Being a Billionaire Doesn’t Suck

The Democratic electorate has no interest in John Hickenlooper, Michael Bennet, Jay Inslee, or Steve Bullock. Four current or very recent governors or senators, popular with their home states. The most current estimates have all four missing the next round of debates. You need four qualifying polls of two percent or higher. These four individuals have combined for one. Only Inslee is anywhere near the additional 130,000 donor requirement. Thank u, next.

Tim Ryan, John Delaney, and Seth Moulton, please exit the campaign bus. Three current or former representatives, with nary a constituency. Then there’s Bill deBlasio. He’s not going anywhere either, but at least he can say his national favorability ratings have surpassed his NYC ones in negativity. Hey, somebody has to be the least popular politician in America. I almost forgot to mention Joe Sestak. Would you have noticed if I had?

Random white male politicians don’t have any use in the 2020 Democratic nomination contest. Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and what’s left of Beto O’Rourke have filled this category in full. Two famous old guys, two young pups with suitable narratives. We’re good here.

If one is willing to accept the Democrats just aren’t looking for a pseudo-centrist, 1992 Bill Clinton-style nominee, even one suitable for the Me Too Era, next month’s debate stage in Houston will be plenty diverse. In addition to the four white guys who made the cut, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, and Andrew Yang are in.

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Delaney in a Coal Mine

I can’t find the stat that prompted this piece. David Axelrod and Mike Murphy have a podcast. Hacks on Tap. It’s pretty good if you like that sort of thing. And their logo is a take off of the Old Style beer logo. Extra points for that. In their most recent episode, Axelrod mentions a Quinnipiac poll that showed Democratic viewers hated John Delaney’s debate performance.

Elizabeth Warren was judged the debate winner, and was something like +50 or +60 with Dem viewers. Delaney was -30. The problem is I can’t find the damn data. When I pulled up the Quinnipiac results, there were questions about the debate, but not the favorable/unfavorable performance data Axelrod referred to.

I seriously doubt he’s making this up. He may have access to data beyond what Quinnipiac has on their website. Maybe he was referring to a different poll that I also can’t find. Regardless, I’m going to ask you to trust that the numbers he quoted are fundamentally correct.

For those who weren’t watching, or have managed to consign a debate from two weeks ago to the recesses of your cranium, Warren and Delaney jousted seemingly nonstop for the first hour of the first debate of the second round of debates. The biggest point of contention was Medicare for All. Warren is in favor, Delaney believes it will bankrupt a huge amount of hospitals.

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So When Do the Standings Change?

This isn’t normal. Ever since the initial dislocation from Joe Biden jumping in wore off, nothing has moved very much. In that time, we’ve seen two rounds of debates, a quarterly fundraising report, and all sorts of regular campaign stuff. Yet, with few exceptions, we’re where we were three months ago.

If you tour the polling from this stage in the previous several nomination cycles, you’ll find some to way more volatility. Scott Walker went from lead pack to out of the race in a couple of debates in the summer of 2015. Though he recovered, John McCain’s campaign almost collapsed eight years prior.

That same year, Barack Obama sometimes looked like he was seriously challenging Hillary Clinton, and other times appeared out of contention. This ebb and flow is normal. Not only is three months of stasis unusual, but there’s no sign it’s changing.

Biden did badly in his first debate, lost several points and then recovered them as quickly as he lost them. Early surveys after the second debate show no further changes. By itself, this isn’t a big deal. Donald Trump showed a similar pattern for a longer stretch of time in 2015.

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Detroit Debate Night One Recap: The Long March

That was a looonnnngg debate. More than two and a half hours. With ten candidates, I guess it was necessary, but wow. Done whining. On to the review.

Most candidates were stronger than in their first attempt. The CNN moderator team was stronger than the NBC group in the first debate. The enhanced anti-interruption rules helped. Overall, this was cleaner than last month.

Let’s see how the candidates did:

Group 1: Bernie & Liz

Elizabeth Warren is a good debater. Unlike round one, where she was a very strong presence for the first hour and then faded to the background a bit, she was fully engaged for all 150+ minutes. There’s no way any of her supporters will abandon her based on the debate.

Also unlike round one, she got to do some real jousting. While nobody is going to confuse John Delaney with Donald Trump, voters looking for a candidate who can throw down have extra reason to have confidence in her.

Bernie was much stronger than last month, especially in the first hour, when he powered through the health care section. Basically, he did the Full Bern. Larry David is lucky it’s summer, or he’d be stuck reprising his role this weekend.

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Rumors of Biden’s Demise Were Greatly Exaggerated

Remember how Kamala Harris impaled Joe Biden in the debate? Remember how his poll numbers dropped in the following few days? Don’t look now, but the most recent numbers show Biden is exactly where he was before any of that happened.

Let’s track his results through a few major polls over the past couple months. The Real Clear Politics list gives us breadcrumbs. In each case we’ll show the survey taken closest to the first debate, the poll(s) taken in the aftermath, and the most recent.


Pre Debate (6/6-6/10): 30% (+11 over Sanders)

Post Debate (6/28-7/1): 22% (+2 over Harris)

Most Recent (7/25-7/28): 34% (+19 over Warren)

That’s right. Biden is stronger with Quinnipiac than before the debate, and his margin is almost twice as wide. You’ll also notice the second place candidate was different in each of the three surveys.

Continue reading “Rumors of Biden’s Demise Were Greatly Exaggerated”

Almost Everyone Hates Almost Everyone

We always hear how this is a divided country. Given that we’ve had the same two major political parties for 150+ years and the whole blue state, red state thing, it feels like that’s a binary thing. This side or that. Are you Fox News or MSNBC?

But the Democratic Party is divided between the AOC wing and the traditionalists. The GOP was captured by Trump, but in doing so, many Republicans fled. Does that mean we’re split in three? AOCistan, Trumpland, and some squishy middle, despised by each side?

Perhaps, though I think it’s more messy than that. Regardless of how we’re split, a corollary—you can argue whether it’s cause or effect—is most politicians with a lot of national recognition are despised.

The 2016 election was decided by the voters who didn’t like Trump or Clinton. Both had popularity ratings below their share of the vote. Because the election hinged on less than 100,000 votes, spread between Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, a more granular view shows it was decided by voters who strongly disliked/hated the two.

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Polls Across America: Southern Comfort

At the exact moment I’m typing this, things are looking up for Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. He may face plant again in the next debate, but he’s in first place in every poll taken in the past week that FiveThirtyEight has posted. And they post a lot more polls than Real Clear Politics does.

We’re talking about 20ish polls taken in a whole lot of different places. From California to New Hampshire. Texas to Iowa. Not all leads are the same. Several of these are within the margin of error. While it’s better to lead by 10 than trail, that’s not a safe lead more than half a year before anyone votes.

Some of his margins are more comfortable though.

Alabama +21

Mississippi +26

Missouri +28

South Carolina +22

He’s up 16 in Georgia. Fifteen in Tennessee. Leads native son Beto O’Rourke by 10 in Texas. We don’t have recent numbers in Florida. If you take the June numbers, average them, and round down for his post-debate hit, Biden is +20ish.

There’s a clear trend here. If it’s a southern or Civil War Era border state, Biden does well. If Donald Trump won very easily, Biden does well. These states combine everything that works for him.

White Democrats are disproportionately older. They’re more conservative than their West Coast or Northeast brethren. Not only are Deep South states heavily African American, but black voters are favoring him by a wider margin than elsewhere in the country. Check out these numbers from Mississippi. Before the debate, Biden led Kamala Harris by a 10:1 ratio.

After the debate, a different pollster has Biden at 47% overall instead of 50%. Keeping in mind that there’s virtually no such thing as a white Democrat in Mississippi—only a slight exaggeration—poll samples are usually 75% black, this means Biden didn’t lose anywhere near as much ground with African American voters as he did in blue states.

Time for a reminder. Not all black voters are the same. Not even close. Just because 90% of African Americans vote for the Democratic candidate every four years does not mean this is a monolithic voting block in primaries.

Even when it seems a given candidate is widely favored, it’s still more complicated than it looks. Hillary Clinton was way more popular than Bernie Sanders in 2016. Except among voters under 30. In that case, age was more predictive than race.

In South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi, Clinton destroyed Sanders. She won over 80% of black voters in those primary states. But in Michigan, Bernie’s upset (he was trailing by 20 points in last minute polling) was driven in part by African American voters in the Detroit area who did not favor Hillary by the same margins as in the South.

Kamala has already closed the gap in places like California. If she gets the best of Biden again next week, she’ll pick up more ground. But we should not assume a voter in Oakland will act like a voter in the Delta, just because they classify themselves the same way on their 2020 Census form. And younger voters of all ethnicities are still feeling the Bern.

Biden isn’t guaranteed to retain his current support all the way until most of these states vote in March. If he finishes fifth in Iowa, he’s done. However, it’s going to take a lot more than another shabby debate to knock him off his pedestal in Mississippi, Missouri, et al.

Correlation Sometimes is Causation

Pick a poll. Any poll at all. Look at the underlying data on Bernie Sanders. You’ll notice four things every time:

His voters are younger. Much younger.

His voters make less money

His voters are the least likely to have a college degree

His voters are the least likely to say they’re following the primary campaign closely

Yes, his voters are also usually more liberal/progressive than moderate/centrist. That’s true of several other candidates too. There isn’t much difference between his splits and Elizabeth Warren’s on ideology. Sometimes Kamala Harris has similar numbers.

He’s doing a little better with male voters, but not noticeably or consistently. Warren is often several points stronger with women. Bernie has no such gap. Unlike 2016, where Sanders consistently trailed Hillary Clinton among non-white voters, particularly African Americans, he’s now racially neutral. While he’s no Biden, in a few southern states, Bernie is doing better with black voters than Harris.

We’re left with the above four traits. It’s easy to create a narrative. In the last primary season, Sanders grabbed 43.1% of the vote. He’s now polling at 15% nationally. There aren’t many individual states where his average result is much higher.

So two thirds of his 2016 voters are now elsewhere, and those who remain aren’t paying attention. Either these supporters will abandon him when they begin following the contest, like his others did, or they’re going to mindlessly vote for him.

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Polls Across America: Kamala’s House?

California is the biggest prize on Super Tuesday. Any Kamala Harris, Democratic Party Presidential Nominee scenario runs through her home state. Before her debate triumph, it was clear she’d need to gain nationwide to have a chance at home.

Now, with her leveling up, but Joe Biden still leading overall, we have a few post-debate Golden State polls to help us figure out how much more ground she needs to cover. As Nate Silver pointed out this week, Harris doesn’t lead in any of the first four states. If she does well, but doesn’t win any, that would roughly mirror her current position.

Would that suffice?

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Follow the Money (Part 1: How We Got Here)

Campaign finance is forever changed. Ever since an underdog candidate from Vermont turned his back on big donors who wouldn’t have supported him anyway and proved you could raise even more in small donations from random citizens.

Though he didn’t get the nomination, within two years, he was the beacon Democrats followed while winning back the House in a resounding midterm victory. As you suspected, we’re talking about Howard Dean.

It looks like we’re most of the way through a transition from campaign finance that traditionally relied on larger donors and/or public funding to a model that uses big money donors as an accessory, not a measure of viability, while completely eschewing the public option. Here’s how we got here:

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