Tag Archives: bernie sanders

Four more Years? One Year out edition!

2020

As of yesterday, we were officially one year out to the 2020 election. You may have been following my series on the Democratic candidates, if not you can find the latest edition here. And a few months back I did a first look at Trump’s chances for re-election. At that time, I concluded that, while he can quite possible win and we have to act with all due seriousness, the paralyzing fear that it’s already over and done for is- BALDERDASH!

I also said we’d revisit the issue in November, with one year left to go. So, here we are. How do things look now?

One quick way to get a ballpark on it is to look at the President’s popularity numbers. They currently aren’t great:

popularity

In fact, they’ve never even been what might be termed “good”. When you compare his position to other post-war Presidents at this same point in their first term, this quickly becomes apparent:

comp

Obama and Clinton were widely thought to be in potential trouble at this point in their first terms. Trump is below either of their positions. He’s actually below every post-war President at this point in their first term except Carter. And you may recall how the 1980 election went for Carter.

Another way to think about it is to look at polling versus potential opponents, now that the probable Democratic field is clearer. The three leading contenders all have a more than five-point lead at this time. Even the Mayor of South Bend Indiana has a lead, for Pete’s Sake:

leads

It’s worth noting that at this same point, Clinton’s lead was 3.2%, not far off at all from where it actually ended up being. Another quick note on percentages. President Trump’s popularity rating is currently 5% below the level he “won” with in 2016. If you subtract 5% from his state-by-state 2016 margins, this is the electoral map you get (with Georgia a fraction of a percent away from flipping too):

evnov2019

Do not get me wrong. I’m not saying at all it’s a sure thing. A friend of mine posted this yesterday, and I could not agree more with both sides of what she’s saying:

“Trump can win–I will never again doubt that. And there are a ton of unknowns and things outside our control. But I also have to believe that if we step up, if we reach out and talk to our neighbors and listen to our fellow citizens, if enough of us demand a government based on our fundamental values–decency, honesty, fairness, equity, accountability–we can achieve it”

Looking at things a year out, there is every sign that we can do this. So let’s get going!

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!

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!

It’s Super-possible both nominees will be chosen Tuesday

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Yes, that image is from 2008. But it so Super-well combines two of my loves, Presidential Politics and Comics, that I had to do it. You may have heard that this Tuesday is Super. Some election cycles it’s more super, some less so, but this year on both sides the calendar is so front-loaded that half of all the delegates will be chosen by the end of March. So this kickoff with more than a fifth of the states in the Union voting on the same day is pretty significant. In fact, I think a good case can be made that both nominations will effectively be decided tomorrow…

Democrats

Sanders had been hewing pretty close to what I pegged in my first election blog of the year as his “best case”: “he wins Iowa, then New Hampshire, and does better than-expected in Nevada and South Carolina, and goes on to get a striking distance 40% or more of the states and delegates on Super Tuesday”. Until Sunday, when he lost South Carolina by almost 50%.

The campaign made a deliberate decision over the past week to basically concede the state, and concentrate resources on making as big a splash later in March as possible. It’s an understandable strategy in a case where you know you’re going to lose a state anyway and so does everyone else. But there’s “lose” and then there’s “get obliterated”. 538.com has an analysis suggesting that, if he performs as poorly with Black voters on Super Tuesday as he did he in South Carolina, even if he wins several other states, Clinton may do so well in the Southern states with larger delegate totals that she’ll open a delegate lead he just can’t catch even if he has upside surprises later in the month.

Another way to look at is to work backwards from the national numbers. Currently the averages show the following:

Capture

These numbers are kind of so all over the place that you can wonder what’s up, but it does look like the momentum is tipping back to Hillary. If you take the old data analysis trick of removing the highest and lowest (Clinton ahead by 17 and Sanders ahead by 3) and averaging the rest, you’d still come to the conclusion that Clinton is ahead by about 6% nationally. Over at 538.com, Nate Silver has a pretty sophisticated analysis indicating where Clinton and Sanders would be state by state if tied nationally. Let’s zoom in on the “Super Tuesday” portion of that:

gap

If, instead of being tied, you assume Clinton is ahead by 6 points nationally, you’d expect Sanders to win Vermont, Minnesota, Colorado, and Massachusetts, and Clinton to take everything else. Since everything else in this case includes some very populous states, her delegate haul from that would put him far enough behind that he would not only have to perform, but outperform the rest of the contests to catch up. This is pretty much what Obama did to Clinton in 2008, and she was unable to rally back even though she stayed competitive the whole time, with several big wins along the way. And if Sanders doesn’t even manage to capture all four of those states…

Clearly he has the money and the core supporter enthusiasm to stick it out throughout March and well into April. And even if he does slip as I’m outlining here, I’d expect some surprises in March and April that will lead to “Sanders is back!” headlines. But the mathematical path forward is hard to see unless he really outperforms tomorrow.

Republicans

If I think it’s starting to smell like Clinton pulls into an uncatchable lead tomorrow, this is doubly so for Trump. The Republicans have even more states on the docket than the Democrats do:

docket

Some of these states haven’t had any recent good polling. But if you look at the RCP run-down of the ones that have, you’ll immediately see that Cruz has a lead in Arkansas and his home state of Texas, but everything else is coming up Trump. If Cruz isn’t performing better than that in the Southern states that should be his strongest, it’s hard to find a plausible scenario where he overtakes Trump later. Rubio has a somewhat more conceivable path, namely that if he can get himself into a one-on-one with Trump, he can start winning some of the large and more moderate “winner take all” states that are coming up later in the calendar.

Except, Cruz has every incentive to see how many delegates he can build up through the end of March, and Kasich is showing every sign of refusing to clear the stage for Rubio at least until his home state of Ohio votes  on March 15th. By then, Trump will have cleared enough of the board that he will be very hard to catch. We may know as soon as tomorrow if Rubio and Cruz are effectively unable to catch up. They could still stay in and keep anyone from getting enough delegates to take it before the convention , leading to a floor fight there. But the major donors are already showing reluctance to spend against Trump, and he’s getting his first establishment endorsements. The party may decline to join their fight, and instead get on board with Trump.

Tune in tomorrow, and we shall see!

 

 

 

Election 2016: Iowa (By the numbers)

iowa_caucus_400_267-280x150

Well, we have almost reached a momentous event in the 2016 election. Somebody, somewhere is about to actually vote, giving us meaningful data instead of all the flap-trapping that’s been going on so far! In the midst of all the flap-trapping, I tend to hew to the numbers anyway, since empirical data is handy at cutting through bullshit, spin and partisan bias. So here’s my take on Iowa, with 6 days to go.

The Democrats

If you look at the poll trend-lines over the past fourteen days, you can see that we’re at more or less a dead heat, with a very slight indication of a an up-trend for Bernie and down-trend for Hillary:

polls

There are three cautions that need to be kept in mind about this:

1) Not all polls are equally high-quality, so adding them together without weighting them can mislead.

2) Even shortly before Iowa, the polls don’t have a great track record– they’ll show who’s in range, but can still be pretty variable compared to final results.

3) A caucus is not a primary. In a  primary, people show up, go in to a booth, vote, and leave. In a caucus they have to get to the caucus site, and stay and advocate for their candidate, sometimes hour after hour, until that site comes up with a winner. So caucus states tend to benefit those candidates who have highly motivated supporters, and a strong on-the-ground presence to do the logistics of getting those supporters to show up at the sites and stay.

Based on these additional factors (weighting polls according to reliability, and adding in factors like logistical strength, etc.), the folks at data-driven election site 538.com have produced a”polls only” and “polls plus” forecast for Iowa, both of which show Hillary as the favorite.

polls

polls

There’s one more thing we can look at, which is the betting markets. These aggregate the current bets of several thousand users who, extremely usefully to cutting down spin, have literally put their money where their mouth is. Those markets also have Hillary as a favorite to win:

bet

My take? Bernie definitely has an enthusiasm edge over Hillary. His ground game, while quite strong, is not as strong as her’s, and nowhere near as strong as Obama’s when he pulled off an upset victory in Iowa in 2008. If you take the two as roughly cancelling each other out, it’s… more or less a toss-up. I know, way to waffle!

The thing that strikes me is that winning Iowa gives Bernie a shot at his best case- he wins Iowa, then New Hampshire, and does better than-expected in Nevada and South Carolina, and goes on to get a striking distance 40% or more of the states and delegates on Super Tuesday. A Sanders who does all that doesn’t have a lock, but he does have a competitive chance. A Sanders who doesn’t win Iowa probably still wins New Hampshire, but that’s discounted since it’s expected, and he then gets buried in South Carolina. He’s probably then mathematically finished on Super Tuesday by not winning any state except Vermont, and getting less than 40% of the delegates up for grabs. What he’d have to do to win the nomination from there would be prohibitive- it would have to be something like getting 65% of all the remaining delegates

 

The Republicans

Trump has actually had a bounce-back against Cruz over the past 14 days in a straight-poll setting:

polls

Over at 538, their two models have actually diverged, with “polls-only” giving an edge to Trump, and “polls-plus” giving an edge to Cruz:

polls

polls

Meanwhile, the bettors are still picking Trump, but there’s some strong narrowing in the last few days:

bet

I’d suspect Cruz will take it. While his perpetual-motion PR machine is second to none, Trump doesn’t have a good ground game most anywhere, and in Iowa that can really have an effect. Cruz also fits the profile of Republican caucus candidates who do well in Iowa- strong Evangelical backing is key there, and gave Huckabee a win in 2008 and Santorum in 2012. 538.com has a lively discussion on just how important winning Iowa is to Trump’s long game.  You could make a case that it could be the beginning of the end for him, showing that his strong poll numbers don’t necessarily translate to real registered and showing-up-at-the-polls voters. On the other hand, you could also say that caucuses aren’t his thing, but the divided field of more moderate candidates in New Hampshire allows him to walk away with that state, and then the more straight-up vote primary in South Carolina. He would then be in a very strong position through Super Tuesday.

What’s your take? Tune in on Tuesday and we shall see!