The Story of the Democratic Candidates: Final Chapter

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Final chapter for now…

I made a very special graphic, have a look:

Following in part on the procedure discussed here, this analysis combines data from several time-overlapping polls to produce a neater and cleaner depiction of each of the top four candidates march towards the presidency … or not.

It turns out that polls come in clusters. There will be several days in a row with a bunch of polls coming out, and then there will be a few days with no polls at all. There are reasons for this I won’t go into now. And, these polls, in the clusters, tend to overlap in time. For this reason, it is easy to take a bunch of polls in such a cluster and average out the results to give a better than average snapshot of a candidate’s status for a given period of time, usually about a week. Then, these withing cluster estimates are somewhat independent from the other clusters because there is no overlap in time, for the most part. The power of each estimate is very high, the trends depicted across the estimates are very likely.

That’s what the graphic above shows for Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Harris. Trends I noted in the previous several blog posts are apparent, but more cleanly depicted.

Here is what this graphic, based on 38 national polls, shows:

1) Biden has had a steady decline, and the rate of that decline may have increased after the first and so far only debate, but he is still number one.

2) Sanders has had consistent, immutable, results the whole time, never changing. It is like there is a certain number of people who support him, and they are not budging, nor are they gaining allies.

3) Warren started to rise in the polls well before the debates. This seems to have corresponded with intensification of her campaign, and her issue oriented displays of knowing things and having plans. Most experienced candidates and campaigners will tell you that is a bad approach. For Elizabeth Warren, it may have moved her into second place.

4) Harris was steady in her just barely 10% status — remarkably flat in fact — until the debate, when she suddenly rose almost meteorically, but not beyond the first cluster.

Is Warren’s rise more stable and issues and candidate based, therefore long lived, while Harris’s rise is a temporary bump from going after Biden in the debates? Is Biden’s downward trend going to continue at its newly accelerated rate or will it flatten out a bit, as hinted in these numbers?

To find out the answers to these and other questions, stay tuned!

But seriously, the next cluster of polls will be available in less than a week from now, most likely. The current pattern requires that the average for Biden be 35% or lower. Warren needs to be a strong second with over 25%. Sanders, while looking very flat, is actually down at his lowest rate in this sequence at present. Sanders should drop below 20%. Harris is likely to stabilize at around 20 or drop back to below 20. Or, she will rise to the mid 20s at the expense of Biden, mostly.

In evaluating these projections, remember how they are calculate. The poll numbers you see will all be lower than those mentioned here because of this. I don’t have full confidence in these projections, but when I say it all out loud, it seems right.


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The Story of Warren and Harris as told by the ever-loving polls

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The Warren and Harris stories are similar to each other, when viewed using the data described here. Both are trending upwards from a respectable just under two digit position, menacing those in second place.

I put the polynomials (third order) on there to investigate consistency in this trend over time. They show that Warren’s upward trend is steady, and Harris’s is more stepwise. It is hard to know if this means one is stronger, or rising faster, or more likely to take a top position, than the other. Not shown here, but looking at only the last month or so, both trend up, and Harris overtakes or equals Warren 20 days out. But, the variance in the data for that shorter time period is high, so I wouldn’t put much in it.

Bottom line: Harris and Warren are moving into position to be contenders in the race for the Democratic Party nomination, currently moving past, or about to move past, second place Sanders, while at the same time Biden is sinking into the same range. For a brief moment, this may be a four way horse race, by the end of July or early August.


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The Story of Booker, Yang, Klobuchar, and Castro, as told by the unforgiving polls

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This could all be because of name recognition, it could all be because of insiders at the DNC deciding in advance who the candidates are going to be, or some such thing. But the variation among these four candidates does not correlate to their own levels of name recognition, and at least one of these candidates is very powerful in the DNC, so I’m thinking none of that is key. These are good people. They are impressive, and they impressed in the debates. These four candidates could provide the nominee, any one of them could rise up out of the very low numbers and become a key contender,the nominee, even the president. But for now, there is really only one thing to say about the polling numbers, using the same data set as described here, for Booker, Yang, Klobuchar, and Castro: Rounding errors.

That strange pattern you see there that looks like layers in a cross section of a pristine tropical rainforest, that’s rounding errors. All the internal structure of these data is from rounding errors. Even the ranking could be so affected by rounding that I don’t think we can say much about these candidates except to wish them well.


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The Story of Beto and Pete, as told by the polls

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Now that we have dispensed with Bernie Sanders’ and Joe Biden’s stories, let’s have a look at two very different cases, those of Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg.

See this post for a description of how the numbers are calculated for the following graphic:

Instead of using a straight line regression I used a third order polynomial to track the polling over time for these two non-linear candidates. Each shows a rise and fall, with the fall ongoing. Don’t pay much attention to the 20 day projection. Maybe one or both of these candidates is oscillating rather than descending. Only time will tell.

There seem to be two main conclusions that can be drawn from these graphs.

1) Buttigieg is more or less on the board with a consistent high one digit showing, but he did not surge after the debates, and he is not really surging anywhere. In contract, O’Rourke has been essentially a non factor. People blame much of the pattern of polling on name recognition. This is true to some extent, but this effect is a) overplayed and b) important in choosing a candidate, not something to be discounted. Given the possible role of name recognition note that an unknown small time mayor is beating the pants off (in this low digit world) the guy who was VERY famous running against Texas Ted Cruz. In the end, O’Rourke does not appeal, Buttigieg has some potential.

2) Neither of these candidates really seems to be going anywhere.

In case you think me unfair or a statistical scoundrel of some kind for using a third order polynomial (and you should think that) for making the trend lines, there’s more.

The following graphic has the third order polynomial extended to fifth order. To illustrate the absurdity of it all, not this: There are some 38 data points here. A 38th order polynomial line would run through all of them. Anyway, using the high order polynomial, both candidates are doing great! But that is just for fun.

More important is the straight line regression line that shows both candidates as flat lining or slightly declining across this entire period, down below 10%. I suspect both of these candidates will be out of the race by the end of this November.


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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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A treasure trove of cheap books

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For some reason there is suddenly a larger than usual number of excellent highly encheapened kindle version books that I know many of my readers will be interested in. Chances are you already have them, but just in case. Some of these prices may only last a while, but all should be 2.99 or less.

The Joy Luck Club: A Novel

Extraterrestrial Civilizations

Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World

A Severed Wasp: A Novel by Engle.

Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography


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Physicists discover family members of Schrödinger’s cat

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Interesting research out of the University of Queensland. I’ll just give you the press release and some details from the paper, and you can take it from there. For related conversation, check out this podcast episode.


Continue reading Physicists discover family members of Schrödinger’s cat


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ALERT: Hurricane Barry May Hit Gulf Coast Very Soon

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If the current large wet spot in the norther Gulf does develop into a named storm, it will end up being one of the stranger storms we’ve seen.

This feature began as a depression over land, not over the sea. It then moved south over the Gulf, where it sits off the coast. Several different models have it developing to something wind wind speeds of 60 knots or more over the next several hours. The National weather service has it as a Category 1 hurricane by mid day Saturday. That is also when it is expected to push over the coast west of New Orleans.
Continue reading ALERT: Hurricane Barry May Hit Gulf Coast Very Soon


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A Conversation with Michael Mann: The Existential Threat

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The Giant of the Senate interviews Mike the Madhouse Mann.

In this week’s episode, I talk with Michael Mann, Nobel Prize-winning climatologist for his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We cover a lot of ground. How to talk about climate change to your crazy right-wing climate-denying uncle. “Uncle Hal, sea level is rising. For two reasons. Ice is melting. And water expands when it gets warmer.” If Uncle Hal insists sea level is rising because of all the rocks falling into the ocean, then just give up. We talk about how climate used to be a bipartisan issue, but since Citizens United, the Koch Brothers have threatened to primary any Republican who acknowledges the science. Addressing climate change has become a victim of our tribal politics. The answer right now? Win.


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Koch Brothers vs. Farmers

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It is a known fact that organizations like the Center of the American Experiment, organizations funded by the likes of the Koch Brothers or the Bradley Foundation (of “The Bell Curve” fame) organize anti clean energy activism, often using fake citizens showing up at city or county council meetings, to tamp down efforts to produce non-Carbon releasing electricity. And, in rural Minnesota’s Carver County, this is hurting farmers. Continue reading Koch Brothers vs. Farmers


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Junction City, Off the Record: Tales From Ogden, Utah’s Notorious Underworld in the Roaring ‘Twenties

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The newly published book, Junction City, Off the Record: Tales From Ogden, Utah’s Notorious Underworld in the Roaring ‘Twenties, by Jim Spas, my one time brother in law, is worthy of a close look. Jim comes originally from New York State, but has lived in the west for most of his life. He has a strong sense of history and interconnections between things local and personal, like the development of a town or small city over time, the surrounding landscape, and broad historical events. To get a sense of this quality, have a look at Jim’s blog. Continue reading Junction City, Off the Record: Tales From Ogden, Utah’s Notorious Underworld in the Roaring ‘Twenties


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How to get a few percent of college paid for with one small trick

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Without paying a dime for it, the United States Congress can cause colleges across the country — maybe not all but most — to write off the cost in tuition to students for at least a few percent, on average, of a college degree, and the colleges don’t have to pay a dime either (though they would lose a bit of income, they would also shed a corresponding amount of expense). Continue reading How to get a few percent of college paid for with one small trick


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