Swing State Pres

Friday, May 29, 2015

May 2015 Election Update: Introducing the "Hillometer"

Hillary Clinton certainly appears to be all but a lock for the Democratic nomination.  But how well is she really doing in her quest for the presidency?   With this post we introduce the “Hillometer,” a measure of her strength as a candidate that should correlate well with her chances of winning the election.  Interpreting the index is very simple: if it is above zero, the odds are she will be elected president on November 8, 2016.  The higher it goes, the more likely it is that she will win.  And the converse, of course, is true…a negative number indicates she will lose.

The Hillometer is an index of four measures, which we will track monthly until we get closer to Election Day itself.

  1. Margin:  this is the average margin of Hillary’s lead or shortfall in the polls versus the GOP’s leading candidate in the previous months’ worth of polling.  This is the most important factor, so we give it 50% weighting in the formula.  This measure captures not only Hillary’s strength, but also that of her chief rival of the moment.
  2. Favorability:  this is the difference between Hillary’s current favorability rating and the 50% mark.  We’ve weighted this at 25%.
  3. Obama Approval:  Hillary’s fortunes are tied in part to President Obama, and thus we include Obama’s approval rating in the formula.  Again, this measure is the difference between Obama’s current approval rating and the 50% mark.  This measure is weighted at 15%.
  4. Economy:  Hillary’s fortunes are also tied to the strength of the economy.  President Obama is still held accountable for the economy, by and large, and if the economy worsens it will hurt Hillary as well.  We measure the strength of the economy using our own Econometer, which is explained in the right hand column.  As of April 2015, when Hillary announced, the Econometer was roughly at 100, so we will use that as a base….if it worsens, it will hurt Hillary, if it improves, it will be a positive for Hillary – and this is reflected in the Hillometer formula.
We calculate these measures, add them up, and then multiply the result by 10, as you see here:



Raw

Final
As of May 31, 2015
Measure
Base
Score
Weight
Score
Hillary's margin versus GOP leader (Walker)
7.0%
0%
7.0%
50%
3.5
Hillary's favorability rating
46.9%
50%
-3.1%
25%
-0.8
Obama's approval rating
46.1%
50%
-3.9%
15%
-0.6
Econometer
100.2
100
0.2
10%
0.0
Sum




2.2
HILLOMETER




22

Right now, the Hillometer stands at +22.  (See the Hillometer graphic at the top of the right hand column.)  That is a good, solid number; it is driven by her wide margin (47% to 40% in national polling, +7 points) over Scott Walker, the GOP leader in the national polls this month.  Both Hillary’s favorability rating and Obama’s approval rating are below 50% and are thus negatives, and the Econometer indicates the economy has not changed since her launch in mid-April.

Image from slate.com
I would surmise that +70 is about the highest possible score she could achieve.  For the Hillometer to reach +70, for example, her lead would have to be 10 points; both her favorability and Obama’s approval rating would have to hit 50%; and the Econometer would have to climb to 120.  If she attained a +70, she would beat the GOP nominee by a landslide.

When we get closer to the election, we will add “lead over major GOP rival in swing states” as a new measure.  At this juncture there is simply too little head-to-head polling at the state level to incorporate that measure.  We will do so when the GOP nominee is either established, or becomes obvious.  Ultimately, the election will come down to the usual suspects, the 12 or so swing states that have decided all recent elections.

We now have ten declared candidates, eight for the GOP and two Democrats.  Only two potential major candidates, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, have officially declared they are out.  Lindsay Graham and Rick Perry are expected to announce over the next few days.  Plenty of other leading contenders have yet to announce, including Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio – and I am sticking to my prediction that one of those three will ultimately be the GOP nominee.

Date
In/Out
Party
Paul Ryan
Jan 12
OUT
GOP 
Mitt Romney
Jan 30
OUT
GOP
Ted Cruz
Mar 23
IN
GOP
Rand Paul
Apr 7
IN
GOP
Hillary Clinton
Apr 19
IN
DEM
Marco Rubio
Apr 20
IN
GOP
Bernie Sanders
Apr 30
IN
DEM
Ben Carson
May 4
IN
GOP
Carly Fiorina
May 4
IN
GOP
Mike Huckabee
May 5
IN
GOP
Rick Santorum
May 27
IN
GOP
George Pataki
May 28
IN
GOP

Santorum was the second leading delegate grabber in 2012, and by tradition he should be the frontrunner for the nomination.  But his ascendance then was far more about the weakness of the field, particularly on the far right side, than about his appeal.  In many respects, he was the last Tea Partier standing after the GOP examined and then tossed out Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry.  The GOP field on the far right is far more compelling this time around.
Image from crooksandliars.com

George Pataki is yet another former New York Governor who had trouble pulling the trigger, and he picked an odd time to do so.  He might have been a serious challenger to George W. Bush in 2000, but now his brand of moderate Republicanism is far out of favor.  Oddly, Pataki is probably closer to where the country is than any other candidate – center left on social issues and center right on the economy – but that is not the path to the presidency these days, or even the Senate or House. 

On the Trail and the Latest National, Iowa and New Hampshire Polls

Hillary Clinton announced in mid-April and promptly disappeared.  Not exactly, of course, but she has yet to stage a major rally, yet to take a strong position on a leading issue of the day (e.g., the trade bill), yet to confront directly the issues hanging over her head (e.g., the Clinton Foundation funding controversies) and indeed, she is largely ignoring the national media.  She is making appearances in early primary states with small groups of voters, bantering with them easily, and parrying with the national media as it hovers nearby.  All of this is intentional, of course, as the Clinton campaign sees no reason to engage more deeply, with no competition in sight.

Bernie Sanders entered the Democratic race at the end of April, and while his announcement was enough to push him into double digits, this news, in reality, barely registered a ripple.  No Democratic contender can make a dent in this race unless Elizabeth Warren does a complete about face and enters.  Warren is no longer even included in most polling, and Clinton continues to dominate.


NATIONAL
Apr '15
May '15
IOWA
Apr '15
May '15
NH
Apr '15
May '15
Clinton
63
61
Clinton
60
60
Clinton
45
57
Sanders
6
14
Sanders
8
15
Sanders
12
16
Biden
10
13
Biden
6
11
Biden
7
4
Webb
1
2
O'Malley
4
3
O'Malley
4
2
O'Malley
3
1
Webb
0
3
Webb
2
1
Other/NA
17
9
Other/NA
22
8
Other/NA
30
20
  
On the GOP side, Jeb Bush is taking a beating for being unable to answer smoothly the most basic questions tossed his way, the ones to which, in theory, he should be able to recite a safe answer in mantra form, such as, “Based on what you know today, would you have gone to war with Iraq in 2003?”  He bungled this one not once, but twice, and, for good measure, threw in that the voice he listens to the most on Middle Eastern affairs is none other than his brother.  And I don’t mean Neil.

Image from The Washington Post
This has hurt him, raising questions about his judgment, his acumen and his ability on his feet.  Not to mention in the polls, where he has never caught fire, either nationally or in Iowa.  And his limited presence in the latter is causing the inevitable question of whether he is, in effect, skipping it for the friendlier terrain of New Hampshire.  He is denying that, but the lack of Iowa action thus far is speaking much louder.

Marco Rubio continues to rise, Scott Walker has opened up some space in Iowa, and New Hampshire is a flat-out horse race.  Jeb Bush has dropped mightily in Iowa, putting him in a precarious position.  If Rubio thrashes him in Iowa – even if he loses to Walker – it will position him well for New Hampshire and the home state showdown in Florida.

ATIONAL
Apr '15
May '15
IOWA
Apr '15
May '15
NH
Apr '15
May '15
Walker
13
14
Walker
16
21
Bush
14
13
Rubio
9
13
Rubio
12
13
Walker
20
12
Bush
14
11
Paul
8
13
Rubio
10
12
Huckabee
8
10
Cruz
7
12
Paul
14
11
Carson
7
10
Huckabee
9
11
Trump
0
7
Paul
10
8
Carson
7
7
Cruz
12
6
Cruz
10
7
Bush
13
5
Christie
7
5
Christie
5
5
Christie
5
3
Carson
6
5
Perry
3
3
Perry
4
3
Huckabee
5
4
Kasich
2
3
Santorum
3
2
Fiorina
3
4
Fiorina
1
2
Fiorina
2
2
Perry
4
3
Santorum
2
1
Kasich
1
2
Santorum
1
2
Jindal
1
1
Jindal
1
1
Bolton
0
2
Graham
1
1
Graham
0
0
Pataki
0
2
Other/NA
15
11
Other/NA
12
5
Kasich
0
1




Graham
0
1
Jindal
0
0
Other/NA
6
10
  
Here are two dates for your election calendar, and they are fast approaching.  August 6th will be the very first GOP debate.  The interesting fight, such as it is, involves who will make the stage.  The GOP poo-bahs are limiting it to the top ten in the field by the polls, which actually might bump a name or three off, depending on who finally ends up declaring.

The other date is August 8, the date of the Iowa straw poll.  Do you remember who won in 2012?  Yes, it was Michelle Bachmann.  Jeb Bush has already declared he will not participate, leaving the field to the Tea Party candidate of its choice.  Bachmann ended up sixth in the Iowa caucus five months after the straw poll, and dropped out the day after.  So that gives you some idea of the predictive power of the straw poll.







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