Swing State Pres

Friday, January 1, 2016

December Month in Review: One Month Until Iowa and Cruz Makes His Move

We are one month away from Iowa, which will hold its caucuses on February 1st.  History shows that plenty can change in this last month.  In 2012, Rick Santorum was still polling in the low single digits in Iowa a mere two weeks before the Iowa caucus, which he won with 25% of the vote.  John McCain was trailing Mitt Romney by about 15 points a month before the New Hampshire primary in 2008, yet won by 6 points (and McCain came in fourth in Iowa that year so there was no bounce for him).

My instincts tell me we won’t see that kind of change this time around.  In 2011 it was clear that no single candidate had captured the imagination of evangelically-dominated Iowa Republicans as they kept cycling through a motley cast of characters in search of the anti-Romney more in line with their far right views.  They never found him or her, and Santorum, too, turned out to be a flavor of the month.  While there are vestiges of that “sampling” dynamic this time around, the GOP field is simply stronger in 2015, with better candidates who have greater appeal to the far right, notably the ascendant Ted Cruz.  And the Democratic race has shown very little change at all of late, with Hillary Clinton in control in Iowa.

As we turn the corner into 2016, with all eyes on Iowa and New Hampshire, let’s look back at the races in those two states over the last 12 months, to see how we got to this point.

THE REPUBLICANS

Remember Scott Walker?  He led the field in Iowa through July, sank in September and exited (see the chart below).  Donald Trump was not even in the conversation until his announcement in mid-June, and he was ahead of Walker by August.  Ben Carson had a brief surge to the lead in October, until Paris exposed his ignorance of all manner of foreign affairs.  And now Ted Cruz is on the rise.  He is perfect for Iowa and its evangelical wing, and he has virtually eliminated his far right wing opponents there, especially Mike Huckabee (who won Iowa in 2008) and Santorum (who, as noted, won four years later). Cruz is neck and neck with Trump, with Rubio a distant third.  Carson has faded even further in December, and in the most recent polls has dropped to the mid-single digits.

In the last month, Donald Trump called for a ban on any Muslim immigration; said that Hillary Clinton “got schlonged” by Obama in 2008; and said her bathroom break at the December Democratic debate was “too disgusting” to talk about (although he, virtually alone, brought it up).  All of these comments, like the many similarly racist and misogynistic ones he has uttered before them, were met with outrage from all sides.   Apparently we can only muster bipartisan fervor in castigating Trump.  Yet he continues to generate strong support, about even in Iowa with Ted Cruz, who is the only person who has failed to upbraid him.

Nothing Trump says has derailed him in Iowa (or anywhere) – yet – but Cruz’s rise in Iowa may be the beginning of the long-awaited rejection of Trump.  The GOP establishment would shudder at a Cruz candidacy, but even he is preferred to Trump.  Certainly a Cruz win in Iowa would weaken Trump and thus open the door further in New Hampshire for an establishment-backed candidate like Marco Rubio or Chris Christie to squeeze into the top tier or even win.

IOWA
Jan
F/M
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Cruz
6
5
7
12
6
6
8
8
9
15
28
Trump




5
15
20
27
20
24
27
Rubio
4
6
12
13
7
5
7
6
10
13
12
Carson
12
9
7
7
10
8
13
21
28
21
11
Bush
12
12
13
5
10
10
7
5
7
6
5
Fiorina
1
3
2
2
3
2
7
7
5
4
3
Paul
10
9
8
13
9
5
4
4
3
3
3
Huckabee
12
12
9
11
8
7
5
4
2
2
2
Christie
5
7
5
3
4
2
2
1
1
2
2
Santorum
5
5
3
2
4
2
1
2
1
1
1
Walker
12
23
16
21
18
19
19
10



Perry
3
4
4
3
5
3
3
1



Other/NA
19
7
14
8
11
16
4
4
14
9
6

New Hampshire (below) has always been more fragmented than Iowa, as the state is comprised of a broad array of Republicans, with the full spectrum of Tea Party to moderates in the mix.  There are also two major wild cards in play, one being a very healthy anti-Iowa attitude (New Hampshire tends to reject whomever Iowa anoints), and, more practically speaking, a voting electorate that includes the potential of undeclared (that is, Independent) voters who, in New Hampshire, are eligible to vote in either the Democratic or GOP primaries.  The Independents tend to vote “where the action is,” and if they choose to vote in the GOP primary in force that will improve the chances of the establishment candidates (Rubio, Christie, Bush and Kasich).

Looking back, you can see in the chart below how splintered New Hampshire has been.  Jeb Bush and Scott Walker led the field in the first half of the year but neither ever commanded even a quarter of the vote.  Donald Trump took command in July and has held a remarkably consistent 25-30% of the vote since, while holding roughly a 2:1 edge over his nearest rival in that time.  The second place slot has been held by Bush, then the ephemeral Carson, and now Rubio, who has a very slight edge over the rising Ted Cruz and Chris Christie.  Within the “establishment” sub-race, Kasich and Bush are still well within range of Rubio and Christie.  The rank order in New Hampshire will be very important…everyone wants to win, but what they all need, particularly on the moderate side, is a top three finish.

NH
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Trump



7
11
23
27
29
30
26
26
Rubio
5
6
5
10
12
8
6
4
4
8
12
13
Cruz
4
5
7
12
6
4
4
7
6
5
9
11
Christie
9
12
8
7
5
5
5
4
3
3
6
10
Kasich
1
2
1
0
1
2
7
12
10
8
8
8
Bush
14
17
17
14
13
16
13
10
7
9
7
7
Carson
8
7
4
6
5
6
6
5
13
14
12
6
Fiorina
0
1
2
3
4
5
3
10
10
8
4
4
Paul
9
13
10
14
11
9
5
5
4
4
4
4
Huckabee
7
6
5
5
4
4
3
2
1
1
1
1
Walker
13
17
16
20
12
10
10
6




Other/NA
32
15
26
11
20
20
15
8
13
10
11
10

Lindsay Graham and George Pataki exited the race in December, leaving the field at 12.  After we are done with Iowa and New Hampshire, I suspect many more will exit, including Huckabee, Paul, Santorum, Fiorina, Gilmore and perhaps Carson.  That would leave a field of six to head south (and west).

THE DEMOCRATS

For all of the hype about Bernie Sanders’ unlikely candidacy, Hillary Clinton has had a reasonably strong hold on Iowa throughout 2015.  Sanders picked up virtually all of Elizabeth Warren’s supporters when she made it clear in the spring that she was not going to run, and he continued to build support in Iowa up through September, closing to within five points of Clinton.  But at that point Joe Biden decided to sit it out as well, and Hillary picked up all of his supporters, and her low-50’s level of support is roughly 15-20 points ahead of Sanders.  Martin O’Malley has been a tangential player in this race, but he ended the year on his highest note at 6%.  If he is going to make a run, he’s got a month to pull it off.  But from where it sits now, Hillary looks hard to beat in Iowa, especially given the strength of her organization. 

IOWA
J/F '15
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Clinton
61
60
60
52
57
49
41
54
53
52
Sanders
6
8
15
23
26
26
36
34
36
36
O'Malley
1
4
3
2
4
4
4
3
4
6
Biden
9
6
11
8
7
11
13



Warren
18
15








Other/NA
5
7
11
15
6
10
6
9
7
6

New Hampshire has been a different story.   This state is friendly territory for Vermont neighbor Sanders, and he took over the lead (below) at the height of Hillary’s summer woes and built it up to 12 points in September.  But Hillary, on the strength of her own debate performances, the Biden non-entrance, and the shifting focus of the overall campaign dialogue from economic inequality to security and terrorism, has now pulled about even with Sanders.  If she wins Iowa it could set her up for another win in New Hampshire (an Iowa win usually translates to a 5-10 point bump in New Hampshire results).  Sanders might not survive as double loss for long, as the south is very strong for Hillary. 

NH
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Sanders
10
10
12
16
31
31
40
45
38
42
48
Clinton
57
48
45
57
46
49
39
33
36
46
44
O'Malley
1
2
4
2
2
3
2
2
2
3
3
Biden
7
8
7
4
8
8
7
13
12


Warren
18
21
24
20







Other/NA
7
11
8
1
13
9
12
7
12
9
5

HILLARY AND THE GENERAL ELECTION

In terms of the general election, Hillary’s position improved significantly in December, as the Hillometer indicates, rising from -20 to -2.  Her odds of winning the election are now roughly 50/50.  Hillary has built an average of a 3-point lead over her top three GOP rivals (Trump, Cruz and Rubio) in head-to-head polling, and she is helped by an improving economy (the Econometer increased from 102 to 109), which made enough progress to finally induce the Fed to finally raise interest rates. 

Her sore point remains her approval rating (below) which, after several months of very slow but steady increases, dropped a point back to 42%.  Hillary’s only saving grace on this measure is that her favorability rating, while low, is higher than each of Trump (35%), Cruz (33%) or Rubio (35%).  However, her “net negative” of -9 (that is, the difference between her favorable rating of 42% and her unfavorable rating of 51%) bests only Trump’s (a whopping -21); she is about even with Cruz (-7) and worse than Rubio (who has a net 0).



Raw

Final
As of December 31, 2015
Measure
Base
Score
Weight
Score
Hillary's margin vs GOP leader (Avg. Top 3)
3.2%
0%
3.2%
50%
1.6
Hillary's favorability rating
42.2%
50%
-7.8%
25%
-2.0
Obama's approval rating
44.7%
50%
-5.3%
15%
-0.8
Econometer
109.2
100
9.2
10%
0.9
Sum




-0.2
HILLOMETER




-2


Clinton
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov.
Dec.
% Favorable
41.0
41.4
42.1
43.1
42.2


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