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”

Why I’m Ignoring Impeachment

If you’ve read this blog for more than a minute, you are doing so despite the lack of impeachment coverage. It’s not that I don’t care. We only get an impeachment every couple of decades. But it’s not moving the needle. Trump was right. He could shoot someone on 5th Avenue without his supporters being phased.

Withholding military aid from Ukraine unless the Bidens are investigated is less serious to most than shooting someone on 5th Avenue. Yes, I’m curious if Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, or Susan Collins will vote to convict. I’m also curious if it will rain tomorrow. And the second item is more likely to impact my existence.

Here are a few things we should remember, next time we get tempted to think there’s much connection between what happens in the Senate and what voters will decide in November: Continue reading “Why I’m Ignoring Impeachment”

25,000 Voters May Choose the Nominee

There are 330 millionish Americans these days. About ten thousand of them will determine the trajectory of the Democratic nomination race. The all-time record for turnout is (approximately–exact voter count isn’t released) 240,000, set during the 2008 Obama-Hillary matchup. There’s a lot of interest this time, but I’d bet the under. Let’s say the weather is good, the populace is motivated, and somehow 300,000 Iowans make it to caucus.

That’s less than one thousandth of the national population. And based on higher turnout than reasonable to expect. But we’ll go with it. From what we’ve seen over the past several months, it’s gonna be close. At the moment, FiveThirtyEight has Buttigieg, Biden, and Sanders separated by less than two points.

Elizabeth Warren is trailing the lead pack by six or seven, and hasn’t had any good news in weeks. But she was once ahead, and has the best field organization/ground game in Iowa. If she can pick up a few points, this is a four pack. Amy Klobuchar is in contention too. Her numbers are in the same range as Rick Santorum in late 2011 and John Kerry in late 2003 before they won their respective caucuses. Continue reading “25,000 Voters May Choose the Nominee”

Pre-Debate Panic Check

In case you’ve been distracted with the whole impeaching the president thing, there’s a Democratic debate coming up. Thursday, 12/19 at 8pm Eastern to be precise. It’s the first West Coast event, taking place at Loyola Marymount University, after a labor dispute caused a move from the original venue at UCLA. Until Tuesday, another labor issue at Loyola threatened the event, as all 7 contestants vowed not to cross a picket line.

The timing isn’t great. Ratings have dropped for each debate round. Christmas is almost here. And as usual, Trump is blocking out the political sun. Casual voters aren’t going to watch. Most moderately engaged voters won’t either. There will be a short news cycle afterwards. Have I mentioned Trump?

Within these constraints, the candidates still need to get their work done. Who’s feeling the heat? Who can kinda relax? From least to most, who needs to have a debate moment that breaks through the clutter? Continue reading “Pre-Debate Panic Check”