Thursday, March 31, 2016

Preview of April

The GOP: The Democratic race is much closer than the Republican, but the Republicans have winner take all races in many states while the Democrats do not. April has three such high stakes contests, Wisconsin's 42 delegates being decided this Tuesday and winner take all primaries in Delaware (16 delegates) and Maryland (38 delegates) three weeks later on the 26th. There are also two big states, New York on April 19th for 95 delegates and Pennsylvania on the 26th for 71 delegates. Pennsylvania can be winner take all, but I do not know what the threshold for that is.

Recent polling in Wisconsin favors Ted "The Snake" Cruz. There are four polls from late this month and Cruz leads in three, while Trump is the favorite in the other. The most interesting progression in he polls is from the Marquette Law School poll, which has polled the state six times since last August. Here are the leader and second place candidates in those polls.

August 2015: Walker 25, Carson 13
September 2015: Trump 20, Rubio 20
November 2015: Carson 22, Rubio 19, Trump 19
January 2016: Trump 24, Rubio 18
February 2016: Trump 30, Rubio 20
March 2016: Cruz 40, Trump 30

I should note that Cruz was in third place in the earlier polls this year, but the numbers look like nearly all of Rubio's support switched over to Cruz when Rubio quit.

The Dems: There are also four polls from late March dealing with the Wisconsin race. Bernie Sanders leads in three and Hillary Clinton leads in the other. All the Democratic races are proportional, so unless his margin of victory is much larger than it currently looks at around 5 points, he will gain some press and momentum but precious few delegates. After that, the Democrats have a caucus in Wyoming on the 9th, a style contest that usually favors Sanders, then the big prize of New York on the same date as the Republican contest, April 19th.

I will report again before the New York contest.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Thoughts on March 15

I call my system Confidence of Victory. I say the Pollster website from Huffington Post use Confidence of Lead, and I wish I had thought of that first. The thing is I am not at all confident of predictions made off of polls in primaries, so I can't attach numbers to anything tomorrow, but I get still give a basic sketch of each situation, starting with the big winner-take-all contest on the GOP side.

Florida: If the polls can be trusted, and it would take a Michigan level upset for them to be wrong, Trump has smacked down Rubio just as hard as he smacked down Jeb:( earlier this year. Nearly all the polls say Trump will get over 40% of the votes while Rubio will end up with less than 30%. If you have seen Rubio on the stump this last week, it looks like he talked to his numbers guys and he believed them.

Rubio the Savior is going down in the books with Lieberman's Joe-mentum, a truly sad showing.

Ohio: The polls say Kasich is a much better favorite son than Rubio, and the race for first in Ohio could go either way, Kasich or Trump. Sam Wang, the poll aggregator I trust most, says losing Ohio helps Trump because it could keep Kasich in the game longer, diluting the anti-Trump vote. if Kasich wins then drops out immediately, then Trump's path to the first ballot gets much murkier.

Illinois: The polling is very spotty, but Trump appears to have an advantage over Cruz. What the reaction from Trump voters to all the craziness there this month is anybody's guess, but I agree with the folks that say all publicity is good publicity for Trump, at least in the primaries.

The Democrats:  No winner take all contests tomorrow on the Democratic side, so wins and losses will not be as dramatic. I would not be surprised by a Sanders victory in either Illinois or Missouri. Florida looks like a lock for Clinton and if Sanders wins Ohio, that would be considered an upset.

Back on Wednesday with post mortem.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Early March: The national polls

I took a week off after Super Tuesday, mainly because I scheduled four midterms for a single week. I also got the feeling there wasn't much left to either race, but Sanders' win in Michigan and the escalating violence at Trump rallies makes me think I wrote off the nominations too soon.

The GOP: Where did Carson's support go? Right now, it looks like it went to Cruz and maybe Kasich, who finally polls above the None of the Above nationally.  As we will see tomorrow, the polls say he is in contention to win the all or nothing primary in Ohio.

As for Rubio, the national polls make him look stronger than he actually is. While Kasich could be a favorite son in Ohio, all the polls show Trump lapping the field in winner take all Florida.

I'm pretty sure we will have no more than three candidates before the next time I report, possibly only two. I really can't say who will be favored when it gets down to Trump vs. Cruz, even though now the ratio of support for Trump is an impressive 3:2. That would mean he would lead 60% to 40% if all the folks who supported other candidates split evenly, but I don't think that's the situation. For political junkies like me, we've already made up our minds, but a lot of the general public know how they feel about Trump and maybe Clinton, but the rest of the candidates are a blur. I will now go on the record saying Trump's support is not going to get to 50% in the average of national polls on the GOP side. He might lead Cruz, but I don't think he will lead Cruz + None of the Above combined.
The Dems: And then there is the Democratic race. A lot of smart people said Sanders' early victories were not big enough to move forward to actually passing Clinton, but then Michigan happened. No smart person said Sanders could win Michigan or even make it close, because smart people rely on data they can trust, and no data said it was close.

Let me be clear. The complete systemic failure of all polling in Michigan does not mean all polls are complete crap. Primary contests can be very changeable, unlike the general election, where the bombardment of data for months tend to ossify people's positions. But right now, I'm not assuming much when polls put Clinton in the lead, especially if the lead is less than 5 points.

Tomorrow, the reports on the biggest races in both parties on Tuesday, especially the winner take all races in Ohio, Florida and Missouri.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Super Tuesday post mortem: The GOP

If I haven't admitted it before, I don't put much stock in polls being able to predict races in the primaries. Compared to the general election, where the number of polls is much higher and the predictive value much greater, numbers from primary polls are nearly useless because of two factors, small sample size of polls and a phenomenon I call Voter Churn. By the time November rolls around, the vast majority of people have made up their minds and big swings away from the mean or median polls are damned rare. But in primary season, a lot of people voting only started paying attention a few weeks before and voter loyalty is much lower. For that reason, I'm going to ignore the predictive value of the polls last night and instead look at the averages of the candidates' state averages. I do this because just taking the total votes cast overstates the strength of Ted "The Snake" Cruz due to his big win in the biggest state of Super Tuesday, Texas.  So here is the average of all states with primaries. (I ignore caucus states and so should you, as they are awful predictors of future success.)

Average of state percentages
Trump 36.4%
Cruz 23.6%
Rubio 22.0%
Kasich 9.8% 
Carson 5.9%
Others 2.3%

Here are my top lukewarm takes from these numbers.

1. Kasich can be proud of finally passing Carson before Carson finally quits.  The national polls still had Carson in fourth, and that's only because they poll people who really are paying attention yet.

2. Kasich should hold his head high and fade into oblivion, throwing his support to Rubio. Seriously, I do not understand why he hasn't quit yet. He had his alleged moment in the sun and he didn't get any warmer.

3. Where will the support for Carson go? I honestly have no idea. My guess is it helps Cruz first, Trump second and Rubio third, but this just a guess, and I hate guessing with no real numbers to back me up. It could easily be Trump first and Cruz second.

4. The Republican establishment are buying liquor in bulk. The old schoolers in the GOP hate Cruz more than Trump, but both of them are terrifying to the cocktail party crowd in the nicer suburbs of our dysfunctional capitol. Those two guys got 60% of the total vote and the GOP establishment is now making up its collective mind about which one they hate the least.

5. Cruz is worse for the GOP than Trump. On the East Coast, Cruz got beat like a red-headed stepchild. There are plenty of Republicans who will to use the power of the Senate to block aid to stricken areas, but Cruz does it the most. For a Democrat, running against Cruz is a dream.

6. Rubio isn't looking any better right now. There are a lot more caucuses than primaries over the next week or so, which means more chance for surprises, but in the primaries soon to come, Rubio only looks kinda sorta good in Puerto Rico. Watch Trump make fun of that win if it comes.

Tomorrow: a quick look at the Democrats on Super Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The GOP: End of February and Super Tuesday

There was a lot of talk of what the ceiling is for Donald Trump, which might be around 40%. I am not convinced. The thing that does look possible is Cruz has a ceiling of around 20%, at least nationally. But these national numbers aren't great indicator of what happens at the state level.

Tonight, we will see a LOT of state level action.

Here are the races in order of information available, from least to greatest.

No polls at all in February: The caucus races got bupkiss in terms of coverage: American Samoa, Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, Wyoming. If Trump loses any of these races, that's a strong talking point for anyone who beats him.

Just one poll: For me, just one poll is less reliable than no polls at all, and Arkansas's one early warning says Cruz has a lead. Maybe like Sanders, he has some regional appeal. If Cruz can't win Arkansas, it's a very bad sign for him. The other one poll states are Vermont and Tennessee, which both have double digit leads for Trump.

Enough polls to paint a fair picture: Texas shows a lead for Cruz, somewhere in the high single digits, say 7% to 9%. In Oklahoma, Trump should win by 10 or so.

Everywhere else: Trump should win the rest of the states going away. He appears to have about a 20 point lead in Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Virginia.

For John Kasich, his great hope is to beat Ben Carson everywhere. Catching up to Cruz or Rubio in any race tonight is a long shot. I would not be surprised to see him suspend his campaign after tonight. As for Carson, it all depends on the fraudsters running his book tour. If they think there's still a positive return on investment, his "candidacy: will continue.  

When it comes to the stages of grief, I'm hovering between depression and acceptance over Trump's apparent inevitability now. I'm heartened to see his negatives so high in the general election, but concerned when I remember how high his negatives were among Republicans when this all started. It's my view that whatever negatives Clinton has, she is a much tougher and more seasoned campaigner than anyone Trump faced on the GOP side, and I wouldn't be surprised to see big right-wing money donors do hit pieces on Trump before this thing is well and truly over.

But barring a miracle, the GOP nomination race is all over but the sobbing.