by Frank Schnittger
Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 10:43:33 AM EST
This forum has seen a plethora of blogs about the US elections, their format and procedures, and the policies and personalities battling for victory. Many bloggers have given their personal views and some are campaigning for their favoured candidates. Some of the commentary seems to be laced with wishful thinking or unsubstantiated assertions as to what is or is not going to happen. I thought it might be useful to have a look at the actual polling data to see how that battle is shaping up.
The polls themselves, of course, are often not entirely objective or politically neutral and the electoral procedures of the Iowa Caucuses, in particular, make them notoriously unreliable. However for the purposes of this discussion I will use a website called Real Clear Politics to provide us with a summary of trends averaged over a wide range of polling companies.
I will summarise the data on that site under three main headings:
- Main Democratic Candidates
- Main Republican Candidates
- Head to heads contests between the main Democratic and Republican contenders.
1) Main Democratic Candidates
IOWA. Clinton has been remarkably steady in 25-30% range in the polls all year but has recently surged to the top of that range. Edwards was ahead for a few months April- August but has declined steadily recovering only in the past week to edge back ahead of Obama into second place. Obama was gaining ground as Edwards declined over the past few months and overtook him in September. However their positions have suddenly reversed in the past week with Obama now in third place. The other candidates are at 5% or below. It should be noted that Clinton's current average lead in the polls is only 2% which is within the margin of error of an individual poll but is significant in the context of a trend made up of the average of a number of polls.
NEW HAMPSHIRE. Clinton's lead over Obama has been steadily declining from 20% in October to a mere 2.6% now. If this trend were to continue to Polling day, she is in trouble, and thus the Iowa outcome is crucial to both her and Obama. Edwards is 15% off the pace and shows no sign of catching up in time.
OTHER EARLY STATES. Clinton is 20%+ ahead in Michigan, Nevada and Florida and can thus probably survive poor early results. However a recent swing to Obama has resulted in her being in a near tie in South Carolina.
NATIONAL. Clinton has a steady 18% lead over Obama with Edwards 30 points behind and going nowhere.
CONCLUSION. Only (a very possible) Iowa win can save Edwards' campaign at this stage. Obama could come third in Iowa which will damage his reasonable prospects in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Barring a major reversal of her fortunes, the nomination is almost certainly Clinton's at this stage as she can afford to lose several early states and still have a significant margin nationally.
2) MAIN REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES
IOWA. Huckabee has recovered from a recent dip and has surged into a 6% point lead over Romney in Iowa, and all the other candidates are heading for 10% of the vote or less. Its not over yet, but it does look like a two horse race.
NEW HAMPSHIRE. Romney has a 6% point lead over McCain with Giulliani sliding off the pace and all others at 10% of the vote or less. This is McCain's last chance to stay in the race.
OTHER EARLY STATES. Romney has a slender 1% lead over Huckabee in Michigan whilst Romney and Giulliani are tied in Nevada. Huckabee has a solid 6% lead over Romney in South Carolina and has been catching up fast in Florida where Giuliani's slender 2% lead looks very vulnerable. Giuliani is well ahead in California and New Jersey, but these are over a month away and could be influenced by earlier results.
NATIONAL. Giuliani still has a 4% lead nationally but has lost almost 10% points in the past month. Huckabee is in clear second but has also lost 3% points since early December. McCain has recovered into a narrow third place from Romney whilst Thompson has bombed.
CONCLUSION. The outcome is much less clear than for the Democrats. Giuliani seems likely to win some of the big states like California, New Jersey and New York in any case but his overall momentum is negative. It depends on whether Huckabee or Romney can emerge as a clear challenger or whether they will tend cancel each other out. Michigan will be crucial in determining that outcome. It's still a three horse race, with McCain a faint outsider if he can win New Hampshire, but if I had to put my money on anyone at this early stage it would probably be Huckabee.
3) NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN HEAD TO HEADS.
Clinton beets Giuliano's by a mere 2% but she has been consistently ahead since October. She beats Romney and Huckabee by 5% but has been losing ground against them. McCain's support has grown by 8% since October and he now beats Clinton by 5%.
Obama's lead over Giulliani has grown steadily to 6% and he beets Huckabee and Romney by 10 and 12% respectively. However he can do no better than tie with McCain.
The only Democrat who beats all the Republican contenders (including McCain) is Edwards.
CONCLUSION. The irony of the polarising bi-partisan system is that the most likely Democrat Nominee (Clinton) is the least certain to win the national election and the likely third place contender (Edwards) is the only one likely to beat all the Republican Contenders. And of all the main Republican contenders, the least likely to win the nomination (McCain) would be most likely to win the national election.
Its early days and all to play for, but my money (based on looking at the trends to date) is on a Clinton Huckabee contest with Clinton winning by a narrow majority. It's a bit like trying to predict the future by looking in the rear view mirror and we all know that big money and powerful vested interests are in the driving seat.