Tuesday, July 7, 2015

June 2015 Election Review: Bernie, The Donald, SCOTUS and the Networks Shake it Up

We had a barnburner of a month in June, with the numbing number of candidate announcements (eight more) overwhelmed by several historic Supreme Court announcements, the demise of the Iowa Straw Poll and the forceful intrusion of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump into the mix.

WHO’S IN?

There are now 19 officially declared presidential candidates, including 5 Democrats and 14 Republicans.  Joe Biden, Scott Walker and John Kasich are other prominent prospects yet to announce, and the latter two are expected to do so soon.  Biden continues to play wait-and-see.

No candidates have dropped out as yet, and no candidates who were expected to run decided not to (at least since Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney begged off in January).  We thus have an enormous field on the GOP side, which could result in a long and meaningful primary season.

Republicans
Date
In/Out
Democrats
Date
In/Out
Paul Ryan
Jan 12
OUT
Hillary Clinton
Apr 19
IN
Mitt Romney
Jan 30
OUT
Bernie Sanders
Apr 30
IN
Ted Cruz
Mar 23
IN
Martin O'Malley
May 29
IN
Rand Paul
Apr 7
IN
Lincoln Chafee
June 3
IN
Marco Rubio
Apr 20
IN
Jim Webb
July 2
IN
Ben Carson
May 4
IN
Carly Fiorina
May 4
IN
Mike Huckabee
May 5
IN
Rick Santorum
May 27
IN
George Pataki
May 28
IN
Lindsay Graham
June 1
IN
Rick Perry
June 4
IN
Jeb Bush
June 15
IN
Donald Trump
June 16
IN
Bobby Jindal
June 24
IN
Chris Christie
June 30
IN

ELECTION DASHBOARD

The latest polls on the Democratic side show Hillary Clinton still in command but facing a real challenge by Bernie Sanders.  Both the leading issue of the day, income inequality, and the primary schedule play to Bernie’s strengths.  The self-proclaimed socialist is wildly popular among Iowa liberals (his retail efforts are drawing hundreds and even thousands of supporters there) while New Hampshire, next door to his native Vermont, is long familiar with the Independent Senator.  (Yes, Bernie is not really even a Democrat, he is registered as an Independent but caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate.)
 
Bernie has not made much of a dent in the polls on the national scene, hanging around with Joe Biden nearly 50 points behind Hillary, but his growing presence in Iowa and New Hampshire are apparent in the June poll numbers, where he has sliced her lead to 29 and 15 points, respectively.  This is still a huge gap, but Clinton officials have taken notice and are debating changes to her small-ball campaign strategy to date.  Martin O’Malley has made no dent in the proceedings, nor have Jim Webb or Lincoln Chafee.

NATIONAL
May '15
Jun '15
IOWA
May '15
Jun '15
NH
May '15
Jun '15
Clinton
61
61
Clinton
60
52
Clinton
57
46
Sanders
14
13
Sanders
15
23
Sanders
16
31
Biden
13
12
Biden
11
8
Biden
4
8
Webb
2
2
O'Malley
3
2
O'Malley
2
2
O'Malley
1
2
Webb
3
1
Webb
1
1
Chafee
n/a
1
Chafee
n/a
0
Chafee
n/a
1
Other/NA
9
9
Other/NA
8
14
Other/NA
20
11

On the GOP side, Donald Trump entered the campaign and promptly jumped to second in New Hampshire, dominating the headlines with his outrageous comments about Mexican immigrants (“They’re rapists.”).  His genius for headline-grabbing extends well beyond his name and wealth alone – he has the knack for selecting issues that are vitriolic in nature and wildly popular among the far, far right (see:  birther issue in 2012).  Thus the headlines, and the nightmare-by-association for the GOP as a party and its candidates.

The June polls showed good news for Jeb Bush, who seems to have regained his footing and, despite (or because of?) The Donald’s presence, has jumped in all polls.  Ben Carson is also hanging in, but Scott Walker and Marco Rubio slowed perceptible slippage.  A raft of “top tier” candidates from the Tea Party side either held ground or slipped in June, including Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul.  But, of course, the race is as wide open as can be.

NATIONAL
May '15
Jun '15
IOWA
May '15
Jun '15
NH
May '15
Jun '15
Bush
11
14
Walker
21
18
Bush
13
16
Walker
14
11
Carson
7
10
Trump
7
11
Rubio
13
10
Bush
5
10
Walker
12
10
Carson
10
10
Paul
13
9
Paul
11
9
Paul
8
9
Huckabee
11
8
Rubio
12
8
Huckabee
10
7
Rubio
13
7
Carson
5
6
Trump
n/a
6
Cruz
12
6
Christie
5
5
Cruz
7
6
Trump
n/a
5
Fiorina
4
5
Christie
5
4
Perry
3
5
Cruz
6
4
Perry
3
4
Christie
3
4
Huckabee
4
4
Santorum
1
3
Santorum
2
4
Perry
3
3
Kasich
3
2
Fiorina
2
3
Kasich
1
2
Fiorina
2
2

Kasich
2
2
Santorum
2
1
Graham
1
2
Jindal
1
2
Pataki
2
1
Jindal
1
1
Graham
0
1
Graham
1
1
Other/NA
11
9
Other/NA
5
6
Bolton
2
0
Jindal
0
0
Other/NA
10
14
THE HILLOMETER

Our new BTRTN measure of Hillary Clinton’s electability, the “Hillometer,” fell marginally from 22 to 19, still solid turf for her.  Assuming she can get past Bernie – and I think she will even if she loses to him in Iowa, given her money and his basic unelectability – she continues to poll very well head-to-head versus the GOP leader (6.2 points ahead of this month’s leader, Jeb Bush), and, despite a lack of good news and some bad news (Bernie and more emails), has shown only minor slippage in her approval rating (now 45.4%, down a point).  The economy is on the rise again (Econometer of 105.2, up 5 points) and President Obama maintained his 46% approval rating.  Weight these factors as per the below chart and, voila, 19 – still in very good shape (a negative number means she will likely lose in the general election).



Raw

Final
As of June 30, 2015
Measure
Base
Score
Weight
Score
Hillary's margin versus GOP leader (Bush)
6.2%
0%
6.2%
50%
3.1
Hillary's favorability rating
45.4%
50%
-4.6%
25%
-1.2
Obama's approval rating
46.0%
50%
-4.0%
15%
-0.6
Econometer
105.2
100
5.2
10%
0.5
Sum




1.9
HILLOMETER




19


TOP CAMPAIGN NEWS

·         IOWA STRAW POLL.  The big news in June was the demise of the Iowa Straw Poll, an institution that since 1979 has kicked off the electoral season, albeit with a rather skewed methodology.  The first nail in the coffin came from Michele Bachmann’s 2012 win and subsequent rapid flame-out (the day after she won the poll, she made some rather silly remarks about the HPV vaccine and ultimately finished sixth in the Iowa caucus and dropped out).  And then Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee and Marco Rubio declined to participate.  So, wisely, the Iowans decided to cancel what would have been a sham.

This means there will be no early winnowing of the field.  You will recall Tim Pawlenty dropping out after a poor Straw Poll showing in 2012.  With no such even quasi-electoral mechanism, and the rise of Super PACs by which a single wealthy mentor can keep a candidate afloat (see:  2012, Shelley Adelson and Newt Gingrich), the GOP gang of 14-16 will be hanging around for a while.

·         NATIONAL DEBATE CRITERION:  The first event on the calendar now becomes the first GOP debate, on August 6th.  The networks have announced that they will only allow the top 10 candidates in the national polls to appear on stage.  By the current polls (above), that would leave Rick Santorum, John Kasich (if he runs), Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham on the sideline, watching The Donald.  This would be particularly galling for Santorum, who won the Iowa caucus in 2012 and was the runner-up in total delegates to Mitt Romney, but also to the others, two sitting Governors, a prominent Senator, and the former CEO of a major global corporation (albeit with a rather dubious stint).  But the story here is that these rules are forcing candidates to “go national” in their campaigning to try to gain precious points in the polls rather than focusing exclusively on the early states.

·         SUPREME COURT AND THE FLAG:  This has been a momentous month for the Democrats and civil rights advocates, with the Supreme Court upholding Obamacare once again and legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states, and the killings in South Carolina leading straight down a path toward eradicating the Confederate flag in all public venues save museums.  While it is beyond sobering that it took the Charlotte church massacre to get the South to move forward on the flag issue, it was a progressive month for the country. 

But the politico in me has to note that the resolution of these issues more or less lets the GOP candidates off the hook on each one.  Now Jeb Bush can simply say, “these are settled issues, let’s talk about the economy or foreign policy.”  But I bet these issues will all come up at the debates, and it will be interesting to see who stands firm (against these advances) and who wiggles.


·         MONEY.  Hillary raised $45 million in the second quarter.  That’s pretty darn good.  Ben Carson also did well, but his number was $8 million.  More filings will be made by July 15, although keep in mind these numbers only reflect fundraising since the official announcements, thus Jeb Bush will only report a few weeks of numbers.