Nevada Preview: Final Predictions

Nevada polling is notoriously shaky. Then there’s the early voters. Did they all tell pollsters the truth about who they picked? How many more will turn out today? Was the 70,000ish early vote half of the total? More? Less? If you think Elizabeth Warren was helped by the debate, this matters. A lot.

Enough temporizing. Here are the predictions:

First Alignment:

Sanders 32.7%

Buttigieg 17.4%

Biden 14.6%

Warren 13.2%

Klobuchar 9.8%

Steyer 9.6%

Gabbard 2.4%

I haven’t made many adjustments from the final poll averages. There are some undecided voters that needed assigning, and I gave a couple extra points to Sanders and Buttigieg each. I’ve got Biden almost exactly where the polls do. This is risky, because he underperformed in both Iowa and New Hampshire. However, the early voting increases the odds his voter base turned out, and the debate may have helped him. As well as it seemed Warren did on Wednesday, there’s no evidence in the post-debate data.

But her ground game is strong, and she outperformed her polls by a couple points in Iowa, so I’m giving her an extra point and change. Klobuchar seems stuck in the 10% range, and nothing has happened in the past week to make me assume she’ll exceed this. While there’s a chance skipping the debate helped Steyer by keeping him out of the carnage, again, I’m not going to assume he’s beating his polls. There are a couple of surveys (one commissioned by his campaign) that show a different story. If they prove correct, and he’s close to 20% instead of stretching to reach 10% then mea culpa.

Final Alignment:

Sanders 35.8%

Buttigieg 23.6%

Biden 15.8%

Warren 11.7%

Steyer 6.8%

Klobuchar 6.3%

Like Iowa, candidates will need to relinquish their supporters in any precinct where they don’t reach viability. For most precincts it’s the same 15% as Iowa, but in the smallest, it’s higher. My expectation is the top three candidates will gain, and the bottom three will surrender. Simple math. If Buttigieg does just a little worse than I’m thinking, Bernie could be the only candidate to reach viability in a good amount of precincts. If so, he’ll get near or exceed 40%.

If the Iowa breakdowns are predictive, the cutoff for a candidate on first alignment is somewhere in the 12 to 13 percent range. Klobuchar landed at 12.7% there and managed to hang in with both final alignment and SDEs. If she’d finished just slightly lower, I think she would have given up a lot of her support. Which would mean Warren will mostly hang in, and Klobuchar/Steyer will give up a fair amount.


Sanders 35.1%

Buttigieg 26.2%

Biden 16.1%

Warren 11.3%

Klobuchar 5.8%

Steyer 5.5%

The SDE calculation works a lot like the Electoral College. Smaller precincts are a bit over-represented. Buttigieg consistently did well in rural areas in both Iowa and New Hampshire. His team has focused on the sparsely populated parts of Nevada in the hopes of a repeat. He also closed well in both of the first two states. I’m expecting him to duplicate the formula. However, unless the polls are way off, the gap between him and Sanders is too much to close. It would give him a much larger edge on Biden and Warren than the first alignment popular vote would suggest.

Klobuchar also performed well in rural areas in Iowa and New Hampshire. But her best Iowa counties bordered her home state of Minnesota, and she did more events in New Hampshire than any other candidate. Plus she benefitted from a pile of moderate Independents who don’t exist in the same ratio in Nevada. So while I expect her to reach viability in some precincts, it looks like Buttigieg has more of an edge on her here than in New Hampshire.

Steyer didn’t have enough of a vote in either of the first two states for me to know where his geographic strength is. He’s run well with African American voters, but that still doesn’t mean he’ll regularly reach viability in precincts with a larger black population. My official guess is that he will sometimes, but not always, and Biden will benefit when he doesn’t.

I got lucky and beat the polling averages by a bit in Iowa and some in New Hampshire. Nevada is extra tricky, so not feeling super confident. Fingers crossed.

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