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 ...
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.
Fantastic lead-in, Greg. Great work. The first several paragraphs are priceless (in other words, they express beautifully what I would like to say if I did something other than Facebook three-liners ;-))
I am a Bernie supporter (for both economic and environmental reasons), but unlike the snowflakes, will be happy to vote for Hillary should the nomination be hers. Gotta stop the Goons.
Wisdom. Courage. Compassion. They both have all three. Nobody on the Right can claim that.
"But the difference between the two candidates has been large enough to suggest that a Clinton nomination is inevitable."
I think you intended a "never" in there. "... has NEVER been large enough..."
No, it has always been large enough to suggest this. The only way I can get my empirical model to produce a Sanders nomination is to lie to it. Sanders has to get more votes in more primaries by a good margin to reverse that situation.
The thing that is a little confusing here is that the model in its various iterations is based on status quo to date. It does not address changes in voting patterns that have not happened yet, only those that have already happened, if any.
I'm fairly confident that the folks who suggest they will vote for Trump if Bernie isn't on the ticket are not hardcore leftists who are offended by Hillary's neoliberalism. They are economically insecure people who are not committed to one party but who really want to hear a populist message, who would prefer Bernie's real populism but if it's not available, may view Drumpf's phony populism as second best.
Jane, yes, or either or. I know of individuals voting on one recent contest who intended to vote for Trump in the Republican primary and Sanders in the Democratic primary (but found out that they couldn't).
A thought experiment: Would the Obama of 2016 - dinged by all of the compromises he made as President, all of the times when he held back from bold pronouncements, by his embrace of the drone wars - be able to compete against Bernie if he were running today?
Also, I'm not convinced that a President Sanders would ipso facto be able to push the country to the left (which I support) more efficiently than a Senator Sanders who works with the Warren camp is able to do. It's the legislative branch that is most in need of a good roto-rootering .
Greg at #4 : "No, it has always been large enough to suggest this." In which case it would be clearer to say that, i.e. "“But the difference between the two candidates has ALWAYS been large enough to suggest that a Clinton nomination is inevitable.” (That way I, at least, wouldn't get confused!)
This has to be one of the best written articles out there that actually addresses the real issues out there for each candidate, without sounding overly biased towards either side. I'm a huge Bernie supporter and if Hillary were the nominee, I would most likely vote for her, especially if Drumpf were on the other side. But I might not vote at all if she didn't need it.
I think if the mainstream media read more closely towards how this article presents the candidates, Bernie would be winning in a landslide. He's going against the media as well, which I think is making it take longer for his message to get out.
Also, nearly no one has personal problems with Bernie, those that oppose him either don't fully understand his message or tend to be more selfish individuals (I don't think Hillary supporters oppose Bernie, they think Hillary would just do a better job). Most people's problems with Hillary are that she thinks money doesn't influence politics or lies/changes her answers depending on what is more popular with the general public. Although I'm glad she is able to change her mind on things, I wish those changes were based more on principle rather than 51% of the population agreeing with that opinion, we want to elect a leader for strong principles.
Greg, this is fantastic. I couldn't agree with you more! I am definitely a Sanders supporter, but I'm with you in that I simply don't understand my fellow Sandersians re-tweeting, re-posting, re-imguring, or whatever all the anti-Hillary vitriol. Truth be told, I've only ever known of one, maybe two, militant Hillary Clinton supporters using any anti-Bern rhetoric. I am absolutely ECSTATIC at the possibility of a Sanders presidency, while only THRILLED (still all caps, you'll note) at the possibility of a Clinton presidency. Either way, this should be an amazing election. I just hope you're right and the base will rally around the delegate leader when the nomination becomes truly inevitable. I look forward to following your analysis!
Looking at the spending for these states, I still think grand tactical/strategic considerations are going to introduce error into your model's assumptions.
Hillary's campaign may decide that taking a chance in order to "wrap things up" isn't worth the risk of failing. Whereas Bernie has to go for "winning" at least some states just to maintain credibility, even if the delegate count still makes his path really narrow.
Sun Tzu, Rommel, Patton, yadda yadda. Maybe it's a good thing we Chess and Go players are being made obsolete by the machines. Some day, the contest will be set up and decided in microseconds, no money needs to be spent on ads in politics, and no blood and treasure on wars, and we can pay more attention to Survivor and the Kardashians.
It will all depend on how long your wire is, the wire that connects your button the server.
Clinton won Missouri, according to real clear politics and 538. Are you sure your numbers are right?
Slight correction on my comment: she is in the lead in vote counting, but it hasn't been called yet.
How did my simple demographic model do yesterday? (This is my version of the model, not, not Greg's) Here are the results for Clinton's share of the vote (state, actual, prediction, error):
This is pretty much in line with the results that the model has been producing. The average rms error for all states before these primaries is around 7.5 percentage points. For the level of accuracy of the model, under-estimating Clinton's vote in Florida by 3.1 percentage points and over-estimating it in Missouri by only 1.2 counts as being pretty much counts as correct. Illinois and Ohio are pretty average results for the model. North Carolina, over-estimating Clinton's vote share by 10.2 percentage points is the only one worse than the average error going into these primaries.
Well, I don't think honestly that Hillary Clinton has been exactly a big supporter of liberal causes. More a co-opter.
Which gets us to Sanders -- I do think he's at least kept certain things in the conversation that need to be there. Too bad that he isn't likely to get the nod but I was never particularly optimistic on that point.
Greg, your point is well taken on the constraints of representing a larger more diverse state (like New York) as opposed to Vermont. For what it's worth, if we look at the home states of the last several presidents, they've almost all been largish ones. There are lots of reasons for this. One is the electoral college. If a party wants to win the White House they need at least one big state "in the bag" and that means the state a candidate is from. (Nobody has won a presidential election without their home state in more than a century and a half). This is why the Democratic Party loved them some Southern Democrats -- Carter & Clinton, got nominated and note that the VPs were Southerners for the last 10 cycles (the exception was Ferraro in '84). It's only recently that they muted that strategy. (Also, the "ticket balancing" they always did never worked. People vote for president, not VP).
The other is having the political operation to appeal to a wide range of voters. That is, you build experience among your operatives that way, and Sanders wasn't in a position to do that.
Again, I don't think it's an accident that the states that have produced presidents are relatively large ones. (Obama BTW may be from Hawaii, but his political home was Illinois; the Bushes have a similar relationship with Texas). The last president from a "small" state -- call it one of those with a population that gave it less than 10 EVs -- you have to go back to the 19th century I think.
Sanders was also a political outsider to the Democratic party, don't forget. He wasn't going to have much support from that quarter at all. It was going to be an uphill battle, even if Clinton had been hit by an ice cream truck. In that situation the Democrats had a bench.
Sanders was at least 3% ahead in Missouri for most of last night, but they are now saying Clinton may be ahead by <1500 votes, too close to call. I presume that whoever is said to lose will insist on a recount, though the delegate split will be nearly even so only a couple of delegates will be at stake.
In Denmark the rural results come in first. The same thing may be true of the U.S. In that case the city vote, which would be more favorable
to Clinton because of a larger minority population, would add to Clinton's tally. If I'm correct, then both campaigns would understand that that the shift was not abnormal, and there won't be any demand for a recount.
"But I might not vote at all if she didn’t need it."
How could you be certain "she didn't need it?" What might happen if everyone who felt she didn't need it stayed home?
The more votes the Democratic nominee gets the better. Going to the polls would also help the other Democratic candidates, and this is also important.
Republicans are arguing that a new Supreme Court Justice should not be voted on until the people have spoken. Every additional vote for the Democrat will be a vote that makes it harder for Republicans to oppose a Democratic President's nominee. Do you care about that?
Recount demands are more common here. It seems Missouri lets anyone who has lost by less than 0.5% demand a recount, so if you lose by 0.24%, as is the current claim for Sanders, you almost automatically ask for a recount. It usually does find some votes that weren't tallied initially, because none of our usual methods of voting are foolproof. (Unfortunately, recounting votes cast on touch-screen computer machines is impossible, and the company that makes the machines has ties to a particular political faction - this is why I always ask for paper ballots.)
It's usually also the case that there are some provisional ballots cast that aren't counted until the voters, whose eligibility was questioned at the polling place, prove that they are eligible to vote. That can take a day or more, and in a really close election might make the difference. In general elections, in most parts of the country these questioned voters are poor and/or minority and therefore skew Democratic, but I can't guess how they might skew in this primary.
Before the spirit of Sun Tzu leaves my channel, let me make a couple of observations.
Much has been made about Hillary getting "victories" (delegates) in States that are not competitive in the general.
But I took a look at the county results provided by NYT, (click on maps) and what's interesting is that many of the Bernie victories e.g. in Illinois are in areas that voted overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney.
So I have to wonder just how much of the "independent" White Male vote going to Bernie is strategic voting by those who typically vote R.
And while a couple of very gracious comments here by Bernie supporters are comforting, over at the NYT, it is hard not to see a Republican trolling operation gearing up; endless repetition of "I'll never vote for that murderous slut" and so on. Psych-ops standard kind of voter suppression.
And maybe everyone could stop with the "winning the State" stuff and talk about delegate numbers. Basically splitting the delegates is just the same whether it's Bernie or Hillary that has a percent or two more votes.
After adding in yesterday's results, here are the current predictions for the states that have not yet voted; the numbers are the projected vote share for Clinton:
Yes, it predicts Clinton will win 106.6 percent of the DC vote, this is what you get when you use a linear fit and throw in an demographic outlier like DC.
Although Sander's is projected to win more states, toward the the top of the list, and thus projected wins for Clinton, are a couple of large states (NY, CA) with lots of delegates which Clinton are projected to win. So the larger number of states that Sanders is projected to win does not necessarily mean more delegates.
Toward the bottom of the list, thus projected Sanders wins, are heavily republican western states (ND, SD, WY, ID, UT, AK) for which we have not much data among the states that have already voted. It will be interesting to see it their demographics follow the pattern that the mainly eastern and southern states for which we have data. That may be the primary unknown here.
The Deomcratic race in the second half of the country, or at least the latter portion of it, may be affected by how fast Drumpf accumulates a delegate lead that would normally get him the GOP nomination. If the GOP race is still close and polls in a given state are close, some independents might vote in the Republican primary just to vote against Trump; if they knew that vote would be wasted, they might vote Democratic, for which candidate I can't guess. Likewise, some working-class people who find appeal in both Trumpian and Sandersian versions of populism might be more likely to vote in the Democratic primary (then supporting Sanders) if they thought that Trump already had the GOP nomination in the bag.
Interestingly, if it ends up Trump vs. Clinton this will be the first time that both major-party candidates are actively disliked by a majority of the public, including some of their own voters. Hard to say how that turns out.
some independents might vote in the Republican primary just to vote against Trump;
They will be far, far better served to wait and vote against Trump in the general election.
Voting in the primaries to block Trump's nomination will likely have the undesirable result of helping a malevolent extremist/anarchist get his name on the ballot -- one who is more likely to win (even if he has the distinction of being the most hated Senator in U.S. history) and thus embark on his own gleeful destruction of America.
Well, that's why I just voted for Bernie - it's tough to choose the lesser evil, between a Nazi and a guy whose own father says we should elect him so he can start World War III to make Jesus come back and end the world. But your average voter is much less familiar with just how bad Tailgunner Ted could be, because the media simply don't dare to pick on religion if it's Christian or Jewish. And for the group of voters whose primary motivation is hatred of Washington, the fact that Cruz also hates Washington and hopes to ruin everything that is done there might not be understood to be a negative.
Well, then it's a good thing that Ted Cruz is not a Christian... Wait. He does a good job masquerading as one, though. Goes with the party affiliation, I guess. ::sigh::