Super Tuesday: What does it mean for the Democratic Primary?

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As you know, I developed a simple model for projecting future primary outcomes in the Democratic party. This model is based on the ethnic mix in each state, among Democratic Party voters. The model attributes a likely voting choice to theoretical primary goers or causers based on previous behavior by ethnicity. Originally I made two models, one using numbers that the Clinton campaign was banking on, and one using numbers that the Sanders campaign was banking on.

The results of the Super Tuesday primaries demonstrated that the Sanders-favoring model does not predict primary outcomes. Those same results showed that the Clinton-favoring model worked better. But the numbers also indicated that the Clinton favoring model estimates Clinton’s ultimate delegate take somewhat inaccurately.

I adjusted the model parameter so the model now matches reality for a subset of the primaries that have already happened to within five percent. The model still slightly favors Clinton, but not by much. The subset of primaries includes only the US states (not territories, where I don’t expect the ethnic mix approach to work at all) and excludes states with a strong favorite son effect. This therefore excludes New Hampshire and Vermont. Due to oddities in the Texas delegate system, the adjustment was also made by excluding Texas, though the model results for Texas match very well proportionately.

(Note: Using only the subset of states, the model predicts previously held primaries and caucuses to within less than two tenths of a percent).

The new model now only has one version, which as noted matches primaries so far very well. While there is a somewhat southern bias in the set of primaries that have been carried out so far, that bias is probably not important. I have a fairly high level of confidence in the model.

The result is best seen in this graphic, which shows the cumulative delegate count of committed delegates in US states. So this excludes non-committed delegates (known as “Super Delegates”) and it excludes territories and other non-states (but it does include DC, because DC is like a state).

Democratic_Primaries_2016_Projections_After_Super_Tuesday

Assuming a large proportion of the Democratic Party’s uncommitted delegates support Clinton, Clinton will probably achieve the necessary number of delegates to lock the nomination either on the 19th of April with the New York primary, or on the 26th of April, with the Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island primaries.

There are two phases of primaries coming up. First we have a series of weeks with only one or two primaries happening at once, with a total of 300 committed delegates (130 from Michigan). Then we have what is effectively Return of Super Tuesday, with 691 committed delegates, including Florida with 214. For Sanders to regain traction, he has to do well in some of these big states. In particular, Sanders has to outperform the model in Michigan, Florida, Illinois and possibly North Carolina and Ohio.

When we look at many of these states, the model seems to fit very well with the available polling data, except in cases where the polls suggest a stronger outcome for Clinton. The following table compares the model projections with estimates of the delegate split based on polls. All delegates are assumed to be awarded (among the committed delegates only) and the polling data is not very dense and in some cases not too recent, so this is a very rough estimate.

Democratic_Primary_After_Super_Tuesday_Projections_Polls

Prior to Super Tuesday, the then-current version of this model projected results that conformed closely with polls. For most states, the outcome of the actual voting matched the projections and the polls pretty well, except in a couple of places. Now, the refined model matches polling data even more closely, but the polling data is not necessarily to be trusted because there has not been enough polling. (I avoided comparisons with really old polls which are entirely useless).

Clinton’s path to the nomination is clear. Sanders’ path to the nomination requires something to change, and to change dramatically and quickly.

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36 thoughts on “Super Tuesday: What does it mean for the Democratic Primary?

  1. I agree with your analysis, and like your model very much. As a progressive and a Sanders supporter, I am, however, saddened by a couple of facts.

    1 – Sanders enjoys a higher favorability rating among ALL voters than Clinton, which is often a fair indicator of ultimate success if that rating holds.

    2 – In General election head-to-head polling among ALL voters, Sanders typically achieves better results against any GOP opponent than Clinton by fair margins. In some cases, he provides the needed margin to win, whereas Clinton loses narrowly.

    3 – Sanders is stronger with Independents than Clinton is, and Sanders provides a conduit away from becoming Trump voters (I am not commenting on the psychology of this decidedly weird situation, only on the apparent math).

    In choosing their “favorite” candidate as the nominee, the Democrats are also choosing the mathematically weaker and arguably less able of the two contenders when gauged among the overall voting populace.

    I am sad, but not yet resigned.

  2. Bruce, the differences are there but not vast, and this is the kind of thing that changes a lot once there is a nominee. Your point 3 is interesting, and odd, and psychologically disturbing. I think, and this is a guess but a semi-educated guess, that Trump did less well in Minnesota than he might have because some of those Trump supporters decided to caucus with the DFL for Bernie.

  3. #1
    “Sanders provides a conduit away from becoming Trump voters…”

    This may be wishful thinking. The evidence I’ve seen shows that very few Trump supporters would vote for Sanders and visa versa.

  4. “1 – Sanders enjoys a higher favorability rating among ALL voters than Clinton, which is often a fair indicator of ultimate success if that rating holds.”

    Polls I’ve seen show that the people polled overwhelmingly distrust Ms Clinton.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/189524/dishonest-socialist-lead-reactions-dems.aspx?g_source=Election%202016&g_medium=newsfeed&g_campaign=tiles

    But then, USA citizens still believe communism is “socialism,” judging by the words used to describe Sanders.

    In the previous election the approval rating of Congress was what— 9%? Yet about 92% were re-elected. That’s spooky.

  5. I refer everyone to the running poll of polls by RealClearPolitics – in every case, Sanders is stronger in head-to-heads in November. In choosing Clinton, with her questionable fave ratings (whether you believe she is untrustworthy or not), I believe that the Dems are choosing the weaker candidate out of party loyalty. BTW – my comment about a conduit away from Trump is a guess on my part, not a fact, based in part on what *I* have seen…a lot of so-called “Bernie Bros” say if Hillary wins, they’ll switch to Trump. Again, I do not get the psych on this one.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/pres_general/

  6. With respect to independents:

    There are no independents.

    Look at the results for Oklahoma. Look at the results for Massachusetts.

    As for polls: Polls become relevant after the conventions, not before. Apart from the opinion of the actual experts on polling, if you look at some of the numbers you see that they are irrational/contradictory at this point– Trump wins among Republicans while having really bad fave ratings among the same Republicans.

    I’m becoming more and more confident that the craziness of this election cycle has everything to do with the prospect of a female POTUS, and little to do with populism. White Males are, consciously or not, reacting to the steady withdrawal of privileges they have become used to. Not even the exclusive privilege of being in a combat arm of the military remains.

  7. Sanders may have a mathematical chance, but from the articles I’ve seen, Super Tuesday has revived the mainstream media’s ability to present Clinton as the inevitable nominee. Many articles now have her ‘swinging’ or ‘turning’ to the general election, so the idea that Sanders will continue to pull her to the left isn’t all that convincing.

  8. #6
    This may help explain the psychology of Trump supporters and why crossovers should be relatively seldom.
    http://www.vox.com/2016/2/23/11099644/trump-support-authoritarianism

    “Again, I do not get the psych on this one.”
    Spite? Temper tantrum? Political immaturity?

    “I believe that the Dems are choosing the weaker candidate out of party loyalty.”

    I don’t doubt that the party favors Clinton. After all, she’s been on the front lines supporting other Democrats for years, and Sanders hasn’t.
    But there’s something else you might consider: Clinton has been savaged for years, and not all attacks against her have been justified. What attacks has Sanders been subjected to from Republicans and their organizations? If he were the nominee do you think he’d be attacked? Even if the attacks are false, do you think they’d affect his favorability ratings?

  9. Zebra says:

    “As for polls: Polls become relevant after the conventions, not before. Apart from the opinion of the actual experts on polling, if you look at some of the numbers you see that they are irrational/contradictory at this point– Trump wins among Republicans while having really bad fave ratings among the same Republicans.”

    Actually, this is not contradictory at all. It is not the same Republicans that vote for Trump who give him bad marks – it is, rather, his minority of supporters who allow him to have more than a zero rating.

    “White Males are, consciously or not, reacting to the steady withdrawal of privileges they have become used to. Not even the exclusive privilege of being in a combat arm of the military remains.’

    *Perceived* withdrawal of privileges. As a white male, I feel like I’ve had the world handed to me on a silver platter, and no more so than now.

    Donal said:

    “Sanders may have a mathematical chance, but from the articles I’ve seen, Super Tuesday has revived the mainstream media’s ability to present Clinton as the inevitable nominee. Many articles now have her ‘swinging’ or ‘turning’ to the general election, so the idea that Sanders will continue to pull her to the left isn’t all that convincing.”

    It is the last line that has me most concerned. More of the same under Clinton means more of the same income disparity and lack of real progress. I have a sinking feeling that she might be a one-term president, if she wins, because this issue won’t go away.

  10. #9
    “I’m becoming more and more confident that the craziness of this election cycle has everything to do with the prospect of a female POTUS”

    I don’t agree. Tea Partiers seem to have a soft spot for women spouting reactionary talking points: Palin, Bachmann, Angle, Brewer, O’Donnell, Haley, Ernst.
    The craziness of this election cycle is limited to the Republican party, and has everything to do with that party’s escape from reality. It’s also a result of the Republican conviction that the U.S. is a great democracy, but that Democratic control of the Presidency is usurpation.

  11. Zebra says:

    “With respect to independents:

    There are no independents.

    Look at the results for Oklahoma. Look at the results for Massachusetts.”

    Are they open primaries? Because if they are not, then Independents / Third Party cannot vote in for the Dems or the Reps.

  12. Many people are comparing Trump to Hitler; I think the comparison is not accurate. He seems more like Stalin than Hitler, or Pol Pot— where the educated were the Designated Enemy.

    This morning I heard Trump speak for the first time (I don’t have TV or radio, so it was via The Young Turks video). It was like a parody of Stalin, only with a squeaky soprano voice. Ejecting black students from his Klan-supported rallies is sure to get the Fundamentalist Christian vote.

  13. Bruce Jensen #14,

    “Are they open primaries? Because if they are not, then Independents / Third Party cannot vote in for the Dems or the Reps.”

    Sorry, you don’t have the security clearance for that kind of information. You know, “if we tell you we have to kill you” and all that.

    Sigh.

  14. #15 I thought of Trump as a strongman like Mussolini or Peron, but I recently read a comparison to Gaius Julius Caesar that also makes a lot of sense. Caesar was a wealthy man who took office as a reformer in a republic that had become dominated by plutocrats, then took power by force. He soon got stabbed, but that was the end of the republic.
    I was thinking today about who I voted for in primaries, like Jerry Brown & Paul Tsongas, and one that I wanted to vote for, Dennis Kucinich.

  15. cosmicomics @ 13

    Largely correct. There is nothing new here. We’ve long been sitting in a rotting theater. Suddenly Trump drips on the stage and “pundits” work themselves in a lather as though the walls haven’t been positively oozing for years.

  16. Many people are comparing Trump to Hitler; I think the comparison is not accurate.

    I dislike the comparison for a different reason: I think the only people who should be compared to Nazis are other Nazis. (This is not an attack on your comment.)

    I wonder about the Republican “old guard” and their view of Trump. It seems to me that Trump is simply bringing to the view of the wider public the philosophy that Reagan used back in the 1980s when he started making racism and, let’s be clear, blatant dishonesty, an important tool to gain power.

    But: Rubio is currently running ads here in Michigan in which he begins by pointing out that Trump didn’t immediately condemn the KKK, and then he says “The party of Reagan has no place for (the behavior Trump is demonstrating: exact wording escapes me at the moment).” He may or may not believe it, but the old guard wants that message to be believed: if they think Trump will clearly demonstrate it to be false, they’ll be screwed for a long time. I can see them wanting to head him off before the pass.

  17. I heard the Rubio quote yesterday morning on Danish radio, and I had to react.

    Marco Rubio is very aware of rhetorical devices, but what he says consists of Republican platitudes and self promotion. Compare:

    Churchill:

    “We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”

    Rubio:

    “No matter how long it takes, no matter how many states it takes, no matter how many weeks and months it takes, I will campaign as long as it takes and wherever it takes to ensure that I am the next president of the United States.”

    Where Churchill speaks of we, the British people, Rubio speaks of I, himself. Where Churchill speaks of a common struggle, Rubio focuses on personal aggrandizement. Great, inspirational oratory on the one hand, and petty, imitative self-promotion on the other.

  18. cosmicomics,

    You are making some obvious mistakes, and while it is OK to react emotionally sometimes, it is important that this stuff be discussed with some degree of “scientific” accuracy.

    Rubio is addressing the Republican Party (specifically anti-Trump, establishment elites) here. So he is in fact “selling himself”, not trying to inspire anyone– the words are perfectly reasonable in the circumstance. Now, are they a little obvious in terms of rhetoric, sure– he’s immature and not really ready for prime time. But making a moral judgement on this is over the top.

    Referring to the previous thread where you answered my point about Hillary motivating minorities: Bush didn’t win the election. In fact, it is extremely rare for the electoral college not to reflect the popular vote. The structural, anti-democratic problems with the US system are great, but that is the least of our worries right now.

    But mostly, and this isn’t directed at you, the extent to which people (on our side) don’t even try to be rational about this is really depressing.

    Greg’s refined model may or may not eventually exhibit exceptional skill, but the fat that it seems pretty close to predictive means that those fundamentals really do matter. And the science says polls don’t do well until after the conventions, and so on, but people just don’t want to accept anything that refutes their narrative. That’s what they call denial.

  19. #24
    “You are making some obvious mistakes, and while it is OK to react emotionally sometimes, it is important that this stuff be discussed with some degree of “scientific” accuracy.”

    I will readily admit to being emotionally involved in the outcome of the election. A Republican victory would be a disaster for the entire world. I’m not aware of making obvious mistakes and being inaccurate. My comments are usually based on evidence, and I often provide sources.

    “In fact, it is extremely rare for the electoral college not to reflect the popular vote. The structural, anti-democratic problems with the US system are great, but that is the least of our worries right now.”

    To the best of my knowledge it’s happened four times. If the 2000 election had been based on the popular vote, Gore would have won.
    The “structural, anti-democratic problems with the US system” are a great part of your worries now. Among other things, they enable an undemocratic restructuring of voting districts and the disenfranchisement of voters who could determine the election.

    My remarks on Rubio are valid. He’s full of empty rhetoric and he’s trying to inspire his audience by showing his pertinacious dedication to his cause – himself. The parallel to Churchill isn’t subtle. To a great extent it’s the discrepancy between his rhetoric and his vacuity that makes him appear robotic.

  20. A New York Times op-ed provides relevant information on the background for the Trump phenomenon.

    “In other words, the economic basis for voter anger has been building over forty years. Starting in 2000, two related developments added to worsening conditions for the middle and working classes.

    First, that year marked the end of net upward mobility…

    The second adverse trend is that trade with China, which shot up after China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in December 2001, imposed far larger costs on American workers than most economists anticipated, according to recent studies. And the costs of trade with China have fallen most harshly on workers on the lower rungs of the income ladder…

    The tragedy of the 2016 campaign is that Trump has mobilized a constituency with legitimate grievances on a fool’s errand.

    If he is shoved out of the field somehow, his supporters will remain bitter and enraged, convinced that a self-serving and malign elite defeated their leader.

    If he prevails, a constituency that could force politicians to confront the problems of the working and middle class will waste its energies on a candidate incompetent to improve the lives of the credulous men and women lining up to support him.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/02/opinion/campaign-stops/why-trump-now.html?src=me

    On a previous occasion I noted that Trump wasn’t a fascist, but that he had much in common with a populist right-wing party like the Danish People’s Party. A commentary in today’s Washington Post picks up on that:

    “Well, actually, the package Trump offers — “save Social Security without cuts,” a vaguely pro-single-payer position on health care, plus temporarily banning Muslims and walling off Mexico — bears an eerie resemblance to the Danish government’s current policy mix.
    His astonishing success selling it to the Republican base may portend ideological convergence between the U.S. right and Europe’s…
    Not surprisingly, the recent Rand Corp. Presidential Election Panel Survey of Republican primary voters found that Trump supporters are more likely than others to feel threatened by immigrants and resent demands for equality by African Americans and women.
    But that’s not the whole story. Trump also led among the 51 percent of GOP voters who support tax increases for those with incomes over $200,000; the 47 percent who favor a higher minimum wage; the 32 percent who favor “government paying necessary medical costs for every American citizen”; and the 38 percent who like labor unions.”
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-wants-to-make-america-more-like-denmark/2016/03/02/6bfc935e-dfd9-11e5-8d98-4b3d9215ade1_story.html

    I’d also mention that Trump has no program aiming at replacing liberal American democracy (flawed though it may be) with an authoritarian system, that he has no ideology, that he is far less militaristic than members of the Republican establishment, that his positions change opportunistically and are often self-contradictory.

  21. Have you given any consideration to including the type of equipment used to count the votes in your model? It has an effect!

  22. Specifically, the electronic machinery used to record (voting machines) or count (scanning equipment) votes is suspect. In particular, the larger the number of votes cast, the larger the share of votes that go to the candidate preferred by the establishment (This is usually Republican candidate. It was Romney and Clinton in 2012 primaries).

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500319856 Code Red does an excellent job of detailing the problem and supporting it with historical results and empirical studies.

    I have a website set up http://www.ShowMeTheVotes.org that details my own analysis, which confirms what others like Simon (wrote the Code Red book) have done. It also details my struggles and failure (to date) to be allowed to examine the paper records that exist where I live (Sedgwick County Kansas) and determine the accuracy of the official results compared to an audit of the paper records.

    As Simon details in his book, exit polls are ‘adjusted’ to match the outcome of the official vote count. If the official vote count has been rigged, then the population statistics of the exit polls are skewed when this adjustment is made. The bizarre population data that results becomes another piece of evidence that our voting systems has been compromised.

    The lack of transparency that results from the use of electronic election equipment isn’t acceptable even if we assume that no one is successfully taking advantage of that darkness.

  23. I seem to recall independents don’t make a difference. http://hotair.com/greenroom/archives/2012/11/14/infographic-of-the-day-obama-lost-independent-voters-in-all-swing-states-minus-nc/
    Getting out the base wins elections. Sanders may indeed lead with independents but they are notoriously fickle. I don’t know but I would assume independents vote less than party faithful.

    Also we know young people don’t vote, if they did Sanders would be leading. I say this as a Sanders supporter let me be quite clear.

  24. Phil 32,

    There are no “independents”– or very few, as I recall the numbers.

    This is one of those areas where we kind of know the answers based on fundamentals but people keep trotting out numbers as if they are relevant.

    In 2008, Obama/Biden faced McCain/Palin. People who mostly vote R but are not crazy/self-destructive had an easy choice. With the more reasonable Romney/Ryan ticket, they went back to their normal pattern of voting R.

    Calling this group “independents” is useful to make headlines and rhetorical arguments to support one’s position, but not really helpful. It’s like the meme that African-American voters “deserted” Hillary in 2008. Nationally, AA voters were not some kind of fan-base for her, so there was nothing surprising about what happened once Barack Obama was seen as a very good candidate.

    And now we will perhaps hear that the probably misogynistic Jim Webb is “deserting” Hillary because he is such a liberal populist.

    And so it goes….

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