Tag Archives: 2020

Four more years? (ONE DAY to go edition!)

Well, here we are. The final update!

When we did the very first one of these, with eighteen months to go, I was arguing against the then fashionable Democratic peeing of the pants that Trump was inevitably going to win and we were toast. At one year out, I said there was still every chance we could do this, even though we didn’t know who “we” would be yet. At 6.5 months to go, I said that Biden’s chances were good, and Trump was in serious trouble. And last week, with one week to go, I concluded that Biden remained in an extremely strong position.

Well now, with one day to go, it’s put up or shut up time. Looking at the evidence, I think it’s overwhelmingly likely that Biden will win tomorrow (even if the result isn’t certain for a few days to a few weeks). Let’s take the evidence piece by piece.

Since last week’s update, the RCP national average has tightened somewhat, from +7.4% Biden to +6.5%:

If that’s all it’s moved in 6 days, it’s not likely to suddenly change in 24 hours, and if Biden is ahead by more than 6% nationally, he probably wins, no matter what chicanery the GOP pulls at the state level. Don’t just take RCP’s word for it, though. The 538 average is much more sophisticated, as it takes into account the historical accuracy of various pollsters, and their typical partisan lean. It has Biden up by 8.4%, down slightly from 9.2% six days ago:

It is of course state totals and the resulting electoral college total that is the final determinant. National averages are useful in setting a ballpark for state results, but to really get a sense, we need to look at the most likely swing states.

Last week, RCP had Biden ahead in 6 out of 6 swing states. It now shows him ahead in 5 out of 6, with some seeming movement towards Trump. However, RCP is also including some pollsters that have had a…questionable…habit of producing implausibly Republican-leaning numbers. 538, as mentioned, tries to adjust for things like this, and it shows Biden ahead in 6 of 6, and only Wisconsin having (pro-Biden) movement that’s outside of a tiny tick up or down that’s indistinguishable from statistical noise.

If one just takes the three states 538 has Biden ahead by more than a typical 3% margin of error and leaves everything else to Trump, this is the resulting map:

But, as mentioned, Biden also has leads in several of the other likeliest swing states, and in addition to those six, Georgia, Iowa, and Ohio are all widely thought to be in play. RCP’s “no toss-ups” map currently shows the following:

Taking one last look back at Biden’s position this year relative to Clinton’s in 2016 is also instructive:

To give a few highlights:

  • Biden’s lead is twice as large as Clinton’s at the same point.
  • On the eve of the 2016 election, 9.4% of voters were still undecided. Now, only 4.7% of voters are.
  • Biden is just shy of 51%. Clinton was below 47%.

In short, all the factors that made it more likely Trump could edge ahead of Clinton are not in play this year. And, indeed, 538’s forecast model now has Biden with a 90% chance of winning:

At this same point, Clinton was around 70%:

There’s a very important point to keep in mind about all the above polls as well. I mentioned this last week, but it bears repeating. These are not just leading indicators of how people may vote tomorrow. They’re also what people were saying as they were actually voting. As of this writing, early voting equals just shy of 70% of 2016 total votes:

The earliest votes started on 9/5, when North Carolina sent out its absentee ballots. Which means the above 70% of the 2016 vote all came in during a period in which Biden was never leading by less than 5.8%, and was frequently up by as much as 8% to 9%:

Finally, let’s check in one last time on a few other indicators. Trump’s popularity is more than 8 points underwater with one day to go until the election:

You probably don’t need anyone to tell you this, but that’s not a great place for an incumbent to be. And, indeed, his net popularity is well below any President who was going on to re-election in the past 50+ years. It’s more like Carter or Bush I when they were about to be defeated, or Johnson when he was so unpopular from Vietnam that he’d decided not to run again:

In terms of other elections, the RCP Senate no toss-ups map currently shows Democrats making a net gain of 3 seats, and tied in two others:

And 538 is projecting a 76% chance that Democrats re-capture the Senate:

The generic House preference poll shows Democrats with a more than 7% lead:

And 538’s model finds a 98% chance that Democrats keep the House, and even slightly increase their margin there:

We’re all understandably gun-shy after 2016. Could Trump win again, despite everything above? Yes, there are plausible scenarios. But every piece of evidence in view tells us that, with 24 hours to go, Biden remains in a very strong position, significantly stronger than Clinton in 2016. So take some deep breaths, remember to pace yourself tomorrow night and in the time to follow, but be encouraged.

And, tune in here in …a week? …two weeks? To see how the data measured up against the results!

Four more years? (one week to go edition!)

Well glory be, there’s only a week to go! Did you ever think we’d make it this far? Me either. But here we are! Biden’s position was looking pretty strong a week ago. What about now? There are several ways we can approach this question…

There being a week to go, we might look back a week, and see if there’s evidence of movement in any particular direction. At the national level, RCP’s average has negligible movement over the past week:

The tiny bit of tightening seen above is frankly indistinguishable from statistical noise. it certainly doesn’t show evidence of a big move for or away from either candidate.

As we’ve mentioned before, RCP has a “naive” average in the sense that it just averages together recent polls. Over at 538, their averages also do weighting by a pollster’s track record of accuracy, and take into account the historical partisan lean of various pollsters. This is certainly more sophisticated, and, arguably, leads to better results. Using this method, their “topline” number for Biden is higher:

They are also showing some tightening, in that Biden’s lead is down from 10.3% a week ago. While this is more movement than RCP shows, it’s equally hard to distinguish from statistical noise within the margin of error, and certainly doesn’t seem like a major shift.

But, as you may have heard once or twice, elections aren’t determined by national results. They’re determined by the electoral college, and how the candidates perform in the individual states. Here’s how the numbers for the most likely swing states have shifted over the past week:

There’s definite evidence of tightening up here, but Biden still leads in all six states with a week to go. Some of these leads are pretty narrow and well within a margin of error, so we wouldn’t be surprised if, for example, he didn’t end up carrying Florida or North Carolina. Crucially, however, RCP has him above 5% in Michigan and Wisconsin, which means any one of the other states could take him over the top. 538 has him above 5% in those two, and Pennsylvania as well, which wins the race.

If we look at RCP’s “no tossups” map today (right) versus one week ago (left) the only change is that they now have the very close Georgia going to Trump:

To sum up here, looking over the past week we see some evidence of tightening (actually a very usual occurrence toward the end of a campaign), but we don’t see any indication of a big trajectory change. And, since Trump is behind by 7-10 nationally and trailing in the most crucial swing states, he needs a trajectory change. “Staying roughly the same” for Biden, is remaining in a predominant position.

This is even more true given that, thanks to the push for absentee and early voting due to the pandemic, literally tens of millions of people have voted over the last week. As of this writing, more than 68 million ballots have already been cast, representing almost 50% of the total votes from 2016:

So the preceding polling numbers weren’t only a preview of what voters may do on Election Day, they are the data that came in as voters were actually voting all across the country.

Another way we might approach this is to look at Biden compared to Clinton at the same point in 2016:

Looking at these side by side, several things become apparent:

  • Biden’s lead is about twice as big as Clinton’s was a week out.
  • Trump’s late surge in 2016 is readily apparent. Nothing like that seems to be going on in 2020.
  • There are considerably fewer undecideds at this point than there were in 2016.
  • Biden remains solidly above 50%, while Clinton was falling down from 48%.
  • Trump hasn’t had a day over 44% since March, whereas at this point in 2016 he was climbing up toward 46%.

Two other things are worth quickly mentioning about the state by state outlook in 2016 versus 2020. The first is that there was a significant third party presence in 2016, whereas we have no indication of it being above the more typical 1%-2% this time. That created a lot more uncertainty in races that were down to the wire in 2016 than there is this time.

The second is that the polling of at least the Midwestern swing states is better this time- both in terms of number of polls, and models taking into account the kinds of voters that went for Trump in 2016. Pollsters may be making entirely different kinds of mistakes this go-around, but being way off in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin probably isn’t one of them.

One can see the net effect of the lower national margin and the uncertainty in 2016 versus 2020 quite clearly in the 538 forecast model. As of today, it has Biden at an 88% chance of winning the race:

At this same point in 2016, Clinton had dipped down to 71% (and was falling):

Any way you look at it, week-to-go 2020 versus week-to-go 2016 indicates that Biden is in a much more solid position than Clinton was. And recall, Clinton won the popular vote, and only isn’t President today because of literally 77,000 voters spread across three mid-western states. It doesn’t take much marginal improvement in 2020 vs. 2016 to swing the election, and Biden looks to have more than marginal improvement.

The last area we might quickly check in on is whether other data points line up with the notion that Biden is doing well. With a week to go, Trump remains around 10% underwater in net popularity, a position no recent President has won from:

538’s Senate model indicates that Democrats remain favored to win back the Senate:

As does RCP’s “no tossups” Senate map:

And the generic Congressional ballot shows Democrats with a clear edge nationally:

As the 538 model gives them a 96% chance of keeping the House, and even expects them to widen their margin by a few seats:

Whether we look at movement from a week ago, comparison to 2016, or fit with other data points, the verdict is clear: Biden remains in an extremely strong position with one week to go.

We’ll do one more update on Monday with (egads!) 24 hours to go!

Four more years? (two weeks to go edition!)

Buddha bless us and Saints preserve us, two weeks to go! At a month to go, my read of prevailing evidence was that Biden was in a very strong position. What about now?

Let’s start with national polling. RCP’s average currently has Biden up by 8.6%:

538, which takes a more nuanced approach to their average, taking into account the accuracy track record and historical partisan lean of individual pollsters, has Biden leading by even more:

A couple of other national “looks” are worth discussing. It being two weeks to go, we might look back over the past two weeks, and see if there’s evidence of major changes that one might project forward to election day. The short answer is “no”:

To the extent that Biden seems to be solidly ahead, every day with no significant change benefits him. Especially given a factor that we’ll discuss in a moment… Another relevant “look” is comparing where Biden is with two weeks to go with where Clinton was at the same point in 2016:

The same factors we’ve seen all year show up here: Biden is ahead by more than Clinton was at the same point, has had a higher “ceiling” and better “floor” than her numbers, and has never led Trump by less than 4 points, whereas Clinton was frequently within 1%-2%, and twice even trailed Trump.

One additional factor to consider is that who’s been ahead in the polls is not an academic matter. In fact, the election is already 24% over. That is to to say, between absentee ballots and early voting, 33.3 million votes have already been cast, representing 24% of the total from 2016:

One of the reasons Comey’s October surprise in 2016 was so damaging to Clinton was that there were a lot of late deciders on the fence. There are far fewer this time, and almost 1 in 4 votes is already in. And these votes came in during a period when Biden was strongly leading. So even if something damaging to Biden (or great for Trump) arose, it inherently can’t have as much of an effect now as it did in 2016.

National polls and vote totals, especially compared to 2016, do give us an idea of how things are trending. But, ultimately, it all comes down to the states. According to RCP’s latest tallies of the most likely swing states, Biden is leading in all of them:

538’s more nuanced approach shows the following Biden margins for these states:

If we were to take the lower RCP numbers and only give Biden anything above 5% and assume the others are a toss-up, this is the map we’d get:

In this scenario, any one of Florida, North Carolina, or Pennsylvania takes Biden over the top, as would Arizona plus the split electoral vote from Nebraska. Trump, conversely, pretty much needs a full sweep to prevail. And this is before getting around to states that Trump won fairly handily in 2016, but which are toss-ups this time- Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, Texas, and Maine’s split electoral vote.

RCP’s “no toss ups” map showing all current Biden leads looks like this:

Based on these state by state polling outlooks, 538’s model has Biden favored to win:

And the Cook Report and Sabato models both have the “lean Democratic” states alone totaling more than the needed 270 electoral votes:

“But the polls in 2016 were wr-” Okay. I know you all are too smart and too well informed at this point to pull out that tired old chestnut and re-roast it. But just in case, here’s a good discussion of what pollsters have done since 2016 to improve, and what areas they’re still worried about. And there are other data points we can examine…

To the extent that fundraising is another indicator of enthusiasm, the signs for the Democrats are very promising. Biden has been out-raising Trump by more than 50%, Act Blue is more than doubling the take of Republican activist platforms, and the Democratic candidates in the leading Senate races are all solidly out-raising their Republican opponents.

Speaking of those Senate races, they form an independent data point of their own. 538 currently has Democrats favored to recapture the Senate:

And the RCP “no toss ups” Senate map is showing the same thing:

Over on the House side, the generic Congressional ballot shows Democrats leading by 7.4%:

This is actually up about a percentage point from a month ago, and indicates the party is in no danger of losing the House. Indeed, the 538 model calls for it to slightly improve upon the 232 seats it currently holds:

One final thing to check in on is Presidential approval ratings. It hardly needs to be said, but, for the record, an incumbent being more than 10 points underwater with two weeks left to go isn’t a great sign for their re-election:

Looking back over the past 50 years of Presidential approval at this same point drives the point home:

Trump’s numbers look nothing like Presidents who were heading to easy victories. They don’t even look like Presidents who were heading to narrow victories. Instead, they most resemble Carter and Bush 1 when they were both on the edge of first-term defeat, and Johnson when he was so unpopular from Vietnam that he had decided not to run again.

To sum up: No matter what indicators you look at, with two weeks to go, Biden seems to be in a very strong position. Given the relative stability of this race throughout the year, I would be surprised if this changes drastically over the next week. But let’s meet back here in a week and see!

Four more years? (2 months to go edition!)

Well here we are, with 60 days to go! That frightening image above, by the way, is the “Red Mirage”. We’ll get back to that later. But first, as a reminder, at three months to go, we concluded that things had tightened a little since four months out, but that Biden remained in a very solid position. How do things look now that we’re two months out?

The last thirty days have seen a lot of news:

  • Biden’s VP pick of Kamala Harris
  • Both party’s conventions
  • Trump taking action on a series of executive orders meant to address the economic fallout from the pandemic
  • New national unrest, including murder of protesters, over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin
  • Trump responding by a full-court press to run a “law and order” campaign

In response to all this activity, national polling over the past month has seen…on net, just about nothing. Biden is up 0.2% over a month ago, and Trump is up 0.4%, leading to a net of Biden +7.2% now vs. Biden +7.4% a month ago:

Yes, but the polls in 2016 were wr- Stop! Stop? Stop. It is, however, useful to compare Biden’s year-to-date position in the RCP average to Clinton’s 2016 average for the same period:

One will note that Biden has been above 50% several times. Clinton only ever was for a single day. Biden has almost never been below 48%. Clinton was rarely above 48%. Biden has never had a lead of less than 4%. Clinton was less than 2% multiple times, and Trump was even ahead of her twice. On this same day in 2016, 11% of voters were undecided between Trump and Clinton. Only 8% of voters are between Biden and Trump. Everything about the comparative perspective says that Biden is and consistently has been in a much stronger position than Clinton.

It is worthwhile to note that RCP’s polling average is “naive” in the sense that it just averages all major polls within a certain time period (the last eight days, at the moment). 538’s polling average is a bit more sophisticated as it weights pollsters according to their historical track record of accuracy, and makes adjustments for pollsters that show consistent partisan lean in one direction or the other. Using this methodology, 538 currently has Biden at +7.3% vs. +8.2% a month ago:

In 2016, Clinton won the popular vote by +2.1%. Taking the smaller of the two averages above, Biden at +7.2%, and adding that difference of 5.1% to Clinton’s 2016 state by state margins results in the following electoral map:

That gives us a ballpark of how things might be different this time, but of course state by state dynamics are not necessarily going to be the same as last time. If you look at RCP’s averages of the likely swing states, Biden currently leads in all of them:

This has narrowed within the last 30 days, which is certainly worth keeping an eye on:

However, it should be noted again that Biden maintains a fairly strong and consistent lead in these states. Using its more robust methodology, 538 is currently showing:

  • Wisconsin Biden +7.1%
  • North Carolina Biden +1.8%
  • Florida Biden +4.1%
  • Pennsylvania Biden +3.4%
  • Michigan Biden +6.4%
  • Arizona Biden +4.6%

If we took only those states where Biden has more than a 5% lead according to the 538 averages, we would have this map:

Under this map, if Biden wins any one of Florida, North Carolina, or Pennsylvania, even by a few hundred votes, he’s President. Trump would have to win all three to prevail. If Biden just won Arizona, we’d be at 269-269 and the election would got to the House. May Al’lah forefend against such an outcome.

For their part, RCP’s current “no toss-ups” map shows the following:

There are some other electoral data points worth considering as well. RCP’s “no toss-ups” Senate map currently has Democrats picking up five Senate seats (and losing Alabama) for a net gain of +4, which would flip the Senate:

And the Generic House Preference polling has Democrats up by 7.3%, not far off of the 8.7% that catapulted them to a net gain of 41 seats in the 2018 midterms.

Finally, there are Presidential approval numbers to consider. Trump is currently underwater by nearly 9%:

While that’s actually an improvement from nearly -14% a month ago, on the face of it you might still think this isn’t a good place for an incumbent to be two months out from an election. And you would be right! The only two first term Presidents of the last 50+ years who have been in a similar position were Carter and Bush I, who were both headed for defeat:

What this all boils down to is that national polls, state-by-state electoral college totals, the outlook for House and Senate races, and Presidential approval ratings are all telling us the same thing: Biden remains in a very strong position with two months to go.

Now, a word about our opening graphic. This is what’s being called the “Red Mirage“. Indications are that a large percentage of Biden-leaning voters are planning on voting absentee. A similarly large percentage of Trump-leaning voters are mail voting-averse, and are planning on voting in person. Meanwhile, the individual states have widely varying rules about when absentee ballots must be received by, and the deadlines for starting and finishing counting them.

Because of all this, Election Night returns may show a big lead for Trump, and Biden’s true numbers won’t be apparent until several days, maybe even more than a week, later. There is nothing improper or weird about this, and it doesn’t affect the final outcome at all. But the two dangers it presents are:

  • If you don’t know it’s happening, Election Night could be pretty scary!
  • It presents Trump with a week or more to agitate his followers about the “illegitimacy” of the outcome, something that could be enormously disruptive for the country.

So I would recommend fortifying yourself against the first possibility, and all of us being prepared to take appropriate action against the second. Meanwhile, we’ll reconvene in a month to see how things are looking with a month to go!

There can be only one… (October 2019 update)

3rd debate

Well, we’ve lost a few since our July update. And we’ve even managed not to gain any! Hopefully rumors of Michael Bloomberg re-considering getting in are just that, because even with several drop-outs, we’ve still only just made it back to the teens. 19 candidates for the Democratic nomination, to be precise, down from a high of 25.

Not to worry, though! The good news is that there are, in fact, only five potential candidates for the nomination! That’s down from seven last time, and eight when we first looked at it in April. Progress!

How do we know this? As it happens, there are three measures that each, individually, have about a 60-65% reliability in indicating who the eventual nominee will be: Lead in national polls, fundraising, and insider endorsements. No one of them is full-proof, but taken together they give a pretty clear indication. So let’s look at each in turn.

The polling at this point is pretty unambiguous. There are three candidates that are leaps and bounds above everyone else:

polls

With only a little over three months to go until the Iowa caucuses at this point, it is very likely that the eventual nominee will be, if not the lead person in the polls, at least one of these three.

Over on the fundraising side, there’s also a pretty clear leading group of three at this point, albeit not exactly the same one as in polling:

Q3fundraising

Most party insiders are still sitting on their endorsements, as they typically do until late in the game. But the ones that have announced so far also separate out three clear leaders:

Endorse

So there you have it. At this late stage in the pre-primary, the chances that the nominee isn’t someone in the top three in at least one of these measures is pretty slim. It is overwhelmingly likely that the Democratic nominee will be one of Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, or Pete Buttigieg. Some of these are more likely than others, but there’s about a 0% chance it will be one of the 14 not on this list.

Tune in once more in January, for a final pre-Iowa check-in. At that time, we should be able to narrow things even further!

 

 

There can be only one… (July 2019 update!)

Dems first

Now that Q2 fundraising numbers are in, we can update our April analysis of the Democratic Primary field. To quickly recap¬† for those who don’t remember, at that time we quaked in analytical fear at the field of 19 (or 20 (or 21)) candidates, but were re-assured after careful consideration revealed that there were, in fact, only eight candidates for the nomination.

Some things have happened since then:

  • Several more people got into the field, including, most notably, Joe Biden finally making it official. This brought us up to 25 candidates!
  • We also had the first round of debates, with 10 candidates each on two consecutive nights.
  • Following the debates, Eric Swalwell acknowledged that he may not yet be the voice of a new generation, and bowed out. Tim Ryan, despite seeming wired on something throughout his debate, mysteriously did not drop out.
  • And, obeying the Law of Conservation of Middling White Guys, billionaire impeachment crusader Tom Steyer stepped in as Swalwell got out, preserving our count of 25.

25 candidates! Who can keep track of 25 candidates?!?!? Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay. As you are about to see, there are, in fact, only seven candidates for the nomination. That’s right, we’ve actually gone down one since April!

How do we know this? A quick perusal of three measures that are each highly correlated to who the eventual nominee will be should make it more clear.

By the eve of the Iowa caucuses, the leader in national polling is about 60% likely to be the eventual nominee. We’re not there yet, but some clear patterns are emerging if you look at the polls. You’ll see below that there’s a front-runner, a second tier who are all within two percentage points of each-other, and a third tier with someone who is at least standing out from the bottom of the pack and shouldn’t be totally discounted.

Julypolls

Another very accurate indicator by the time voting kicks off is fundraising. At that point, about 62% of the time the fund-raising leader will eventually become the nominee. Q2 fundraising numbers are now wrapped-up, and are also showing pretty clear patterns. If you look at the top ten, you’ll find a leader, another three candidates who are in the +/- $20 million range, and one additional candidate who’s above $10 million.¬†July funds

The final measure that has a good amount of predictive value is endorsements by party insiders. The leader in endorsements by the time you get to Iowa ends up being the nominee about 63% of the time. The endorsement tracker currently has a clear leader, a second tier of three fairly high scorers, and two more candidates who have topped twenty points.

julyendorse

Assuming that, between them, the top three tiers of each of these indicators captures just about everyone who has an even vaguely serious shot, the real contenders for the nomination are:

Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders, Warren

So rest assured, you don’t have to worry about tracking 25 people. There are only seven candidates for the nomination, and you can can entirely dispense with the other 18. (Also, sorry Beto O’Rourke, you’ve fallen off the list since last time. Alas!)

A final word about the fact that it’s still early, and the possibility of a relative unknown catching fire. Yes, it does happen. But it’s not as early as it used to be. To take polling as an example, Trump was not leading the Republican field at this point in 2015. But he was already second, at 15%. It wasn’t yet apparent at this point in 2015 how serious a contender Sanders would be. But he was already at 16%. Obama wasn’t yet competitive with Clinton at this point in 2007. But he was already in second place ahead of Edwards, and polling almost 23%.

It is very unlikely the eventual nominee isn’t captured in my short list above. And I expect that list will be shorter still by the time we do this again in October, following another two rounds of debates and Q3 fundraising.

Tune in and see!

Four More Years?

I recently kicked-off my absurdly early coverage of the 2020 Democratic primary, necessitated by the absurdly large field. (It reached 22 candidates as of yesterday!) Since today is officially 18 months until 11/3/20, it seemed absurdly early/fair to give the other side its share. Don’t worry, this will be quick!

What I primarily want to touch base on is the perception/paralyzing fear that Trump will be reelected. I hear this among Left/Progressive friends even from people I consider to be very politically savvy. This puzzles me. Because, while we definitely shouldn’t lull ourselves into a false sense that beating him will be easy, or a sure thing, the alternate idea that he’s an inevitable victor is BAL-DER-DASH!!!!!!

Exhibit one, Trump’s approval rating compared to other recent Presidents at the same point in their first term (courtesy of 538):

pop

He’s below Obama and Clinton, who were popularly thought to be in potential trouble at this point. He’s much more like Carter and Ford, who were in fact going on to lose. He’s the ONLY President in 70 years who’s NEVER been above 50% approval. About his only glimmer of hope above is Reagan, but Reagan was mired in a recession at the time, and rebounded sharply when the economy improved. Trump has these numbers in a (however shallowly spread the gains are) expansion.

Somewhere right now someone is starting in with the “Oh yeah, the polls were so accurate in 2016, weren’t they?” Stop. Because they actually were, as much as one could expect them to be. RCP’s final average was Clinton +3, actual was Clinton +2:

polls2016

They polls, en-mass were nowhere near off enough to make one think that two years-plus of multiple polling firms consistently showing Trump having the worst approval ratings of any postwar President is wrong. It isn’t. He does.

Also consider that the real problem in 2016 was not that polls everywhere were off. It was polls in the Midwest being off. And even there, we see this:

difference

The entire difference was 77,744 votes in three states. Put another way, if 38,873 voters out of 13.9 million total in those states (also know as 0.56%) had changed their minds, it would have gone differently. Now consider. Everything was this close with:

  • A massive, and largely unknown, counterintelligence operation by a hostile foreign power.
  • A Democratic candidate who had historically unprecedented net unfavorability numbers. Yes, largely as a result of decades of bullshit targeting by the Right, but still.
  • A massive news story 11 days before the election that reactivated all the worst narratives/concerns about the Democratic candidate. (That James Comey. What a rascal!)

It’s not too hard to imagine that, being on the lookout for the election interference this time, and if the Democratic nominee is someone who hasn’t had literal decades of Right Wing negative messaging directed against them, and isn’t in the midst of a current FBI investigation, Trump’s extremely narrow 2016 margin is in trouble. Especially considering his approval has never been above 43%, 3% lower than the 46% he “won” 2016 with.

If you assume just a 1.5% difference in 2020 through whatever combination of means (a few more disgruntled Republicans sit it out, a few more energized Democrats show up, a few more now thoroughly disgusted Independents break the other way) the map looks like this:

map2020

So, for those who imagine an easy victory for Democrats in 2020, I scream, “No! Did you learn nothing from last time? Start organizing now! Organize like your lives are on the line!” But to those who are convinced we’re doomed before we start, I again say:

BALDERDASH!

There can be only one…

candidatessss.PNG

I hadn’t expected to begin my regular coverage of the 2020 Presidential campaign so early, but I better get started sooner rather than later because, as you may have heard, there are currently 19 candidates for the Democratic nomination. Or 20 if you believe that Mike Gravel is actually running, and not being held captive in a basement by a bunch of 4Chan teenagers who are impersonating him on social media. And with the inevitable Biden still pending, it will soon be 21.

How on Earth can anyone keep track of 21 candidates? Well the good news that I’m here to deliver is that you don’t have to because, in reality, there aren’t 21 candidates. There are really only eight candidates. I’ll explain in a moment.

First, let’s address the issue of analyst bias. Specifically, mine. Like anyone, I have some candidates I like more than others. In the interests of full disclosure: In the 2016 primary I supported Sanders, and made contributions to his campaign through the final primary. So far this year, I have made at least one contribution (sometimes more) to Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Wayne Messam, Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, William Weld, and Marianne Williamson.

In fact, I have a color-coded classification of my preference for all the declared candidates. If you correctly decipher the coding, you’ll know exactly what I think:

color code

So, I have opinions, leanings, etc. Those are entirely irrelevant to this exercise though, because what I’m actually going to look at is three measures that have a high degree of correlation to who the eventual nominee will be. It’s a little early for all of them yet, but by the eve of Iowa, they’ll give a pretty solid indication of which way the nomination will go. Already, certain patterns can be seen.

First up, rather straightforwardly, is polling. It seems a little silly on the face of it to look at national polling for what is in fact 50-something individual caucuses and primaries, but it turns out that, by the time you get to Iowa, who’s leading in national polls has about a 60% correlation with who will win the nomination.

If you look at current rankings (courtesy of Real Clear Politics), you can easily spot a top tier of two front-runners, a second tier, and then a third tier I might name “well, at least he’s not dead in the water”. All told, seven candidates who appear to be contenders:

polls

Another leading indicator is fundraising. The early fundraiser leader ends up being the nominee 62% of the time. We have a ways to go before this measure becomes predictive at that level, but already based on the Q1 fundraising numbers, we can spot a similar three-tier structure. There’s a clear front-runner, a strong second tier, and a third-tier who are around $5 million:

fundssss

Finally, there’s a theory in political science circles known as “The Party Decides”. The basic idea is that institutional support from party elites is the key indicator of who the nominee will be. Once you reach the eve of Iowa, this measure does in fact call the winner 63% of the time.

Most potential endorsers are staying on the sidelines until things develop further, but with the party leaders who have committed so far, you’ll see a familiar three-tier structure. Two front-runners on top, a strong second tier placer, and then a third tier clustered within 10 points or so of each other:

endorsements

You would naturally suspect these three measures have a lot of correlation with each other, and aren’t really totally independent variables. Like, of course, somebody doing well in the polls is probably also doing well in fundraising, and is thus attracting potential endorsements. But they probably also aren’t perfectly correlated. So, if they’re 60% accurate individually, collectively they might be 2/3? 75%? accurate.

Keeping that in mind, looking at the three measures together, each is calling out pretty much the same set of people, albeit in different order. Put together, the candidates who seem to have any shot at all are:

Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Sanders, Warren

That’s it. You may dispense with the other thirteen!

The necessary caveat at this point is that it’s still very early. To give two examples, Bernie Sanders at this point in ’16 was polling around 4%, and Rudy Giuliani at this point in ’08 was the clear Republican front-runner. That being said, I was pretty generous with my tiers, and while somebody on the lower end now might well be in the upper tier by the end of the year, I’d be pretty surprised if the eventual nominee isn’t in this group at all.

But, hey, if I’m wrong, you’ll see! Tune in again in mid-July for further refinement following the first debates and Q2 fundraising numbers!