democrats

The First Post-Election Election

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In case you were worried you’d have to wait 577 days to see America head to the polls again, worry not! Georgia’s 6th Congressional district will be holding a special election in a mere ten. It will be to fill Tom Price’s seat, vacant now that he has taken the roll of Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration. No matter the result of the election, I can guarantee the they will be hyperbolically exaggerated in terms of their meaning. Before we worry about that though, let’s take a look at the state of things in the fightin’ 6th!

It is located just north of Atlanta and contains some of the cities more well off suburbs. This is a district that in 2012 was won by Romney by 23.3 points and in 2016 was won by Trump by 1.5 points.[1] Newt Gingrich won the congressional seat in 1979, held it for 20 years, and has been won by Republicans ever since he retired. The lines were redrawn slightly after the 2010 census though, so we shouldn’t make too much of history.[2]

There are 18 candidates currently vying for the open seat. The leader in the polls with 40% is Democrat Jon Ossoff, a documentary film maker and former Congressional aide. At 20% is the former Georgia Secretary of State, Republican Karen Handel. There are three other Republicans polling around 10% and the rest of the candidates are chopping up the remainder. This isn’t a run away for Ossoff though. If no one gets 50% of the vote then the top two vote getters will compete in a run off election on June 20th where Ossoff won’t have the benefit of a fractured Republican vote. If polling holds and June 20th sees Ossoff face off against Handel, current projections have it a virtual tie. Ossoff leads 42/41, but 17% of the electorate is undecided.[3]

If Ossoff Wins

The narrative the next day will be that the GOP control of the House and Senate is as good as gone. If the Republicans can’t hold such a red district, what hope do they have for the rest of the country? Trump’s low approval ratings obviously reflect a nation that has already rejected him. People will point to cases like Republican Scott Brown’s win in the special election for Democrat Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat which foreshadowed the oncoming Tea Party Wave. This would be a mistake for a number of reasons.

  • One data point should never be looked at as a trend.
  •  Enthusiasm is currently on the side of the Democrats, but that could easily fade in the next 20 months.
  • This was an open seat so the Republicans didn’t have the incumbency advantage they will in other races.
  • Trump could do any number of things to potentially turn his approval ratings around and win back the country. This is not intended as a conspiratorial statement, but wars traditionally have a ‘rally to the banner’ effect for the President.
  • Also in 2010 was a special election for Pennsylvania’s 12th district in which Democrats outperformed to hold a seat in a red area, but still lost 63 seats that coming November.

All of these points should be further emphasized if Ossoff wins the race narrowly.

If Handel (or Another Republican) Wins

The narrative the next day will be that the GOP have an absolute and undisputed mandate to govern this nation. The approval ratings for Congress, Trump, and the AHCA/Republicare were obviously all fake news. The country is behind the President, his agenda, and his accomplishments so far. There is no anxiety about what the investigations into the Russian influence on the election might reveal. The Democrats are a dead party clinging to relevancy. This would be a mistake for a number of reasons.

  • ONE DATA POINT SHOULD NEVER BE LOOKED AT AS A TREND.
  • This has been a Republican district for 38 years, it staying that way isn’t Earth shattering news. To expand on that, this district is 9.5 points more GOP leaning than the nation as a whole. Democrats need 24 seats to take control of Congress which means they just need to flip districts up to and including districts that are 4 points more GOP leaning than the nation.[4]
  • The Democrats still have plenty of time to coalesce the multiple movements resisting Trump into one political force.
  • Trump could do any number of things to plunge his approval ratings to new found depths. A President’s approval rating is the single most influential factor in predicting a party’s success in the midterm elections, so yes this really does matter. [I can’t link to the source on this as it was a politics podcast from the 538 crew, so that’s where I heard it.]

All of these points should be further emphasized if the Republican wins the race narrowly.

How You Should Read The Results

After Tuesday the 18th has passed, you should check the results. If no one has 50%, then don’t pay much attention to any of the spin since an election between two people can easily go differently than an election between 18. If someone does have 50%, then just don’t get carried away on reading the tea leaves. Montana, Kansas, South Carolina, and California will also be holding special elections in the next three months. To read more about them, I’d recommend this article. After all five of these races are done, then we can take a look at the data as a whole. Until then though, don’t pour too much energy into what is just the most recent play in a very long game.

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Nomination: 2/20 Recap

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Yeah, I know I never did New Hampshire, but I’m going to pick it up with the Nevada Democratic results and the South Carolina Republican Results from yesterday.

Republican South Carolina Primary Results

1. Trump – 32.5%

2. Rubio – 22.5%

3. Cruz – 22.3%

4. Bush – 7.8%

5. Kasich – 7.6%

6. Carson – 7.2%

There are three important things that will be discussed stemming from this race: Bush dropping out, whether Rubio is rebounding, and is Trump inevitable now?

Bush dropping out is pretty amazing. He still had lots of money left to spend and he only placed 4th here. Now granted no one expects him to make a comeback which is remarkable in and of itself given how a year ago everyone had penciled him in as the Republican nominee. It’s tough to put a finger on what happened, but I know many graduate level theses will be written on it. The fact that one establishment candidate has dropped out likely means good things for the other establishment pick which brings us to…

Rubio did quite poorly in New Hampshire. You may remember this particular blog had Rubio picked to win New Hampshire, but then came in 5th with only 10.6% of the vote, so how did he do he double his numbers in just a couple weeks? The soundbite of him at the New Hampshire debate where Christie really hurt Rubio might have only been watched by New Hampshire or it could be the establishment is really starting to solidify behind Rubio. Between New Hampshire and South Carolina he’s the only one who had their percent of the vote rise and with Bush out, I expect Rubio to pick up the majority of his backers. I’m still predicting Rubio to be the Republican nominee which would be in direct opposition to…

Trump being inevitable. Every Republican candidate who has won both New Hampshire and South Carolina has gone on to be the nominee, so why do I think the Trump can be stumped? Trump has won, but without ever getting more than 35% of the vote. That might be a plurality, but it’s a long way off from a majority. For the first time in the campaign, Trump is about to have an actual rival. Now if Trump handles Rubio like Christie did, then it still might not be over. I maintain Trump may have a high floor, but a low ceiling in terms of his voters.

One example of this is how he does with late deciding voters. Donald Trump Only got 16% of them in South Carolina compared with Cruz’s 28% and Rubio’s 30%[1] This also mirrors his Iowa performance with just 15% of voters who decided that day, 13% in the last few days, and 13% sometime last week.[2] You can’t win the nomination with 35% of the vote and Trump isn’t adding anyone knew. He has to count on voters coming to him as other candidates drop out and I have a hard time seeing that happen from Bush, Carson, or Kasich.

Democratic Nevada Primary Results

1. Clinton – 52.7%

2. Sanders – 47.2%

There was a New York times piece this week that noted, “We’re living in an era when blacks have essentially played kingmaker in the most important elections in the nation,” [3] Quite the interesting line, and it really proved itself to be true in Nevada. I’ve mentioned in the past that Sanders has an issue when it comes to the minority vote. Let’s look at the exit poll breakdowns by sorted by race.[4]

White(59% of vote) – Sanders 49% Clinton 47%

Hispanic(19% of vote) – Sanders 53% Clinton 45%

Black(13% of vote) – Clinton 76% Sanders 22%

 

It isn’t hard to figure out why Clinton won in Nevada. If Sanders can’t find a way to narrow that 54 point gap he is going to be absolutely crushed in South Carolina where in 2008 black voters made up 55% of primary goers.[5] Now it’s possible that’s not a point in favor of Clinton because she lost with black voters 78%-19% to Obama, but she’s not being listed as an over 99% favorite to win South Carolina by some groups for nothing.[6]

As always, questions, comments, and criticisms are welcome. Answers are guaranteed.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Nomination: Iowa Caucus Preview

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Disclaimer: I am friends with people who work for the Clinton campaign in Nevada and people who have volunteered for Sanders in Iowa. Take that for what it’s worth.

Background

Today all the major news outlets will be covering the first big event in the election year, the Iowa Caucus. I figured it would be a good point to actually start writing again, but before we start analyzing the possible results, let’s look at how the caucus actually works. With the rest of this post being fairly serious, let’s use Legos.

The odd thing that might influence all of this is that there is a somewhat severe storm moving into Iowa late tonight. Current forecasts show that snow isn’t supposed to start until 9 or 10 pm, but it could have an impact of lowering voter turnout. If that happens I think it will be good for the anti-establishment candidates because the people with more passion are more likely to show up, but it is possible this won’t change anything.

Before we get to some individual breakdowns I need to post the results of what historically is the best poll to predict the results of the Iowa Caucus.[1] It’s average error per candidate per year is 3.3%. It does tend to error more with two things: a candidate with a late surge and a candidate strong with Christian Conservatives.

Republican: 1. Trump(28) 2. Cruz(23) 3. Rubio(15)

Democrat: 1. Clinton(45) 2. Sanders(42)

More Analysis of this later.

Hillary Clinton

This race has been her race to lose from the start and she is still being shown with a lead, even though it is now within the margin of error for the poll. It is unlikely the latest news with her emails will impact anything, her favorability rating in Iowa has hardly budged even as Sanders’s has climbed.

silver-feature-berniehillary

Ignore the New Hampshire line. I’ll bring that up in a bit. I told you the poll at the start has her with a lead that is within the polls margin of error, but that the poll often misses low on candidates that are having a late surge. Despite his national numbers though, Sanders hasn’t been surging as much in Iowa.

POLLSTER MOST RECENT POLL PREVIOUS POLL CHANGE
American Research Group Sanders +3 Sanders +3
Gravis Marketing Clinton +11 Clinton +21 Sanders +10
Marist College Clinton +3 Clinton +3
Public Policy Polling Clinton +8 Clinton +6 Clinton +2
Quinnipiac University Sanders +4 Sanders +5 Clinton +1
Des Moines Register Clinton +3 Clinton +2 Clinton +1

Sanders and Clinton have mostly been holding steady over the last month. Iowa is still Clinton’s to lose, and it will really come down to turnout. As it stands now though, Clinton has done enough to not lose Iowa.

Bernie Sanders

Has Sanders done enough to win Iowa though? Again it’s turnout. Yes I know that’s a cop-out answer, but Sanders’s support is much younger than Clinton’s and there’s a big discrepancy in attendance at the polls between those groups. If the young and passionate show up tonight before the snow storm, then we’re talking about a whole new race.

You probably noticed Sanders lead widening in New Hampshire in the above chart? This is going to mean even if Sanders loses Iowa his supporters will have the hope of a strong rebound. Unfortunately I don’t think that would be enough. He needs to win both. Sanders polls best with white liberal voters and if you look at the percentage of the democrats in the state that are both of those things, Iowa and New Hampshire have the second and third most of them in the country, Vermont is first. That means Iowa and New Hampshire are the two states Sanders absolutely needs to win because they have his biggest voting blocks. It gets much harder once he gets to the south where he has to win minorities away from Clinton.

If Sanders can win both then he’ll have the momentum to possibly convince the rest of the country, and you’ll see two stats talked about ad nauseam.

  • No candidate (Democrat or Republican) has lost the nomination after winning both Iowa and New Hampshire since Ed Muskie in 1972.
  • No candidate has won the the nomination without winning either Iowa or New Hampshire since Bill Clinton in 1992.

Donald Trump

On the Republican side I’m not certain who has more to lose, Donald Trump or the Republican Establishment. If Donald Trump loses then he’ll have to explain how he, who has built his entire campaign on the idea he’s a winner, will suddenly be cast in the role of the loser. If he wins, then Republican establishment is going to have to continue to worry about him either eventually getting the nomination, which I don’t think is going to happen, or him getting enough support that he decides he will run as a third party candidate which will guarantee a presidential win for the Democrats.

I remember watching an interview with John Kasich on This Week with George Stephanopoulos where Kasich was asked whether he’s out of touch with his party since they clearly approve of Trump. Those sorts of questions will plague the Republicans for as long as Trump can claim he speaks for them when it’s obvious the party heads don’t want him to.

The Republican Field

The person I do think will win Iowa is Ted Cruz. He’s within 5% of Trump in the poll I mentioned at the beginning, and he does fit the Christian Conservative model the poll tends to underestimate. Cruz is fascinating right now because it’s the only time I can find where a senator has made it the Iowa Caucus as a serious candidate without the endorsement of a single other senator in the party.

Rubio should put in a strong showing here in route to more favorable states for him ahead. Bush will cause us all to wonder how on Earth someone can fall so fast. Ideally the whole thing will go so badly for the remaining candidates that several will drop out over the next week so the race can focus in on Trump, Rubio, and Cruz because those are the only ones I see with a real chance at this. I do think Bush, Christie, and Carson will stick around until at least Super Tuesday though.

Gambling 

Although it isn’t as popular in America, Great Britain loves gambling on their politics. I particularly love looking at betting odds for elections, because unlike many polling agencies, casinos actually lose money when they’re wrong. So according to a sportsbook:

Clinton – If the caucus was held four times, Clinton would win three. 3-1 odds

Sanders – If the caucus was held thirteen times, Sanders would win four. 4-9 odds

Trump – If the caucus was held fifteen times, Trump would win eleven. 11-4 odds

Cruz – If the caucus was held three times, Cruz would win one. 1-2 odds

Rubio – If the caucus was held nine times, Rubio would win one. 1-8 odds

Carson – If the caucus was held 51 times, Carson would win one. 1-50 odds

Give me 25$ on Cruz which would win 50$.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Nomination: CNN DemDebate Recap

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Thirty minutes into the debate I knew I wouldn’t be able to recap it in the same way I did with the first Republican debate. There was just too much actual policy discussion. I don’t mean that as commentary on either party. Tuesday night did really drive home the point of why 11 people on a debate stage is just too many. You want to give everyone time but that means the debate can go 3.5 hours and you still weren’t able to actually get anything of substance out of every candidate. I’m hoping both parties will take note and have a more streamlined selection process for debates in the future.

If I’m not going to do that recap though, what will I talk about in this recap? I’m glad you asked. There are two things I’m going to try to touch on: how the debate affected each of the candidate’s chances at the nomination and a look at Trump’s live tweeting of the event.

Chafee and Webb are both out and done. No real surprise in either case. They were both polling extremely low going in. I believe Chafee had the worst showing of anyone in the debates, particularly him stumbling through excuses for not really knowing what he was voting for in the Senate. Webb was definitely the most conservative Democrat on the stage last night and that just doesn’t seem like it’s what the party wants right now.

O’Malley has been widely praised for his closing remarks are rightly so. Even so, he still has no real shot at the nomination. Currently Sanders is the ‘not Clinton’ choice and O’Malley didn’t do enough to really separate himself from either one. It is possible that was by design though. In the way he praised the party as a whole in his closing remarks he could easily be setting himself up for a VP nomination from the eventual winner.

There has been a lot of talk about whether Sanders or Clinton actually won the debate. I think they both won and I say that because I think they both had completely different goals going into the debate, let’s start with Sanders.

It was clear from the get go he was there to talk about his issues. In his opening statements he made no mention of his own resume or accomplishments, he focused purely on the subjects of income inequality and big bank/wall street misconduct. He wants those issues front and center and he achieved that.

The things hurting Sanders right now are name recognition and the minority vote. As far as name recognition goes he picked up more twitter followers than Clinton by a wide margin.(46,000 to 10,000)[1] The minority vote won’t hurt him much until later. The first two primaries are in Iowa(93% white) and New Hampshire(95% white), but if Sanders wants to win the Democratic nomination he’s going to have to change this chart.

How support for each candidate breaks down by race

One of the places that Clinton did stumble last night was in her answering of the Black Lives Matter question. Sanders tackled it head on and gave a strong answer in support of the movement. Clinton did seem to sidestep the question a bit. Sanders also make certain to bring up minorities in many of his other answers. I haven’t seen any polls to show if his performance on Tuesday loosened Clinton’s strong grip on those demographics. If the goals of Sanders were to get his issues out there, get his name out there, and have the opportunity to try to influence his weakest poll area, I’d say he won the debate.

Clinton’s goals are a little easier to identify. She’s the leader and wants to keep it that way, that means no blatant mistakes. She also has had a long news cycle of negative headlines from various scandals of varying degrees of legitimacy, so she wants the headlines to be about not that.

The fact that the headlines out there right now even debate whether she won prove she achieved both of her goals. It’s her nomination to lose and she certainly didn’t lose it on Tuesday. She came across as the experienced debater that she is. Granted it wouldn’t take much to look like a pro when Chafee is providing a highlight real of don’ts for speech coaches across the country to use.

Not only have the headlines been about how she may have won, there’s even positive spin on the email scandal thanks to Sanders expressing the sentiment of most Democrats that he’s sick of hearing about it. The moment received a standing ovation during the debate and will likely be mentioned every time the emails come up for the next couple weeks.

I do think there is a slight media overreaction to how well Clinton did in the debates because there was also an overreaction to how much the scandals were hurting her. The truth is that despite all the negative press her poll numbers haven’t really changed much(3%) since August 1st. If you’d like a longer discussion on how the email scandal has and hasn’t impacted Clinton I’d recommend this article:[2]

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Many outlets were going with a ‘Clinton is in big trouble’ narrative and the debates have served to get everyone back to viewing her chances for the nomination accurately. Clinton didn’t do anything in the debates to lose front runner status and there are stories being run about her that don’t include the words ’email’ or ‘Benghazi’. To me, that counts as a win for Clinton as well.

Both had needs going into this debate and I think both achieved them. So I’m calling them both winners. Cop out? Maybe. Accurate? As far as I can tell.

I’m a big fan of looking at gambling odds on politics because sportsbooks have a vested interest in being accurate when a lot of news outlets really don’t. Taking the numbers from the site PredictWise the day after the debate, the current Democratic nomination picture looks like this:

enten-datalab-demdebateslackchat

I’m already at about as long as I ever like to force you to read at one time, so I’ll close this by saying thank you for reading and keep your eyes open for Part Trump coming before the end of the weekend.

As always, questions, comments, and concerns are welcome. Answers are guaranteed.