time has passed, to the extent that our 11 remaining candidates (down from a high of 25!) are now only one week from Iowa.
There are eleven remaining. But…
This series has been arguing since its inception in April of last year that three key indicators helped us sort out who was an even vaguely likely candidate, enabling us to ignore the other dozen+. (The “real” candidates were already only eight in April, down to five in October.) We also said that, by the eve of Iowa, those indicators would have a very high reliability in indicating who the eventual nominee would be. So here we are. What are they showing us?
At this point, who’s leading in national polls has about a 60% correlation with who will win the nomination. The polling currently shows:
Fundraising is another key indicator, and the early fundraiser leader ends up being the nominee 62% of the time. The Q4 fundraising totals looked like this:
Advantage Sanders! Wuh-oh, this is a split decision. We’ll look more closely at that shortly. But first…
The final of the three leading indicators is party endorsements. This measure does in fact call the winner 63% of the time. The endorsements primary currently looks like this:
Another advantage Biden! But with a different second place than the other two!
It’s actually a little unusual to have the indicators pointing in different directions like this at this stage, and particularly to have the polls and endorsements leader running third in fundraising. Sorry Joe! To try to get a handle on this, I did a weighted average, giving the percentage for each indicator to the leader in that category, and then allocating the remaining percentage to second place. When you do that, you get this:
When looked at this way, Biden remains the most likely nominee, but Sanders is not terribly far behind him. To put it another way, Biden is clearly the front-runner, but also clearly a weak front-runner historically speaking. And you can’t entirely count Liz and Pete out- there’s a 25% chance it might be one of the two of them instead. This thing remains extremely live! Exciting for political junkies, perhaps less so for those hoping for a clear and early verdict.
Everything will be tossed up in the air by Iowa, and then New Hampshire eight days later, which may help us sort out further. But as of right now, one would have to say that there are only four candidates who have a shot, and two of them, Biden or Sanders, are 75% likely to be the nominee.
We’ll tune in again next week!