Sunday, July 31, 2016

Clinton vs. Trump.
31 July 2016,
100 days from the election

Hello, friends, family and strangers. Welcome to the first of the weekly reports on the 2016 presidential electoral college race between Hillary R. Clinton and Donald J. Trump. I include strangers because I am making an effort on social media - notably Twitter and Facebook - to get this blog out to as many people as possible because the most respected name in poll aggregation, Nate Silver, is producing something called a "now-cast" that says the race for the presidency is close.

My numbers say it isn't. My numbers do not claim to be predictor of the election, only a snapshot of what the polls say today. Even so, what is being reported by Nate Silver amounts to mathematical malpractice and people need to know not all aggregators agree with him.

If you are a stranger, your first question should be: Who the hell is this guy?

I'm the guy who beat Nate Silver in 2008 and beat him again in 2012

If I had some small disagreement with Silver's numbers, I might send him snide messages on Twitter, which he would likely ignore. The thing is, my numbers don't say a small difference. He said Trump was leading early this week and after the convention he now says it's 51%-49% for Clinton.

To repeat, I don't call my numbers a prediction, just a snapshot of what polls say now.

The snapshot says 99% to 1% for Clinton.

Let me quote Glengarry Glen Ross.

"You think I am fucking with you? I am not fucking with you."

We are 100 days away from the election and it feels like 100 years in purgatory. Having someone you trust telling you to worry makes it worse.

I'm here to say I'm as good as Nate Silver is (okay, just a little better) and right now he is peddling crap just as stinky as Ron Fournier, Howard Kurtz or Mark Halperin.

Let's go to the numbers, shall we?

The current count: 
Clinton 313
Trump 207
Toss-up 18 

In my system, only 50%-50% counts as a toss-up.

You might notice that Trump's red line is trending upward and Clinton's blue line is trending downward.

It is worrying, but not distressing.

Here is how we get to this state of affairs. These numbers will explain my lack of distress.

Solid Trump (more than 95% Confidence of Victory [CoV]): ND WY OK ID WV KY AL NE KS TN LA SD MO AR NH TX AK MT MS SC IN 
Total: 162
Leaning Trump (between 50% and 95% CoV for Trump): AZ GA IA NV UT
Total: 45
Toss-up (exactly 50% CoV): OH 
Total: 18
Leaning Clinton (between 50% and 95% for Clinton): FL OR WI
Total: 46
Solid Clinton (more than 95% CoV for Clinton): MA DC HI CA VT IL RI MD NY NJ WA DE CO NM PA CT VA NC MN ME MI
Total: 267

The number that explains my current relative lack of distress: 267 Solid Clinton electoral votes. Yes, that's 267 out of a necessary 270. If she holds onto the stuff where she looks very good right now and wins Oregon or Wisconsin, she's the next president. Obama won both those states comfortably, and there are many other possible paths with nice noticeable odds, paths with over a 1% chance of happening. Trump's best single path to victory is currently at 0.05%.

For people who like to gamble, that path is now at 1 chance in 2,000.

The numbers that still give me distress: I wish this was a blow-out that would repudiate Trumpism for several elections to come. I don't think Clinton can get to 400 electoral votes, but over 350 is in the realm of possibility and that would be good. Under 300 would be a bad thing.

A blowout may not be needed to show all the cracks in the GOP coalition. We could see some very messed up stuff for them even before November.

And now the numbers that might make anyone to the left of Mitch McConnell sleep better this week.

Current probability of victory if the election were held today:

Clinton 98.9%
Trump 1.1%

Feel any better, my left leaning friends? If so I'm glad. I live to serve.

To get an idea historically, Trump is in much worse shape right now than McCain or Romney were after the conventions were over. One advantage both the last two Republican nominees had was when it came to battleground states, they weren't playing defense. States didn't lean Republican, they were almost all Solid Republican, even the most contentious having a 95% Confidence of Victory for the GOP or better, most well over 99% CoV. They just had to steal several states from Obama, much easier said than done. Trump not only has to steal, he has to worry about states that were solidly Republican in the last few electoral contests. Playing defense in Utah and Georgia really surprises me, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them go back to Solidly Trump, but right now the deal has not been closed. 

Once again, this is a snapshot and not a prediction. If you look around and think Trump is running a fucked-up campaign, here's some confirmation. The polls are saying most Americans agree with you.

To reiterate, if I pretty much agreed with Nate Silver's numbers, I wouldn't be trying to get this out to a larger audience. But we don't agree and I'm better than he is, based on the evidence from 2008 and 2012.

I'm a nerd and I'm a geezer, so let me quote The Guns of Will Sonnett.

"No brag, just fact."

(Note: Thanks to Ellis Weiner for his unpaid copy editing.)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Clinton vs. Trump:
The pre-convention landscape

In previous years, I made the assumption that people aren't paying much attention until after the conventions and are not fully committed until after Labor Day. But looking at my Twitter and Facebook feeds, this assumption doesn't hold up. It is a tired cliche to call the current presidential election "the most important of our lifetime", but we really do have a stark contrast between the candidates, and the inclusion of Donald Trump makes this easily the weirdest election I have seen personally, which takes us back to 1968.

My personal feelings: I am definitely anti-Trump and not keenly pro-Hillary. I know more than a few people on the left that take every negative view of Clinton as gospel, and that makes me wonder about her chances, but my training is as a mathematician. I would rather speak with data available to back up my positions rather than anecdote or even a well thought out think piece. I certainly read as much as I can get my hands on about the election, but I'm putting the numbers forward in these posts.

How good are the numbers? They are getting better. I now have polls from 26 states in May, June and July, the months when the presumptive nominees have been clear. Of course, I'd like to have some polling in all 51 contests being held in the Electoral College, but there are some where prior elections and demographics are good enough to be confident of the outcome. Donald Trump is not going to win the District of Columbia, and Hillary Clinton should not rely on electoral votes from North or South Dakota, just to give a few examples.

Any surprises so far? Yes. If all polls are weighted equally, Oregon and Utah could be battlegrounds. Utah as a battleground would be horrendous news for the Republicans and Battleground Oregon would be bad news for the Democrats.

Do you give all polls equal weight? If they are current and they ask respondents if they are registered to vote, yes I do. I've done poll aggregation in four presidential elections now, and if I see a brand name I don't know, I'm wary, but I still count the numbers. If the unknown pollster identifies as Republican, I'm more disgusted than wary, but I still count them. In 2008 and 2012, the Republican pollsters were generally so far off from the truth, their clients should have had a case to sue for fraud. Oregon is a battleground due to only having two polls and one of them is from an off-brand Republican outfit.

What do you count as "battleground" states? That will change from post to post. When a state has a Confidence of Victory number for the leader between 50% to 60%, that is a clear battleground. If the number is over 60% and under 90%, I consider that to be "leaning" and over 90% is solid.

Where does that put us right now? Ah, good now we get to the numbers.

Total electoral votes in Solidly Trump: 158

Leaning Trump: GA AZ
Total electoral votes in Leaning Trump: 27 (grand total:185)

Battleground favoring Trump: IA UT
Total electoral votes in Battleground Trump: 12 (grand total:197)

Toss-up state: OH
Electoral in Toss-up state: 18

Total electoral votes in Solidly Clinton: 257

Leaning Clinton: NH OR PA
Total electoral votes in Leaning Clinton: 31 (grand total: 288)

Battleground favoring Clinton: NV FL
Total electoral votes in Battleground Clinton: 35 (grand total: 323)

Current totals: Clinton 323, Trump 197, Toss-up 18
Totals from last post: Clinton 336, Trump 187, Toss-up 15
Comparison to 2012: Obama 332, Romney 206

Okay, back to regular size font not in bold. Trump has had a positive couple weeks, but he still hasn't caught up with Romney's numbers from 2008, which means he is still losing and losing by a lot.

Things can change. If they couldn't change, I wouldn't be writing this blog. Trump is currently telegraphing a strategy of focusing on New York and California, which are currently extreme long shots and are demographically stacked against him. The "easiest" path for Trump is to win all his Solid and Leaning States, hold on to Iowa and Utah, take Ohio from the toss-up and score what are now upsets in Nevada, Florida and Pennsylvania to get to 270 exactly. Oregon could help by replacing another state with 6 or 7 electoral votes.

Currently, Nate Silver is giving Trump a 35% chance of winning the election. Looking at most likely paths, I would put that number at less than 5% currently, but I don't put much stock in such numbers so far out from Election Day. 

Mr. Silver is better known than I am, but he's not better at this. I got more stuff right than he did in both 2008 and 2012. The best known poll aggregator I trust is Sam Wang at Princeton. Here is a link to his website.

Back at the end of July when both conventions will be history.