Sunday, February 2, 2020

BTRTN Iowa Caucuses Prediction: Bernie with a Solid Win, Biden Comfortably in Second

Tom with BTRTN’s first prediction of the 2020 campaign.

The country’s attention now turns now from the distaste of an impeachment process gone awry (both Democrats and Republicans have their separate reasons for this common view) to the presidential campaign, as the Democrats’ hard business of selecting a candidate from a relatively large field begins in earnest, in Iowa, on Monday. 

The Iowa caucuses are like no other.  Candidates crisscross the state for the better part of a year or more.  Iowans takes their role as “first deciders” very seriously, taking the time to get to know the candidates in person.  The results set the pace for all that follows.  And the outcome is quite prophetic for the Democrats:  you have to go back to 1988 to find the last time the Iowa winner of a contested caucus did not become the eventual Democratic Party nominee, when Michael Dukakis finished third behind Dick Gephardt and Paul Simon (Iowa favorite son Tom Harkin won in 1992, but this was not a contested caucus, as Bill Clinton and others largely skipped it given Harkin’s home field advantage).  Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in 2016 by the thinnest of margins, 49.8% to 49.6%, a far closer outcome than her margin over Donald Trump in the general election, which she “won” by the relatively comfortable popular vote margin of 48.2% to 46.1%. 

The caucus itself is a time-consuming process:  caucus goers gather in each of Iowa’s 99 counties, in over 1,600 precinct caucus sites such as local gyms or other large spaces.  Each contenders’ advocates occupy a separate space in the gym, trying to convince others to come join them to support their candidate.  There is some variation but generally if a candidate does not receive 15% of the vote in a particular caucus in the “first round,” they must be released and can then join with one of the remaining contenders who crossed that threshold.  Only then are the final results announced.  Iowa sends 49 delegates to the Democratic National Convention; 41 will be pledged by virtue of the caucus, to be joined by 8 unpledged delegates, three of whom are members of Congress (all U.S. representatives) and the other five members must be of the Democratic National Committee.  There’s a near-infinite level of detail and complexity beyond this, but this is already perhaps more than you need to know. 

One new wrinkle – for the first time, voting totals will be announced for both the first round and the final.  This might add some spice to the spin room, perhaps.  For example, if the first round winner is not the ultimate winner, then the first round winner may claim some dubious form of “victory” anyway. 

Caucuses are more difficult to predict than primaries, because that time-consuming voting process demands much more of voters than a normal primary, and thus voter turnout is quite low.  It is difficult to discern the impact of this degree of commitment in polling – it’s hard to tell who is actually going to show up and stay.  And the two-stage process adds its own unpredictable dynamic.  Plus, relative to past Iowa caucuses, predictors like BTRTN do not have the benefit of a final Des Moines Register poll, typically the last of the cycle.  This year’s DMR poll was feared to be tainted by a flawed methodology, which inadvertently dropped one candidate off the selection question, and the results were scrapped. 

Nevertheless, we at BTRTN have done well in the past.  We correctly predicted the Clinton win in 2016 as well as Ted Cruz’s victory over Donald Trump and Marco Rubio in the GOP caucus.  Both were extraordinarily close. 

So we venture forth again.  Polling of late shows that Bernie Sanders has achieved some level of separation in the last few days from Joe Biden, and has some modest momentum.  He also has a better “ground game” than Biden.  Biden has been steady in January at about the 20% level, and is behind Sanders, while Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren are trailing Biden.  Amy Klobuchar has been on the rise, but despite reaching double digits for the first time ever in Iowa in some polls, she remains in fifth place, and, importantly, below the 15% threshold.  She will be zeroed out in a number of precincts, perhaps in a majority. 

Andrew Yang is below 5% in the polls, a level which could shut him out entirely.  The others still in the race are really not competing in Iowa. Tulsi Gabbard, Deval Patrick and Michael Bennet are focusing on New Hampshire.  Tom Steyer is making headway in Nevada and South Carolina, and Mike Bloomberg is spending like a drunken sailor in the Super Tuesday states, skipping the first four contests entirely.  John Delaney, who has perhaps spent more time in Iowa than anyone, finally gave up the ghost and withdrew last week. 

It is very hard to get a sense of the “ground game” or “excitement levels” around the candidates.  We have friends in Iowa now who are reporting high enthusiasm for Buttigieg, Yang, Sanders and even Biden (as of Sunday’s rallies).  

Here are the polls for the month of January, divided into chronological groupings. 

Iowa
Jan 1 -15 (3 polls)
Jan 15-23 (4)
Jan 24-27 (4)
Jan 28- Feb 2 (3)
Sanders
20
22
24
27
Biden
21
22
21
20
Buttigieg
19
19
15
17
Warren
16
16
15
17
Klobuchar
7
9
10
8
Yang
3
2
4
3
Steyer
3
3
4
1
Gabbard
2
1
2
1
Bloomberg
1
1
1
0

So with that, here goes:
  
The official Born To Run The Numbers prediction for the Democratic Iowa caucus is a solid win for Bernie Sanders, with Joe Biden finishing comfortably in second. 

Our prediction for the final vote is as follows.  Keep in mind the 15% threshold, which will shut out those lower in the polls, and will have an impact on Buttigieg, Warren and Klobuchar on a precinct-by-precinct basis.  The net effect should be to push up Sanders and Biden from their polling levels as they will reach that threshold more easily and perhaps in almost every precinct. 

Iowa
Prediction
Sanders
35
Biden
26
Buttigieg
16
Warren
15
Klobuchar
6
Yang
0
Steyer
0
Gabbard
0
Bloomberg
0
Bennet
0
Patrick
0


If the results turned out like this, how would they play versus the expectations game? 

Obviously a clear win for Sanders, and such a win would set him down an enviable path.  He currently already has a solid lead in New Hampshire, the next contest (and first primary).  He is within 10 points of Biden in Nevada and South Carolina, and closing the gap in each.  If he wins the first two, he could put Biden’s South Carolina firewall in jeopardy. 

Biden, though, would be content with a solid second.  He was well back in the polls a month ago in Iowa, and set expectations for a win there as remote.  Winning the centrist lane over Buttigieg and Klobuchar would be very positive for him.  He wants to close down his immediate centrist competition as quickly as possible. 

Buttigieg needs to beat Biden here.  It is not a disaster if he finishes close behind Biden, but winning would be far better.  This is a neighboring state for him, and the rationale for his candidacy is being the best centrist candidate, one who can beat Trump in the Midwest.  If he trails Biden by the prediction amount, that is a loss. 

A fourth place finish is bad news for Elizabeth Warren.  She already is well behind Sanders in New Hampshire, a neighboring state for both of them, and it is difficult to see how she closes that gap if Sanders wins.  And the calendar is not promising for her beyond that; she trails by a large margin in both Nevada and South Carolina.  Bernie may close her out as the progressive option before the month is out. 

Klobuchar needs an Iowa win even more than Pete.  She has committed to staying in the race through New Hampshire, but if she finishes in fifth as we are predicting in Iowa, there is little rationale for her to continue. She is also a distant fifth in New Hampshire. 

Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer are both helped by a relatively bunched field at the top.  Steyer, as mentioned, is doing very well in South Carolina (he’s polling in third place) and is also on the map in Nevada.  Both he and Bloomberg need a muddled field heading into post-New Hampshire contests, and they would rather see Bernie win in Iowa by a close margin than Biden winning by any margin.




2 comments:

  1. Oopsies .... Iowans, that contrary bunch, have apparently (86% of precincts reporting)chosen Sanders and Buttigieg in a virtual tie (one with more popular initial votes, one with more popular final votes) and a near tie on state delegate equivalents. Warren 3rd. Biden 4th in the popular vote, but perhaps(at 14% and 16 state delegate equivalents -- no national delegates. Everyone else is far below the DNC's 15% standard for delegates.

    None of the top 4 will need to drop out -- but I suspect none will get a huge burst of new fundraising, either.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nah,polls are not reliable.They're manufactured to create a false narrative and consensus to influence public opinion, like any propaganda tool.

    ReplyDelete

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