I’m starting this post before any primary results are in, and I’ll add the outcome of the primaries below, where I will also compare the results to my predictions and discuss what I think this means for the overall process of the Democratic primaries. But first, I wanted to get some thoughts down to contextualize my thinking on this. I’ll publish this post now, at mid-day Tuesday, so look for an update late Tuesday night, or early Wednesday.
I like Hillary Clinton, and I often think that her presidency would be better than a Sanders presidency, with an inaugural in 2017. This is based on Hillary Clinton’s qualifications, as well as the real politick we face right now. I appreciate her life long service to liberal causes, and recognize that long before Obamacare, there was Hillarycare, and I appreciate her work on education, racial equality, family issues, and choice. I think she can beat Trump or any other Republican that is nominated, and I think she would serve well in office. I want her to be POTUS.
I like Bernie Sanders, and I often get very excited about the prospect of Sanders closing the gap and moving ahead. I think he would face bigger challenges integrating his intentions with the current political situation, but who cares about that? We need a strong progressive in the White House, and Sanders is clearly the best choice for that. I appreciate the fact that Sanders has been a hard line lefty for his entire career, and he is the candidate I want to sit down and have a beer with … to talk about the revolution. I think he can beat Trump or any other Republican that is nominated, and I think he would serve well in office. I want him to be POTUS.
I am annoyed by the Clinton campaign whenever Hillary tosses a bone to the centrists, partly because it is tossing a bone to the centrists and partly because it is ingenuous vis-a-vis her historical commitment to liberal causes. I am annoyed by Clinton supporters who rail on Sanders’ electability, especially remarks about the “Democratic Socialist” thing.
I am annoyed by the Sanders supporters who have bought hook line and sinker the GOP anti-Clinton talking points that the Republicans have been developing for decades, and those who claim “Sanders or bust.” I am annoyed at the Sanders campaign for not doing enough to keep the conversation on task (beating the Republicans), allowing this subset of supporters to do the campaign’s bidding in a way the campaign would not do itself.
People who argue against Clinton by comparing the records of the two candidates habitually make a critical error (other than buying the GOP poison as noted). Bernie Sanders is the Senator from Vermont. Vermont is the state of Maple Sugar and Good Ice Cream. People in Vermont live in underground houses and yerts. If you are a hard core progressive, and you represent Vermont, you rarely have to also represent issues or people or companies or industries or communities that are not in line with progressive thinking. In the few areas where Sanders has gone off the Progressive track, it has been because he also represents a few interests — because they are in his state — that are not progressive, such as with respect to gun ownership or dealing with toxic waste, etc. A Bernie Sanders clone, with the same values and all that, representing a larger, more diverse, more complicated state would have a voting and legislative record that is very different from the one he has. Clinton, on the other hand, was the first lady to a president that moved hard to the center. She was the Secretary of State for a president who developed an effective, but not entirely progressive, foreign policy that overlapped a lot with an energy policy that was brilliant in every way except one: It did not keep the Carbon in the ground. (Very important.) This makes the comparison internally very biased before any careful analysis can happen, and that bias is rarely considered.
People who argue against Sanders on the ground that he is not going to get anything done, or because of a political label with a version of the word “socialist” in it, underestimate the degree to which many Americans are fed up with the current wealth-concentrating and unfair system of economy, politics, and government. They fail to recognize that the framework for the American political conversation has been pushed to the right at almost every turn since Gingrich and the Contract on America, and the one recent time it got pushed to the left, with the election of a non-white President, special circumstances applied and the fascists and racists came out of the woodwork. Many of the same individuals argue that it is good that Sanders’ candidacy has had so much support, even if he is not nominated, because it brings those progressive issues to the table. That is true. But the same argument suggests that a Sanders presidency would move that framework back from the right and towards the left even if Sanders has a non-Democratic Congress for his entire time in office. He won’t play Obama-style multi-dimensional chess, a strategy that has not gotten much done with a Republican controlled Congress. Rather, he’ll spend four or eight years yelling at the Republicans and also not getting much done, but with a potentially stronger effect. He’d move the political center to the left.
A while back I started making regular predictions of what would happen in the upcoming primaries and caucuses. Let me tell you why I did that.
I’ve been expecting, since the beginning of the primary season, for one or another thing to happen. You will recall that I repeatedly posted a graphic comparing the Clinton-Sanders popular standing in national polls with the same graph for Obama-Clinton in 2008. The idea was to show the flip between the heir apparent, Clinton, and the other guy. In the case of 2008, that happened early in the primary process. The point of showing that graphic was to remind everyone, back then, that even though Clinton was ahead in all the polls, Sanders could easily overtake Clinton and not look back, as Obama did. So, all along, one of the things I’ve been expecting is for that to happen. But, so far, it has not happened.
The other thing I’ve been expecting to happen is for Clinton to move ahead at a steady, and eventually increasing, rate, to leave Sanders in the dust. That would, of course, produce the exact opposite result, with a Clinton nomination what could have been clearly foreseen months in advance. But, so far, it has not happened.
Obviously, only one of these two things could happen, at most. I will note that those who supported one candidate or the other early on in the primary process have been pretty sure all along that the change … the Sanders surge or the Clinton juggernaut … was already happening and was about to really happen, all along. Those supporters, of either candidate, have been wrong all along. Neither has happened.
Anyway, the reason I started to develop a model of what would happen across the entire primary process has been to identify when the Clinton juggernaut, or the Sanders surge, was afoot. At which time, probably, I would declare that this thing was happening, throw my support behind the surging or juggernauting candidate, and get to work on that campaign.
With each group of primaries and caucuses, I did my best to use unbiased reasonably good empirical evidence to predict the primaries, with the idea that if a strong trend was evidence, of possibly for a given set of primaries, I’m wrong in my predictions, significantly, one way OR the other, then surging or juggernauting has commenced. But that has never happened. Clinton has been ahead the entire time, but not far, and the gap has closed. But the gap has not closed (prior to today) enough to convince me there is a surge. This is like one of those horse races where the favorite is in first place until the last furlong. Then, the second place horse runs ahead of the first place horse and wins. Or, the second place horse stays in second place and does not win. We can’t tell. There is no evidence to suggest one outcome or another at this time.
So that is why I’ve been making these predictions, to help decide what to do, as a signal to fish or cut bait. And, I continue with this effort because the outcome of every single set of primaries or caucuses has been the same: Clinton has outperformed herself and done really well where she’s won, and Sanders has outperformed himself and kept right behind Clinton where he’s won.
Make no mistake. My current empirical analysis, which has been very effective at predicting primaries and causes, still shows and has always shown an eventual Clinton nomination. But the difference between the two candidates has not been large enough to suggest that a Clinton nomination is inevitable. I’ll also add that this projection is actually what my earliest projections showed … a long and steady race with Clinton just ahead of Sanders the entire time. But, the whole idea of the Sanders candidacy is the surge, the upward swing, the crowds of revolutionary voters showing up and tipping over the cart, at some point in time. The fact that it has not happened to date does not mean it won’t happen. Also, the most recent set of primaries did in fact move Sanders closer to Clinton by a good amount, so the size of the cart that needs to be tipped is smaller, attainable.
I will note that I find myself at the moment more annoyed with that special subset of Sanders supporters who are rude and unthinking than I am with any subset of Clinton supporters with whom I regularly interact. So far, many people have taken me for a Clinton supporter or a Sanders supporter, or have been annoyed at me for not explicitly supporting their candidate (either one). But across all of this interaction, the number of Clinton supporters who gave me crap for not getting on board with Clinton is exactly one, from a trusted friend and political activist, and it was subtle, polite, and done with humor. I simply don’t find real evidence for Clinton supporters being jerks to Sanders supporters in my own personal interaction sphere, though there is plenty of that out there on-line among the Titterati and Facebookois. In contrast, I am faced with Sanders supporters who mistakingly think I’m going for Clinton, who get fairly nasty at times (again, this is that special subset of Sanderati, I hope a small percent). These special snowflakes are more likely to a) assume incorrectly whom I support, b) make incorrect assumptions about what I know and what my experience in politics may be (I once received a virtual questionnaire from a Sanders supporter demanding my background in political activism!), 3) get nasty about it, and 4) declare that if Sanders is not nominated they will do something really dumb like vote for Trump, write in Sanders, etc. So, while the level of support, depth of feeling, rational argument, etc. for each candidate within me and coming from me are even, there is this imbalance, and I find it disturbing and I don’t like it at all.
So, what will happen tonight when five sets of primary results come in? I’ve made my predictions here, but what will be the meaning of a particular outcome?
I have to check my numbers (so this paragraph might get fixed), but my estimate is that at present Clinton is ahead of Sanders in committed delegates by about 20%, but that by the end of the night according to my predictions, that gap will close to about 10%. So …
<li>- if the gap widens or closes by only a couple of percentage points, that will point to a very very likely Clinton victory, because all the different kinds of states have been sampled, half the delegates will have been assigned, and even a surge can't bring Sanders into first place.</li>
<li>- if the 10% gap (plus or minus 2%) is the result of today's contests, Sanders is still following Clinton closely enough that a true surge could cause him to overtake her, but it would have to be a big surge, and is quite possible but not that likely. Ten percent is actually a very large number if half the votes, as it were, were counted. But if this happens, I will be then in exactly the same place I am now, continuing to support both candidates, not choosing one, not sure what will ultimately happen.</li>
<li>- if the gap closes to much more than 10%, or, certainly, reverses, then the Sanders Surge some expect to see in the larger, reasonably but not very diverse, industrial, etc. etc. states is in evidence. In that case it is time to simply get behind Sanders, but NOT vilifying Clinton of course, and push for a Sanders win.</li>
I am truly excited about the prospect that, in today’s primaries, Hillary Clinton pulls ahead numerically and this becomes a one person race. I’m truly excited about the prospect that, in today’s primaries, Bernie Sanders does so well that he has an excellent chance of winning the nomination. The bias I mention above leans me slightly towards being more excited about a Clinton pull-ahead, because that would leave those special snowflake bernie bots, whom I find annoying, behind. But they are not the ones running for office, so that bias is small. But I admit it; I don’t like my support being extorted with claims that so many Sanders supporters will throw the country under the bus if they don’t get their way. I just hope that is truly a small number of individuals.
So. What happened Tuesday night?
…. to be filled in later …
And so, here is what we have…
Clinton did very well tonight. My model had predicted that Sanders would do well enough to close the gap from 20% to 10% difference, keeping him in the race. What happened instead is that the gap between the candidates, with half the votes counted, remained at 20%. In other words, this happened:
My revised model attempted to account for recent Sanders northern state victories by calculating the expected outcome with an appropriate adjustment. However, the Sanders campaign did not perform, and my predictions were relatively inaccurate. Which is sad for my model, and for Sanders.
The voting is still happening and delegates are not all assigned, and delegate counting is strange in Ohio, so my original predictions of delegate counts can’t be compared to the data we have right now, tonight. So I converted my delegates counts to percentages, and then converted the reported percentages adjusted to make Clinton and Sanders sum to 100% (because my percentages do this as well). This is what I get:
I predicted a close race in Florida. What actually happened was a Clinton landslide.
I predicted a close race in Illinois. This is correct. Clinton will likely win Illinois and pick up a few more delegates there than Sanders.
I predicted a close race in Missouri. We have a close race in Missouri. I had predicted that Sanders would win by a little, and it looks like he is going to win by a little.
I predicted a rout in North Carolina. We are getting a rout in North Carolina. Clinton will win, but not by quite as much as I had predicted.
I predicted a close race in Ohio. Clinton is doing very well there and will beat Sanders decisively. Some people will call it a landslide, some will not.
So, while I predicted three races very accurately, my model was way off for two big ones, and Sanders will end up with far fewer delegates today than expected.
Here is a histogram showing change over time, roughly divided into weeks of primary activity, in the percent difference between the candidates.
With about half the committed delegates counted and a solid 20% gap, Sanders would have to perform at 60:40 on average from now on to catch up.
Using the actual data through today (today’s delegates estimated in some cases) and the model’s prediction for the future (which still performs overall fairly well, but giving Sanders, apparently, more delegates than he is likely to get) here is what the future of this primary season looks like:
Sanders is likely to win a large number of the upcoming primaries, but probably only by a small amount, and he will continue to lose some of them by a large margin. I think it is very unlikely that he is going to achieve a 60:40 win, on average, for the rest of the race.
At this point in time, it is a near certainty that Clinton will be the nominee for the Democratic Party for President.