You may be asking yourself the same question, especially if, like me, you vote on Tuesday, March 1st.
For some of us, a related question is which of the two is likely to win the nomination.
If one of the two is highly likely to win the nomination, then it may be smart to vote for that candidate in order to add to the momentum effect and, frankly, to end the internecine fighting and eating of young within the party sooner. If, however, one of the two is only somewhat likely to win the nomination, and your preference is for the one slightly more likely to lose, then you better vote for the projected loser so they become the winner!
National polls of who is ahead have been unreliable, and also, relying on those polls obviates the democratic process, so they should be considered but not used to drive one’s choice. However, a number of primaries have already happened, so there is some information from those contests to help estimate what might happen in the future. On the other hand, there have been only a few primaries so far. Making a choice based wholly or in part on who is likely to win is better left until after Super Tuesday, when there will be more data. But, circling back to the original question, that does not help those of us voting in two days, does it?
Let’s look at the primaries so far.
Overall, Sanders has done better than polls might have suggested weeks before the primaries started. This tell us that his insurgency is valid and should be paid attention to.
There has been a lot of talk about which candidate is electable vs. not, and about theoretical match-ups with Trump or other GOP candidates. If you look at ALL the match-ups, instead one cherry picked match-up the supporter of one or the other candidate might pick, both candidates do OK against the GOP. Also, such early theoretical match-ups are probably very unreliable. So, best to ignore them.
Iowa told us that the two candidates are roughly matched.
New Hampshire confirmed that the two candidates are roughly matched, given that Sanders has a partial “favorite son” effect going in the Granite State.
Nevada confirmed, again, that the two candidates are roughly matched, because the difference wasn’t great between the two.
So far, given those three races, in combination with exit polls, we can surmise that among White voters, the two candidates are roughly matched, but with Sanders doing better with younger voters, and Clinton doing better with older voters.
The good news for Sanders about younger voters is that he is bringing people into the process, which means more voters, and that is good. The bad news is two part: 1) Younger voters are unreliable. They were supposed to elect Kerry, but never showed up, for example; and 2) Some (a small number, I hope) of Sanders’ younger voters claim that they will abandon the race, or the Democrats, if their candidate does not win, write in Sanders, vote for Trump, or some other idiotic thing. So, if Clinton ends up being the nominee, thanks Bernie, but really, no thanks.
Then came South Carolina. Before South Carolina, we knew that there were two likely outcomes down the road starting with this first southern state. One is that expectations surrounding Clinton’s campaign would be confirmed, and she would do about 70-30 among African American voters, which in the end would give her a likely win in the primary. The other possibility is that Sanders would close this ethnic gap, which, given his support among men and white voters, could allow him to win the primary.
What happened in South Carolina is that Clinton did way better than even those optimistic predictions suggested. This is not good for Sanders.
Some have claimed that South Carolina was an aberration. But, that claim is being made only by Sanders supporters, and only after the fact. Also, the claim is largely bogus because it suggests that somehow Democratic and especially African American Democratic voters are somehow conservative southern yahoos, and that is why they voted so heavily in favor of Clinton. But really, there is no reason to suggest that Democratic African American voters aren’t reasonably well represented by South Carolina.
In addition to that, polling for other southern states conforms pretty closely to expectations based on the actual results for South Carolina.
I developed an ethnic-based model for the Democratic primary (see this for an earlier version). The idea of the model is simple. Most of the variation we will ultimately observe among the states in voting patterns for the two candidates will be explained by the ethnic mix in each state. This is certainly an oversimplification, but has a good chance of working given that before breaking out voters by ethnicity, we are subsetting them by party affiliation. So this is not how White, Black and Hispanic people will vote across the states, but rather, how White, Black and Hispanic Democrats will vote across the state. I’m pretty confident that this is a useful model.
My model has two versions (chosen by me, there could be many other versions), one giving Sanders’ strategy a nod by having him do 10% better among white voters, but only 60-40 among non-white voters. The Clinton-favored strategy gives Clinton 50-50 among white voters, and a strong advantage among African American voters, based on South Carolina’s results and polling, of 86-14%. Clinton also has a small advantage among Hispanic voters (based mainly on polls) with a 57:43% mix.
These are the numbers I’ve settled on today, after South Carolina. But, I will adjust these numbers after Super Tuesday, and at that point, I’ll have some real confidence in the model. But, at the moment, the model seems to be potentially useful, and I’ll be happy to tell you why.
First, let us dispose of some of the circular logic. Given both polls and South Carolina’s results, the model, based partly on South Carolina, predicts South Carolina pretty well using the Clinton-favored version (not the Sanders-favored version), with a predicted cf. actual outcome of 34:19% cf 39:14% This is obviously not an independent prediction, but rather a calibration. The Sanders-favored model predicts an even outcome of 27:26%.
The following table shows the likely results for the Clinton-favored and Sanders-favored model in each state having a primary on Tuesday.
The two columns on the right are estimates from polling where available. This is highly variable in quality and should be used cautiously. I highlighted the Clinton- or Sanders-favored model that most closely matches the polling. The matches are generally very close. This strongly suggests that the Clinton-favored version of the model essentially works, even given the limited information, and simplicity of the model.
Please note that in both the Clinton- and Sanders-favored model, Clinton wins the day on Tuesday, but only barely for the Sanders-favored model (note that territories are not considered here).
I applied the same model over the entire primary season (states only) to produce two graphs, shown below.
The Clinton-favored model has Clinton pulling ahead in committed delegate (I ignore Super Delegates, who are not committed) on Tuesday, then widens her lead over time, winning handily. The Sanders-favored model projects a horserace, where the two candidates are ridiculously close for the entire election.
So, who am I going to voter for?
I like both candidates. The current model suggests I should vote for Clinton because she is going to pull ahead, and it is better to vote for the likely winner, since I like them both, so that person gets more momentum (a tiny fraction of momentum, given one vote, but still…). On the other hand, a Sanders insurgency would be revolutionary and change the world in interesting ways, and for that to happen, Sanders needs as many votes on Tuesday as possible.
It is quite possible, then, that I’ll vote for Sanders, then work hard for Hillary if Super Tuesday confirms the Clinton favored model. That is how I am leaning now, having made that decision while typing the first few words of this very paragraph.
Or I could change my mind.
Either way, I want to see people stop being so mean to the candidate they are not supporting. That is only going to hurt, and be a regretful decision, if your candidate is not the chosen one. Also, you are annoying the heck out of everyone else. So just stop, OK?