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Post-election poll evaluation (preliminary)

March 2nd, 2016, 6:39pm by Sam Wang

Post-Super Tuesday analysis is delayed a bit because of foreign travels. A preliminary look:

In terms of popular vote, both parties’ votes went about as expected. Here is a plot of currently-reported vote as a function of pre-election polls:

Trump, Cruz, and Rubio each outperformed their pre-election polls by a median of 4-5 percentage points. This across-the-board bonus is probably driven by last-minute decisions by undeclared voters. The net outcome is to give slightly more delegates to Cruz and Rubio than my forecast indicated, because Cruz/Rubio would get above threshold in a greater number of states and Congressional districts.

Weighted by per-state delegates, the popular vote was Trump 33.8%, Cruz 29.0%, Rubio 22.4%. This reflects in part the fact that some of these states were strong for Cruz relative to national opinion. Since Trump is polling higher nationally, with a current median of 44% (4 surveys at HuffPollster). For that reason alone, we might expect Trump to do better in the weeks remaining.

Generally, it appears that Trump is headed for a majority of delegates. I would be surprised if there were a contested convention. I’ll refine those thoughts later.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders pulled out some wins in addition to Vermont that were not indicated by polls, in Oklahoma and Colorado. That has to be heartening for his campaign. However, it still looks like Hillary Clinton is still on track to get a majority of delegates – not even counting the superdelegates.

Finally…greetings from Hong Kong! That’s me on the right.

Tags: 2016 Election · President

115 Comments so far ↓

  • Olav Grinde

    A question, if I may: Do we know anything about how the ex-Jeb / Rand Paul / Christie / Huckabee / Santorum / Fiorina are breaking for the remaining candidates? Who has benefited most from these dropping out?

    Not to mention the Perry / Jindal / Walker / Graham / Gilmore / Pataki supporters…

    (Apologies, but I am sure I’ve forgotten at least one or two GOP Presidential candidates.)

    • Matt McIrvin

      Ben Carson just dropped out, so we should start seeing polls without him in them shortly. I’m curious to see where his very devoted 8% or so are going to go. It’s not a lot of voters, but if we’re talking about whether the Republicans can hold Trump below 50% of delegates, small numbers could be crucial.

      Rubio, Kasich and Trump have all been rising since Jeb, Christie and the last clot of minor candidates dropped out, but it’s hard to say if that’s because of their supporters (Cruz has been losing support too).

      Scott Walker’s final slide to oblivion coincided with the short-lived Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina bubbles, but Trump was still gaining too.

  • Niels Damrauer

    Sam, is there any information about whether Trump’s support draws significantly from folks who normally dont vote? Is there a vast supply of these kinds of votes?

  • Amitabh Lath

    It is difficult to predict the behavior of a system like this delegate allocation where they have engineered in such large non-linearities with the thresholds.

    I hope you tipped that limo driver well. He has the look of a guy who’s just about had it up to here with these American professors.

    • Some Body

      Maybe Sam meant the photo to be a spoof on the Christie-behind-Trump meme…

  • bks

    Romney is making a major speech tomorrow not to endorse anyone but to anti-endorse Trump. I can’t remember anything like this. I guess if they were rational, Cruz and Kasich would tell Floridians to vote Rubio, and Rubio and Cruz would tell Ohioans to vote for Kasich, and then Cruz would get a personality transplant prior to the convention. Or something.

    • Brian

      ” I guess if they were rational, Cruz and Kasich would tell Floridians to vote Rubio, and Rubio and Cruz would tell Ohioans to vote for Kasich,”

      That’s interesting. Wouldn’t it offend high minded voters and drive Trump turnout sky-high? I think the best you can do is have the other spoilers refrain from campaigning in your home state.

    • Just Dropping By

      The Romney speech seems like one of the most ill-advised bits of strategy in American presidential politics of all time. Romney wasn’t particularly well-liked when he was the candidate in 2012, so it hardly seems plausible that he’ll have much influence. Conversely, by attacking Trump, it basically gives Trump a full day of free media coverage in which Trump gets to say crowd-pleasing things like, “Last time I checked, Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama. Who cares what a loser thinks?”

    • whirlaway

      Yes, Cruz, Rubio and Kasich will have to hang together to defeat Trump. If they don’t hang together, they will hang separately, and Trump will get past the 1237 magic number.

    • Latichever

      Brings to mind the temporary alliances in the Hunger Games.

    • Matt McIrvin

      Here in Massachusetts I know a bunch of mostly-Democratic-voting centrists who still have a certain amount of nostalgia for the seemingly moderate Mitt Romney of 2002, and dismiss the 2012 edition as an artifact of the needs of a Republican presidential primary candidate. They might actually vote for him in preference to Hillary Clinton if he jumped into the race somehow.

      I think they are nationally atypical, though. Speaking personally, his (failed) obstructionist games over same-sex marriage in 2003-04 soured me on him.

    • bks

      Given the current delegate selection process, this means that I would vote for Marco Rubio in Florida, John Kasich in Ohio, and for Ted Cruz or whichever one of the other two contenders has the best chance of beating Mr. Trump in a given state, — Mitt Romney

    • Matt McIrvin

      Rubio and Cruz just promised last night to vote for Trump if he’s nominated. As Josh Marshall pointed out, even Mitt Romney didn’t rule out the possibility: his anti-Trump barnburner had to have an aside about how Hillary Clinton was history’s greatest monster.

      It really makes their anti-Trump posturing absurd. It makes perfect sense, in any normal primary campaign, to pledge to support the party’s nominee after the convention. It’s what you’re supposed to do. But these guys are, probably accurately, describing Trump as an unserious, ignorant, absurd bigot who will turn the nation into a blighted hellscape, and starting to craft scenarios for the party to fall on its sword if his nomination looms. There’s hardly anywhere to go down from there, and they’re *still* making their little support pledge.

    • Kevin

      This scenario comes down to “push out Cruz.” After all, you need Rubio to stay in to win FL, and Kasich to stay in to win OH. Cruz is not leaving. He’s in clear second place and according to Nate Cohn he can look forward to winning five more states, which while insufficient to win the nomination could be consequential for his career. Also, what about the history of Ted Cruz makes you believe he is ready to stand aside for the (supposed) good of the party?

  • Jim Hafford

    A brokered convention has become the topic du jour of talk shows like MTP Daily and Trump futures have dropped by around 10% on Predictit . This appears to be one of the few websites with nothing to gain by stoking controversy.

    • amit

      A convention where Trump fails in the first balloting and loses further support in subsequent rounds would require national Republicans to exercise substantial influence on state and county level Republicans who pick delegates. Delegates across the country would have to instructed on how to defect to the chosen anti-Trump candidate.

      After the convention these state level officials would face the wrath of the Trump voters. I suspect they do not hold members of the DC area Republican establishment in such high esteem that they would risk their political careers.

    • Brian

      amit: Delegates aren’t usually employed by voters.

      They’re hand-picked loyalists for candidates and therefore unlikely to defect.

      But each state party gets to substitute party leadership members — a chairman and two committeemen — for pledged delegates. In most states they will be substituted for Trump delegates. Party officials are chosen by state delegates and somewhat but not totally immune to voters and often ambitious for GOPe jobs.

      So you can expect that up to 150 Trump delegates will be substituted with establishment loyalists.

      In some states, like NY, the party apparat gets to hand pick delegates themselves that candidates have earned. In New York, the party committee picks eleven delegates — probably all Trump — and will probably pick establishment hacks that dispise Trump.

      The result is that Trump needs about 1,300 or 1,350 to get a win on the first ballot.

      Delegates are supposedly bound, but only on the first ballot. For credential challenges to throw out Trump delegates, they’re free to vote how they wish. For a vote to unbind all delegates, they’re free to vote as they wish. Therefore anything short of an unquestionable Trump-loyal majority is enough to allow a brokered convention.

      Nevertheless I agree with our host. Trump is likely to pass 1,350. Remember that the Bible Belt and the south is not a strong region for Trump because of all the Religious Right evangelicals. He’ll do much better in the Midwest and northeast and west (outside the far-right west: UT, WY, ID).

    • RDT

      Even if Trump were to get to the convention without a majority, I find hard to imagine a scenario where the choice isn’t either Trump or Cruz.

    • amit

      Frankly, the DC-based Republican establishment seems to be a cauldron of powerlessness. I doubt they have much sway with ground level Republicans in the states. The anti-Trump delegate packing you describe may well happen, but not because Rove or Preibus picked up the phone and gave orders.

      Here in NJ of course the delegate packing could go pro-Trump given our governor’s preferences. And to think this guy is my titular boss.

  • JayBoy2k

    Nice photo , Sam. I like the contrast between your smile and the deadpan on the driver.
    Also after a couple of hours listening to the wild speculations of the news media, it is a breath of fresh air reading a date driven reasoned approach.
    Lindsey Graham indicated that it was unlikely that anything said by establishment elders like Romney was unlikely to swing many votes. The number of contenders needs to drop, hopefully after March 15th.

  • Bill Herschel

    Thank you for referring us to The Mule.

  • Amitabh Lath

    From the Onion:
    GOP Statisticians Develop New Branch Of Math To Formulate Scenarios In Which Trump Doesn’t Win Nomination.

    • 538 Refugee

      Meh. Karl Rove beat them to it.

    • amit

      In physics the cliche answer to grand unification (of gravity and quantum mechanics) is always “we need to develop a new type of math”. I heard it when I was in high school, and now I spout similar stuff when I give talks at high schools.

      So Rubio will win! Somewhere somehow. You need to understand how the multiverse works.

    • InmanRoshi

      You could also change the title to “Nate Silver trying to save face”

  • 538 Refugee

    One article I read said Trump supporters are woefully ignorant about much of his past. This would explain his ability to endure self inflicted wounds. It looks like the attacks may have had a small but telling effect on Super Tuesday results. They are going to get pretty ferocious now since they appeared to work at least some. This could get even more interesting. Cruz and Rubio will do everything in their power to make Trump melt down in the next debate. Trump might find an excuse to sit this one out. THIS is ‘reality TV’.

    • JayBoy2k

      This seems counter_intuitive. We see a concept that , as a normally respected individual attacks Trump, Trump’s support goes up and the attacker’s support goes down… Jeb Bush,, Marco Rubio. In order to change someone’s mind, they have to see you as trusted or credible.
      Frank Luntz did a session with Trump Supporters, testing the depth of support befre feeding them 2 hours of anti_Trump ads and rhetoric. Not surprisingly support for Trump among previous trump supporters went up.
      I imagine the same thing happens with fervent Hillary or Sanders supporters.
      Negative ads are targeted to those who have yet to make up their minds.
      I am not sure that there are a lot of persuadable Republican primary voters at this point, given Trump National polls — If Trump holds his 44% and Rubio, Cruz, Kasich all stay in …….

    • Sean Patrick Santos

      I think that this mistates the nature of Trump support. When people say that he’s a “straight-shooter” or that “he says what he means”, they don’t literally mean that he always says things that are true. Rather, they mean that what he says is exactly what he wants to say in the moment. The virtue that they are praising is *absolutely not* honesty. It is *bravery* (to stand up to “political correctness”), and also *loyalty* (to a certain conception of what the USA is).

      This way of framing things may be a bit off-topic for this blog, but it does easily explain why Trump’s statements have not hurt his support. He’s leveraging the US honor culture, in which the highest virtues are saying what you mean, and never backing down from a fight. His past is irrelevant, as long as he does those two things.

  • Some Body

    Why not also offer all convention delegates a magic pony, while you’re at it?

    • Some Body

      [The comments here (mine and Amit’s below) are replies to a hence-deleted message with a not-very-realistic scenario described in it]

    • Sam Wang

      erm, is this better? lost track of the thread.

      and yes, I do screen comments for degree of realism and civility…

    • Bela Lubkin

      The GOP could attempt to game their own system to stop Trump from getting the nomination on the first ballot. The phrase “Seekrit Deal” is an “open secret” — not publicly acknowledged, but known to all; like the dog whistles they’ve been using for years.

      The key point was that if having two near-20% contenders in the race (Cruz, Rubio) — gives Trump the advantage of non-linearity in so many states; then having only one, presumably holding his own + more than half of the other’s voters, might take away that advantage.

      And as the Party Elders have no control over Cruz, the only one who could drop out to offer a chance at that path is Rubio.

  • Matt McIrvin

    Democrats online are now in a panic because many more Republicans turned out on Super Tuesday than Democrats.

    I suppose that panic is motivationally useful. But it also fails to take into account that there were more red states than blue states at issue, and the biggest one by far was Texas. One might be able to extract more material for fear from the fact that more Republicans than Democrats turned out in Virginia, but the R primary was also excitingly close there, and the D primary wasn’t at all.

    • amit

      Primaries are usually low engagement affairs, and about a thousand extra people showing up counts as an overwhelming turnout. General election turnout is much higher as a rule.

      A lot of this “brokered convention” and “X panic because Y” talk is writers needing to fill column-inches.

    • Fritz

      Dem primary turnout in 1980 is still higher than R’s record 2016 turnout. 1980 didn’t work out very well for Democrats.

    • Matt McIrvin

      I think a lot of people are mostly worried that Trump has some army of first-time or normally-disengaged voters that he’s going to turn out, and blow away all the models and predictions. But if that were so, wouldn’t we see him massively overperforming his primary polling (which he isn’t doing)?

      There are also a lot of Bernie Sanders fans who had convinced themselves through approval and head-to-head polls that only Sanders can beat Trump, and are now getting really depressed and frightened at the prospect of Bernie not winning the nomination, because they think Hillary can’t win.

    • Latichever

      1988, 2nd highest Democratic primary turnout in history. Bush won.

      2000, 3 million more Republicans than Democrats voted in the primaries. Gore won the popular vote.

      But mostly, I’ve just seen it anecdotally. Someone should crunch the numbers.

    • Olav Grinde

      Matt, I think a key argument against the claim that Bernie-would-do-better in the general election is this:

      The Republican candidates and PACs have been very careful not to attack Bernie Sanders. In the unlikelihood that Bernie becomes the nominee, those polls would look very different after the GOP spends a couple of hundred million dollars on an attack campaign against “that dangerous and deranged socialist from Vermont”.

      I am surprised that Bernie has done this well so far. However, to many American voters the words socialism and tax increases are so toxic that they exclude any possibility of rational discussion.

      Trump or any other candidate would use them to stoke anxieties to a feverish pitch.

    • 538 Refugee

      I’ve been afraid of this and this is why Bill Clinton says he sees a very tough matchup between Trump and Clinton in an article I linked a few days ago.

      “About 1,000 Democrats in Mahoning County so far have switched their party affiliation to Republican with election officials saying several did it to vote for Donald Trump, the GOP presidential front-runner.”

    • Matt McIrvin

      I know some usually-Democratic voters who crossed over specifically to vote against Trump.

    • Matt McIrvin

      I just saw a graphic from MSNBC comparing turnout on Super Tuesday between 2008 and 2016. Then, many more Democrats turned out. This time, many more Republicans turned out. The Republicans have the energy!!!

      I took five minutes and looked up the maps. Super Tuesday 2008 was a historically gigantic affair that included a bunch of populous deep-blue states, including California, New York and New Jersey, but not Texas.

      On Super Tuesday 2016, there were seven deep-red states and three deep-blue states (the largest of which was Massachusetts), and the only really large state involved was Texas.

  • amit

    Any deal in which a thousand delegates from all 50 states are in the know isn’t very seekrit. Or workable.

  • Latichever

    Florida will be interesting. Rubio is behind in the polls, but he’s going to unload a heap of stuff in Trump. Kind of a lab experiment to see what might work–or not.

    And a key question: All those Republicans pledging not to support or vote for Trump. Does that help or hurt?

    • bks

      Trump has trounced native sons Bush and Rubio in the polls in Florida. I’m not sure that FL is a lock for Hillary in the Clinton v. Trump election.

    • Amitabh Lath

      This is a good example of a category error. Republican primary LV != general election LV.

    • bks

      Codswallop. The state was already very close. There is excitement in only one party and only for one candidate. Let me know when Hillary draws 15,000 to a rally in Tampa Bay and I’ll reconsider.

    • amit

      Ah yes, the rally of thousands as electoral indicator. You are in good company Mr. Sherman!

      Here’s Peggy Noonan on Nov. 5 2012:


      Romney’s crowds are building—28,000 in Morrisville, Pa., last night; 30,000 in West Chester, Ohio, Friday It isn’t only a triumph of advance planning: People came, they got through security and waited for hours in the cold. His rallies look like rallies now, not enactments. In some new way he’s caught his stride. He looks happy and grateful. His closing speech has been positive, future-looking, sweetly patriotic. His closing ads are sharp—the one about what’s going on at the rallies is moving.

      There is no denying the Republicans have the passion now, the enthusiasm. The Democrats do not. Independents are breaking for Romney. And there’s the thing about the yard signs. In Florida a few weeks ago I saw Romney signs, not Obama ones. From Ohio I hear the same. From tony Northwest Washington, D.C., I hear the same.

      I suspect both Romney and Obama have a sense of what’s coming, and it’s part of why Romney looks so peaceful and Obama so roiled.

    • DaveM

      Yeah, I can remember watching Bruce Springsteen on TV at a rollicking Kerry rally in Madison, Wisconsin and thinking, ‘he’s going to win this thing.”

    • Amitabh Lath

      Yeah polls are the only real piece of information. And yeah, they suck. But everything else — betting markets, GDP, google search metrics, unemployment rate, twitter followers, yard signs, rallies… — is useless and contains no new information.

    • bks

      The difference is that Obama’s crowds were five times as large as Romney’s.

    • Amitabh Lath

      Actually Obama rallies in 2012 were smaller than Romney’s. Some chicken littles in the Democratic establishment were actually worried about it. Obama administration claimed they were keeping the size down on purpose.

  • mediaglyphic

    there seems to be some speculation that Romney’s speech is an indication that he wants the nomination and wants to engineer a brokered convention. Does anyone know if an individual with no delegates can be nominated in rounds 2 and beyond?

    • Mark F.

      I should think so. They can change the rules after the first ballot if they want.

    • Mark F.

      Editorial comment: Nominating Romney again would be laughable, but not impossible.

  • mediaglyphic

    does anyone know the republican convention rules regarding candidate eligibility? Can Romney be nominated even if he doesn’t have any delegates? (in later rounds).

  • Mark F.

    538 is claiming that Trump is just “barely” on track to win the nomination. That does not take into account that his poll averages are close to those of Cruz and Rubio combined, and that there are a bunch of winner take all states coming up. They sure want to make this into more of a horse race than it really is, right? Of course, it’s not impossible that Trump will fail, but there are very few indications that he will at this point. He may have the cake fully baked on March 15.

    • Josh

      Yeah I saw that and shook my head. I know ESPN needs page views and all, but ugh.

  • Mark F.

    A question: Any evidence that Democrats are voting for Trump in the GOP primaries in order to wreck the GOP?

    • 538 Refugee

      Look at the article I linked to below. There may be some doing as you suggest but the people fielding the phone calls seems to indicate there is a true enthusiasm to vote for Trump.

  • Eric Walker

    Concerning the general: what is the likely effect in previously close Florida of the fairly massive addition of Puerto Ricans in the last year or two? My understanding is that they are normally overwhelmingly Democratic (and are, of course, all citizens fully entitled to vote). If the numbers are in the range I’ve heard (50,000 or more), would that tip the state blue?

    • Josh

      This is all back of the envelope…

      IIRC about 4.3 million people voted in FL in 2012, so let’s say 4.5 mil will vote in 2016. 50K is slightly more than 1% of that total. Florida went for Obama by < 1% in 2012 even though he won the country by 4%, so FL is probably 3-4% to the right of the US as a whole. So by this admittedly slapdash math, no, the 50k Puerto Rican immigrants wouldn't, on their own, flip FL. This also doesn't take into account all the mostly white, relatively wealthy retirees who are constantly moving to the state.

      IMHO, FL in 2016 will probably be somewhere around 3% to the right of the US as a whole. A decent Dem win would include FL; a nail-biter would not.

    • Josh

      ETA: Obama’s share of the vote was 4.3 mil; the total vote was more like 8.5 mil. 50K would mean even less.

    • Eric Walker

      I now find that I was underestimating the numbers. Apparently, it’s about 50,000 a year, and that has been going on for several years now.

      Considering that the margin in the lasy round was razor-thin, I do have to believe that this matters. Apparently, from the efforts being expeneded there, so do both parties.

    • Josh

      Sure. 200K since the last election would be, out of 9 million voters, about 2%. But you make several big assumptions:

      1. All these immigrants are adults of voting age
      2. All these adults will vote
      3. All these adults will vote D
      4. Nobody else has moved to FL in this time

      Since 1-4 are all not exactly correct, I have to believe the net benefit to the Dems in FL is less than 2%. Again, a relatively solid Dem performance would involve FL, but in a national election where the popular vote is basically tied (say, a Gore-Bush kind of election), FL will go to the GOP candidate.

    • Eric Walker

      It is true that not all are adults, and not all will vote. But counterbalancing that is the fact that besides direct immigrationb from PR, there has been a substantial flow of Puerto Ricans already in the U.S., chiefly (I believe) from NYC and Chicago to the Orlando area. As to others moving to Florida, I see no special reason to assume that such others would differ nontrivially from the established inflow to the state.

      Puerto Ricans typically go very heavily (c. 80%?) for Democrats, and most are said to be very excited about the new opportunity to vote for a president (which they cannot in PR). Registration and GOTV movementgs are at high pitch in the state.

    • Josh

      I dunno man…if FL was 3-4% right of the US overall in 2012, and 9 million people voted, that means the Dems would have to gain at least 300,000 net voters to tip FL blue. The whole state in that time added only 500,000 people. So 400,000 of that 500,000 would have to be adult voters who always vote and who always vote Dem.

      I know you want FL to be blue really badly, and honestly, since I agree with you that it does seem to be moving ever so slightly leftward again, I don’t want to burst your bubble. But math, dude. It’s hard to argue with math.

    • Eric Walker

      “[I]f FL was 3-4% right of the US overall in 2012, and 9 million people voted, that means the Dems would have to gain at least 300,000 net voters to tip FL blue.”

      Well, in 2012 Obama received 4,237,756 votes, which was 50.01% of the 8,474,179 total, and just 74,309 votes more than Romney. I would say that the math suggests that, say, 100,000 more net Democratic votes is a meaningful–I am tempted to say major–improvement.

      (Whence 100,000? Say 50,000 a year from PR for four years and maybe 50,000 more from within the U.S. in that same period; that’s 250,000 gross. Apportion them by sympathies as 70% D, not actually unreasonable–non-Cuban Latinos in Florida went for Obama 66-34 in 2012–and you have 175,000. I don’t know how to estimate the percentage that are over 18 , but let’s say 2/3; that leaves about 115,000. Assume 85% registration of eligible voters abd it’s 100,000.

    • Josh

      Once again, I don’t disagree that all of these new voters (assuming your information is accurate) would have the effect of pushing FL to the left. What it sounds like you’re asking is, HOW MUCH would it move left. And even if the Dems get 100,000 net new voters, FL is still going to end up in the GOP column if the national popular vote is close to tied.

      I know this because Obama won the popular vote in 2012 by 4% but only won FL by less than 1%. This is more than a 3% difference. 3% of 9 million voters is 270,000. 100,000 net new D voters may move FL a point or so left, but–again–it won’t tip the state blue.

      IF the trends you describe continue, and IF these new D voters are not neutralized in any way, FL may become blue in 2-3 election cycles. But it will not happen this year.

    • Eric Walker

      I am unclear about why you think the national percentages are going to swing so far rightward of what they were the last two cycles. Is having a loony-tune neo-Nazi running going to suddenly switch tons of votes over to the right? The last Republican I spoke with (SSS warning), a gun-carrier from Montana, was appalled and volunteered the Hitler comparison (not favorably).

      I see a national constituency in which there may be a little traffic from left to right, and a similar traffic right to left, but that will be on balance at worst no farther right than in the last couple of cycles.

      Do you feel differently? And, if so, why?

    • Richard

      First off, FL isn’t staying static even without the addition of the Boricua. It’s slowly turning blue and while Hispanics have low turnout and Mexican-Americans are the most put off by Trump, other Hispanics don’t find his language a positive either. Nor do Jews. Or Blacks. And the rich white folks who move to FL are the core of the anti-Trump movement in the GOP, not Trump’s base. And FL isn’t very rural. Put it all together, and I wouldn’t be surprised if FL is close to the national median in 2016.

    • Josh

      I actually DON’T think “the national percentages are going to swing so far rightward of what they were the last two cycles.” I think America has moved slightly leftward over the last few cycles. I also think FL, by contrast, up until the last few years, has remained relatively static. Which is why, in 2000, Al Gore (probably) won FL while also barely winning the national vote, while in 2012, Obama barely won FL while easily winning the national vote.

      Do you understand?

    • Matt McIrvin

      I see a national constituency in which there may be a little traffic from left to right, and a similar traffic right to left, but that will be on balance at worst no farther right than in the last couple of cycles.

      But the left-to-right and right-to-left traffic will be in different states, and that’s where the interesting things are happening.

      If you’d asked me eight years ago what a Hillary Clinton candidacy would do to the electoral map, going by 2008, I’d have gotten it wrong. That year, Hillary Clinton was the white candidate for the nomination, and her relative strength was with the white working class, in more rural and Rust Belt areas.

      This year, when it comes to regional/racial divides (rather than generational ones), Clinton 2016 is like Obama 2008 and Sanders 2016 is Clinton 2008. Clinton is turning out black voters in the Southeast and Sanders is getting the disaffected white working class.

      But the divides have gotten more intense. If Clinton is the nominee, it looks as if Virginia is going to keep getting bluer, but the Dems are still going to have to fight very hard for Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Pennsylvania was trending bluer for years, but the polls I’ve seen suggest that that might actually reverse; I’m very worried about Pennsylvania.

      Sanders’ fans have an argument that Sanders would be stronger against Trump because he can compete better in Trump’s stronger areas, whereas blacks will turn out against Trump anyway. Whether it’s true or not, it’s probably moot because Sanders will not get the nomination. But if Clinton loses, I know we’ll be hearing this forever.

    • Josh

      Matt, I think (?) Eric’s argument is that FL will have turned so much bluer over the last few years that any D candidate who wins the national vote will also implicitly have won FL. There’s plenty of evidence that this isn’t true, even though we both clearly agree that if Eric’s numbers are correct, it’s highly likely FL won’t be as far right as it was in 2012.

      I also think Eric thinks that a state’s overall partisan lean can be significantly influenced by a one-off election–that is, if Trump ran, it would “move” FL one way or the other. What I keep trying to explain is that how a state votes is, to a small degree, a reflection of the candidates involved, but is mostly a consequence of that state’s overall partisan composition. A weaker Obama and a stronger Romney in 2012 might have seen FL go Republican–but we’re talking a percentage here or there.

    • Eric Walker

      “What I keep trying to explain is that how a state votes is, to a small degree, a reflection of the candidates involved, but is mostly a consequence of that state’s overall partisan composition.”

      I agree; my thesis is that the partisan composition has changed nontrivially. Even if my very rough reckoning is off by double, adding a net of 50,000 more Democratic votes in Florida is quite consequential to the partisan composition. In what presidential election ever would 50,000 more Democratic votes not have assured the state?

  • Matt McIrvin

    The reports of huge numbers of Democrats switching parties to vote for Trump has various liberals on blogs I read freaking out.

    I ask, again: if this is happening to an electorally significant degree, why isn’t Trump overperforming his polls (relative to his rivals) in the actual primary results? If those Democrats switched at the last minute, they wouldn’t have appeared in polls of Republicans, would they?

    • Davey

      Liberals like to freak out, it’s one of our primary functions.

      Modern politics are, for some reason, rife with examples of the behavior of an extreme minority, and then ascribing huge importance to it without substantiation. How many voters are defecting to support Trump? Is it statistically significant? How does it weigh against voters coming into the party to vote against Trump?

      In Massachusetts, about 17,000 voters switched from Democrat to Independent. The bigger picture is that this is only about 1.3% of the state’s Dem voters. Even bigger picture…far more than this registered as New Democrats last year (62,000, per the registrar of voters). Even bigger…whatever happened to those 17k voters, it will be far easier to get numbers by getting known Democrats to vote than it will be to figure out what happened there.

      The narrative that Democrats are defecting to Trump is compelling for obvious reasons, but there’s no data to indicate this is true yet.

    • Scott

      It seems possible to me that part of the reason the GOP turnout has been so high is that just as many are turning out to vote against Trump as for him. Some of these could be Dems who’d like to see him get to the general against HRC.

    • Richard

      And even larger number of moderate Republicans and independents who would ordinarily never vote for Hillary or usually vote GOP will be pulling the lever for a Democrat for the first time ever, if Trump is the GOP candidate.

      And those Democrats voting for Trump would be the conservative Reagan Democrats who never vote for a Democrat in Presidential elections anyway.

  • ben


    As a neuroscientist and student of politics, do you have any thoughts on the analysis of Scott Adams, erstwhile Dilbert cartoonist and now political blogger, regarding Trump’s apparently extraordinarily persuasive and indeed hypnotic speech capabilities?



    3 (index):

    Many thanks…

    • Matt McIrvin

      Scott Adams is a crank who believes that repeatedly affirming things can alter the nature of reality and that gravity happens because everything in the universe is getting bigger. I’m not sure I’d trust him on psychology.

    • Sam Wang

      Thank you for answering this question.

    • ben

      @Matt & @Sam: Thank you both! Very reassuring!

  • amit

    Old plan was consolidate behind one anti-Trump. New plan is forget consolidation, everyone stay in and win your home state plus one or two more to prevent Trump getting 1237. Does the math even work? (say you assign unpolled states on the basis of national poll numbers)?

    I can see the dominant anti-Trump strategy post-March 15. Step 1: procure a time machine…

  • Mark F.

    A question for my Democrat friends: Are you happy that Trump may be the nominee or are you concerned?

    • Amitabh Lath

      There are Chinese plans to build a proton collider approximately 10x the LHC, near Beijing. President Trump, not to be outdone, would greenlight an even bigger American collider. It would be (wait for it) yuuuge. We wait with bated breath to present blueprints to Secretary of Energy Kim Kardashian.

      I’m sure whatever your field of research, you can find the upside of a Trump administration.

    • bks

      Last June when Trump soared in the polls he was not taken seriously and now he’s a near-lock for the nomination and the Democrats are also not taking him seriously. I’m concerned. While it’s true that Hillary has the more impressive political resume, she also has Iraq, Syria and Libya on the resume. When Schwartzenegger ran for Governor of California he was laughed at and laughed at, and then he won. Lots of time for black swans to swim into view between now and November.

    • mediaglyphic

      more concerned than happy.

      IMHO The probrability of a clinton win is higher if trump is nominated.

      however the fact that the probability of a trump presidency is also higher if he is nominated, makes the expected outcome worse, since a trump presidency has such a negative outcome.

    • Kevin

      I don’t understand how the outcomes of a Trump presidency are worse than the outcomes of, e.g., a Rubio presidency, unless the primary outcome you are interested in is protecting norms of public civility. This question is off topic, however.

    • Joseph

      I expect we’ll see a kinder, gentler Mr. Trump show up for the general. Whether that will erase his present image of a buffoon remains to be seen. It’s when we can actually contrast the two candidates side by side that we’ll see who has the most charisma.
      The bottom line is that we now live in a very dangerous world, and we know it. I don’t think the majority of people are going to pick their leader lightly. The raw fact is that it’s going to be hard for some to vote for a woman in these dangerous times. But Mrs Clinton is one tough, seasoned cookie, so if any woman can get the job, it’s her.
      So yes, I’d say Mr. Trump is the Dem’s best shot at keeping the Presidency.

    • Amitabh Lath

      If you ignore Trump’s personality and focus on the issues: on immigration, taxes, and healthcare he has the same stance as Cruz and Rubio, albeit more colorful (build a wall). In fact on healthcare he may be slightly more progressive than Cruz.

      On reproductive rights he is as anti-abortion as the rest of the GOP, but non as anti-Planned Parenthood as Cruz or Rubio.

      On military interventions and entitlements, his statements sound almost lefty-progressive. Of course he condones torture enthusiastically but so do Cruz and Rubio.

      For the Supreme Court he would probably nominate someone more centrist than Cruz would.

      So my question to back to you Mark F: Why should the prospect of Trump as nominee be more or less terrifying to a Democrat than Cruz or Rubio?

    • Matt McIrvin

      Trump doesn’t echo the full slate of conservative-movement positions all the time, so by that yardstick he seems more “moderate”.

      Trump also directly incites his crowds to violent acts, vilifies minorities explicitly without the usual dog-whistle coding, and seems to be trying his best to maintain a fandom and white supremacists and neo-Nazis by carefully softpedaling any denunciation of them that he’s called upon to make. The mere fact that he’s a major figure is normalizing behavior that was previously among the most intense American political taboos. If he were to actually win, I would expect violent racists to be emboldened to the point of a huge explosion in hate crimes, at the very least. I expect it to happen to some degree even from the situation we’re in now.

      That’s why he mostly concerns me. It’s something you can’t see by reading a policy wish list.

    • Kevin

      Assuming for the sake of argument there is a violence incitement effect, I don’t see how that compares to the wars Rubio wants to start.

      The only norm Trump is breaking is one of subtlety. The position of the GOP on race politics is well known.

    • mediaglyphic

      Amit, can you honestly say how trump would act?

    • Amitabh Lath

      Media, no we cannot say with any certainty how Trump would act. Same for Cruz, would he really order the carpetbombing of Syrian cities under ISIS control? Would Rubio really cancel the Iran deal and reimpose sanctions?

      All we have are the statements these candidates make. Guessing what is “really in their hearts” is beyond my meager abilities.

    • mediaglyphic

      i think the uncertainty around trump is larger. the other two are beholden to the folks that fund them. trump is beholden to the mob. thats why i think trump is scarier. i am extremely troubled by his kkk dance, it just shows no awareness.

      btw, i am a penn grad and knew a few of his profs. word on campus was that he was a c student (i was there many years after he was)

    • Eric Walker

      Happy. See, for example, this note on today’s Electoral Vote site:

    • Amitabh Lath

      Media, that’s very astute. If I may paraphrase, a candidate controlled by The Mob is better than one controlled by the mob.

    • Richard

      Which candidate do you think is more likely to put certain groups of people in concentration camps if there is a war? Do you think that is equally likely?

      As a minority, that matters to me.

      And don’t say that can’t happen in the US. It happened before in this country. Ask the Nisei and their descendents.

    • Matt McIrvin

      I also do not believe that Trump is the least electable of the Republicans; he’s probably the most electable.

      There isn’t enough state-by-state polling yet to make good Sam Wang-style predictions, but the most recent state general election polls I’ve seen (some of which are annoyingly stale) suggest that if the election were held today between Trump and Clinton, Clinton might win the popular vote but Trump would be weakly favored to win the Electoral College, by getting Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.

      His strength in those three states makes him extremely dangerous. They’re all states that could be flipped by high minority turnout, though given Trump’s ability to motivate angry white people (also in abundance in those states), the bar is going to be high.

    • Matt McIrvin

      …though since the polls in those three states are in or near the MoE and he’d have to get all three to win it, his win probability may not actually be above 50%.

      Among the Obama 2012 states, Trump leads with more confidence in Colorado, but it doesn’t have as many electoral votes. And Hillary Clinton is surprisingly strong in Virginia and NH, and has an outside shot at winning NC, which would be a good vote buffer.

    • Brian

      As a Democrat, I’d really like to see a brokered convention on the Republican side. That should create a sulking faction and an easy win for Hillary in November.

      But Trump is also a fine nominee. We can dream of a completely unelectable Republican like Rubio or Cruz but they were never likely nominees. Trump has by far the best chance of winning the general election of any Republican, but Hillary is still the favorite. The best thing about a Trump nomination is what it means for the future of the Republican Party.

      The Republican Party is a machine that sells middle class values to the people and then works for the plutocracy in Washington. The result is gridlock where not even business issues can advance. For example, Obama has been working on a corporate income tax cut for years to reduce corporate inversions and Republican leaders have stonewalled him because they can’t be seen as cooperating. It’s a Republican business issue favorite so they should want it. But their credibility with the base depends on opposing Obama at every turn. Otherwise they risk breaking the illusion and being exposed as the party that undercuts working class incomes while never promoting any kind of social conservative agenda.

      Trump breaks the dichotomy of fooling the base and serving the donors. Eventually things will calm down and we should have a more honestly Trumpian Republican Party. That party will be interested in compromise and governing once again and Washington will be able to get work done.

      So Trump is good for the country, if only because the syndrome he’s exposing is worse.

    • Kevin

      Richard: this specific outcome is unlikely. However, I would select Rubio. He exhibits the highest tendency towards overreaction and an almost pathological exclusion of nuance from his world view. I would also expect Rubio’s White House to be controlled by ideological advisers much in the way of George W. Bush, who introduced us to torture, rendition, indefinite offshore detention of “enemy combatants” without representation or trial, and preemptive elective war. Again, this is off topic, but thanks for asking.

      Some people assume that when Trump is admired for being politically incorrect, this is just code for saying that he’s racist or misogynist. But there can be little doubt that most “politically incorrect” thing Trump has done in the literal sense of the term is to denounce George W. Bush and his administration in a Republican primary, to say nothing of his (accurate) comments about John McCain and Mitt Romney. I will not be voting for Trump, but I would not fault someone for arguing that he has shown higher character in his conduct of the race than his Republican opponents, which is admittedly a low bar.

  • Bill Herschel

    The greatest gift of this website, and there are many, is potentially enabling its readers to ignore the campaign.

    That and introducing me to The Mule. I now have an additional black hole to destroy my time with. Maybe that’s not such a good thing.

    • Mark F.

      I think we can can safely ignore the Democratic Party campaign, barring something unexpected happening with Mrs. Clinton. But the Republicans still have the (probably small) possibility of a contested convention.

  • 538 Refugee

    Looks like the Cruz folks are planning on making sure Rubio doesn’t win Florida. The reasoning is that will push Rubio out of the race making it a two person race. It also returns the ‘favor’ of Rubio denying Cruz 50% in Texas thus depriving Cruz of all the statewide delegates in his home state.

    Unless they are absolutely sure Kasich doesn’t win Ohio this seems like a foolish strategy. It seems Kasich would be even more determined to stay if Rubio drops because a lot of the remaining map is more favorable to him than Cruz.

    I thought with 4 people still in, game theory suggests a different strategy but I’m not really that well versed in it.

    • Mark F.

      Yes, what is the optimum stop Trump strategy? Hell if I know. I expect Trump will be sweeping through states like crazy in the next 12 days By March 15 stopping Trump may be a sad exercise in futility, like the Bernie Sanders campaign is already.

  • AySz88

    Wow, Romney really screwed up in explaining the tactical voting situation. The reaction seems to be just anger at the prescriptive tone that he took, rather than any talk about tactics. He should have focused upon convincing people why it would be in their own candidate’s interest for them to vote for the top non-Trump candidate, rather than just prescribe to voters what they should do.

    I did think that tactical voting had the potential to make this effectively a two-way race, at least in some states. But the way that they are trying to get the voters to behave tactically is a total train wreck.

  • JayBoy2k

    Wow — When SAM is away…………… We have 5 States voting today and almost no coverage or comments. Are these all ceded to Trump?
    Mostly I am seeing rehashes of the debate. Even the NY Times is applauding the aggressiveness of FOX commentators. Do we really think that is what the country wants out of a Clinton-Trump or Clinton-Cruz debate?

    • 538 Refugee

      Just consider these the first polls since the debate. They are also closed primaries so that will be a good indication what the party faithful think. These are the places Trump has struggled in previously too.

    • Sam Wang

      Aren’t there four states voting today? Or was that just a trick to smoke me out?

    • JayBoy2k

      There is an Analysis at 538 that seems to say Trump will lose Kansas and break even in the other 3, Huffpost shows the polls in Kentucky and Louisiana with nothing in the way of predictions.
      Clearly Trump “lost” the debate, but it would be hard to link these states beyond Louisiana – it is a Primary and Trump had a significant poll lead.

    • JayBoy2k

      No Sam, it is 4. I just made it a really long day and included Puerto Rico which votes tomorrow and has zero data to analyze.
      We also have a couple on the Democratic side today. Just starved for numbers.

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