The first 2020 Democratic debates, or Why the Trump campaign should be nervous…

With the first Democratic presidential nomination debates scheduled for Wednesday, June 26, 2019 and Thursday, June 27, 2019, here is an updated assessment of the relative position of the 25 declared candidates; former United States House of Representatives member (“Representative”) Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania declared his candidacy June 23, 2019). For details on how I calculate NSW-WAPA (national-and-state-weighted weighted-adjusted polling average), please see here[1].

First Demcoratic debates

Photograph from here.

The values in Table 1 were calculated from 93 national polls, 13 Iowa Caucuses polls, 14 New Hampshire Primary polls, 3 Nevada Caucuses polls, 12 South Carolina Primary polls and 41 polls of all subsequent nominating contests (n=16), for a total of 176 public polls released since January 1, 2019; no public polls included Sestak. Italics indicate that candidate has not yet been included in any public polls from that state; I assign a value of 0 to candidates excluded from a poll. Going forward, I will no longer present polling averages for former Georgia State House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, who appears more likely to run again for governor in 2022 than for president in 2020.

Table 1: NSW-WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate National IA NH NV SC Post-SC NSW-WAPA
Biden 31.2 26.5 27.5 32.6 39.7 32.0 31.2
Sanders 18.5 18.8 20.7 17.5 12.5 16.6 17.6
Warren 9.1 11.4 10.5 15.8 8.7 10.4 11.3
Buttigieg 6.1 10.1 9.3 8.4 6.0 7.4 8.3
Harris 8.1 7.6 6.8 7.8 7.9 6.9 7.4
O’Rourke 5.3 4.1 3.3 3.7 2.9 5.8 3.8
Booker 2.9 3.3 2.2 2.0 4.4 2.0 2.9
Klobuchar 1.6 3.1 1.7 1.1 0.6 1.6 1.7
Yang 1.0 0.6 0.8 1.9 0.8 0.8 0.98
Gabbard 0.7 0.7 0.6 1.1 0.3 0.5 0.64
Castro 0.9 0.8 0.0 1.0 0.1 1.1 0.55
Gillibrand 0.7 0.4 0.5 0.1 0.6 0.4 0.43
Delaney 0.4 1.1 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.41
Inslee 0.4 0.6 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.20
Hickenlooper 0.5 0.2 0.3 0.0 0.1 0.2 0.20
Ryan 0.4 0.2 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.20
Swalwell 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.10
Bennet 0.2 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.08
Bullock 0.2 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.07
Gravel 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.06
de Blasio 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.1 0.05
Williamson 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.0 0.04
Messam 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.03
Moulton 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.03
Sestak n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
DK/Other 9.8 9.4 14.1 6.7 13.9 13.4 11.3

Were the Democratic National Committee using these data to determine eligibility for the these first two debates, Montana Governor Steve Bullock and former United States Senator (“Senator”) Mike Gravel of Alaska would have been included, while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and author Marianne Williamson would not have been included. Still, these are differences of fractions of a 1/10 of a percentage point—a coin flip would be just as effective.

While fuller analysis will appear in the next regular monthly update, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s rise from 8.5% to 11.3% in three weeks is easily the largest shift in support.

Enjoy the debates!

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I will also update analyses of polling for matchups between President Donald J. Trump and hypothetical Democratic opponents in 2020, both nationally and in various states, in the next regular monthly update. Overall, state-level polling suggests that Democrats would win the national popular vote by between 2.6 (excluding former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders) and 5.9 (including Biden and Sanders) percentage points (“points”).

However, I will make some observations about how putatively undecided voters may cast their votes in 2020, at least nationally. Two pollsters, Emerson College and Harris X, have dominated much of the public polling of potential 2020 match-ups. This is one reason I aggregate polls two ways: 1) treating all polls as independent events, regardless of pollster, and 2) taking the average of individual pollster averages; I then present the average of the two averages.

Emerson College, rated B+ by FiveThirtyEight.com, has no undecided voters in its hypothetical national presidential polls; every respondent is urged to select either the listed 2020 Democratic presidential nominee or the Republican, President Donald J. Trump. HarrisX (C+), by contrast, does not appear to force such a choice at all, generally having >20% undecided in its national presidential polls. Given that both pollsters routinely sample ~1,000 registered voters (making for a more apples-to-apples comparison), averages can be compared across the two pollsters for the eight candidates (Biden; Sanders; Warren; South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg; California Senator Kamala Harris; former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourkel New Jersey Senator Cory Booker; Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar) tested at least once in 2019 by both pollsters.

Table 2: Emerson College and HarrisX polling averages in hypothetical 2020 match-ups vs. Donald Trump for 8 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate Emerson College HarrisX Undecided
  Dem # Dem GOP # % %Dem
Biden 54.5% 5 43.2% 36.3% 6 20.5 55.1%
Sanders 52.5% 5 39.0% 37.8% 5 23.2 58.2%
Warren 51.4% 5 33.6% 39.2% 5 27.2 65.4%
Buttigieg 51.6% 5 32.4% 38.4% 5 29.2 65.8%
Harris 50.3% 3 29.2% 38.4% 5 32.4 65.1%
O’Rourke 51.4% 4 32.8% 38.2% 5 29.0 64.1%
Booker 51.0% 1 31.6% 38.6% 5 29.8 65.1%
Klobuchar 51.5% 1 29.2% 38.2% 5 32.6 68.4%
Mean 51.8% 4 33.9% 38.1% 5 28.0% 63.4%

Table 2 above contains the simple (i.e., not adjusted for time) averages of the percentages in these polls; weighting percentages by time did not materially affect the analysis.

The most striking result is that all eight tested Democratic presidential nominees defeat Trump when undecided voters are forced to decide between them, by an average of 51.8 to 48.2%; the margin widens slightly to 52.0-48.0% if the single February polls testing Booker and Klobuchar are excluded. By contrast, the HarrisX polls show Trump defeating these eight Democrats by an average 38.1-33.9% (only Biden and Sanders, the two best-known candidates, would hypothetically prevail). But these polls have an average of 28.0% undecided between the named Democrat and Trump (or would choose a third-party candidate); I estimate these voters would break roughly 7-4 in favor of the Democratic nominee. And if you exclude Biden and Sanders, the average percentage undecided increases to 30.0, and I estimate they would break nearly 2-1 (65.7-34.3%) for the Democrat. Overall, that is an average shift toward the Democrats of 7.8 percentage points.

Applying the 2-1 distribution of undecided voters to the other Democratic nomination candidates tested at least twice by HarrisX in 2019 produces the following changes:

  • Entrepreneur Andrew Yang: -10.0 points to +1.6 points
  • Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard: -11.8 points to even
  • Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro: -10.4 points to even
  • New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: -4.0 points to +4.7 points
  • Former Maryland Representative John Delaney: -10.4 points to +1.0 points
  • Washington Governor Jay Inslee: -13.6 points to -1.6 points
  • Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper:  -10.8 points to +0.8 points
  • Ohio Representative Tim Ryan: -10.0 points to +1.0 points
  • California Representative Eric Swalwell: -13.0 points to -1.4 points
  • Gravel: -16.0 points to -1.2 points
  • Williamson: -11.6 points to -0.2 points
  • Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam:  -17.3 points to -4.8 points
  • Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton:  -15.3 points to -2.8 points

Thus, while the HarrisX polls have Trump beating these 13 potential Democratic presidential nominees by an average landslide margin of 11.9 points (12.5 points excluding Gillibrand), the distribution of undecided voters implied by the Emerson College polls brings these 13 Democrats to within 0.2 points of Trump, on average, essentially a tie. This is an average shift of an astonishing 11.7 percentage points in favor of the Democrats.

One other point about Table 2 is that the Trump percentages are remarkably consistent, ranging between 45.5 and 49.7 in the Emerson College polls and between 36.3 and 39.2 in the HarrisX polls. And, generally speaking, the better-known (and the higher the current ranking among Democrats) the proposed Democratic nominee, the lower the Trump percentage. This suggests that the president has not expanded his support much—if at all—beyond the 45.9% of the total national vote for president he received in 2016 (which translates to 48.9% of the votes cast only for him and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton) and/or that voters dissatisfied with the current administration seem prepared to cast their 2020 presidential ballots for nearly any Democrat.

The giant flashing neon sign caveat (besides the fact that there will be other general election candidates for president besides the Democratic nominee and Trump), of course, is that the 2020 presidential election is still more than 16 months hence; polls this early are of questionable value. Nonetheless, it should gravely concern the Trump campaign that when forced to decide, voters currently break heavily for every proposed 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.

Until next time…

[1] Essentially, polls are weighted within areal units (nation, state) by days to the nominating contest and pollster quality to form a unit-specific average, then a weighted average is taken across Iowa (weight=5), New Hampshire (5), Nevada (4), South Carolina (4), the time-weighted average of all subsequent contests (2) and nationwide.

Remembrance of restaurants past (and present)

Father’s Day was this past Sunday, June 16, 2019.

Having now been a father for more than a decade, I am perfectly content with a low-key celebration: dinner out with the family, perhaps, somewhere special but child-friendly. Maybe somewhere a little further afield, so we add a nice drive as well.

Given that restaurants are often insanely crowded on holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, it seemed best to go to this to-be-selected restaurant on Saturday night instead. Which, as it turned out, had perfect weather for a scenic drive. The backup plan was that I would take the girls to our favorite local restaurant, Zaftigs, late on Sunday afternoon—giving Nell a bit of a breather.

I could not quite wrap my head around where I wanted to go, though, until I remembered the charming Periwinkles on Route 133 in Essex, a quaint town about an hour’s drive north of our Brookline apartment. Essex is a town on Massachusetts’ North Shore, so the drive there and back (well, once you exit I-95/Route 128) is beautiful. And after dinner we could drive 13 minutes east to Gloucester Harbor to see the Fisherman’s Memorial (and the Harbor itself), then drive a few miles north on Route 127 to Rockport to walk along Bearskin Neck in Rockport Harbor while, say, eating ice cream.

[As a resident of the greater Boston area, I would be remiss if I did not highly recommend driving north on Route 127 from its starting point in Beverly (home of Endicott College, where I once platonically spent the night in a girls’ dormitory following a date, after missing the last commuter rail train to Boston) to where it intersects Route 133 in Gloucester Harbor, then north as it loops around Cape Ann back to its end on Route 128.]

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I took these photographs in February 2014, but you get the idea.

We had not been to Periwinkles in a few years, however, and I had a vague memory of having driven by it and seen that it was closed for the winter. It thus seemed prudent both to double-check that they were open and to make a reservation if necessary. On Friday night, then, I sat down at the desktop computer in my office (I have not yet warmed to laptops) to Google “Periwinkles Essex.”

The first thing that caught my eye was the third entry, the Yelp page for Periwinkles:

Periwinkles – CLOSED – 11 Photos & 63 Reviews – Seafood – 74 Main Street

Well that sucks, I said to nobody in particular.

A little digging revealed that a new restaurant—Ripple on the Water—had opened in the Periwinkles building, but I feared the menu would not appeal to the entire family. I could ride the “It’s Father’s Day, so I get to choose where we go and what we do!” wave only so far before crashing onto the rocks of stubborn palates and food intolerances.

And—more to the point—it just was not Periwinkles.

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But if not Periwinkles, then where?

I began to cast about in my brain—you might say I interrogated memory—for appropriate restaurants.

I considered the always-reliable Christopher’s (photograph taken July 1991, though it looks exactly the same today), but the drive would not have been particularly scenic—and the girls would likely have lobbied hard to go to nearby Jose’s instead; our eldest daughter would eat burritos for every meal if she could.

Christopher's July 1991

I next considered Noon Hill Grill, about a 40-minute drive south in Medfield (longer—and far lovelier—if you meander through Dedham and Dover). The girls and I had eaten there a few times, and it is pretty darned good.

Plus, there was this peaceful park a short walk from there (photograph taken May 2014).

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And the girls and I found this in a different nearby park (photograph taken September 2014):

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Even better, however, was another restaurant in Medfield called Zebra’s Bistro, which Nell and I had greatly enjoyed on a rare “date night” in April 2015.

Perfect, I thought.

I Googled the restaurant…and…

Zebra’s Bistro and Wine Bar – CLOSED – 52 Photos & 110 Reviews

Clearly, we had not been to Medfield in some time (or we had, and I had simply forgotten), because Zebra’s closed in July 2016.

Back to the mental drawing board.

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Another restaurant I seriously considered was the superb The Landing in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Can you name the four towns in Massachusetts named for former governor Endicott Peabody?

Answer: Endicott, Peabody, Athol and Marblehead

I cannot speak to the, umm, accuracy of this joke, but it always stuck with me (maybe because the person who told it to was born in what he called “the wrong side of Marblehead”).

The Landing would easily have met all of my criteria—I have taken at least four visiting friends there, in fact—but for one problem. We could not have made the hour-plus drive north to Marblehead without visiting “the lighthouse”—better known as Chandler Hovey Park. (Photographs taken April 2013)

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And we could not go to the lighthouse without clambering over the rocks—which our eldest daughter was prohibited from doing thanks to a broken left wrist. (Photographs taken September 2013; March 2016; May 2015).

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Not to worry, though: there was a sister restaurant to The Landing in lovely Manchester-by-the-Sea (yes, the town in this movie) called 7 Central. This would have been a more than adequate substitute, except…

7 Central – CLOSED – 496 Photos & 68 Reviews – Seafood

Seriously?!?

This was getting ridiculous.

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In a previous post, I described my penchant for constructing baseball “teams” of non-baseball players (e.g., former roommates or musical artists I have seen live), especially in the first two years after I moved from the Boston area back to the Philadelphia area (where I was raised) in February 2001. The tradition began in Thanksgiving 1994, when a friend of mine and I (and our then-wife and then-girlfriend, who we will call “AC,” respectively) decided to play “baseball;” mostly we pitched and hit, calling balls put in play fair as either hits or outs. Rather than be some version of the Philadelphia Phillies or Boston Red Sox, however, that day my friend decided he was going to be a team of 17th-century Anglican bishops, who did not so much run the bases as move in a stately manner about them. And a years-long tradition was born.

That Friday night before Father’s Day, as I learned in quick succession that three restaurants I quite liked had closed, I remembered—or thought I remembered—one of the more unusual teams I had invented.

Most likely in April 2001, this same friend (now divorced, just as I had recently broken up with AC) and I played our version of baseball on a softball field on Eagle Road in Havertown, Pennsylvania, down a short grassy slope from Lynnewood Elementary School (which I attended, 1972-78).

The team I carefully crafted in advance of our game consisted of Boston-area restaurants I found myself missing. As you can see, my friend and I called the game after seven innings, tied at two.

Restaurant baseball team.jpg

While in my memory, there had been a separate team devoted solely to Boston-area restaurants I liked that had closed, I could only unearth this single set of 23 restaurants: eight starting position players, a starting pitcher, a six-restaurant bench, a six-restaurant bullpen, a manager and a bench coach. I cheated a bit, as (at the time, anyway, he wrote with obvious foreshadowing) the Wharf Street Café and Wine Bar and Becky’s are in Portland, Maine; Moody’s Diner is in Waldoboro, Maine; Le Garage is in Wiscasset, Maine; the Ebb Tide is in Boothbay Harbor, Maine (photograph of yours truly taken by AC in September [?] 1998); Michael Timothy’s is in Nashua, New Hampshire; and Poco Diablo is in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Ebb Tide

But, as I once told a friend, everything has a half-life, and so it should not be surprising that, more than 18 years later, of the 23 restaurants on this “team,” only the South Street Diner (which was once the Blue Diner, before it moved around the corner and became a distinct restaurant, also open 24 hours a day; the original Blue Diner appears in the 1987 film Hiding Out),

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the Agawam Diner (better known to our daughters as “Circle of Pie”),

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Cabot’s (first two photographs—yes, I am standing in the lower left-hand corner of the first photograph—taken March 2003, latter photograph taken July 2013; I am enjoying a frappe I had designed a few years earlier: chocolate strawberry banana).

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The Burren (featured prominently—if inaccurately—in the 1998 film Next Stop Wonderland), The Hong Kong (a Harvard Square institution where I have been cut off not once, but twice—and that takes some work; I “celebrated” my return to Philadelphia there in January 2001),

Two strawfisted drinker

the aforementioned Christopher’s, Moody’s Diner (which contains my personal motto, and where dogs drive cars),

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and Becky’s (no longer open late on weekends, though) are still in business.

To be fair, T D Waffle simply renamed itself Vic’s (and truncated its hours), Poco Diablo became Poco’s Bow Street Cantina, and Michael Timothy’s Urban Bistro is now MT’s Local Kitchen & Wine Bar (though minus the live jazz). Still, 15 (65%) of the 23 “Boston-area” restaurants I most missed in April 2001 are no longer open, at least as I knew them then.

To be even more fair, three of these establishments had ALREADY closed at that point. Dale’s Restaurant, which overlooked the harbor in Swampscott, was a favorite place for AC and I to go on a sunny Sunday afternoon for a glass of red wine and a bowl of French onion soup; it closed in 1999, if memory serves. The 24-hour Howard Johnson’s in Medford was a regular late-night hangout for AC (among others) and me before it closed on December 31, 1998. It got to be a habit that on nights I did laundry in the basement laundry room of our apartment building, AC and I would “go for pie” there afterwards, which generally meant eating a full meal; I developed a particular taste for steak and eggs in those days, usually washed down with one of their orange-sherbet-based drinks. And lots of decaffeinated coffee.

And then there was Dolly’s, sometimes known as Dolly’s at Kay and Chips. It had been run by Kay and Chip until the latter’s death in 1991, after which his daughters—I believe—ran it until 1999. As you see from the menu below—which I snagged as a souvenir on one of their last days, perhaps even their last day, in existence—this was my idea of heaven: a quality diner that did not even OPEN until 11 pm, then stayed open until 5 or 6 am. I lost track of how many bacon tuna melts (with French fries and too much ketchup) and bacon cheeseburgers and pieces of hot cherry pie with chocolate ice cream I ate there, nor how many cups of decaffeinated coffee in brown ceramic mugs I drank to wash them down. While losing Dale’s and HoJo’s were rough, losing Dolly’s was even rougher, probably because I could actually walk there from both of my Somerville apartments. Also, my first “date” with AC (it was kind of a spur of the moment thing one night; she and a few other women had just moved into the apartment above mine), in June 1993, had been there.

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As I said, everything has a half-life.

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I did finally settle on a restaurant in which we could celebrate “Father’s Day Eve”: Cala’s in Manchester-by-the-Sea. They do not take reservations (Nell checked), but we arrived there around 5:30 pm, just to be on the safe side. It proved to be an excellent choice…even if they do make a strong rye Old Fashioned…yowza!

Afterward, we strolled down Beach Street to Captain Dusty’s Ice Cream for cones of soft serve. I mistakenly thought that they made a chocolate-and-vanilla twist with a strawberry coating (like they do at the incomparable Dairy Joy). Instead, it was vanilla soft serve with a strawberry swirl—which proved to be absolutely delicious.

We took our cones across the street to Masconomo Park, where we sat in a gazebo to enjoy our desserts while staring out into what Google Maps tells me is Days Creek, which flows into Manchester Bay by way of Proctor Cove. When we had finished, our eldest daughter very much wanted to play “baseball” (by which she meant wiffleball, which we used to play in the fenced-in backyard of our previous apartment), so I walked back to where I had parked the car. Rather than schlep half the contents of my trunk back to the park, I simply drove to a closer spot.

Maybe 45 minutes of differing permutations of pitcher and hitter later, I concluded by taking some swings with a proper wooden baseball bat at some proper baseballs I tossed into the air. Wooden bats feel a lot heavier after you have been swinging a wiffleball bat, it turns out, though I still managed to hit some solid line drives.

All in all, despite the closure of no fewer than three restaurants I had considered for that night’s dinner, Father’s Day Eve could really not have been any better.

Father’s Day itself was pretty solid as well, with some touching and thoughtful gifts, including a copy of this essential book.

And, yes, I took the girls to Zaftigs late on Sunday afternoon—giving Nell a bit of a breather.

Until next time…

June 2020 update: Democratic presidential nomination and general election polling

Here is the June 2019 photograph (Marshall Point Lighthouse) on my “Maine Lighthouses” Down East wall calendar.

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This photograph introduces my monthly update of this recent post, which addresses polling data for Democratic candidates for president in 2020.

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I begin with the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, which I assess using my NSW-WAPA (national-and-state-weighted weighted-adjusted polling average). “WAPA” is a within-nation or -state polling average for any candidate listed in any poll released since January 1, 2019, weighted by 1) pollster quality and 2) number of days to a given primary or caucuses from the midpoint of the time the poll was in the field. The NSW weights are: Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary (5), Nevada Caucuses and South Carolina Primary (4), a time-weighted average of all post-South Carolina nominating contests (2) and national polls (1).

Overall, there have been:

  • 76 national polls (including 20 weekly Morning Consult tracking polls)
  • 10 Iowa Caucuses polls
  • 12 New Hampshire Primary polls
  • 2 Nevada Caucuses polls
  • 8 South Carolina Primary polls
  • 10 polls from 6 of the 12[1] states holding nominating contents on “Super Tuesday” (March 3): Alabama (1), California (4), Massachusetts (1), North Carolina (1), Texas (2), Virginia (1)
  • 2 Michigan polls (March 10)
  • 4 Florida polls (March 17)
  • 3 Pennsylvania polls (April 28)
  • 1 Indiana poll (May 5)
  • 1 Oregon poll (May 19)

… for a total of 128 2020 Democratic nomination polls released publicly in 2019. These polls have asked respondents about 54 possible candidates, although only 25 have either already announced (most recently Montana Governor Steve Bullock and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio), are running a very unconventional campaign (former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel) or may yet run (former Georgia State House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams).

As of June 4, 2019, here is the relative position of those 25 Democrats.

Table 1: National-and-state-weighted WAPA* for selected 2020 Democratic presidential nomination possibilities

Candidate National IA NH NV SC Post-SC NSW-WAPA
Biden 32.0 26.6 25.7 28.0 40.3 31.5 30.0 (+3.4)
Sanders 19.3 17.4 20.2 23.7 12.4 19.2 18.6 (-1.2)
Warren 7.7 8.0 8.3 11.3 6.9 8.6 8.5 (+0.7)
Harris 8.2 7.8 7.4 10.3 8.6 7.6 8.3 (-0.5)
Buttigieg 5.3 7.1 8.9 10.3 4.8 6.9 7.6 (+1.7)
O’Rourke 6.0 4.8 3.1 6.0 2.7 6.1 4.4 (-2.3)
Booker 3.1 3.4 2.3 2.0 4.8 2.4 3.1 (-1.0)
Klobuchar 1.7 3.2 1.9 1.3 0.66 1.5 1.8 (-0.5)
Yang 0.91 0.52 0.75 1.7 0.52 0.71 0.83 (-0.3)
Gabbard 0.68 0.42 0.59 1.3 0.25 0.38 0.63 (-0.3)
Castro 1.1 0.74 0.04 1.0 0.19 1.0 0.56 (-0.2)
Gillibrand 0.74 0.50 0.43 0.34 0.46 0.42 0.45 (-0.4)
Abrams 0.14 0.11 0.00 0.66 1.0 0.13 0.37 (-0.3)
Delaney 0.36 0.79 0.43 0.00 0.00 0.09 0.32 (–)
Hickenlooper 0.52 0.36 0.21 0.00 0.19 0.20 0.21 (-0.1)
Ryan 0.37 0.15 0.64 0.00 0.00 0.08 0.21 (–)
Swalwell 0.10 0.33 0.14 0.00 0.06 0.13 0.14 (-0.1)
Inslee 0.47 0.43 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.12 0.14 (–)
Williamson 0.20 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.17 0.00 0.04 (–)
Bennet 0.23 0.10 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.05 0.04 (–)
Messam 0.00 0.00 0.14 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.03 (–)
Bullock 0.17 0.10 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.03 (–)
Gravel 0.01 0.09 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.10 0.03 (–)
de Blasio 0.20 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.08 0.02 (–)
Moulton 0.06 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.03 0.004 (–)
DK/Other 8.6 16.8 18.3 2.0 15.4 13.6 13.4 (+1.0)

The data in Table 1 suggest the following as of June 4, 2019:

  1. Former Vice President Joe Biden has surged into a clear lead not only overall (30.0%, a gain of 3.4 percentage points [“points”] since last month), but in the key early states as well. And while he may “only” be ahead of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders by around 5 points in New Hampshire and Nevada, Biden has a commanding lead in South Carolina, 40.3% to Sanders’ 12.4%. Given his current potential to sweep Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, Biden has to be considered the clear front-runner to be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.
  2. Sanders dropped 1.2 points to 18.6%, likely due to Biden’s official declaration of candidacy, but he is still solidly in 2nd
  3. Slightly more than half (51.4%) of potential Democratic primary/caucus voters still prefer someone other than Biden or Sanders.
  4. Closely bunched 10-11 points behind Sanders are Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (8.5%), California Senator Kamala Harris (8.3%) and South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg (7.6%). Buttigieg has climbed from 2.4% at the end of March to 5.9% at the end of April to 7.6% now.
  5. In fact, the only Democrats whose position substantially improved from last month are Biden, Warren and Buttigieg.
  6. By contrast, former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke continues to decline. His current 4.4% (down 1.8 points in two months) is just ahead of New Jersey Senator Cory Booker (3.1%, down 1.1 points since early April) and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar (1.8%, down 0.9 points since early April).
  7. Following Klobuchar are four tightly-bunched candidates between 0.45 and 0.83%, each of whom declined slightly in the last month: entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
  8. Just below the top 12 is Abrams. At 0.37%, she is the highest-ranked non-declared candidate.
  9. This means that six of the top 13 2020 Democratic nomination candidates are women, including five currently serving in the United States House of Representatives or Senate.
  10. The remaining 12 declared/potential candidates—Maryland Representative John Delaney; former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper: Ohio Representative Tim Ryan, California Representative Eric Swalwell; Washington Governor Jay Inslee; author Marianne Williamson; Colorado Senator Michael Bennet; Miramar, FL Mayor Wayne Messam; Bullock; Gravel; de Blasio; and Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton—continue to languish below 0.33%.
  11. Even with a choice of 25 declared and potential candidates, 2 of 15 respondents either chose not to state a preference or preferred some other candidate.

The current pecking order for the 2020 Democrats (unlikely to change before the first Democratic presidential candidate debates on June 26-27, 2019[2]):  Biden is the clear front-runner, followed by Sanders. The two septuagenarians split just under half of the overall vote between them (48.6%), followed by Harris, Warren and Buttigieg (24.5% total). Just behind these five are O’Rourke, Booker and Klobuchar (9.3% total). This means that 5 of every 6 (82.4%) potential 2020 Democratic primary/caucus voters are currently choosing between eight candidates; the remaining 17 declared/possible candidates are polling a combined 4.2%. It is thus likely (though NOT definitive) that one of these eight men and women will be selected as their presidential nominee when Democrats convene in Milwaukee, WI on July 13, 2020.

**********

As for the 2020 general election, I first examined polling for matchups between President Donald J. Trump and hypothetical Democratic opponents in 2020, both nationally and in various states, here. With the first two polls testing matchups in Florida,[3] one-on-one matchups between Trump and various Democratic rivals have now been tested in 13 states (AZ, FL, IA, MA, MI, MN, NV, NH, NC, PA, SC, TX, WI) which have a mean 3W-RDM[4] of D-2.0.

Weighting each Democrat’s WAPA (vs. Trump) by her/his NSW-WAPA shows Democrats ahead of Trump nationally by 3.2 points, up from 2.8 points a month ago; the median national Democratic presidential margin[5] over the last five elections is 2.1 points. Remove Biden’s 7.5-point margin against Trump, and the Democratic advantage drops to 1.4 points. Remove both Biden’s and Sanders’ (4.1 points) margins against Trump, and the Democratic margin drops to 0.4 points. Warren and Harris currently lead Trump by 0.7-0.8 points, while Buttigieg trials by 2.2 points (closer than last month’s 3.4 points). O’Rourke, Booker and Gillibrand are also within two points of Trump in either direction. All other tested 2020 Democratic presidential nominees trail by between 6.2 (Klobuchar) and 17.2 points (Messam).

I would take these latter number with a heavy load of salt, however, for two reasons. First, there continues to be a clear association (r=0.79) between a Democratic presidential candidate’s margin against Trump and that candidate’s relative standing in the race for the nomination (i.e., NSW-WAPA); the latter is itself strongly associated with name recognition. It is thus reasonable to assume that as lesser-known Democratic candidates for president become better known, their margins versus Trump will improve (in turn, suggesting a critical mass of voters would prefer to vote for a Democrat over Trump in 2020).

Second, and perhaps more important, the pollster HarrisX dominates national presidential “trial heat” polling, including every publicly-released matchup between Trump and Castro, Delaney, Gabbard, Gravel, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Messam, Moulton, Ryan, Swalwell, Williamson and Yang; no public polling testing Trump against Abrams, Bennet, Bullock or de Blasio has been released. Moreover, HarrisX (like Harris Interactive), appear to have a strong Republican-bias in their data; these margins are actually 1.5 points less Republican than reported. Harris X pollsters also clearly do not push undecided voters very hard (in stark contrast to Emerson College, who have 0% undecided/don’t know/other in their matchups), but that is a subject for a later post.

Table 2: State-level 2020 Democratic presidential performance vs. Trump, sorted from most to least Democratic

State 3W-RDM Overall Implied NPV Overall

(-Biden, Sanders)

Implied NPV
MA D+22.1 D+32.9 D+10.8 D+25.9 D+3.8
MI D+2.2 D+6.8 D+4.6 D+2.6 D+0.4
NV D+2.0 D-1.0 D-3.0 D-4.1 D-6.1
MN D+1.5 D+15.5 D+14.0 D+15.5 D+14.0
WI D+0.7 D+5.6 D+4.9 D+3.2 D+2.5
NH D+0.1 D+8.4 D+8.3 D+4.7 D+4.6
PA D-0.4 D+5.1 D+5.5 D+1.5 D+1.9
FL D-3.4 D-3.2 D+0.2 D-4.3 D-0.9
IA D-4.7 D-2.8 D+1.9 D-6.8 D-2.1
NC D-6.0 D+4.1 D+10.1 D-1.0 D+5.0
AZ D-9.6 D-4.1 D+5.6 D-7.5 D+2.2
TX D-15.3 D-4.1 D+11.2 D-6.1 D+9.2
SC D-15.7 D-7.3 D+8.4 D-10.3 D+5.4
Ave D-2.0   D+6.3   D+3.1

The data in Table 2 generally paint an optimistic picture for Democrats in 2020. First, even Democrats other than Biden and Sanders are, on average, winning in the three states that prevented 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton from winning the Electoral College: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin; they are also handily ahead in three states Clinton won: Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Hampshire. That said, Democrats trail in Nevada, which Clinton also won, albeit based on a single set of Emerson College polls from late March 2019. Still, the Trump campaign’s apparent decision to target Nevada in 2020 may have some wisdom behind it[6].

At the same time, though, Democrats are very competitive in North Carolina, and their polling averages in the southeastern and southwestern targets of Arizona, South Carolina and Texas imply a strong national lead (even as they trail in each state) based on how much more Republican than the nation as a whole these states typically are. On the other hand, Democrats are trailing in the somewhat less Republican states of Florida and Iowa—and those numbers imply Democrats are trailing Trump nationwide.

Overall, these states imply Democrats would win the national popular vote for president in 2020 by 6.3 points; excluding Biden and Sanders, they are still ahead by 3.1 points (one point higher than their median performance in the last five presidential elections).

Only 17 months until the 2020 presidential election–fasten your seat belts.

Until next time…

[1] If Georgia, which has not settled upon a date, holds its 2020 presidential primary that day.

[2] They will be held over two nights to accommodate 20 (of at least 24) candidates, with no more than 10 appearing each night. Criteria for obtaining one of the 20 available debate slots may be found here.

[3] WPA Intelligence, 200 likely voters, April 27-30, 2019 (Biden only); Florida Atlantic University, 1,007 registered voters, May 16-19, 2019 (Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris, Buttigieg).

[4] How much more or less Democratic a state votes relative to the nation, using a weighted average of a state’s presidential voting compared to the national popular vote in the three previous presidential elections.

[5] Specifically, subtracting the Republican percentage of all votes cast for president from the Democratic percentage of all votes cast for president.

[6] However, also targeting New Hampshire and, especially, New Mexico makes less sense.