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Who is really going to win the US Election?

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:

  1. Main Democratic Candidates
  2. Main Republican Candidates
  3. 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.

Poll
My Prediction (not my preference) is that the next POTUS will be
. Clinton 47%
. Obama 11%
. Edwards 29%
. Giulliani 0%
. Huckabee 5%
. Romney 5%
. McCain 0%
. None of the above 0%

Votes: 17
Results | Other Polls
Display:
It's too early to predict with any certainty. These things can change on a dime if you know that expression. I wont speculate until February which will be here before we know it  and when we have our first film blog on Eurotrib-on Feb.8. (shameless plug!)


Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 11:59:58 AM EST
I want Edwards to win. Or at least I want a progressive to win, so Dodd, Biden, Kucinich would also do; but let's be honest, none of those three have a chance.

But I think Obama might do it. Or Clinton. Doesn't matter, either could win. Both will be much much better than the present incumbent, or indeed any of the repugnican challengers. At least, neither has  plan to make things worse. I just think that what america wants and what america needs are two different things. It needs a progressive, somebody who will aggressively reverse the terrible things wrought on the USA, its Constitution & the world in the name of New American Century.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 12:31:28 PM EST
Having a self-reinforcing political duopoly pretty much guarantees that the system can be gamed by monied interests - two entrenched political movements regularly engaging in incumbent protection rackets and creationg artificially high barriers to entry limit choice and, since there are only two parties to have to pay off, make it much easier for Capital to buy the both of them. When average citizens find their interests don't exactly intersect with those of the oligarchs, which happens on a semi-regular basis (the last time in the '90's) they don't have a credible, ustainable outlet for expressing that.

Calling the bipartisan system polarising is engaging in the standard idee recue of high Broderism; much accepted by conventional elite wisdom, but as with many such elite nuggets of wisdom, having no basis in fact, simply basis in perpetuating elite interests by presenting them as inevitable; the true definition of pensee unique, in fact.

 

by redstar on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 01:05:05 PM EST
redstar:
Calling the bipartisan system polarising....(has) no basis in fact

I jest not.  I am making no value judgment on the system nor am I saying it is inevitable.  All I am saying is that I find it ironic that the candidate most likely to beat all comers (McCain) is the least likely (of the 7 leading candidates featured here) of actually gaining a major party nomination and having a real chance of election.  

He could run as an independent but there is no poll data I am aware of which asks people which way they will vote if McCain is on the ballot paper as an independent in addition to the Democratic and Republican nominees.

History suggests that even a strong third party candidate has little chance.  Given that McCain appears to appeal to independent as well as significant numbers of Democratic and Republican voters I think it is fair comment to describe the system that appears set to exclude him as "polarising".

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 01:47:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I should have noted that Edwards may have an even better chance  than McCain as an independent candidate, as he beats McCain in a straight head to head.  However both these scenarios depend on the Dems and GOP fielding spectacularly inept candidates/campaigns to have any chance of success.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 02:42:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you are confusing a number of things here, not least of which that the one most likely to win (in your opinion) is also the least polarising. I also think you both understate his ability to win in the GOP nomination race, and overstate his appeal to Democrats and so-called independants (this latter group probably more aptly refered to as the low-information voter) see as such.

He supports more than anyone else in the race with the possible exception of Giuliani an extremely unpopular war. The war, press reports (mostly in mainstream, corporate-controlled American organs, to be noted) to the contrary, shows no signs of either ending or producing any results other than further death, destruction and drain on the public purse, and will continue to be a fiasco that everyone but the elites in the media, congress and, to a steadily decreasing extent, big business (outside those few sectors making out like bandits in the adventure).

He also offers no real help to average Americans on the crises facing them - home ownership increasingly at risk, rising food and energy costs, stagnating wages, increasing wage inequality and a certain economic slow-down (and, imho, a very real possiblity of a deep recession).

In this, he is very much in step with the vapid conventional wisdom one reads on the pages of the various organs of punditocracy accross the land: much sound and fury, signifying nothing. To be fair, with a few exceptions (in most cases by degrees, ie not fundamental, unfortunately) this is true of all the candidates, major and minor, of both parties in the American political duopoly.

The big polarisation is between the views of the ruling elites (mostly bi-partisan, neo-liberal on economic policy and hawkish on foreign policy) and the interests, realised or not, of real American workers. This becomes obvious whenever there's serious economic stress in the US. I'd suggest things may in fact about to become interesting in this regard in coming years.

Alas, within the actual halls of power in DC, polarisation is just for partisan show. There is no there there.

by redstar on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 07:30:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
redstar:
I think you are confusing a number of things here, not least of which that the one most likely to win (in your opinion) is also the least polarising. I also think you both understate his ability to win in the GOP nomination race, and overstate his appeal to Democrats and so-called independants (this latter group probably more aptly refered to as the low-information voter) see as such.

I offer no commentary on the merits of the candidates - simply the likely outcome of the primaries and National election given what poll data we have.  (Some of the merits and demerits of (McCain?) which you mention may of course become a greater factor in voter perceptions as time goes on, but polling data is, by its nature, based on past and present perceptions, not on future ones.

I would have thought that Clinton and Huckabee, the most likely nominees (based on my analysis) are also the most polarising of the 7 major candidates.  It is difficult to see how McCain, alone of the GOP contenders, can beat Clinton and tie with Obama if he doesn't get more independent support than the other GOP contenders.

I don't dispute your larger point:
redstar:

The big polarisation is between the views of the ruling elites (mostly bi-partisan, neo-liberal on economic policy and hawkish on foreign policy) and the interests, realised or not, of real American workers.

But I suspect none of the 7 candidates featured as riding high in the polls would be seen by you as representing "the interests, realised or not, of real American workers" and so these polls do not measure that polarisation.  I have however argued elsewhere that the very low participation rates in US elections may be in part symptomatic of the fact that many potential voters do not see any of the candidates on offer as representing their interests.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 09:11:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the US?

That's an easy one. As usual, the oligarchs will.

It's just a question of which ones.

by redstar on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 01:06:15 PM EST
As usual, the oligarchs will.

You overlook the 'Trickle Down' Effect.

The Ruling Class' tickbirds and parasites will also win.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 03:19:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If only the fluid that trickled down tended to be potable water and the solids that trickled down tended to be spending cash.

But its more often liquid and solid waste products that trickle down.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 08:04:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... is that it treats the poll positions in different states as if they were independent of results in other states.

If, for example, Edwards wins Iowa and Obama comes second, it would be very easy to see Edwards surging and Clinton slumping, and given the short period of time between Iowa and New Hampshire, for New Hampshire to be Obama, then Edwards, then Clinton.

Now, that Iowa result is by no means unlikely, given the most recent (post Christmas holiday) polling showing Edwards in a dead heat, since he has long had stronger second preferences and his best strength in rural precincts, which gives added leverage in a caucus state. And Senator Obama seems to not be too far from John Edwards in second preferences, while Senator Clinton seems to lag well behind.

And if that pair of results happened, Clinton would be in deep, deep trouble, because her framing has been in terms of the inevitability of her nomination and so she has attracted a lot of bandwagon supporters. And once they start jumping ship, that creates an impression of further downward slide, without any substantial framing that she can use to reverse it.

Of course, she had not had any reason to be worried about the fact that her framing was dependent on early successes, because she always had New Hampshire as the circuit breaker in case she came in second in Iowa. But two third place finishes, and she could go into free fall.

Of course, if she finishes second in Iowa and first in New Hampshire, swapping first place with John Edwards, Obama may fade, with the nomination effectively decided in South Carolina. That would likely be the best result (short of an Iowa victory) for her, since a fading Obama campaign would place her in a strong position in SC.

And then, based on those three results, there will either be a confirmation of current national polls, or a complete and total shake up ... because current national polls are dominated by people who are in places where the majority of likely primary voters simply that do not start paying attention until the Iowa caucus results come out.

In scenario one, there is a fight between Obama and Edwards going into Feb. 5th, complicated by the fact that even a fading Clinton campaign will pull 20% of the vote on the 5th ... and in scenario two, you have the common scenario of a nominee presumptive and one challenger left standing, until the victories turn out to be too few and far between and the challenger bows out.

And of course, if Edwards finishes third in Iowa, he is effectively finished in both NH and SC and therefore his early state strategy short circuits at the first event. And then if Obama wins NH, we are in a horse race going into Feb 5 between Obama and Clinton.

The only candidate that can in effect lock it up with two early wins is Senator Clinton, so any assessment would have to place her on the inside running ... but even if she is a 50:50 chance to win the nomination, she is certainly not the 75:25 chance that the pundits had her at just two short months ago.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 08:18:16 PM EST
BruceMcF:
.. is that it treats the poll positions in different states as if they were independent of results in other states.

The reason I emphasised the early states over the national standing is because they are, as you suggest, crucial to building momentum and thus influencing future states. Clinton's 18% national lead (just increased to 19%) is so much "paper profits" until she actually starts cashing it in in real votes in real primaries.

Real Clear Politics has Clinton's lead in Iowa now increasing to 3.3% (from Edwards) and 3.5% from Obama which is obviously still surmountable by either, but it is hard to see Edwards make up a 15% point gap in New Hampshire even if he does win Iowa. Edwards and Obama seem to be cannibalizing each other (when one goes down the other goes up) and so one of them needs to pull well clear of the other to have a chance of beating Clinton.

Of course Clinton could easily still lose both Iowa and New Hampshire but she is the only candidate who would remain viable after doing so.  Her 20% lead in all the other early states (bar South Carolina) gives her a huge cushion against possible "bandwagon" and other defections.

By contrast one of Obama or Edwards really has to pull well ahead of the other to sustain a viable challenge as they seem to be fishing in the same pool. So long as they are tightly bunched, Clinton wins.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 08:47:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... poll, and the trendlines of pooled polls tend to lag the trendline of the underlying population by half the width of the pooling time window.

There is a distinct difference for Senator Clinton in finishing second and finishing third in Iowa ... finishing third in Iowa will result in her taking a substantial hit in New Hampshire, and with the short time frame, there is time for exactly one cycle of post-IA polling and poll results before the NH primary.

That's why my scenario one was, suppose that one (of six possible) configurations, followed by Senator Clinton finishing third in NH behind a surging Edwards chasing a rising Obama.

As far as a 15% gap ... if that's the gap, that's just at the edge of the "Iowa bump" that can be received in NH from a strong victory in Iowa. But in a three way race, he only needs an eight point bump with an eight point drop by Senator Clinton to cross into second place, and with his "third, two lengths back" position all of 2007, a second place finish would be positive news for Edwards ... obviously, though, winning NH would be massive for Obama.

However, that's NH ... where there has been a lot of political engagement for months. For the balance of the country,

Her 20% lead in all the other early states (bar South Carolina) gives her a huge cushion against possible "bandwagon" and other defections.
... if she finishes third in both Iowa and New Hampshire, her 20% leads vanish everywhere except in the Northeastern Feb 5 states.

The Iowa caucuses is when everyone else starts tuning in, and if it upsets people's vague impression that she's the front-runner, and that is then confirmed in NH, all of her campaign messaging from 2007 is flushed down the dunny.

OTOH, if she wins IA, she wins NH, and she has the nomination in the bag, so while she is the least likely to win the IA caucuses, she definitely has the clearest run to the nomination still.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 10:47:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm more used to following Irish and European elections where a 5% swing is considered big.  Obviously if Iowa can swing NH by 8% in a few days you are talking about a far more volatile situation - surprising to me given the level of engagement there for months.  They must be down to the last few voters they haven't met yet!

I wouldn't be as surprised with bigger swings in later states where voters haven't really engaged yet and are just parroting media received wisdoms.  Most people like to back a winner.

However my purpose in writing this diary was to try to have a more evidenced based discussion of likely outcomes and obviously polls don't measure everything - and the RCP ones don't show undecideds, most likely voters etc.

That is partly why I plumped for Huckabee - despite conflicting evidence - because of a sense that the "Christian" vote will have a much higher turnout.

You have to overlay the bare figures with a bit o local savvy which I simply don't have, but am interested in acquiring more of!  Many thanks for your informed comments.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 11:10:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... coming out of IA ... but I have seen arguments that that was composed of a bump coming out of Iowa and then a success in following-up in New Hampshire, where there won't be much time for the second part this year.

In any event, a 12% immediate bump following a strong IA victory would be no real surprise. However, the challenge for Edwards coming first in New Hampshire is that even if he finishes first, the second place candidate could well get a small bump out of beating the third place candidate, so Edwards could be chasing a rising target, in either case.

The intangible there is that Edwards framing and campaign messaging is the most direct one to get across to a Democratic primary audience, so he might be able to get more than the ordinary NH bump just out of the flurry of coverage the evening of and the morning after an IA win.

But right now, its just too close to call for a caucus, given that even if we knew the first preferences going in, we wouldn't know the results coming out. Add to that the fact that both Clinton and Obama are banking on large numbers of supporters who have never caucused before, and Thursday can't come soon enough for me.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 11:52:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the US Election?"  

Haliburton.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 08:39:23 PM EST
I didn't think Haliburton needed elections or even tendering processes to get and go about their business....

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 11:15:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On election days, its supposed to be Diebold. Its only fair that Haliburton does not win every single day.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 11:54:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In reading my comments please bear in mind that I have voted in five Liberal/Liberal Democrat leadership elections, which is as close to a US Presidential primary as you are likely to get in my part of the the UK political spectrum, but I have never supported a candidate who won.

I would say it is impossible to be sure who will win the nominations, at this stage.

It does seem to be conventional wisdom that the Democratic leaders are Clinton, Obama and Edwards. I would personally say, from a European perspective, that none of the three seem outstandingly qualified to be President (although all are vastly more qualified that the current President).

However Franklin Roosevelt was seen in 1932 as a bit of a light weight, so I suppose there is hope.

The person, in the lower reaches of the Democratic field, whom I would be inclined to support if I was an American is Senator Dodd.

The Republican field is strange, but one of the candidates has to win (barring low probability events like a brokered convention). The potential winners here seem to be Romney, Huckabee, McCain and Giuliani. All have had ups and downs. Romney is clearly willing to say anything which will attract his current target audience. Huckabee seems to be a religious lunatic, who disguises it better than most of his type. McCain is probably past his best (he should have been the Republican candidate in 2000). Giuliani does not seem to be a nice or an honest man.

I see Romney and McCain as the better potential Presidents amongst the Republican field, so long as they are willing to disown all the nonsense they had to spout to get the nomination.

If Huckabee gets the nomination then that seems to give the opening for the big business Republicans to back a Bloomberg independent candidacy.

As to who is going to win the election, it will probably be the Democratic nominee, but what do I know.

by Gary J on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 02:05:57 AM EST
I think the key factor which the polls above do not measure is the depth of enthusiasm and commitment that each candidate inspires in their supporters.  A candidate whose support is a mile wide bu an inch deep will be very vulnerable to large swings depending on the news of the day.  With the turnout likely to be less than 50% of voters it is not enough to have just lukewarm support, you have to "mobilise your base" to actually go out and vote.

I have absolutely no data on this, but I would expect that Huckabee (Christian) and Clinton (feminist, establishment Democrat) would have fairly solid mobilisation capabilities.  The progressive/liberal vote seems to be flip flopping between Obama and Edwards and will probably go with whoever establishes an early lead.

On the Republican side Giulliani/Romney seem to be fishing in the same pro-business pool so that whoever wins that duel could pick up a lot of support from the other.

However the combined Romney/Giulliani vote - if it mobilised behind one of the two before Huckabee gained a lot of momentum could obviously beat him.  Similarly if the Edwards/Obama contest was quickly resolved in favour of one or the other before Clinton established an unassailable lead, could result in the "liberal" Democrat" vote beating the centrist..

If I were Huckabee/Clinton I would be doing everything possible to keep my opponents as equally balanced as possible.  For whatever reason this is precisely what has happened to date.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 03:40:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Clinton's lead in Iowa has been cut to 2% from Obama and 2.6% from Edwards. In New Hampshire it is down to 0.6% from Obama with Edwards still 12% behind.  Obama seems far more likely than Edwards to upset the Clinton apple cart although neither has yet made any inroads on her national lead.

On the Republican side Romney has surged back into a slender 0.6% lead over Huckabee in Iowa and has retained his 6% lead over McCain in New Hampshire.  Romney and McCain are continuing to close the gap on Giulliani and Huckabee in the national polls.

Looks like my Clinton/Huckabee prediction is looking even less certain than a couple of days ago, with Huckabee under particular pressure from Romney.  However I am not going to flip-flop on my prediction just yet!

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 04:04:08 PM EST


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