Swing State Pres

Sunday, November 1, 2015

October 2015 Election Update: Hillary Affirms Her Dynastic Claim, But It May Be Scion-ara for Jeb

A round of debates for each party, various comings and goings and shifting sands made it quite a month on the campaign trail.  We are just about one year away from Election Day – for a more precise countdown, look to your immediate right – and the winnowing has begun, and should escalate over the coming months.

The two scions of the leading political families of our times, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, each entered the month facing huge challenges from their once-all-but-ordained nominations.  Both were not only in decline, but not far from panic.  How they each responded to those challenges are the defining stories of the month.

THE DEMOCRATS

Hillary Clinton’s story was one of triumph.  She faced a trifecta of challenges:  the first Democratic debate, which put her head-to-head with her ascending rival, Bernie Sanders; the Benghazi hearings, with the GOP openly salivating for a take-down; and the decision point for her most feared potential rival, Joe Biden.  And she simply crushed them all.

You have read here how she triumphed in the debate and the plaudits were virtually universal (httpp://www.borntorunthenumbers.com/2015/10/the-first-democratic-debate-start.html).  She even received an enormous plus from the lips of Bernie Sanders Himself, with this memorable statement that is already part of debate lore:  “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!”  (Nothing like a little help from your friends.)

The GOP managed self-inflicted wounds in undermining their own Benghazi hearings.  What could almost-Speaker (and still the GOP Majority Leader) have had in mind in uttering THIS classic?  “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi Special Committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”  (Who needs friends with enemies like these?)  Clinton took that gift and ran with it as well, as her testimony over 11 hours was cool and professional, and even Trey Gowdy had to admit not much new had been revealed.

As for Joe Biden, he ended his personal, even poignant, struggle to decide whether to run or not by finally standing down.  Cynics can argue that it was Hillary’s debate performance, but my sense is that this was a very private struggle by an honest and very human man.  His decision was the right one, for the party and for his legacy, but perhaps most of all for his family.

And the numbers?  The debate and the Biden decision came virtually on top of each other, so the individual impact of each is almost impossible to discern.  But the overall outcome is clear:  Hillary is on the rise and in a commanding position.  Here is the national polling before and after the critical October 13 (debate) and October 15 (Biden out) dates, using only polls that excluded Biden in the post-period.  Clinton jumped 12 points, while Bernie was unchanged.  Her lead over Bernie increased from an already substantial 18 points to a gaping spread of 33 points.

Pre 10/13-15
Post 10/13-15
Change
Clinton
46
58
12
Sanders
24
25
1
Biden
16
n/a
-18
Other/DK
14
17
3

There are not enough polls in Iowa and New Hampshire to slice and dice them in the same manner, but simply looking month-to-month you can see that similar trends are in force.  Hillary suddenly has a 20-point lead in Iowa, up from a mere +5 in September, and in New Hampshire (almost a home state for the Vermonter Sanders), she is closing the gap rapidly, from 12 points to a negligible two points. 

IOWA
Sep '15
Oct '15
NH
Sep '15
Oct '15
Clinton
41
54
Sanders
45
38
Sanders
36
34
Clinton
33
36
O'Malley
4
3
O'Malley
2
2
Other/NA
19
9
Other/NA
20
24

Hillary’s path to the nomination has cleared notably, but is not a slam dunk.  There remains the matter of an ongoing FBI investigation on the email front to survive.  And quite apart from the nomination, her standing in the general election still needs work.  The “Hillometer” has improved from -29 to -22, but it is still negative, meaning she has a less than 50% chance of winning the Presidency.  She is only fractionally ahead of the leading challengers from the GOP (Trump, Carson and Rubio, see below – and she trails Carson by two points), and her favorability rating remains tepid at 42%, though modestly improving.



Raw

Final
As of October 31, 2015
Measure
Base
Score
Weight
Score
Hillary's margin vs GOP leader (Avg. Top 3)
0.6%
0%
0.6%
50%
0.3
Hillary's favorability rating
42.1%
50%
-7.9%
25%
-2.0
Obama's approval rating
45.0%
50%
-5.0%
15%
-0.8
Econometer
102.7
100
2.7
10%
0.3
Sum




-2.2
HILLOMETER




-22


Clinton
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
% Favorable
45.4
44.2
41.0
41.4
42.1

In other campaign news, Lincoln (“I Am a Block of Granite”) Chafee and James (“I’m Going to Use My Debate Speaking Time to Complain About My Lack of Debate Speaking Time”) Webb both dropped out of the race.  Martin O’Malley remains, and could profit from being one of only three podiums left on the stage, which might fuel his Vice-Presidential aspirations.  That is, unless Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, still in the race, manages to eke out enough poll votes to make it to prime time.  So far he is failing at that task.  I don’t think he will pick up the Chafee vote.

So Hillary has righted her ship.  Jeb cannot say the same.

THE GOP

Unlike Hillary, Jeb Bush had only one challenge to overcome in this month – he needed to put together one solid debate performance to assuage his supporters and serve notice to his challengers that his candidacy, long on potential and Super PAC cash, was not only viable but strong.  But if Hillary hit a grand slam homer, Jeb struck out, again and again. 

As you have read here, Jeb had one of the most memorably bad debate performances of all time (http://www.borntorunthenumbers.com/2015/10/the-headlines-from-cnbc-debate-on.html).  Usually debate wounds are suffered alone – such as Rick Perry’s “Oops” moment, Gerald Ford insisting that Eastern Europe was not under Soviet control, George H.W. Bush checking his watch.  Debate confrontations, while routine, are rarely the stuff of history.  But the Bush-Rubio exchange, culminating with Rubio's devastating "someone convinced you that attacking me will help you," was perhaps the most memorable since Ronald Reagan shrugged at a shrill Jimmy Carter and chuckled “There you go again!”  Bush has been terrible in three debates now and is faced with an uncomfortable truth – no one likes his personality very much, but if he deviates from it, it only gets worse.  I’m not sure even Eli Gold could do anything with him.

There are no post-debate numbers yet to quantify Bush’s pain, but the run-up to it was bad enough.  Bush is in single digits, virtually a non-factor in Iowa and, in the one state that he must win, New Hampshire, trailing Donald Trump by a 3:1 margin.  Marco Rubio has begun to rise, up 3-4 points in each segment, and with the strong debate performance, this upswing should continue.  

Donald Trump is not going away, and every month he puts up a 30% national number is a month closer to his being a force throughout this nominating process.  Ben Carson has taken over the lead in Iowa and is gaining nationally on Trump, and an alien from Mars, confronted with these numbers, might reasonably conclude that this is a two-person race.   And it just may be.

NATIONAL
Sep '15
Oct '15
IOWA
Sep '15
Oct '15
NH
Sep '15
Oct '15
Trump
30
29
Carson
21
28
Trump
29
30
Carson
16
20
Trump
27
20
Carson
13
14
Rubio
6
9
Rubio
6
10
Bush
7
9
Bush
9
8
Cruz
8
9
Kasich
10
8
Fiorina
7
6
Bush
5
7
Fiorina
10
8
Cruz
6
6
Fiorina
7
5
Rubio
4
8
Huckabee
4
4
Paul
4
3
Cruz
6
5
Paul
3
3
Jindal
3
3
Paul
4
4
Christie
3
3
Huckabee
4
2
Christie
3
3
Kasich
3
3
Kasich
3
2
Huckabee
1
1
Santorum
1
1
Santorum
2
1
Graham
1
1
Jindal
1
1
Christie
1
1
Santorum
0
1
Graham
0
1

Graham
0
0
Jindal
0
0
Pataki
0
0
Gilmore
0
0
Pataki
0
0
Gilmore
0
0
Pataki
0
0
Gilmore
0
0
Other/NA
11
6
Other/NA
9
9
Other/NA
12
8

But underneath these broad numbers are three separate races going on, and the subtle game is to win the mantle in one of these races.  There is the race among the “Outsiders” to play the role of Grand Subverter, a game changing non-politician who promises politics-as-unusual.  Then there is the “Establishment” race; history shows that in time the upstarts are rejected and the GOP National Committee gets its nominee (as John McCain and Mitt Romney did over their respective ships of fools in 2008 and 2012).  And finally, the “Tea Party/Evangelical” wing of the party, the fading upstarts from 2010, who still play an outsized role in the primary process.

Let’s recut the numbers along these lines.  The outsiders are claiming 50-60% of the preference in each segment, an astonishing number.  They show no signs of fading and are gifted in projecting their strengths in the debate process – they are not of the political process, and they savage it to great applause in their own styles, Trump’s brashness, Carson’s civility, and Fiorina’s tightly controlled rage.  

OUTSIDERS
NATIONAL
IOWA
NH
Trump
29
20
30
Carson
20
28
14
Fiorina
6
5
8

Within the Establishment race, you can see clearly the struggle between Rubio and Bush, and, as stated, with their respective debate performance, you can be assured that November polling will show a distancing between the two.  Rubio could perhaps join the A-Team above, although prior debate bounces (notably by Kasich and Fiorina) were not of that magnitude.  In general, the only hope for this Establishment group is that when the GOP rank-and-file take a closer look at Trump and Carson as the months go by, they will find their glaring lack of specificity to be problematic, and then turn to the Establishment candidate.  The main battleground for that role is New Hampshire, and, as of now, Rubio, Bush and Kasich are running neck and neck and neck.

ESTABLISHMENT
NATIONAL
IOWA
NH
Rubio
9
10
8
Bush
8
7
9
Kasich
3
2
8
Christie
3
1
3
Graham
1
0
1
Pataki
0
0
0
Gilmore
0
0
0

And that leaves the Tea Party wing, diminished as they may be.  Ted Cruz leads this group, and his outstanding debate performance will doubtless distance him from this sub segment field.  He needs a strong showing in Iowa, winning this sub segment and getting closer to Carson and Trump.  His game is Super Tuesday, where he has strong appeal and a hefty Super Pac checkbook to utilize.

TEA PARTY
NATIONAL
IOWA
NH
Cruz
6
9
5
Huckabee
4
2
1
Paul
3
3
4
Jindal
1
3
0
Santorum
1
1
1

The field has to narrow soon.  With the next debate just a week and a half away (November 10), the bottom candidates can give themselves one last shot to break out.  But, judging from Chris Christie’s standing, that is a nearly impossible task at this point.  You can’t ask for more from his debate performances.  I think they have been uniformly excellent.  You can squint your eyes and see what might have been.  He’s quick on his feet, personable and strong.  But he can’t break through.  Do you really think Lindsay Graham, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Jim Gilmore, Rand Paul or Mike Huckabee will suddenly emerge given the field ahead of them?  Not a chance.  I think many if not all of them will be gone by Thanksgiving (including Christie).  They certainly should be.

The other seven still have a path to the nomination…Trump and Carson, as leaders of the pack, Rubio for his momentum and appeal across the sectors, Bush simply for the depth of his resources, Cruz via Iowa and the South, Kasich via New Hampshire, and Fiorina…well, Carly is so different in so many ways that she could still ignite.  But she appears to have squandered her moment in the sun afforded by her performances in the first two debates, so her window is rapidly closing. 

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