Swing State Pres

Friday, January 17, 2020

BTRTN 2020 Vision: Wide, Wide Open...Four Way Tie in Iowa with Billionaires Ready Down the Road


Tom with our BTRTN monthly feature on the 2020 Elections, with all the latest numbers and commentary.

THE LEAD

These are the main headlines for the past month of the 2020 presidential campaign, from mid-December to mid-January:

·        The Iowa caucuses are, for all intents and purposes, a four-way dead heat.  With just three weeks to go, Elizabeth Warren slightly lags    behind Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, who are in a virtual tie for the lead.

·        The Democratic field narrowed to 12, and with    the latest departures – Cory Booker, Julian    Castro and Marianne Williamson – gone went     the diversity that had characterized the Democratic field of nominees (if never the leaderboard).

·        The debate on Tuesday night in Des Moines was widely viewed as a non-event, a rather cautious affair given the stakes, with none of the expected fireworks materializing, especially between Sanders and Warren (though there were some sharp words on stage after the debate ended).

·        In general, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are on an upward swing:

o   Biden’s jump back into winning contention in Iowa raises the possibility that if he performs well there and in New Hampshire, he could take a commanding lead heading into better terrain for him:  Nevada, South Carolina and Super Tuesday

o   Sanders won the fourth quarter money stakes, and is built to last, having totally re-invigorated his campaign, against all odds, after his heart attack

·        But watch out for the billionaires…Tom Steyer is suddenly polling well in both Nevada and South Carolina, and Mike Bloomberg is obliterating the airwaves in Super Tuesday states with more than $200 million in ad spending to date, about three-quarters of what the rest of the field has spent (mostly by Steyer at about $140 million)

·        While the field numbers 12, we are really down to the Elite Eight:  the Big Four (Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg and Warren), the Billionaires (Bloomberg and Steyer) and the Barely Viable (Klobuchar and Yang)


THE FIELD

A total of 28 Democrats (that is, legitimate national figures) have run for the presidency in the 2020 cycle, a staggering number.  But with the departure of three more candidates this month, the field has narrowed to 12.  That is still a large field, but with four candidates virtually irrelevant at this point (Michael Bennet, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard and Deval Patrick), the solution set can now fit comfortably on one stage.

The departure of Booker, an African-American, Castro, a Latino, and Williamson has caused much gnashing of teeth among Democrats, who are left with a field that is relatively old (average age of 60) and mostly white and male.  And that is even truer for leading contenders; the top five in national polls (Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg and Bloomberg) are on average 68 years old and all white, and if you took Buttigieg (who gets diversity cred for being the only gay person in the field) out of the math, the other four are on average age 76.  If the Dems win, it is likely that the torch will have been passed to an old, not a new, generation.  (Note that Barack Obama is still only 58 years old.)

But lost in the gnashing over the apparent rejection of diversity is that Democrats have long nominated younger candidates (JFK, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama), and in the last three cycles have nominated an African-American and a woman.  Cory Booker and Julian Castro, despite quite strong national profiles and solid experience, simply did not catch on.  Booker, for all of his earnest talk of unity, his passion and his appeal, never captured more than 5% of the national vote in any month, and more recently had trended down to 2%.  Castro, even with his amazing backstory and breadth of experience as a mayor, a U.S. representative and cabinet member, did not even do that well.  Booker always seemed to be a bit of a lightweight as he tried to find policy turf straddling progressives and centrists, while Castro’s focus on immigration was simply out of step with a party much more concerned with health care.

The Republican field, such as it is, remains at three, with Trump being nominally challenged by William Weld and Joe Walsh. 


THE MONTH

Presidential campaigns must live in the real world, and the shock of exogenous events provides an element that already exhausted candidates must deal with real-time.  There are two such bombshell events that are interfering with the candidates’ tidy talking points on health care, climate change and the economy:  the impeachment saga, of course, and now the incredible escalation of Middle East tension with the assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani.

These events are sucking up a great deal of oxygen, and the Biden campaign has been affected, both positively and negatively, by them.  In general, distracting events are a positive for Biden – he is literally a gaffe-machine, so any headline that does not feature another Biden misplay helps him.  And as the frontrunner, he is helped by headlines that crowd out the ability of lower profile candidates to break through.  With impeachment, Iran and Iraq dominating the news, it is hard for Warren, Biden, Buttigieg and Bloomberg to make a dent, and even harder for the relative unknowns in the rest of the field.

Impeachment is a mixed bag for Biden.  Clearly the incessant drumbeat of “the Biden investigation” and “what was Hunter Biden thinking” surely can’t be helpful to his cause.  Nevertheless Biden has rather gamely and adroitly (for him) turned the storyline to his advantage.  He has said, forcefully and accurately, that Trump’s fear of Biden motivated him to take extreme measure in Ukraine to turn up dirt on him.  It is correct to say that Trump was scared of Biden and considered him his most formidable opponent.

But however these events net out for Biden, there can be no doubt that the Senate trial of Trump is a massive blow for Senators Sanders, Warren, Klobuchar and Bennet, who must absent themselves from Iowa and New Hampshire at exactly the time their presence is required the most.  As jurors, they cannot leave their seats – or even have their cell phones in their possession – during the Senate trial.  This vanishing act is a godsend for Biden and Buttigieg, who have those crucial states all to themselves up to the Iowa caucuses of February 3, and perhaps well beyond.

The Iran/Iraq madness is also a mixed bag for Biden.  Trump’s escalation has inevitably dredged up the whole calamity from the starting point of the Iraq War, and Biden’s 2002 vote to authorize war powers for George W. Bush (a vote he long ago stated was a mistake) is now haunting him anew.  But on the plus side, world crises are a chance for Biden to tout his substantial and unique (among the candidates) foreign policy credentials from his years as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations committee and as Vice President.  Biden is on a first name basis with world leaders, is well grounded on the dynamics of every international hotbed, and relishes opportunities to display his global chops.

Biden is doing reasonably well in the race at this point.  He has regained lost ground in both Iowa and New Hampshire, retained his leads in Nevada and South Carolina, and is holding on to his rock-solid 30% support nationally.  Biden might not be lighting anyone’s fire, but his staying power is impressive, and he is still the candidate to beat.

Sanders’ remarkable recovery – in both physical and campaign terms – was not expected.  He also pulled off an amazing magic act: his signature program, Medicare For All (“I wrote the damn bill!”) ended up tarnishing his progressive lane-mate, Elizabeth Warren, even though it was the only one of her much-touted (“I have a plan for that”) proposals that she did not author herself.  Warren took the heat for it, and tumbled in the polls because of it, while Bernie went poof and disappeared.  And now he is on the rise.

Warren, looking for a way to claw back, accused Sanders of telling her in a 2018 conversation that a woman could not win the presidency.  Sanders went for the full denial in the debate, while saying – and repeating – that since Hillary Clinton effectively won the 2016 race (in the popular vote), no one in their right mind could claim that a woman could not win in 2020.  Warren was not pleased, but chose not to turn the dust-up into a on-stage brawl.  But she refused to shake Sanders’ hand after the debate was over, and sharply accused him of lying to a national audience.  Clearly she was having difficulty deciding how much focus she wanted to place on this controversy, and opted for a semi-private flogging.

We had been speculating that the timing could be right for Amy Klobuchar’s moment.  She has been slowly climbing in the polls on the strength of solid recent debate performances and her moderate positioning.  But alas, that upward movement seems to have peaked, and her debate performance on Tuesday was solid but not spectacular.

Of all the candidates, Klobuchar most needs a win in Iowa to validate her candidacy, which is built on her claim of Midwestern invincibility.  If she can’t beat other Democrats in Iowa, how can she be the best candidate to beat Trump in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin?  But her ascendance has been too slow, and seems to be pointing to a “too little, too late” outcome in Iowa – and perhaps the death knell of her candidacy.  She can hardly expect to rebound in New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina.

Pete Buttigieg has also not been able to build on his momentum, but his peak, if that is what it is, is a great place to be, tied for the lead in Iowa.  Like Klobuchar, the moderate Midwesterner absolutely needs to do well in Iowa to validate his candidacy, but unlike Klobuchar, he has money and also some degree of national standing, particularly among (rich) coastal elites.  Of the 28 Democrats who have taken a shot, Mayor Pete is the only one to have come from nowhere and vaulted himself into the top tier.  Among the others in the “Elite Eight,” Biden, Sanders, Warren and Bloomberg were already well known, and Klobuchar, Steyer and Yang are still awaiting their moment, which may or may not yet come.

No one was expecting it, but Tom Steyer is suddenly polling well in both Nevada and South Carolina, his massive spending mixed with his strong anti-elite, anti-corporate messaging finally paying off.  If Steyer can survive down-and-out showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, and put up respectable numbers in the next two contests, he could propel himself into the Super Tuesday conversation.  Already he benefited by those polls, which enabled him to join the five leading candidates on the stage in Des Moines the other night.

There is simply no reason why Michael Bennet, Tulsi Gabbard, John Delaney or Deval Patrick should still be in the race.  None of them are scoring in the polls, getting on debate stages, or leaving a mark of any kind.

But the bottom line:  there are 20 days to go before the Iowa caucuses on February 3, and the race is wide, wide open. 

Let’s look at the numbers.


THE NUMBERS

Iowa:  There have been three new polls in Iowa, and they show little change since December.  Biden has continued modest upward movement over the last two months, and is effectively tied with Sanders and Buttigieg all at about the 20% mark.  Warren is a bit behind them holding at 16%.  Klobuchar remains at 7%, and Yang and Steyer are still at 3%.  If this outcome held on caucus night, the Big Four would be relieved (even Warren, for not dropping further) and Klobuchar would likely drop out.  But the biggest winner might be Mike Bloomberg, because he needs a muddled field to continue into Super Tuesday, and a close four-way outcome would leave the field wide open.

Average of Iowa Polls
Candidates
Nov (4)
Dec (2)
Jan (3)
Biden
16
19
21
Sanders
16
22
20
Buttigieg
23
21
19
Warren
18
15
16
Klobuchar
5
7
7
Yang
3
3
3
Steyer
3
3
3

New Hampshire:  There have also been three new polls here in January, with Biden and Sanders separating themselves by just a bit over Warren, with Buttigieg dropping back, and no others making a move.  This is good news for Biden, for sure, and also Sanders in his lane battle with Warren.

Average of NH Polls
Candidates
Oct (3)
N/D (6)
Jan (3)
Biden
21
17
23
Sanders
20
17
22
Warren
25
17
17
Buttigieg
9
18
13
Klobuchar
2
3
5
Gabbard
2
4
3
Steyer
3
3
3

Nevada:  There have been two new polls in Nevada, after none in December, and there have been some notable changes.  Biden still leads, but he has dropped back to within range of Sanders, who slipped just a tad.  Warren also fell, and Buttigieg held.  But the big move was by Steyer, and it was true in both polls.  He is the first to crack into the top four other than the Big Four in any of the early states.  And in case you were wondering, both polls were conducted by good pollsters, FOX News (yes, they do solid polling) and USA Today/Suffolk.  This could be a very important development, especially given what the polls are showing in South Carolina (below).

Average of Nevada Polls
Candidates
J/A/S (5)
O/N (4)
Jan (2)
Biden
25
29
21
Sanders
20
20
18
Warren
16
20
12
Steyer
3
4
10
Buttigieg
4
7
7
Yang
2
3
4
Klobuchar
1
2
3

South Carolina.  Here there is only one new poll, also a FOX News poll, but Steyer jumped into second place in it.  Biden is still very strong here, with solid support from the African-American vote, and Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg are not making any progress in weakening Biden’s stranglehold on that critical segment of the party.

Average of South Carolina Polls
Candidates
Oct (5)
N/D (3)
Jan (1)
Biden
36
35
36
Steyer
4
4
15
Sanders
12
15
14
Warren
15
16
10
Buttigieg
4
8
4

National.   Steady Joe Biden continued to lead the national polls at that same 30% level he has enjoyed for months, and Bernie Sanders held at the same just-below-20% level he has had for many months.    Elizabeth Warren continued at her post-boom level of 15%.  Pete Buttigieg lost the three points that he gained last month, and Mike Bloomberg added a few more point to join Buttigieg in the “second tier.”  No one else is registering meaningfully nationally.

Average of National Polls for the Month at Mid-Month
Candidates
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Jan
Biden
29
29
31
37
34
30
30
28
28
28
28
29
Sanders
17
23
23
18
17
16
16
17
16
17
18
19
Warren
7
7
6
8
10
13
15
17
23
21
16
15
Buttigieg
0
0
3
7
7
6
5
5
6
7
10
7
Bloomberg
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
4
6
Yang
1
0
1
1
1
1
2
3
3
3
3
3
Klobuchar
2
4
2
2
1
1
1
1
1
2
2
3
Gabbard
1
1
1
1
0
1
1
1
1
2
2
2
Steyer
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
0
1
1
1
1
1
2
Bennet
n/a
n/a
n/a
1
1
0
0
1
1
1
1
0
Delaney
0
0
1
0
0
0
1
0
0
1
1
0
Patrick
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
0
0
Other/NA
38
30
27
21
26
29
24
22
16
14
11
11


SHOW ME THE MONEY

Bernie Sanders continues to be the fundraising king among the Democrats, and he raised a whopping $34.5 million in the quarter, shattering previous totals for anyone in the field.  The other frontrunners all raised in the $20-25 million range, and both Andrew Yang and Amy Klobuchar upped their games considerably.

These totals allow the candidates the luxury of staying power.  And while none of them can compete with Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer on money alone, they do have the resources for ads and “ground games” to enable them to compete through Super Tuesday if the results of the early primaries warrant.

Fundraising ($ Millions)
1Q 2019
2Q 2019
3Q 2019
4Q 2019
Sanders
18.2
24.0
25.3
34.5
Buttigieg
7.0
24.8
19.1
24.7
Biden
n/a
21.5
15.7
22.7
Warren
6.0
19.1
24.6
21.2
Yang
1.8
2.8
9.9
16.5
Klobuchar
5.2
3.9
4.8
11.4
Gabbard
2.0
1.5
3.0
3.4
Patrick
n/a
n/a
n/a
2.2
Bennet
n/a
3.5
2.1
tbd
Note:  Bloomberg, Delaney and Steyer are largely self-funding their races


WHO CAN BEAT TRUMP?

If you don’t think that the impeachment inquiry has hurt the Democrats, take a hard look at these two charts.  The first, at the national level, looks at the average of national polls pitting Trump head-to-head versus his three main rivals, Biden, Sanders and Warren.  While the Dems on average had a healthy +8 lead over Trump in September and October, that gap has narrowed to only +3 since the inquiry began.

Head-to-Head National Polls Big Three Dems Versus Trump

Avg. Big Three *
Trump
Diff.
Nov/Dec/Jan
48
45
3
Sep/Oct
51
43
8
 * Big Three:  Biden, Sanders, Warren

The same dynamic is true in polls conducted in swing states, except in these crucial states, Trump has gone from a -3 point deficit to a +1 lead.

Head-to-Head Swing State Polls* Big Three Dems Versus Trump

Avg. Big Three **
Trump
Diff.
Nov/Dec/Jan
46
47
-1
Oct
48
45
3
 * Swing states: AZ, FL, GA, IA, ME, MCH, MN, NC, NV, OH, PA, TX, WI
 ** Big Three:  Biden, Sanders, Warren



In terms of who can lay claim to the title of “most electable,” that still belongs to Joe Biden.  Biden leads Trump by +4 in the national polls, while the other three (including Buttigieg now) are all also leading Trump but by a very narrow margin.

But in the swing state polls, only Biden leads Trump in recent head-to-head polls.  And this “electability” claim in the swing states is a major part of his appeal, and a data point to keep your eye on.

Head-to-Head Nov 15 - Jan 15 Polls Dems Versus Trump
Nat'l/State Polls
Biden
Warren
Sanders
Buttigieg
National
Biden +4
Warren +2
Sanders +2
Buttigieg +3
Avg. Swing State *
Biden +2
Warren -3
Sanders -1
Buttigieg -1
 * Swing states:  AZ, FL, GA, IA, ME, MICH, MN, NC, NV, OH, PA, TX, WI


THE GOP RACE

The Trump challengers, William Weld and Joe Walsh, are not exactly getting much traction.  The most recent polling (from October) has Trump garnering 87% of the GOP vote, while the two challengers are both at 2% or less.


THE FULL FIELD

Here are the entire Democratic and Republican fields as of today, ranked by the most recent national polls.

Democratic Candidates
Age
Announcement  Date
Credentials
Latest national polls (12/15/19 - 1/15/20)
Joe Biden
77
4/25/2019
Ex-VP and Ex-Senator, Delaware
29%
Bernie Sanders
78
2/19/2019
Senator, Vermont
19%
Elizabeth Warren
70
12/31/2018
Senator, Massachusetts
15%
Pete Buttigieg
37
1/22/2019
Mayor, South Bend, Indiana
8%
Michael Bloomberg
77
11/24/2019
Ex-Mayor of New York City
5%
Andrew Yang
45
11/6/2017
Entrepreneur
3%
Amy Klobuchar
59
2/10/2019
Senator, Minnesota
3%
Tulsi Gabbard
38
1/11/2019
Representative, Hawaii
2%
Tom Steyer
62
7/9/2019
Billionaire hedge fund manager
2%
Michael Bennet
55
5/2/2019
Senator, Colorado
0%
John Delaney
56
7/28/2017
Representative, Maryland
0%
Deval Patrick
63
11/13/2019
Ex-Governor, Massachusetts
0%





Republican Candidates
Age
Announcement  Date
Credentials
Latest national polls (from Oct 2019)
Donald Trump
73
6/18/2019
President
86%
William Weld
74
4/15/2019
Ex-Governor, Massachusetts
2%
Joe Walsh
57
8/25/2019
Ex-Representative, Illinois
1%


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2 comments:

  1. The DNC rules this year say "candidates must win at least 15% of votes in a state or district in order to be awarded delegates there. Many of the other candidates in the large Democratic field are estimated to be short of the 15% eligibility threshold, and the delegates are allocated only among the few candidates with large enough vote shares to qualify."

    No winner take all. Shares of delegates split among those over 15%, with nothing given to those below. Whatever percentage supporting those under 15% gets split among those over 15%. Apparently, no delegates assigned to "unpledged" status unless someone wins and then suspends their campaign and is not nominated at the convention.

    I suspect Biden will NOT get blanked in a state. I think it entirely possible that Sanders and Warren may narrowly miss in some states. Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Steyer may reach 15% in a few states. Bloomberg becomes the wild card, as he has seen a reasonably steady rise in national polls since he announced 8 weeks ago, reaching 8%. Advertising and staff in the Super Tuesday states and after may get him delegates in the states he is concentrating on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good analysis. I agree with all of it. Plus the "non-winner-take-all" greatly increases the possibility of a split convention if multiple candidates reach the 15% in the early contests. On the other hand, if Biden wins early and does well on Super Tuesday, he will be very tough to catch in a non-winner-take-all environment as long as he plods along getting 15% to 50% in each contest.

      Delete

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