South Carolina Preview: Final Predictions

Joe Biden is going to win. Sorry if I ruined the fun. But the margin matters. As does the order others wind up in. Also the delegate count. A candidate needs 15% statewide or 15% in a congressional district to qualify. Biden and Bernie Sanders are going to be over the threshold. Will any of the others? How many candidates finish behind Tom Steyer? There’s no way looking up at him will qualify as momentum going in to Super Tuesday.

For reference, here are the final poll numbers, and here is the FiveThirtyEight projection. One more wrinkle. South Carolina is a truly open primary. In Iowa and Nevada, voters were either registered Democrats or needed to register as such at the caucus. In New Hampshire, Independents could participate in either primary. South Carolina allows both Independents and Republicans to participate in the Democratic primary. And this year, there is no Republican primary. The Trump campaign and its’ various allies have encouraged GOP voters to show up and vote for Bernie (or whomever they think the weakest choice is.)

Personally, I think a party primary shouldn’t include voters from the other team. I’d question the inclusion of Independents, but you can argue that they’re the ones who decide elections, so it’s useful to include their thoughts. Given the level of support Trump has among those still registered as Republicans, this seems like malpractice. However, these rules are made by the state. Caucuses are operated by the state parties, primaries by the state itself. I saw a projection that 29% of South Carolina Democratic primary participants will be Republicans. If this is true, it will help Sanders. Continue reading “South Carolina Preview: Final Predictions”

South Carolina Pumps the Brakes

The Palmetto State is 48 hours away from officially salvaging Joe Biden’s candidacy. A week ago, Biden and Bernie Sanders were effectively tied in South Carolina polls. Today, Biden is up by 20 points. Twenty. It’s the best he’s looked there in weeks. You might think he was boosted by Tuesday’s debate and/or the endorsement from Jim Clyburn. Didn’t hurt, but if you check the poll dates, you’ll see the worm started turning right after Nevada. Some of these surveys were completed before the debate.

To recap the chronology, Biden led by a lot for all of 2019. Nobody was close to him in poll averages. Maybe an outlier here or there would put someone within 10 to 15 points, but his lead was dominant. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were the closest two candidates, and as neither of them are a great fit for the state, trailed by big margins. Pollsters skipped most of January. Then, as Biden flagged in Iowa and then New Hampshire, his South Carolina numbers suffered. He never trailed, but the margin narrowed significantly. Sanders was up to the low 20s, Tom Steyer was upper teens, while Biden fell to middle/upper 20s.

At this point, looking at the trend line, FiveThirtyEight’s model saw Sanders as a narrow favorite. It was a reasonable conclusion. Especially if Bernie got a good Nevada result and Biden didn’t. Well, Sanders hit the jackpot, getting near 50% of the county delegate equivalents. As much as the Biden campaign tried to spin his second place finish, he was closer to sixth than first. You could imagine he did well enough to stop the erosion, but not that losing by 26 points would launch him. Continue reading “South Carolina Pumps the Brakes”

Sh*tshow at the O.K. Corral

Folks, the fact of the matter is, this was awful. Yeah, it’s fun to watch Elizabeth Warren beat on Mike Bloomberg, but those fireworks were confined to the first 20-30 minutes. After that, it was a bunch of presidential aspirants channeling their third grade selves, leaning forward, hands raised, hoping to get called on, and then interjecting anyway when they were ignored. The networks set debate rules in conjunction with the national party. The goal is supposedly to win in November, and carry as many senators and representatives along as possible.

This did not help that. Nor did last week’s installment of Survivor. The candidates are desperate. That’s normal for this stage of the campaign. Except for Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and Bernie Sanders, they’re out of money. Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar are working overtime to justify their existence. None of the those three are a sure shot to hit the 15% needed statewide or in a given congressional district to win delegates. Warren and Klobuchar should get delegates in their respective home states on Super Tuesday, but they’ll need more than that.

It’s their job to do whatever they have to. It’s the job of the party to make sure the field doesn’t look ridiculous in the process. The combination of desperation and moderators who weren’t skilled at keeping answers to a consistent time frame (either mostly staying within the official limits, or evenly allowing overages), nor were they clear about who was allowed to talk next. So candidates spent much of the evening talking over each other, cutting each other off, and commenting on the debate process.

The moderators weren’t great, but they don’t choose the format. And it’s not like they have extensive training as referees. Everyone was put in a position to fail. Once they lost control, there wasn’t much chance of making sure to balance out the difficult questions and the softballs. Not much opportunity to get the higher polling candidates a little more time, but make sure everyone gets to go first sometimes. So what to do to avoid this nightmare from repeating? Continue reading “Sh*tshow at the O.K. Corral”

Debate Preview: A Debate for Old Men

This debate is about two candidates. Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg. The others are garnish. Props. Facilitators. They exist merely to test our two protagonists. But what about Elizabeth Warren? See above. If Bloomie can’t handle her assault after getting a practice round, then he and his half-billion dollars (and counting) project is doomed.

The first couple national polls (YouGov and Morning Consult) to have data from immediately before and after the Nevada debate indicate Bloomberg lost a couple points and Warren picked up a couple. That’s not enough to make her a factor. Even if she fillets him again, it will be worth a couple more points at most. Perhaps enough to get her a few Super Tuesday delegates. Maybe enough to spare her the embarrassment of losing Massachusetts. Not enough to contend for the nomination. Bernie Sanders is just too far ahead of her.

She has her motivations to continue, and at the margins, she matters. But if you’re expecting her to do well in South Carolina just because she can cook Billionaire flambe, think again. Her presence is Bloomberg’s opportunity, not the other way around. It might not be fair, but it’s so. Continue reading “Debate Preview: A Debate for Old Men”

The Power of Caucus Math

As I type this, 88% of Nevada precincts have reported. Close enough to done for us to look under the hood a bit. And we’re finding the conversion from first alignment (i.e. popular vote), to final alignment, to County Caucus Delegates, changes the story. A lot. If it weren’t for Bernie Sanders, we’d lack this information. Nevada would have reported CCDs only. And without the transparency and the extra time it takes to make sure the numbers add up, he’d have been declared the winner with almost half of Nevadans supporting him by late afternoon on Saturday.

I’m sure he’ll be fine the way it turned out. Everyone knows he crushed it. Sanders wound up making the same statement Donald Trump did in 2016, when he ended the idea there was a 30-35% ceiling on his support by getting 47% in Nevada. Bernie is tracking along at 47% himself. But these two numbers are not the same. Republican caucuses don’t have realignment or conversion to state/county delegates. When Trump got 47%, he got 47% of all voters who participated.

Right now, Sanders has 34.3% of the initial popular vote. That’s not a bad number at all in a six person contest. It’s almost exactly double Joe Biden’s 17.9%. But when we move from first to final alignment, Sanders jumps to 40.7%. He then leaps again to 47.1% when assigning the CCDs. A solid win becomes a rout. Continue reading “The Power of Caucus Math”

Nevada Recap: Tio Bernie!

So they’re still not done counting. But it’s plenty clear who won. When the Associated Press calls the caucus for you with 4% of precincts reporting, you had a good day. Unlike Iowa, where Bernie Sanders underperformed his polls by a couple points, and lost out to Pete Buttigieg by the narrowest imaginable margin on the State Delegate Equivalents measurement, or New Hampshire, where he won, but by a way thinner margin than 2016, Nevada was a beat down.

With 60% of precincts reporting, Bernie has as about as many first alignment/popular votes as Buttigieg and Joe Biden combined. His final alignment numbers are even better. The CCD measurement (the Nevada version of Iowa’s SDE) is working further in his favor this time. Biden can say Nevada revived his campaign all he wants, but this wasn’t a close second place. He’s not even guaranteed to wind up in second when the tabulating is done. Mayor Pete has closed the gap as the count went on, and only trails him by 77 final alignment votes now. The CCD margin is larger (1496 to 1172) so we’ll see.

As a rule, if the first place finisher does more than twice as well as the second place person, it doesn’t matter who wound up second. Entrance polls indicate Bernie did almost as well with African American voters as Biden. And he wound up with absurd percentages of Latinos under 45. This wasn’t a fluke. The Sanders campaign has focused on this since the 2016 contest ended. A combination of money, planning, and a huge volunteer base produced tangible results yesterday. Continue reading “Nevada Recap: Tio Bernie!”

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: Continue reading “Nevada Preview: Final Predictions”


If you’ve heard Bernie Sanders speak for more than a minute, you know he hates billionaires and plans to implement his political revolution by turning out millions of first-time voters. These newbies will propel him to the Democratic nomination, boost him past Donald Trump, and give Senate candidates a critical push to win Democratic control, ejecting Mitch McConnell, enabling implementation of the Bern Agenda. At least that’s the plan.

If you’re a true believer, this scenario is completely internalized. If you’re a centrist Democrat, it’s scary, but likely preferable to four more years. The voters who will likely decide the nomination are somewhere in between. Open to Bernie’s Revolution. Skeptical he’ll succeed. Not willing to risk the consequences of failure. For the most data-driven among them, it’s helpful to see if Bernie is truly turning out the vote as he goes through the primary and caucus gauntlet.

Naturally, his team will play up the results, and his opponents will minimize them. If Michael Bloomberg or Pete Buttigieg claim Bernie is electoral suicide, we can’t exactly treat them as unbiased analysts. It’s also easy to get distracted by media headlines. Primary turnout is at least somewhat predictive. There were many Trump primary voters who weren’t habitual voters. This presaged his ability to get non-college educated white voters who stayed home in 2012 to do for him what they wouldn’t for Mitt Romney. Continue reading “Turnout!”

Debate Recap: Bloomberg—God’s Gift to Warren

Donald Trump enjoyed this one. Mini Mike Bloomberg was cut down to size early and often. Most frequently by Elizabeth Warren, who let it rip after being cautious in her past couple debate outings. Unfortunately for Warren, 70,000 Nevadans have already caucused. In 2016, a total of 84,000 showed up. Early voting will definitely boost turnout this time, but no matter what, a good 40% of the vote is in, maybe more.

She did what she needed to. Whether you cheered or booed her, it was the right move, delivered in the correct way, with the only tone she could have used to try and get back on track. If this doesn’t work. If she doesn’t reach viability in most caucus precincts and finish at least a strong third, then it was just too late and her candidacy was doomed.

Bernie Sanders has a super strong base, but there are some voters who could go either way between the two of them. We’ve seen these persuadable people move from 80/20 Warren in September, when she was 10 points up on Sanders to 90/10 Bernie now. I’m making these numbers up, but it’s in the ballpark. I think Warren probably moved a few of them back in her direction. Continue reading “Debate Recap: Bloomberg—God’s Gift to Warren”

Debate Prep: Nobody Likes Mike

There’s one story and one story only. The entrance of Mike Bloomberg, once doubted by many (including me), now surging in the polls, to the debate stage. He should help ratings. Viewership for the past couple debates has run at 30% of the level for the introductory round. It seems voters have had their fill. When this happens to TV show, it’s time for the introduction of a key new character.

Bloomberg got to debate a few times while running for and retaining his office as Mayor of New York City. His last effort was in 2009, so you’d think he’s a bit rusty. Also, he was never considered a tremendous debater. And as all the presidential candidates will tell you, sparring with one, maybe two opponents in a mayoral, senatorial, or gubernatorial debate is nothing like these presidential scrums. Should Mike perform very well, it would be barely short of miraculous.

His job is to do better than Rick Perry did, when he parachuted in to the 2012 GOP contest and couldn’t make it out of 2011 unscathed. He’s not getting support based on presumed debate skill. Some voters and endorsers like the idea that he gets under Donald Trump’s skin. Easily and often. Others question Joe Biden’s capabilities. Ok, everyone does at this point, but some who are allergic to Democratic Socialists and candidates under 40 with thin resumes want more options. These are all different ways of saying the expectation bar is low. Continue reading “Debate Prep: Nobody Likes Mike”