Category Archives: 2020 Election

The Story of Bernie and Joe, as told by the polls

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Here is a graph showing polling for Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. See below for some important details.

The numbers used for this graph come from 38 national polls asking for voter preference about a varying number of candidates. There is a large variation across the polls in how many answered something other than a particular candidate (like “none”). These two factors cause useless and distracting variation in the actual percentage value given to a candidate for a given poll. You can imagine that if a certain candidate gets 23% of the “votes” in a given poll, that number could change a lot if non-answers were excluded, or the total number of candidates was different. An imperfect but still improved way to calculate the percent value for a given candidate is, then, to only look at a subset of the candidates across all the polls, and recalculate the percentage of polling for each candidate using only those numbers. That is what this graph shows, for these candidates only:

Biden
Booker
Buttigieg
Castro
Harris
Klobuchar
O’Rourke
Sanders
Warren
Yang

Why that particular list? Well, I noticed that if you look across all the polls, one minor candidate (minor in terms of percent in the collection of polls) seemed to vary from the middle of the middle tier to the bottom of the middle tier, but was never in the lowest lowest tier, and also, was polled from early on: Klobuchar. So, I took the RCP average at about the time of the debates, and applied the Klobuchar Factor. If you were below Klobuchar, you were out of consideration. Since then, the candidates have moved around a bit, and a present day Klobuchar Factor would produce a different list. But I don’t really care, because I just needed to have a cutoff somewhere.

The regression analysis suggests that about 56% of the variance seen in each canidates’ polls is explained by time (i.e., there is a pretty robust trend where time matters). I’ve extended the regression line out 20 days into the future, which would be the end of July.

So, getting back to the story of these two candidates. I want to consider each candidate separately. The reason they are both in the same graph, and blog post, is because they are the two candidates with the highest number across the entire data set, so the graph makes sense for their scale, and the process is cleaner of we separate out candidates by scale.

The story of Joe Biden is this: He started off high, around 50%, and ended up much weaker, closer to 30% with some of the most recent polls showing 25%. He halved, almost. Or at least, looking at the extended projection, he is in the process of measuring out his polling half-life, as it were. He was probably artificially high partly due to name recognition, and lost ground as other candidates gained. He also started out in a different sort of artificial high, as a well known and widely loved guy where policy had not been vetted, and has lost among Democrats in that way as well. But this is Biden, and this is how he has performed in his earlier presidential campaigns. Biden watchers are not surprised. Biden watchers will not be surprised if he isn’t really a factor in this campaign by the end of the year.

The story of Bernie Sanders is interesting. His numbers show the second lowest amount of variance, scaled by magnitude, of all the candidates. He started of around 20%. He is still around 20%. Bernie is not moving up, Bernie is not moving down. Well, maybe a tiny bit down. What he seems to be doing, really, is slowing down just a bit as Elizabeth Warren is passing him, much like a car going 45mph slows down a bit when a faster car is passing them on the highway. Though that is of course a bad analogy because the intentionality of events is very different.

In short, Biden is gliding to a campaign ending landing, while Sanders is flat-lining. The latter observation is, I think, the most significant. It tells us something, maybe, about Sanders campaign. His base is unmoving. This is expected, I think. I just hope that should Sanders not get the nomination nod, that base sees fit to support the nominee in 2020, all of them, different than what happened in 2016.


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Pre Debate Dem Prognosis

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Right now there are only three candidates in the race. Biden is in first place, and Warren and Sanders share second place. Biden’s numbers have been steadily dropping, but I suspect he will experience a more dramatic drop over the next polling cycle or two. Sanders’ have been slowly dropping, and Warren’s numbers are going up at a somewhat faster rate than Sanders have been going down. In the chart below you can see them close to convergence in about 20 days now, given current trends.

Of course, the debate will shake all this up and possibly add or remove individuals from this top three spot.


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Warren and Buttigieg on the move, Both Sanders and Biden dropping

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Biden announced he’d run for President around April 23rd. AFter that, he climbed steadily in the polls, mostly taking air out of Sanders’ previous lead as well as the undecideds. He had already held a commanding, leading, position in the polls before he was running, but that is not quite the same thing. But a month later, Biden’s lead sagged significantly and he has been at a steady 35% since, dropping a couple of percent in the last few days. Sanders, having lost wind with Biden’s entry, regained some of those numbers apparently off of Biden’s deflation, and has been holding steady since about May 26th at 16%. That is just looking at the ongoing average of all the polls. Looking at more detail is more dangerous, but when we do that, we see the most recent poll, YouGov, with Biden falling off sharply and Sanders steady but dropping a little.

Simpler version of the above, for the last couple of months, Biden has led Sanders and the two held the top two positions, with variations in their poll trajectories resulting from Biden’s entry and a subsequent cool off.

But forget about those guys for a minute. Consider Buttigieg and Warren. Both have had numbers that varied a lot over several weeks, but both have trended upwards in the most recent polls. Buttigieg’s most recent poll numbers (from mid May to the present) were 6,5,5,7,8,10, respectively. Warren’s were 10,5,7,10,5,12, more variable, several times in the double digits. Harris has had a couple of good days, but for the most part, Warren and Buttigieg seem to be the only two with a good chance of establishing two digit status in the near future.

But the most interesting recent development is Iowa. Here, we have these numbers:

Biden 24
Sanders 16
Buttigieg 14
Warren 15
Harris 7
Everybody else: Never mind.

New Hampshire also has this as a more or less four person race between Biden, Sanders, Buggigieg, and Warren (with Harris not far behind), in that order. Polls in South Carolina have a very strong Biden followed by Sanders, Harris, Booker, and Warren. A tiny bit of polling has Nevada going for Biden then Sanders, but almost tied, followed by O’Rourke, Warren, Harris.

So there are two horse races going on. The boring one where Biden is firmly ahead of Sanders and they are just running along in the top two slots in this order, and the more interesting one, where Warren, Buttigieg, Harris, and maybe O’Rourke are trading places across time and space. Significantly, none of the other candidates seem to have emerged as factors yet.

I predict … a horse race that continues to be interesting.


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What The DNC Just Did Wrong

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You are probably aware that the DNC has just put the kibash on having a climate change related debate in the primary process.

Climate change, Perez says, is a single issue and no single issue is worthy of elevation to this level. Here are some of my thoughts on this, and below find a link to Adam Siegel’s excellent post on the subject, where you will also find the DNC’s position.

The climate crisis is not a single issue, Mr. Perez. It is an existential issue that permeates all of the other issues, an economic issue that will shape our entire agenda, an issue of national security that should be of great concern, and the number one premier health issue of the century. It is a moral issue that tests our the ability of our elected Democrats and candidates to lead.

The moment at hand has bee a long time coming. This is the first election cycle in which climate change and its effects are being taken serious by almost all Democratic candidates and voters. This issue has to be part of the conversation from now on, indefinitely.

Perhaps instead of driving climate change into a corner, or ignoring it, you actually meant to challenge the current framing of such a debate. Indeed, Democrats do not have to debate “climate change.” We all know it is real, critically important, and that we must address it. That is not a matter of debate.

But we do need to discuss, and debate, the solutions. What kind of Green New Deal do you want, candidate? How do you propose we harness market forces to hasten the transition away from fossil fuels? Do you like bridge fuels like Methane or are you on board with following a direct line to zero-Carbon? What about Carbon pricing, fee and dividend? How can we keep the economic benefit that will come with decarbonization in the US, by supporting local union industry in the construction of wind, solar, and storage facilities? Can the benefits of this energy transition be made available to most citizens? Is there a way to have economic benefits that go to more than the 10%? Should there be improved national best practices and regulations to push utilities to help more with this? What about divestment from funds that invest in fossil fuel extraction, processing, and distribution? What is your favorite pipeline story and what does it tell us about our commitment to changing things? What sorts of mandates can hasten widespread access to technologies like heat pumps and geothermal heating and cooling?

There is, indeed, a great deal to debate. Not climate change per se, but rather, how we save the future for our children and grandchildren. As noted by “Climate Hawks Vote,” climate change is a single issue: the survival of humanity. That is worth a debate.

Have a look at this thoughtful and informative post by energy expert A. Siegel to see how debating climate change can work as a political tool to the benefit of Democratic candidates and the party.

Coming out against a climate or energy debate is ethically questionable and politically foolish. Lets expand, rather than contract, this vitally important conversation.


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Warming up to certain candidates

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Good work, mateys! Joe Biden’s new climate plan is pretty much in line with the Green New Deal. Way to pressure!

This moves Biden from bottom to middle tier for me, which makes me feel better about the fact that he is crushing everyone else in early polls.

California Convention. Since California a) has more electoral votes and more national party delegates than any other state, and b) is a Super Tuesday state now, all of the sudden for the first time in memory, the California Convention received additional special attention outside of California.

And, candidates were sorted. Have a look:

Yay Warren! Yay Sanders! Yay Buttigieg! Yay Harris! Boo Hefferlooper, Boo that other guy!

Perhaps California Democrats are not the same as other Democrats, but in fact, they aren’t different. The outliers in the Party of Kennedy and Wellstone are the right wingers found here and there in Old Dixie or or the High Plains, and a few machine cities or country states in Appalachia or the south. I think we saw some of the herd thinned out in California.

Head to heads. In a recent Quinnipiac poll held in Texas, Biden beat Trump in the head to head, but Trump beat all the other tested candidates. In Michigan, Biden and Sanders trounced trump in the head to head, and Warren, Harris, and Buttigieg did fine. Who cares. Trump was going to win Texas anyway, since Texas is populated with so many god fearing evangelicals who love them their transgressors.

Warren. Warren remains a weak third, but consistent in that spot. In the frontline primary states (New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina) it is typically Biden and Sanders in first (strong) and second place. In the latest North Carolina poll (which is not South Carolina, but still, has a lot of African American voters and it is near South Carolina) that held true, but Warren pulled a very strong third (39-22-15). But generally, Warren, while usually in third place, does not break single digits and is statistically in the same bed as Harris and Buttigieg.

Yang, Gabbard, Ryan and Inslee are number one candidates. And by that, I mean, if you round up their numbers, the get to 1%. I don’t see a way up for them, even though this is very early in the race. Klobuchar, Booker, and Castro are consistently in the wings, the one digit 1-3 point wings, and there are things about them that might make them factors later on. They seem to be keeping their powder dry. O’Rourke and Buttigieg could possibly be described as candidates that peaked but then sort of guttered. They are still in the race, but at the moment they were supposed to ride into town on their dark horse, the horse was doing something else that day.

Until proven otherwise, it feels like a race between Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Harris, with Warren and Harris ready to move ahead at any moment, though the Buttigieg-O’Rourke-Booker faction looms small in the background.

In other words, I have no faith in the idea that it is a totally open race. It is a race between twenty-whatever people in which a maximum of five are for real, and we know who the top two or three are and the next two or three will come from a small set of the remainders.

I also have no faith in the order of the leaders. Biden has a history of guttering. I don’t see Sander support moving because of Sanders, but rather, because he absorbs support from other candidates. If ever there was a primary season where an early adoption of a veep is tempting, it is this one. A wavering Biden could be surpassed by a suddenly formed team of two of the top non-front runners, as long as one of them is Sanders. I hasten to add this piece of classic advice about vice presidents: Don’t do that. No talk about the vice president until the convention.

(Hickenlooper and Delaney need new campaign managers. Or just don’t bother.)


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