Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It'd take a miracle

Yesterday Obama cleaned up in the Potomac Primary. His tightest margin was his 24 point win in Maryland. But that's not the whole story... in addition he won almost all of the demographics that Hillary has traditionally been strong in (Latinos, older voters, < $50K voters) and came closer among white females and white Dems, her bulwark. The best news for him is that this is news, namely that the news orgs have picked it up and said that it shows he can win among her base.

It also gives him wins in two largish primaries, another common talking point. So, in short, he's sitting pretty.

One note... same-day voters were still strong for Hillary, she won them in VA and they were her strongest loss in MA. So, by my earlier thesis, it seems she is still strong on name recognition and perceived strength.

So, the question of the day is... Can she still win?

The answer? Yes, but it'd take a miracle. Or something close to it.

Obama is going to come out of February with a significant lead among pledged delegates. Currently he's ahead by 128 and Wisconsin and Hawaii, both expected wins for him, have yet to vote. By Obama's estimates he should add another 11 delegates (including dems abroad) to the spread. Thus far his estimates have proved very conservative, he's beat them by 21% relative to the states size. If he continues to do that he will come away with an additional 32 delegates, for a total split of 160 pledged delegates.

Besides this Obama's riding a wave of momentum that will threaten to swamp any built in leads that Hillary has in TX and OH. If he continues to win Latinos and/or over 65 folk she's toast.

So what chance is there? Basically she has to change the dynamic. Hence her calls for debates, which favor her strengths and pull Obama off the trail where he's strongest. It's also likely that she'll go negative in the upcoming weeks, basically throw a whole lot of mud and hope something sticks.

One big thing that could go her way is an Edwards endorsement. It would be big news as it would seem to be a reversal and it could help her shore up support among white men, where she's been slipping. Not to mention the 26 or so delegates that he could strongly encourage to get behind her.

So we'll see... WI is the next big test. It has some demographics that seem to favor Clinton, but it's in an area that's generally been Obama country. If Obama wins blue-collar dems there it's probably the beginning of the end for Clinton.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tough times for Hillary

Obama swept the weekend with big margins and is looking likely to clean-up on Tuesday in the Potomac Primary.

Probably the biggest setback for HRC was Maine, which some had suggested might go her way. It didn't, and didn't in a rather spectacular fashion, with Obama taking 59% of the vote to Hillary's 41%. Obama's wins in LA, WA, NB & the Virgin Islands were of similarly enormous margins: 21, 37, 36 & 80 points, respectively. On the whole Hillary pulled in 54 delegates to Obama's 111 on the weekend, allowing Obama to take a clear lead in pledged delegates and tie things up in overall delegates (depending on whose count of super-dels you use).

One thing of interest... some of these expectations came from an excel sheet that the Obama campaign inadvertently (or not, depending on who you ask) leaked out with their expected results for the rest of the primaries. Thus far they are out-performing their own predictions, a fact that may mean the release wasn't an accident but was just expectations setting. However, most of their predictions looked consistent with what would be expected... If you take them at face value right now it seems Obama can reasonably be expected to take a majority of the remaining states and pleged delegates. If he continues to beat his expectations at this rate (+11 LA, +17 WA, +16 NB, +40VI, +20 NH) then he'll likely tie up the nomination in the next month or so.

Clinton replaced her campaign manager today and has started to include more inspirational and poetic language into her stump speech.... including stealing one of Obama's lines. From an outside point of view it seems she thinks she has the Experience voters locked up and is trying to move in on Obama's strength in Change/Inspiration voters. My guess is she plays this through until Wisconsin to see if it works, then keeps riding it if it does.

At that point, if Obama's still getting landslide victories, it's fair to assume that her leads in Ohio and Texas will have slimmed. If she doesn't win on the 4th, she's toast. So she'll probably have to pull out all the stops post-WI and go at Obama as hard as she can, trying to change the dynamic... it could be an ugly couple weeks before TX & OH.

One final thing to think about. If Hillary does hold together and win with decent margins on the 4th, then there's a fair chance this will get decided by super delegates... just based on the math. The big Q right now is where do they go? The Clintons will be calling in all their favors, but if a majority of the states, delegates and votes go to Obama I have trouble seeing the DNC risking the wrath of it's constituents by overturning them.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

What comes...

Well Super Tuesday came and went... and it looks to be a draw. Obama won more states and, it appears, slightly more delgates. Clinton won the big prizes (CA, MA, NJ) and, just barely, the popular vote.

So, what's the rest of the race look like?

Well, Obama appears to have a good month ahead of him. The upcoming races:

Washington and Nebraska lean heavily Obama. Louisiana is a little less certain as it's demographics were drastically changed by Katrina, Clinton's best shot at a pickup on the day. Also the Virgin Islands weigh in, with 3 delegates, your guess is as good as mine.

Maine is probably Hillary's best shot to take a state in Feb. The demographics and location favor her, however it's a caucus state, which she has only won one of so far (NV). Also 7 delegates from Dems Abroad, probably leaning Obama.

DC and Maryland have large black populations, which should help Obama. Virginia has a slimmer black population and is sandwiched between the South and the Northeast, where Obama and Clinton are relatively stronger. It will be a hard fought race and another possible Clinton win.

Wisconsin and Hawaii. WI is upper midwest and sandwiched between IL and MN which both went heavily for Obama, a win for him. Hawaii is a caucus state, a former home state for Obama and strongly liberal... count that one for him.


This is were things could turn back to Hillary. Texas and Ohio are big delegate states that both lean her direction.

So, what's this mean for the candidates?

Well Hillary's goal has to be to win a couple states in there and keep the margins slim in the others. If Obama gets a string of blowout wins he could start pulling the finger-in-the-wind folk his direction and rack up a hard to beat lead. Get as much free media as she can, encourage debates (which favor her strengths) and keep expectations low to minimize Obama's wins.

Obama should be going for a knockout blow here. If he can win solidly in the first few states he has a good shot a winning all of the contests in February, by gradually increasing margins. Not only does this help delegate wise, it gives him the chance to emerge as a clear front-runner and pull some super delegates to his side. Just as importantly it gives him a tailwind into Ohio and Texas, which can keep Hillary from racking up big wins there. If he continues to out-raise Hillary it's possible for him to compete strongly on March 4th. The more Hillary has to loan her campaign money, the worse it looks for her.

All in all I think Obama is in the stronger spot. The biggest danger is that he gets caught in the same expectations trap of NH and Feb 5... the polls point to enough momentum that any win that isn't a drubbing is considered good for Hillary. If Hillary is able to pull off a few states in Feb, maintaining the even race dialog, then she'll be in a very strong spot come March 4th as she returns to her strongest spots.

Regardless it's going to be crazy for the next month or so.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Latest/Earliest deciders for Clinton

Sifting through exit polls from Super Tuesday I've noticed an interesting pattern. In poll after poll it seems that Clinton won the same day deciders while Obama was strong in the week before the primary. Here's a state by state breakdown:

SD = Same Day
L3 = In the Last 3 days
LW = In the Last Week
LM = In the Last Month
BF = Before

W/L = Split in final vote

All #'s from CNN.

If Clinton won a group it's listed as a positive number, if Obama won it's listed as a negative.






NY 9-11-1-103017





(PS: missing some data here, if anyone can fill it in or spots a mistake let me know)

Take a look at the averages... they're slightly skewed by the strong preferences in certain states (SC, UT, IL, GA, etc). I'll look into weighting them to account for this.

But the big story is Clinton is very consistently winning the same-day deciders and the the people that decided early on.

So who are these two groups of people? My theories:

Early Deciders (>1 month ago)
First and foremost her die-hard supporters... people that have loved her since the 90's and women committed to seeing a female president.

Second, her soft early support that has hardened some. People that got behind her when she was the clear front runner and have held their ground in the face of the Obama surge.

Same-Day Deciders
My guess is these are the less-engaged, finger in the wind folk mixed with the name-recognition folk. Her strength here has been consistent, with three exceptions: IA, UT & SC.

UT doesn't have data for LW or LM, so for now I'll ignore it.

Iowa is a microcosm to itself... but some things to note. IA and NH are the two states where name recognition holds almost no weight, because damn near everyone gets to meet the candidates. IA also has a very politically engaged populace and polling was neck and neck coming into the race, so that eliminates the under informed populace.

SC on the other hand is one case that points in my favor. The SC voters knew in advance that Obama was expected to win heavily and he ended up winning a larger % of same-day deciders than he did L3 deciders.

Hillary has generally had strong leads in national and Feb 5 polls. So I think on Feb 5 she got a heavy portion of the finger-in-the-wind same-day deciders along with almost all of the name recognition voters.

The Future
So what to expect in the future?

Well, *if I'm right*, this could be bad news for Hillary.

As the race extends she'll lose some (though not all) of her name recognition advantage. The upcoming states are much more spread out, giving more time for national and local coverage of all the candidates, along with allowing ads to play for a while in those states.

The bigger (and scarier) bell-weather will be if the finger-in-the-wind voters swing away from her. Obama is lined up for a string of strong showings in the next month. If this causes him to be perceived as the likely winner at the state and/or national level I would expect this section of the voters to swing towards him.

Finally, the early deciders. The big question is how hard their support is. Up until now "within the last month" has included just after IA & NH. If this group continues to fall heavily for Hillary she'll keep a strong enough base that she won't suffer any huge losses.

What to look for

-Watch the exits on Feb 12th. A strong showing by Obama this Saturday (the 9th) might be enough to tilt the late deciders to his side. If so he'll do very well on the 12th and could rack up some pretty big margins. (Edit: Also watch Maine on the 10th, though it may not be as indicative of a sea change in opinion b/c it will also coincide with a positive Obama news cycle after 2/9 wins)

-Keep an eye on the early deciders (>1 month). If they remain strong for Hillary, both in % support and in the % of the vote, over the next few weeks then I think it's fair to assume that they are hard Clinton and unlikely to be changed anytime in the race. If the % support swings Obama then it means that his early, post IA/NH campaigning is helping. If the % of the total vote slips (and Obama continues to lead L3, LW, LM) then it indicates his more recent campaigning is having an effect. Either way if this bastion of votes slips from Hillary's fingers she's in for a long bumpy ride to March 4th.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Fat Tuesday

The day of judgement draws nigh.

In two days time just under half of the US will vote in a primary/caucus. So, what's going to happen?

Possible answers:
1) Hillary's long standing leads in polls hold out and she wins a clear majority of states and delegates. Obama picks up Illinois, and a few states that caucus or have large black populations. This was the pre-SC/Teddy scenario and seems pretty unlikely now. If this happens Hillary will probably take the nomination.

2)A draw/lean Hillary... Hillary wins in the southwest, barely pulls out CA and dominates NY. Obama does well in the red states, the deep south, the mid-west and dominates IL. They split the northeast and a couple in-between states. Probably what most people are predicting right now, with Hillary expected to lead slightly from wins in CA and NY while splitting NJ and CT.

3)Draw/lean Obama... same as #2, but Obama wins either CA or 2/3 of NY/NJ/MA. Tough call if this or #2 is more likely, Hillary has name recognition and a strong initial base of support... Obama is riding momentum.

4)Big win for Obama... Obama wins CA, NJ, MA,IL and stays close in NY. Wins most of the south, the mid-west and all of the caucus states. If this happens Obama will probably win the nomination.

So which is it? Given current trends I would call it for #2, but just barely over #3.

Data points in Obama's favor:

-Obama is closing in polls nationwide and in Feb 5 states.
-Teddy's endorsement is a PR coupe and also gives him a strong advocate with Latinos and traditional Dems, two of his weakest demographics.
-Today he got the endorsement of Maria Shiver, a Kennedy and the wife of Arnold. Maria is identified as a strong female figure in CA politics and will help shore up his support among women.
-The $$... he raised $32 million in January (mostly from small donors) and has a big nationwide ad-buy going on right now, outspending Clinton
-Oprah's back and campaigning in CA... some would say she helped decide IA
-Thus far Obama has out-performed polls and gained points the more time he gets. Polls right now point to a scenario somewhere between 1 & 2... if his trends hold then he should move towards a pure draw or a lean Obama

Data points in Hillary's favor:

-Hillary has leads in most of these states that are just now starting to tighten. They may not tighten fast enough for Obama and eventually that trend will bottom out when it cuts down to her core supporters.
-Early voting, especially in CA, keeps her a step ahead. The CA mail-in ballots went out the day she won NH.
-Hillary has big name recognition and doesn't have to spend her time introducing herself
-She's one of the strongest and most connected politicians of our age, as we learned in NH it's dangerous to count her out.

Finally, things that could provide a swing:
-Endorsements: The biggest right now would be Edwards, since he can speak directly to a group of undecideds that have respect for him. Al Gore could swing TN, core dems and environment dems. Richardson could swing Latinos and NM. Obama would really benefit from Richardson, Hillary would like Gore to get help amongst the far left and either of them would love, love, love Edwards' endorsement.

- Turnout: The story of IA vs. NH is the story of youth turnout vs. female turnout. If either of these groups turn out heavily then (respectively) Obama or Hillary will benefit.

-Events: Any major news event that brings a major topic forward could swing things a percent or two. Something like a big change in the stock market or major news from Iraq could change the focus. Generally Hillary is strong on the economy while Obama is strong on Iraq.

-Gaffes/Scandals/Coverage: Since there is so little face time with the candidates many opinions will be formed based upon news coverage of events. Hillary has had a rough week on this front. This may be some of the basis for Obama's gains in the polls.

-Dirty tricks: Push polls, false rumors, voter intimidation/misinformation... all of these things are reprehensible and depressingly effective, especially with a relatively uninformed electorate.

So that's that, let's see how it plays out.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

And I thought I was obsessed

Over at Daily Kos there is a state by state breakdown of every Feb 5th state... and wow is it in depth. Take a look:

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Edwards falls off the horse

Today in New Orleans Edwards withdrew his bid to be president, trimming the Dem race to Hillary and Obama.


First obvious questions: Who will endorse and where will his votes go? If he endorses someone will his supporters follow his lead?

Conventional wisdom seems to be that he'll go for Obama... I tend to agree, but there have been at least a few rumblings from his campaign trying to prove he's undecided. His brief turn on Obama at the SC debate would be a point against conventional wisdom, regardless I think we'll hear soon.

His voters are less clear. As Chris Bowers points out here, the Edwards supporters seem to be pro-change (and maybe anti-Hillary) but are also white, union, poorer and older... all demographics that break for Hillary. Also, newly undecided voters tend to break with whoever has momentum. After SC (and some new polling) that would seem to be Obama.

Lost in a sea of indecision, his voters (and delegates!) may well follow whatever endorsement he makes... so he has the potential to be a game changer. Clinton is pushing hard for the endorsement and might be able to get it if Edwards ambition outstrips his rhetoric.

Second, less obvious question: Why now? His huge loss was apparent on Saturday, things were still looking bleak then, why wait until Wed?

Possible answers:
1) He thought he had a chance in FL. This seems unlikely, he wasn't polling well and wasn't allowed to campaign there. Plus he didn't make any FL specific pitches (like Hillary). However the timing would be standard for a disappointing loss.
2) He wanted to see how Feb 5 polling came out. Seeing himself making gains after the SC debate he wanted to do some national polling and see if those were across the board. If it looked like he wasn't going to hit viability (15%), and thus not be able to play kingmaker, he might have dropped out.
3) He's trying to help Obama. By dropping out immediately after FL he grabs the news cycle for Dem politics and overshadows any news about Hillary's beauty contest win. He dominates the news for a day, then with an Obama endorsement shortly after, puts the ball solidly in Obama's square.

If Edwards comes out for Obama soon I'd put my money on #3, otherwise #2 seems most likely.

I'm going out on a limb here and predicting that Edwards quit to help Obama. My guess is he'll endorse in the next couple days and add to the flurry of established Dems (Kennedy, Kerry, Daschle) throwing their weight behind Obama.