Do the Numbers Tell Us Who Won the Last Debate?

Earlier in the week, we got a couple of updated polls from Iowa, which I used as an excuse to jump to a few conclusions. Now we have enough post-debate national surveys to take another look. Reminder: Iowa looked favorable for Amy Klobuchar, negative for Bernie Sanders, and mostly neutral for everyone else. Though Bernie’s loss is Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden’s gain. Warren being his most direct competitor, and Biden who’s odds were the most helped.

For purposes of measurement, I’m choosing the four national surveys, listed by Real Clear Politics, that were taken entirely after the most recent debate. Conveniently, each pollster also released a national survey taken on or around the second week of December. When we measure how much a candidate is up or down, we’re comparing them against a survey taken by the same pollster at almost exactly the same time.

The timing is extra fortuitous. By that point in December, Warren had already bottomed out and swapped places with Sanders, who was already considered the second most likely nominee by the betting markets. The most recent Buttigieg Boom had already peaked. Michael Bloomberg was in the race. Amy Klobuchar had started getting attention.

The pollsters we’re measuring are:

CNN

Monmouth

Economist/YouGov

Morning Consult

On to the math! Continue reading “Do the Numbers Tell Us Who Won the Last Debate?”

There’s Something Happening Here (Maybe)

Woke up Monday morning to a Neighborhood Research and Media Iowa poll that looked like an outlier. When I clicked through for the crosstabs, and saw Breitbart News had uploaded it for distribution, my suspicions increased. The commentary accompanying the data wasn’t in the tone one hears from most pollsters. And the conclusions didn’t quite match the data they were giving.

Joe Biden was in “freefall” and “highly unlikely” to win the caucus, based on his numbers plummeting in the three days of surveying post-debate, compared to the one day pre/during. This ignores the micro sample size on day one, and that he still led the field in the post-debate portion. The overall standings were as follows:

Biden 23%

Buttigieg 17%

Warren 15%

Klobuchar 11%

Sanders 10%

Trump 5%

Steyer 2%

Yang 2%

You’re probably wondering about the Trump part. Neighborhood Research does free association polling. Instead of running through a long list of candidates, they just ask respondents who they’re voting for. Apparently, 5% of said respondents thought they were being queried about the Republican caucus, the general election, or aren’t too sharp. Continue reading “There’s Something Happening Here (Maybe)”

Candidate Heat Check: Mid-January Edition

Who’s up? Who’s down? You might already have some ideas without my help. Joe Biden is leading nationwide. Iowa and New Hampshire are very crowded at the top. Bernie Sanders saw his odds go up. Elizabeth Warren dropped badly in the fall, but has stabilized. None of this is news. Neither is Pete Buttigieg still in contention in the first two states and struggling almost everywhere else.

That doesn’t answer the question of who’s hot and who’s cold though. Who should be feeling good, who should be scared, who should be depressed. We know roughly where the campaigns are at. We’ve talked about the odds and requirements for each to win or place in Iowa. FiveThirtyEight’s formula can give us up-to-the-minute odds on who’s most likely to win the nomination.

The hot/cold question has more to do with expectations and goals. For Biden, anything short of winning the nomination is a failure. Something well short of that is a huge win for Andrew Yang.

On Fire: Nobody

Several candidates are doing well, but nobody has experienced a recent positive change in fortune like Kamala Harris after the first debate. Her experience is a good reminder this is a heat check, not a guarantee of future results. Continue reading “Candidate Heat Check: Mid-January Edition”

2024: A Political Odyssey

It seems like the 2020 campaign has already gone on forever. Donald Trump hasn’t stopped campaigning since the day he was inaugurated. Most of the Democratic contenders have been officially or semi-officially running for over a year. John Delaney, who, though you didn’t realize it, is still running, declared his candidacy on July 28, 2017. Andrew Yang, who began as an unknown and is now relevant, joined him on November 6, 2017. Twenty seven others followed them. More than half are already gone.

Finally, at long last, voting begins soon in Iowa. We still have almost 10 months until the general election. I’ll understand if you aren’t ready to think about 2024 just yet. Only thing is, the next campaign season has already begun. And if you think 2020 is messy, or 2016 was a little overwhelming, just wait.

Let’s stipulate that Trump has about a 50/50 chance of re-election. Depending on who you are, you’ll think this is too high or too low. This is where the betting markets have it right now. The swing states are really close. There’s no indication the Electoral College will lean more Democratic than last time. Assuming Trump wins, there will be an open nomination on both sides in 2024. Things get started extra early when a president can’t run for re-election. Continue reading “2024: A Political Odyssey”

Did the Debate Matter?

I wondered this frequently as I suffered through the 130 minutes or so. For the last couple contests in 2019, I didn’t expect much. These contests can burn a viewer out, and I was fried. Your correspondent endured out of duty more than curiosity. Some time passed, I forgot how painful these can be. It’s getting near actual voting time. A slugfest was in the works.

During the day I looked forward to it. Even watched a little bit of the pregame show. Before it even began, I anticipated writing my recap, something completely skipped last time. And then it started. Within 5 minutes, it was clear this wasn’t going to be fun. And it didn’t get much better. No, Joe Biden wasn’t going to close strong. No, Bernie Sanders wasn’t sharp. He was on the wrong side of that narrow line he traverses between angry old man shouting at the wind and authentic, semi-loveable curmudgeon.

No, Amy Klobuchar couldn’t show why she’s electable, and instead resorted to telling us over and over. And over. And over again that nobody beats the Klob! Nobody! No, Pete Buttigieg wasn’t going to level up at just the right time to put himself over the top in Iowa and then New Hampshire. Instead, he would disappear for stretches. No, Tom Steyer was not going to give us a real reason why he needs to exist here. Or make me not regret Andrew Yang’s absence.

There was an exception. Continue reading “Did the Debate Matter?”

Debate Prep: Can Uncle Joe Close?

Things are looking pretty, pretty, pretty good for Mr. Biden. After 9 months of tripping and stumbling his way through the campaign, it’s clear he never fell. More than a few candidate strategies were based on picking up the pieces after his inevitable demise. Most of those candidates will be watching him from home Tuesday night.

FiveThirtyEight thinks he’s the most likely nominee. He’s (sometimes by a thread) leading the Real Clear Politics average in each of the first four states. Kamala Harris swung at him in a debate. He’s standing, she’s home. Julian Castro called him senile in another debate. Biden’s standing, Castro will cheer Elizabeth Warren from backstage. He’s still leading Donald Trump in most national general election surveys, and doing better than his competitors in the key swing states. If he does nothing new or different, Biden might well find himself taking an oath on the Capitol steps next January.

Emphasis on might. He’s got about a 40% chance of winning the nomination. I think Trump is 50/50ish to win in November. If you figure Biden is his strongest competitor, maybe you say he’d have a 60% chance against him. Forty percent x Sixty percent equals 24%. Biden has a 1:4 chance of being president next year. Those are the best odds of anyone not named Donald Trump, but odds are even better he’ll have his choice of watching at home, or gritting his teeth in the VIP seats for ex-presidents and ex-vice presidents.

At various times in the fall, like after Ukraine happened, it seemed wise for Biden to take a stronger, more daring stand in a debate. As you know, he didn’t. And he was none the worse for it. He doesn’t regret waiting. His team doesn’t regret waiting. But I think now is the time to swing. Continue reading “Debate Prep: Can Uncle Joe Close?”

Iowa Prospectus

We don’t have as much data as I’d like, but with the Seltzer poll dropping yesterday, there are two current Iowa Caucus surveys, one of which is considered the gold standard, and the other at least worth paying attention to. Also, they’re voting in a little over three weeks, so it’s time to take a look at where the field stands as we get ready for the January 14 Iowa debate. It appears Nancy Pelosi will push delivery of Articles of Impeachment just long enough for the event to continue as scheduled.

We’re going to look at both surveys for clues. If you’re looking for the best numerical projection of the odds any given candidate wins Iowa, there’s the FiveThirtyEight model. It updates any time there’s new info. A new poll in Iowa will cause adjustments, but they also take into account what a result in another state might portend. They’re the best guess out there.

That’s the thing. It’s a guess. As of this morning, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are effectively tied. They think each have a 29% chance of winning the caucus. Pete Buttigieg has a 21% chance, while Elizabeth Warren is at 17%. Sure, you’d rather be Biden or Sanders, neither of whom need Iowa as badly as Buttigieg and Warren, but this is hardly over.

They do think there’s a chance for an extreme upset. Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer, and Cory Booker are each given 2% odds. Individually, that’s not much, but there is a 1 in 12 chance one of the four pull off a miracle. Rather than trying to predict a result, our goal to think about how each of the contenders could win or place well enough. What are the scenarios that leave them beaming from behind a podium on Caucus Night? Continue reading “Iowa Prospectus”

Is Winning Still Everything?

Primaries are about winning. Frequently, a candidate winning or losing a single state by a few points completely changes the trajectory of the contest. In 2016, Bernie Sanders put a good scare into Hillary Clinton. He’d have struggled to win no matter what, but losing Iowa 49.9% to 49.6% and finishing a few points behind in Nevada made his task infinitely harder. They entered South Carolina with Hillary winning narrowly twice and Bernie by a large margin (NH) once. Imagine if he was on a three state winning streak.

Four years prior, Rick Santorum beat Mitt Romney in Iowa by a few votes. Literally. The problem was Romney was declared the winner on caucus night. It took three weeks to decide Santorum actually had a few more votes. By then, the narrative was already established, and while Santorum stuck around and won a few states, Romney had the nomination in order after winning Florida.

John McCain won the 2008 GOP nomination on the strength of beating Romney by 5 points in New Hampshire, Mike Huckabee by 3 points in New Hampshire, and Romney by 5 again in Florida. In 2008 Romney barely lost the important contests and fell short. Four years later he looked like he won Iowa when he didn’t and got the nomination.

A few point win in a primary or caucus is a much narrower thing than the same result in a general election. Polling often moves by 10 or 20 points in a single week as voters take previous results into account and start actually focusing on their final primary decision. Sometimes even when it doesn’t look close, it winds up close. Continue reading “Is Winning Still Everything?”

Julian’s Choice

You might have missed this with Iran boiling and all, but last week Julian Castro exited the 2020 Democratic nomination contest, and this week he endorsed Elizabeth Warren. Let’s face it. There’s not much interest in Mr. Castro. I debated picking a different headline to increase the odds of getting you to read this. He wasn’t a bad candidate, just not interesting enough.

Texans liked Beto O’Rourke better (he led Castro by a 3 or 4:1 margin in home state surveys while they were both running.) Latinos preferred Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. Whatever ambitions he and his twin Joaquin had for leading a new generation of Latino Democrats while making their way through Harvard Law School are gone. That’s all AOC now. Much like Pete Buttigieg, Castro is a younger politician who doesn’t resonate with younger voters.

Castro shares another thing with Mayor Pete. Limited upward political mobility at the state level. Yes, Texas is getting more purple by the minute. But it’s still red. Beto ran a strong race against a controversial incumbent in a strong Democratic year and still lost. It wasn’t impossible to think Castro could win a statewide race by the end of the 2020s. But he wouldn’t be a favorite anytime soon. For an ambitious politician, that’s a while to wait. Continue reading “Julian’s Choice”

Something’s Gotta Give

Andrew Yang raised $16.5 million last quarter. That’s a lot. Bernie Sanders pulled in $34.5 mil, and Mayor Pete was good for $24.7, but Yang will finish ahead of established politicians like Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, and in the same range as Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

He’s gaining momentum. In the third quarter, Yang grabbed $10 million. That was way up from $2.8 in Q2 and $1.8 in Q1. No other candidate has followed this path. Sanders picked up right where he left off in 2016. He’s a small individual contributor colossus. Warren transferred funds from her Senate campaign account to get started and then showed early and continuous strength with small contributors.

Biden has relied on larger contributors from the beginning. Buttigieg was immediately able to attract both large and small donors, leading the money contest in Q2 and remaining consistent since then. Both Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke were able to raise a lot of money when polling in double digits and not very much otherwise. Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg are self-funding.

Yang is the only candidate who wasn’t raising lots of money in Q2 who managed to build momentum. He’s also the only candidate pulling in funds without matching poll numbers. When Buttigieg began hauling money in, he was near 10% in national polls. This past quarter, he led in Iowa, was at or near the top in New Hampshire, and fourth nationally. Continue reading “Something’s Gotta Give”