Tag Archives: New Hampshire

Election Season Starts Friday!

As we begin primary voting in Minnesota (early voting here starts Friday, January 17th) we are reminded that the actual election season, not just the never ending campaigning season, is upon us.

One thing you should know before discussing the primary process, there are new rules for how delegates are to be awarded.

The total number of delegates in play on the first vote will be 3,768. To gain the nomination, a candidate will have to get a majority of this this number, or 1884 plus one or more, on the first vote. There are the usual “pledged” delegate vs. “unpledged” (the latter sometimes called “superdelegates”) but with fewer of the latter than in previous years, and they will not be voting on the first ballot. If no candidate meets the 1884+ threshold on the first ballot, all the delegates are released from prior pledges, and superdelegates are thrown into the mix. Then, 4,532 delegates are in play, and a majority, or over 2266, will be required to win.

That is something of an oversimplification. If a single candidate goes into the convention with something like 2,267 pledged delegates, then superdelegates will be allowed to vote. Notice how close the supermajority of pledged and the 50% threshold of all, are. It feels like astrology, but I digress.

Among the pledged delegates, there is a 15% threshold rule per state in allocating delegates. If a candidate gets 15% or more of the vote/caucus delegates, they are in the running for allotted delegates. Then, among those who pass 15%, the delegates are allotted proportionately. If no one gets 15%, then the threshold shifts to one half of whatever the front runner got. So, if the leading candidates gets 12%, then the new threshold is 6%.

Here are two of many possible examples of what could happen in a given state.

The Iowa Caucuses are on February 3rd. In polls, Biden and Sanders are about even, with Buttigieg and Warren competing for third place and all seem to be at or above the threshold. However, the difference between public opinion polls and outcomes is potentially large in a caucus state, because the variation affected by “ground game” is directly reflected in polls when there is a primary, but not in a caucus. In Iowa, keep an eye on Klobuchar, who claims to have a wining or at least result-surprising ground game in the Corn State. That is not a false claim. In other words, anything can happen in Iowa. Iowa will be deciding the commitments for some 41 pledged delegates.

I currently predict, and this is a pure thumb suck estimate, that the four current front runners (Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg and Warren) will roughly split Iowa’s 41 pledged delegates, with Sanders taking the largest share, and Warren the smallest share.

Then comes the famous New Hampshire Primary, on February 11th. New Hampshire has 24 pledged delegates, a very small number, but the Granite State is famous for being a tail wagging the giant sausage making political dog of democracy. There is a good chance that New Hampshire will break in a very similar way as Iowa, with Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg all reaching the threshold and sharing delegates with Biden and Sanders getting equal numbers at the top, Warren third, and Buttigieg fourth. But, either Warren or Buttigieg, or both, could fail to meet the 15% threshold. The latest Boston Herald poll has Buttigieg way below that number and Warren near it. Other recent polls have both below it. New Hampshire may well be the make or break moment for Buttigieg.

Then comes the Nevada Caucus on February 22nd. As usual, Nevada has less polling than other states, but there is enough to identify Biden, Sanders and Warren as, once again, the top tier, but with Warren repeatedly polling at just below the threshold. Buttigieg hovers just below them, and not looking like he’d get the 15% threshold. There is a good chance Biden and Sanders will split Nevada’s 36 pledged delegates roughly evenly. This could be a make or break caucus for Warren. But, maybe not.

Then, on Feb 29th, we have the South Carolina primary. The first two events are mainly white semi-rural or rural people deciding who should be president. Nevada Democrats have significant diversity but mainly Hispanic, and a strong labor component. But elections are won or lost on the basis of African American support in this country, and South Carolina is the first event with significant African American participation. Here, Biden is way ahead of everyone else, with Sanders and Warren sharing a distant second place, and hugging that 15% threshold a little too closely for comfort. It is possible that Biden will walk away with all of South Carolina’s 54 pledged delegates. Recent polling has shown Steyer as a factor in this state, and if that is correct, it could be Biden and Steyer splitting those delegates at about a 2:1 ratio. That all depends on if we believe Steyer is for real. I, personally, am not sure.

At this point, what we know now will still be true: Biden and Sanders are front runners. Warren is a factor, likely Butigieg is a factor. If nothing unusual happens, we will be entering Super Tuesday with a Biden-Sanders fight. However, Warren could outperform and pop, or Butigieg could take the threshold in three of these four states, or Steyer could buy his way in, er, I mean, well, whatever, you know what I mean. The point is this: We are watching a horse race with two odds-on horses, both old white guys but one progressive and one centrist, and one of them likely to win. But, there are these two or three other horses in the race that could woosh by either or both of them in these first four furlongs.

But then, Super Tuesday comes along. Sixteen entities, mostly states, vote on Super Tuesday, for a total of 1357 pledged delegates. Using information from polling, or if no polling exists, the thumb-suck-estimate method, assuming that no candidate has an unexpected break-through event in early states (or otherwise), and assuming that Biden, Warren, and Sanders are the only candidates likely to be viable for most of the primaries (Klobuchar will take a good number of Minnesota votes), the following shows a reasonable estimate of the outcome of Super Tuesday. Remember, this is based only on polls (this is not a predictive model) and polls are sparse in many of these states.

This is, in my view, the “null model” of what is going to happen between now and the day after Super Tuesday. It is a model to be defied by individual candidates, broken by the voters, altered by circumstances, manipulated by the Russians, etc. There is more uncertainty in this season’s Democratic primary than seen in the recent past, especially with a couple of billionaires showing up at the last second to buy the presidency, and according to the polling, making a dent.

Who won last night’s Democratic Primary debate in New Hampshire?

I watched the debate pretty closely, and in my opinion, both candidates did pretty well and it was mostly an even contest. (Note: I am not committed to one or the other candidate, I happen to like them both.)

Sanders did very well in getting his message across, but he demonstrated weakness in foreign policy.

Clinton did a good job at addressing the alleged Wall Street ties and addressing the email issue.

But there is another way to answer the question. How much did each candidate strengthen their own support, and how much did each candidate do to convince undecided individuals to prefer them, especially those individuals in New Hampshire?

One way to asses that is to see what happens next Tuesday. As previously discussed, Sanders is expected to win the New Hampshire Primary by about 20%. If, in the end, he falls short of this, then perhaps Clinton did a better job of convincing undecideds to pick her. If Clinton does worse than 20% down, then perhaps Sanders did a better job of convincing undecideds to pick her.

Meanwhile, we have the online polls. Across a range of polls, Clinton gets number in the 10% – 20% range, and Sanders gets numbers in the 80-something% range. It has been suggested that Sanders supporters are better at gaming the on line polls than Clinton supporters. With numbers like this (8:2) that is almost certainly what is going on. Or, at least, it is a reasonable hypothesis. It is also possible that Republicans are clicking on Sanders because of the widespread belief among anti-Democrats that Sanders is the candidate the GOP prefers to run agains, even though the evidence for that is rather weak. In any event, an 8:2 (or, really, closer to 8.5-1.5) ratio does not accurately reflect the Democratic voter’s position. It is poll gaming of one kind or another. Does poll gaming indicate fishiness among Sanders supporters, with BerniBrah’s acting in their established somewhat obnoxious pattern? Or does it indicate a good GOP strategy? Or does it indicate that the Sanders campaign is doing something right? I suspect this is a question that will be addressable at a later time, not now.

And, to be clear, the political experts are generally in agreement that the debate was fairly even and Clinton addressed some concerns very well.

So putting this together, a few things things seem to emerge. First, realistically, there are two excellent campaigners running in this primary, each very able to handle themselves. Sanders has not done his homework on the foreign policy issues, as he really should have done by now. (One of his answers was almost GOP-esque, when he was asked about one country but spent a couple of minutes not addressing that country at all, and instead talked about a different country.) Having said that, I suspect that Sanders and Clinton supporters are different. Sanders is an insurgent candidate, and his campaign is following, in part, an unconventional path to the nomination. Last time that happened, the unconventional path worked. Sanders supporters hope this will happen again. But usually it doesn’t.

Someone who has been following the race very closely (full disclosure, a Sanders volunteer) recently told me she felt it was “easier to switch from being a Clinton supporter to a Sanders supporter than the other way around.” In a way this may be the definition of a (successful) insurgent campaign. The reason, she said, is because one of the main reasons to pick Clinton over Sanders is electability, and as Sanders demonstrates that this is not a issue, things change. We start out with Sanders the Socialist vs. Hillary the Hated. The Hillary the Hated persona is not going to change because the GOP has ingrained that as part of American political culture. But the Sanders the Socialist trope cold tear off the mask and become Sanders the Insurgent.

We’ll see.

Bachmann’s Political Future?

Michele Bachmann
Michele Bachmann in New Hampshire in June (Jason Claffey)

It is possible that Michele Bachmann could become the next President of the United States of America.

OK, that made me throw up a little in my mouth.

But more and more people are talking about her campaign crashing, even though she seems to have plans to go to New Hampshire.

From AP:

“Congress is too small for Michele,” said Jack Tomczak, a former political director for Bachmann’s congressional campaign. “Leadership has never given her the opportunity to do much. So I think she’s going to be looking for other avenues where she can be more successful.”

Maybe. But she does seem to be pressing forward:

The Minnesota Congresswoman will be in the Granite State from Oct. 9-12, including stops in Nashua, North Conway, Moultonborough, Henniker and then Hanover for the Oct. 11 debate at Dartmouth College, said Jeff Chidester, the candidate’s senior campaign adviser for New Hampshire.

My strong preference is that she stays in the presidential race long enough to not be able to run for Congress, embarrasses herself and her Tea Party a whole bunch, then fizzles.