Monday, February 29, 2016

The Democrats: End of February and Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday is tomorrow and the polls in both parties are making then nominations look inevitable. Tracking the national popularity polls is not the most accurate barometer and it just a single week's result, but it looks like we might be looking at Peak Sanders as Hillary edges over the 50% mark once again.

More to the point, the Super Tuesday numbers that are available show Sanders looking good only in the northeast, at least in the contests that have enough data to make any kind of informed judgment. Here's the list for tomorrow's races.

No data at all from February
The two caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota did not get any polling, and in caucus states this may be just as well. There are also two overseas contests, American Samoa and Democrats Living Abroad, though in the second, March first is just the first day in a week long polling period.

I would not stake not be surprised by strong showings by Sanders in either Colorado or Minnesota, but that's just guesswork on my part.

Minimal polling in February
Alabama was polled only once this month and Clinton has a substantial lead there.

As for the contests that have been polled twice, Sanders will smash Clinton in his home state of Vermont, Hillary looks very good in Arkansas and Tennessee, and Oklahoma shows an advantage for Clinton, though one of the two polls has it fairly close and the undecided vote is very high.

States with several polls in February
Massachusetts looks too close to call, which is not good news for Sanders. The other three contest look like cakewalks for Hillary, leading by 20 in Virginia, 25 in Texas and a whopping 37 in Georgia.

I may be too old to be a Bernie Bro, but I will admit I have sent him money in the past. His long odds will get a little longer after tomorrow night if the polls are anywhere near accurate. For me, it feels a little like when I worked for Eugene McCarthy in 1968, which means it hurts and it sucks seeing him come up short. I had no enthusiasm for Humphrey and he lost in the general election to Nixon.

Well, I'm a grown-up now and I will support Hillary if she gets the nomination. As bad as Nixon was, the Republican standard bearer in 2016 will be worse, and if it's Trump, much much worse.

The Republican situation tomorrow.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

The national polls and post mortem from R-SC and D-NV

 The Dems: It's a good time to remind folks reading this blog that the national polls are often meaningless in terms of trends. Hillary won Nevada by 5.5%, which means the "outlier" poll by Gravis Marketing was closest to correct. This either means I have misjudged Gravis or we have a  blind pig/acorn situation.

I'm going to go with the second one. I apologized to Gravis on my Twitter feed last night, but now I'm awake and relatively sober, and I still don't trust them.

The graph shows Hillary leading as she has forever, but the trend looks positive for Sanders. I don't think the trend can be trusted. Clinton's next test is South Carolina next weekend, where she is an overwhelming favorite according to a reasonable number of polls. Then comes Super Tuesday nine days from today. I fully expect Sanders to win some contests on Super Tuesday, but the delegate lead from victories by Clinton will become obvious. Barring a miracle, Sanders' chance to win will evaporate before the first day of Spring.

The GOP: The national trend shows Trump well in the lead but wobbling around in the 35-40% range. I think this is fairly accurate. He won South Carolina handily last night and the next race is the Nevada caucus. Not unlike the situation with the Democrats in Nevada, the number of polls is ridiculously low, but Trump has a comfortable lead.

There are now five people left, but all signs point to a three-person race with a lopsided advantage for Trump. After New Hampshire, Rubio the Robot was supposed to be a discontinued model, but now after South Carolina, he's the "establishment" candidate in the running. This has been a very strange year.

Speaking of strange years, we won't have Jeb:( to kick around anymore. I still can't believe he never caught the Completely Sane and Honest Ben Carson in the weekly national polling average even once, because Carson shows every sign of being a complete non-factor in every upcoming race. Then again, Jeb:( was also a non-factor.

In my evaluation of the Democrats, I've already prepared people for Hillary's inevitability, so am I ready to say the same about Trump? I should be, but honestly, the Republican race is a species I've never seen before, so I can't be sure which way things will jump. I'm getting the strong feeling that nothing that comes out of Trump's mouth can kill him with the Republican base right now, unless he turns 180 degrees from his most popular positions, like admitting there won't be a wall on the Mexican border and he has no way of getting Mexico to pay for it.

So what can kill Trump? Well, I'm not completely sure what happens as Kasich and Carson fade away. I don't think Cruz or Rubio have the talent at campaigning to beat the Teflon Donald, but once again, this is a new species of contest to me, which makes me much less confident to say I know which way the numbers are going.

Let me say this for the record. This isn't the Tea Party anymore. This is the Meth and Heroin Party. (Looking online, that combination is called either Methball or Screwball.) These are the white people who are seeing first hand the worsening situation for white folks in the areas of the country where the economy has gone to shit, who are living with the increasing death rates for middle aged whites noted in the paper by Deaton and Case. It's a mistake to think they are unable to see Trump is just making stuff up as he goes along, it's that they want to believe so bad, they make Mulder look like Scully. They also get a daily dose of news and opinion from talk radio and the Internet that is way more toxic than Fox News, people now considered unfit for TV like Glenn Beck, Michael Savage and Alex Jones. Every time I hear Jones, I am amazed he has an audience and it is terrifying that people running for president would appear on his show. It's harder for me to explain than the popularity of some of the stranger TV and radio preachers like Dr. Gene Scott or Harold Camping.

In short, this is some fucked up shit and I'm trying to make sense of it. By my own standards, I am not succeeding yet.

So February winds down with two contests that appear to have exactly zero drama, and then it's Super Tuesday. This is going to be a crazy amount to data to collect and I'm not even sure of the best way to present it. Stay tuned to see what clever (or not so clever) method I use to make sense of the least sensible election I have ever seen.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Polls for today's contests: The Republicans in South Carolina, The Democrats in Nevada

The GOP: Polling companies have been working hard getting numbers for today's primary in South Carolina, the first big test after New Hampshire for the Republicans. There have been eighteen polls in the past ten days and while there have definitely been outliers, the general trend agrees on this rough picture.

1. Trump should win. If anyone gets within ten percentage points, it should be counted as a moral victory.

2. Rubio and Cruz are in a tough battle for second. The only way this race can be considered an upset is if one of them is ten percentage points higher than the other.

3. Kasich and Jeb:( are in the hunt for the fourth and fifth spots.

4. The Completely Sane and Honest Ben Carson should be a non-factor in sixth.

Here are the numbers Nate Silver tweeted last night.

Trump 31
Rubio 20
Cruz 20
Jeb:( 11
Kasich 9
Carson 8

Here's my best guess.

Trump 36
Rubio 19
Cruz 19
Jeb:( 10
Kasich 10
Carson 7

 Basically, I'm bullish on Trump in comparison to Silver's numbers and ever so slightly bearish on everybody else. If I have a slight advantage here, my numbers add up to 100 and his add up to 99.

The Dems: No chart for the Democratic caucus because there were a total of three polls this month, which is a pathetic number. Worse than that, one of the three polls is from Gravis Marketing, a company in which I have no faith whatsoever.

Here's what the three polls say: It's a dead heat, Hillary leads by a point, Hillary leads by six points. The last numbers are from Gravis.

My best guess is it will be close and it can't be considered a real upset in either direction unless the gap is more than five points. If it's Hillary by five or more, I will publicly apologize to Gravis Marketing and I will still continue to mistrust them.

Back with the post-mortem tomorrow.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The national polls:
Second week of February

 The GOP: We are in the midst of a polling drought after the New Hampshire results. The Republican race was polled only four times this past week and the Democrats only three.

Can these numbers be trusted? I would say the numbers at the top are currently correct. Trump has a big lead, Cruz is in second and Rubio has been damaged by his debate performance from before New Hampshire.

On the other hand, the number below None of the Above are a mess. Ben Carson has been ahead of Bush and Kasich for months, and that was his result in Iowa, but he was a complete non-factor in New Hampshire and is not above None of the Above in South Carolina. He says South Carolina will be a decision point. Right now, I'd say we won't have The Completely Sane and Honest Ben Carson to kick around anymore after Saturday.
The Dems: The average of three polls is not something I'm willing to call a trend. Sanders is now as close nationally as he has ever been, but if you see that sudden peak for Hillary at the end of November, that was a three poll week as well.

With any luck, there will be more numbers to work with next weekend. I'll be back next Saturday, certainly with an update on South Carolina for the Republicans, hopefully with some reliable numbers on the Nevada caucuses for the Democrats.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

South Carolina GOP polling

Usually, my posts have information from both primary races, but for the rest of February, we have the situation that the two parties will not be holding their contests on the same day in either South Carolina or Nevada. The GOP has their South Carolina primary next Saturday and the Democrats caucus in Nevada that same day. There has only been one poll this month in Nevada - a Republican poll that shows Sanders and Clinton tied - so I will wait until there are at least two polls that can be averaged.

There has been a lot more polling of the Republican race in South Carolina, and right now the news looks good for Trump. He doesn't look to be in a tough race until Super Tuesday, and in a five-way race, he's going to be tough to beat. Carson is technically the sixth guy in the race and he's still in fourth place in national polls, but in states that are soon to make up their minds, the voters show that they know he's on a book tour, not a presidential campaign. He won't quit until Armstrong Williams thinks there is no profit in the continued book tour, but he does not look like a factor anywhere.

As I said, Carson is still in fourth place in national polls, but Bush and Kasich have overtaken him in South Carolina, much the same way they were in the race for second in New Hampshire. The four also-rans are taking more shots at each other than they take at Trump, and with the Supreme Court now front and center, it would be a great time for other GOP candidates to take a few shots at Trump's favorite judge, his older sister Maryanne Trump Berry, who sits on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and has a strong pro-choice record in her decisions. This sounds like a perfect question for push polling, the kind of rat-fucking at which Karl Rove excels. The thing is, this story is 100% true, so it doesn't have to be a whisper campaign. The opposition research teams for his opponents really screwed the pooch in last night's debate.

Tomorrow: the national polls for both parties.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The New Hampshire Primary:
Warming up the leftovers

My work schedule did not allow me time to discuss the numbers earlier today, but waiting nearly 24 hours after the tabulations has some advantages.

The Democrats: Bernie's win was about the size the polls expected, but folks watching the upcoming primaries suggest that his win was not big enough.  I'm not going to nitpick numbers with these folks, but I do expect some momentum for Sanders after New Hampshire. Hillary has problems of her own, most notably the investigation of the e-mail server stuff, so I certainly can't say it's a lock for either candidate. The national polls on average say Hillary is still the favorite, but the next few weeks will tell how much of a favorite.

The GOP: Let's review some of the stuff I though would be surprises in my preview on Monday.

Trump's margin of victory: Completely in line with what was predicted by the polls when you factor out the none of the above.

No more than a five point spread between second and fifth: Kasich is 5.2% above Rubio, so that's a mild surprise.

Jeb:( in fifth, Christie in sixth: Bush actually caught and passed Rubio, which is a real surprise. The polls after the debate did not give a clue to how much the dissatisfaction with Rubio's debate performance would matter, and I know a lot of people who think this is his doom.  I'm not going there just yet, but a few weeks of sinking polls and bad performances in the rest of the February contests in South Carolina and Nevada should sink him.

Let's also look at some non-surprises that count as news.

Fiorina and Christie call it quits: Christie had promised he would go to South Carolina no matter what happened in New Hampshire, but he's lied before. While neither of them really ever had a chance, they do represent about six points now up for grabs.  I expect that will help the Establishment Trio - Kasich, Jeb:( and Rubio - more than it will help the Nihilist Twins, Trump and Cruz. Carson is only holding on because someone think he can still make money on his book tour by being in the debates.  It should also be noted he is still in fourth place in the national polls, but given his stank performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, that just can't last.

Scrutiny for Kasich: To call Kasich a moderate is to declare words no longer have meanings, but of the Establishment Trio, he's the one that hasn't shown disastrous campaigning skills.  This may only be due to his lack of exposure. It's a given that lack of exposure ends as of yesterday.

There are a lot of factors now, more than I can sort out as a hobbyist. A lot of pundits now think Trump is inevitable. I will reserve judgment on that. A lot of people think Kasich is doomed because he has so little money. That is a very minor problem in the post Citizens United era. All he needs is one billionaire who has had enough with Rubio or Jeb:( and his money problems are a thing of the past. I will say that Trump losing in February in South Carolina or Nevada will be real trouble for his campaign, and my crystal ball is currently on the fritz when trying to look as far ahead as Super Tuesday.

My view is that no one should buy any champagne yet. It's still a long slog and the favorites are nowhere near inevitable yet.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The New Hampshire polls:
Final post before tomorrow's election

 The GOP: If the polls are anywhere near accurate, both the Republican and Democratic races for first place will have no drama and the media will have to invent any drama out of whole cloth. On the other hand, the race for second and the allocation of delegates in the Republican primary could have some drama.

Political junkies such as myself are still flapping our gums about Rubio's bad showing at the weekend's debate, but so far the tracking polls are not showing any significant downward movement on his part. While this average of polls puts him in second, it wouldn't really be an upset if either Kasich or Cruz catches Rubio. As long the spread between second and fourth is no more than five points and if all of them are over 10%, no one can claim victory. That said, if Kasich wins second, the press will pay him much more attention than they have so far.

While Jeb:( averages less than 10% this month, the size of the None of the Above gives him a good chance to be over the threshold if those people stay home or their votes break just about evenly, which means he'll get some delegates. It will definitely be an interesting story if he is not fifth, either by passing one of the people above him or getting caught by Chris Christie, who peaked in December then went right back into the invisible crowd.

As for moral victories, if the second place candidate is within ten points of Trump, that won't be good news for America's Favorite Birther™, whose national poll numbers slipped after his second place showing in Iowa last week.

The Dems: Here it is ALL expectation games. If Bernie wins by 20% or so, any positive spin from the Clinton is just hooey. I would set a 15% loss for Hilary as the Beat Expectations threshold, and a 25% win by Sanders brings us into the ass-whuppin' territory.

Wednesday: back with the post-mortem.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The national polls:
First week of February

The Dems: As usual, outlier polls grab headlines, and the Quinnipiac poll from this week showing a two point lead for Clinton got some serious buzz.

This is why I like looking at the average during the primaries and the median during the general.

The sharp peaks and valleys in this poll are almost entirely due to weeks with very few polls to sample. The real story is a steady improvement for Sanders since mid-October and a slight drop in Hillary's numbers over roughly the same time period. The thing that makes me wonder is the steadiness of the None of the Above at about 10%. This can either mean lazy pollsters or possibly some malaise in the Democratic base.

The GOP:  One of the problems with reporting on polling weekly is lagging breaking news events like Rubio's robotic performance in last night's debate. I get my polling data from two sites, the left leaning Pollster run by Huffington Post and the right leaning Real Clear Politics site. It is not their fault that every poll is from before the debate. We will have some idea in the polling from New Hampshire which I will report tomorrow whether Rubio will see a slip or his main attacker Christie will climb.

The story of the polls this week before the Saturday fracas was Trump losing Iowa and Rubio making a strong third place showing. Trump's number took their worst plunge since late November, and the previous drop can be attributed to small sample size. With Trump losing and Ted 'The Snake' Cruz and Rubio gaining, this may become a real three man race. My friend Jodi, who has a stronger constitution than I do, tells me Limbaugh is now attacking Trump. Rush isn't the superstar he once was, but it does say there are chinks in The Donald's armor. It's pretty much a given he will have a strong showing in New Hampshire this Tuesday, so we will see how his numbers change.
 What I said about the None of the Above vote for the Democrats goes double for the Republicans. It's either a sign of dissatisfaction or a sign of lazy polling. Since the Democrats have only two candidates left, dissatisfaction is to be expected. Given how many choice the Republican voters have left, their None of the Above vote hovering at about 10% is a worse sign.

Tomorrow: The last report on the New Hampshire polls.  

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Iowa caucus post-mortem

The Dems: Hillary won! Bernie beat expectations! Bullshit happened at caucus sites!

I am sure at least two of those things are true. The most interesting take I heard from another poll aggregator, Professor Sam Wang of Princeton, is that Bernie needed to win by at least ten to be viable. I'm not sure I agree Iowa has that much effect on the rest of the races, but I respect Wang and we will see how this plays out.

I'd also like to give O'Malley props for dropping out. There are so many hopeless candidates still walking around with no clue that they are dead meat. 

The effect on New Hampshire: Sanders has a big lead and I don't see Clinton spinning this into anything like the kind of positive story she needs to move forward there. South Carolina and Nevada are where she needs to do well.

The GOP: Cruz won! Rubio beat expectations! Trump is an old ugly loser!

I am sure that all of those statements are true. By the way I counted the average of the pools from the last week, only Cruz and Rubio did better than expected - Cruz by about 3 points and Rubio by a remarkable 8 - and everyone else did worse.

For the GOP, winning Iowa is no predictor of getting the nomination or winning the presidency. The guy who did both is George W. Bush in 2000. Reagan lost Iowa in 1980 to George H.W. Bush and Bush lost to Dole in 1988. As for just winning the nomination and not winning the presidency, Dole won in 1996 and Romney tied Santorum (?!) in 2008.

If I'm going to give props to O'Malley, it's only fair I do the same for Huckabee. A concession speech that includes the sentence "the voters are sick of me" get high marks for honesty. He put out a campaign video that used parody lyrics of Adele's Hello and people who disagree with him politically excoriated it, but I'd like to say it was an honest comment on how exhausting it must be to campaign when everything is going nowhere. You are literally out in the cold giving it your all and getting so little back can't be fun.

The effect on New Hampshire: Just like on the Democratic side, I would be surprised if this changes things much. Trump has a big lead and the folks in the Granite State are historically unmoved by the results from Iowa. From my point of view, the big story is who finishes above 10%. The two ways I would spin it are:

1. If New Hampshire isn't a hy-uge win for Trump, somewhere in the neighborhood of a 20% lead over second place, it's a loss. Anyone who gets under 10% in New Hampshire has to considered quitting very seriously.

Next week, we start looking at Nevada and South Carolina. The road show moves on.

Monday, February 1, 2016

New Hampshire polls: The last week of January

The Dems: The story on this side is simple. It's a two-person race and Sanders appears to be pulling away. His median lead in all January polls is 11 points and that increases to 16 points when looking at the five polls in the last week. I'm sure the press will play down a victory in New Hampshire for Bernie, but it looks like it will be a comfortable win a week out.

The GOP: As I said last week, the drama in New Hampshire is not for first place, but for finishing over 10%, the threshold for delegates. I Apologize for how difficult it is to read the log jam for second place, but right now its Kasich at 11.9% and Cruz and Rubio tied at 11.6%.

Numbers I think are more relevant is how many times in January these five candidates polled above 10%, which tells a slightly different story. Each of the five candidates will be list with two numbers, the percent of the polls in January where their numbers were over 10%, and the same question, but only taking into account the polls in the past week.

Ted 'The Snake' Cruz: 79% for the month, 80% past week
Marco Rubio: 71% for the month, 40% past week
John Kasich: 64% for the month, 60% past week
Jeb:(: 29% for the month, 40% past week
Chris Christie: 29% for the month, 0% past week

These numbers would suggest Ted 'The Snake' Cruz is most likely to stay over the 10% threshold and Chris Christie is in serious trouble. We have one more week of polls before votes are cast on the 9th, so I will have another update next week.

Tomorrow: post-mortem in Iowa!