Dispatches from Brookline: Home Schooling and Social Distancing III

In two previous posts (I, II), I described how my wife Nell, our two daughters and I were coping with social distancing and the closure of the public schools in Brookline, Massachusetts until at least April 3, 2020. Other than staying inside as much as possible, we converted our dining room into a functioning classroom complete with workbooks, flip charts and a very popular white board.

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On Friday, March 20, 2020, I came downstairs to find this in the “classroom.”

March 20

And this homage to the brilliant Netflix series Stranger Things by our 4th-grade daughter was on the always-popular white board; apparently she still retains the obsessive love of the show I instilled in her, and one I discussed last December.

Upside Down Nora

While that same daughter had something of a rough morning, our 6th-grade daughter had a terrific morning; the latter girl is genuinely enjoying her workbooks and other projects. Providing ample time for each daughter to exercise and/or FaceTime friends helps immensely as well. That said, it was our younger daughter who, in the evening, asked if we could have “school” again tomorrow (Saturday). I am certainly happy to oblige—I have a review “quiz game” I have been thinking about putting together—but Nell and I suspect her outlook will be different in the morning. Still, to the extent these “classes” are about imposing structure and routine in the era of social distancing, maybe we should do some form of group learning activity every day, including weekends.

As I noted in the first “dispatch,” I planned to teach basic politics/government for an hour and basic applied math for an hour every weekday afternoon—except Friday. To break up the monotony, I will teach a hopefully-more-entertaining form of history on Fridays.

It is no secret I am a massive film noir fan. In October 2018, I had the opportunity to teach a course titled “What Is Film Noir” through Brookline Adult and Community Education. I only had six students, and I had a series of technical glitches trying to show movie clips—using my own DVDs—using Nell’s ancient laptop, but I nonetheless immensely enjoyed those four Wednesday nights.

Our daughters have actually watched a handful of classic films noir: both girls have seen The Maltese Falcon; Murder, My Sweet; Laura; The Naked City; Strangers on a Train and Rear Window; as well as long chunks of Out of the Past. Our older daughter has also seen Double Indemnity. They each spent some time at the first-ever NOIR CITY Boston in June 2018, watching the aforementioned Murder, My Sweet and helping their father sell Film Noir Foundation merchandise; this was my “reward” for having help to set up the festival. And they have certainly heard their father talk at great length about the subject.

It thus made perfect sense when it was time for “Daddy Prepatory” yesterday afternoon for me to set up my desktop computer in the “classroom” and open the PowerPoint slides from my first class. While I basically jumped ahead to slide 22 (of 130), in which I begin to tell the history of film noir as an idea, we did linger briefly on two photographs I had used to help to establish my bona fides to teach this class in 2018.

What is Film Noir

The first one I took in July 2017. It shows part of the “film noir” section at the now-defunct Island Video Rentals on Martha’s Vineyard.

IMG_3137

The second photograph was of yours truly attending NOIR CITY 16 in San Francisco, California the following winter.

IMG_3603

The two-part class went extremely well, with both girls asking insightful questions for the most part; our younger daughter did try to invoke Stranger Things once or twice, along with other more recent bits of pop culture. In the first hour, we focused on how “film noir” was a label first imposed after the fact on a particular set of American crime films, starting with two French film critics in 1946. After a 30-minute break, I told them two different, albeit broadly overlapping, “origin stories” for film noir:

  1. Traditional story: it was an inevitable organic artistic movement
  2. What in my opinion is a more accurate modification: it emerged from economic and creative necessity with the rise of B-movies in the 1930s

To be fair, by the middle of the second origin story, the usual doodling-based fidgeting had become sitting on the floor playing with our golden retriever, so I wrapped up quickly.

And with that we ended—possibly—classes for week one of our necessary experiment in home schooling.

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In my previous post, I briefly discussed some thoughts I had about the efficacy of using a designated test to determine whether a person has a condition such as the novel coronavirus. Specifically, I introduced the concepts of sensitivity (the percentage of persons who have the condition who test positive for it) and specificity (the percentage of persons who do not have the condition who test negative for it). And, given how hard it is to have 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity, I asserted epidemiologists generally prefer to have higher specificity (i.e., fewer false positives), which is achieved by loosening the criteria used to identify the condition. This preference stems from the relative rarity of most conditions epidemiologist study, which results in having many more false positives than false negatives.

Being the sort of person who does these sorts of things, though, I decided to use Microsoft Excel to test this idea. I set up a series of 2×2 tables such as the following in which I varied four values: sensitivity, specificity, prevalence (a proxy for whether everyone is tested, or only those persons deemed likeliest to have the condition) and the total number of tests performed.

Truth

Positive Negative
Observed Positive 142,500 42,500 185,000
Negative 7,500 807,500 815,000
150,000 850,000 1,000,000
Sensitivity 95%
Specificity 95%
Prevalence 15%
# Tested 1,000,000
Ratio FN/FP 5.7

What I was primarily interested in, beyond the raw number of false positives (FP) and negatives (FN), was the ratio of the former to the latter. Table 1 summarizes the results; the number of tests administered did not alter these ratios given the same set of sensitivity, specificity and prevalence values, so I omitted it from the table.

Table 1: Ratio of False Positives to False Negatives Using Different Combinations of Sensitivity, Specificity and Prevalence, Based on 1,000,000 Tests

Prevalence Sensitivity Specificity FP/FN #FP #FN
15% 95% 95% 5.7 42,500 7,500
90% 95% 2.8 42,500 15,000
95% 90% 11.3 85,000 7,500
80% 95% 1.4 42,500 30,000
95% 80% 22.7 170,000 7,500
33% 95% 95% 2.0 33.350 16,650
90% 95% 1.0 33.350 33,300
95% 90% 4.0 66,700 16,650
80% 95% 1.5 33.350 66,600
95% 80% 8.0 133,400 16,650
50% 95% 95% 1.0 25,000 25,000
90% 95% 0.5 25,000 50,000
95% 90% 2.0 50,000 25,000
80% 95% 0.25 25,000 100,000
95% 80% 4.0 100.000 25,000
85% 95% 95% 0.18 7,500 42,500
90% 95% 0.09 15,000 42,500
95% 90% 0.35 7,500 85,000
80% 95% 0.04 30,000 42,500
95% 80% 0.71 7,500 170,000

A test with sensitivity<80% and/or specificity<80% should not be utilized. Also, for any prevalence, the ratio of FP to FN will be the same across cases where sensitivity=specificity, albeit with different raw values.

Here are the primary conclusions from Table 1:

  • The lower the prevalence—or, in the case of COVID-19, the less you restrict testing only to those deemed likeliest to have it—the higher the likelihood you will have many more false positives than false negatives, irrespective of sensitivity and specificity
  • Within a given prevalence level, FP/FN is
    • Lowest when specificity > sensitivity
    • Highest when sensitivity > specificity
    • In the “middle” when sensitivity = specificity
  • The total number of “false” values (FP + FN) is
    • Lowest when both sensitivity and specificity are equal and close to 100%
    • Highest when sensitivity >> specificity

I saw a report on Twitter that 33% of persons testing positive were false positives. Based on these 20 scenarios, that would seem to indicate a situation where a fairly wide swath of the population is being tested (prevalence=15%), both sensitivity and specificity are at least 90%, and sensitivity > specificity. That percentage, which is not THAT meaningful, to be pehonest, would decrease if specificity were equal to or higher than sensitivity.

If you want to explore other scenarios like this, here is a protected copy of the workbook.

Disease Testing Worksheet

Until next time…please be safe and sensible out there…

Dispatches from Brookline: Home Schooling and Social Distancing II

In a previous post, I described how my wife Nell, our two daughters and I were coping with social distancing and the closure of the public schools in Brookline, Massachusetts until at least April 3, 2020. Other than staying inside as much as possible, we converted our dining room into a functioning classroom complete with workbooks, flip charts and a very popular white board.

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On Thursday, March 19, 2020, I came downstairs to find this in the “classroom.”

March 19

Unlike the previous day, our daughters had a much smoother morning. Nell set up the video game Just Dance on the big screen HD television in our living room, which was particularly good for our 6th-grade daughter, who requires a great deal of regular physical activity. Our 4th-grade daughter would generally prefer to sit quietly in a darkened bedroom with an iPad. Both daughters have also made extensive use of FaceTime to stay in touch with their many friends.

When “Dad Academy” began, our older daughter read aloud the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America (“Constitution”). We then proceeded to work through much of Article I, establishing the nature and role of the House of Representatives (“House”) and the Senate. After a brief foray into Article II and the qualifications for the presidency, however, it was clear their doodling minds were wandering.

As a result, I shifted gears and walked them through the scenario I detail below: what would happen as of 12:01 pm on January 20, 2021 if there were no November 2020 elections for the House, Senate, vice president and president. I had tweeted my initial thoughts on Wednesday, but as I sketched it out—much to their delight, I am pleased to report—I realized I had forgotten a crucial element. After a quick check of this year’s Senate elections, I made the appropriate revisions on Twitter and, more importantly, the white board.

This quickly devolved into both daughters sketching out their own mind-bogglingly grin doomsday scenarios on the white board, all of which seemed to end up with 50,000 or 100,000 survivors living on Antarctica and dividing up only whatever food they could carry with them. Hey, they were using their imaginations, thinking about geography and doing arithmetic, so I was not complaining.

After an hour-long break, we reconvened to resume learning about basic statistics. After quickly reviewing frequencies, range, mode, median, mean and a few statistical distributions, I decided to change my lesson plan again. Rather than begin to discuss relationships between variables, I put my doctorate in epidemiology to good use and explained “sensitivity” and “specificity” of testing for some condition like, say, the novel coronavirus. They quickly grasped the underlying idea:

  1. Persons who have the condition AND test positive are True Positives
  2. Persons who do not have the condition AND test negative are True Negatives
  3. Persons who do not have the condition AND test positive are False Positives
  4. Persons who do have the condition AND test negative are False Negatives

If you divide True Positives by the sum of True Positives and False Negatives you get sensitivity: the percentage of persons who truly have the condition who test positive for it.

If you divide the number of True Negatives by the sum of True Negatives and False Positives you get specificity: the percentage of persons who truly do not have the condition who test negative for it.

It is nearly impossible to have a test be both 100% sensitive AND 100% specific because of the likely gray area between an extremely tight case definition (e.g., you must meet all 10 criteria)—which gives you higher sensitivity—and a relatively looser definition (e.g., you only need to meet five out of 10 criteria)—which gives you higher specificity. For a host of reasons I will not review here, mostly related to accuracy of categorization, epidemiologists generally prefer to have the specificity of a test be as close to 100% as possible, even at the risk of lower (by which I mean, say, 90% instead of 95%) sensitivity.

Think of it this way, though: the lower the specificity of the test, the more False Positives you have. And the more False Positives you have, the more people you have being treated for the condition at the expense of other people who actually need to be treated. Moreover, given that most conditions being tested are fairly rare, there will always be many fewer False Negatives than False Positives; one exception, though, would be if you only test persons you are already very certain have the condition, which bring the number of False Negatives much closer to the number of False Positives.

And with that—and a review of some of our older daughter’s algebra problems—school was out for the day.

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Ohio was supposed to hold its 2020 Democratic presidential primary on March 17. It was postponed until June 2, however, due to concerns over spreading the novel coronavirus. Five other states have done the same thing, meanwhile, leading to speculation President Donald J. Trump may attempt to postpone—or outright cancel—the November 2020 federal elections (Congress, vice president, president).

Leaving aside whether such an action is even feasible—for one thing, while under Article I, Section 5, the House and Senate have broad authority over the timing of elections to their respective houses, those elections are actually administered by each individual state. The same is true for elections for vice president and president—and that is before considering that the Electoral College essentially mandates 51 distinct elections, one within each state and the District of Columbia.

But let us assume, as a kind of thought experiment, it actually would be possible to delay these elections. So long as the presidential and vice-presidential elections were held long enough before December 13, 2020—the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, when electors are required to meet in their respective states to cast their presidential ballots—there would be more than enough time to swear in a president the following January 20.

However, if these elections simply never occur…well, this is where two sections of the Constitution and the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 (PSA) come into play.

  • Under Amendment XX, Section 1: “The terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January,
  • “…and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January.”
  • Under the PSA, the line of succession to the president is the vice president, followed by the Speaker of the House, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate—the longest-serving member of the Senate of the majority party—and members the Cabinet, beginning with the Secretary of State.

In other words, barring a non-starter Constitutional amendment, an Act of Congress (hard to see Democrats going along with this) or a very-unlikely ruling by the Supreme Court (the Constitution explicitly states that as as of 12:01 pm on January 20, 2021, Trump and Michael R. Pence would no longer be the president and vice president of the United States, respectively.

And for the previous 17 days, there would also be no Speaker of the House because the term of every one of the 435 members of the House would have ended at noon on January 3, 2021.

I note at this point that Amendment XX, Section 1 ends with “the terms of their successors shall then begin,” so it is just barely possible an argument could be made the terms of the president, vice president, House members and Senators would not end because there are no successors. Without a successor, there are no occupants of those offices, effectively shutting down the federal government.

Here is the counter-argument, however, and where things get really interesting.

There would still be a United States Senate, albeit one 35% smaller, at 12:01 pm on January 3, 2021, meaning there would still be a President Pro Tempore to assume the office of the presidency, and who would then nominate someone to be vice president pending Senate approval.

There would still be a Senate because only 35 of the 100 Senators are reaching the end of their terms this year.[1] Fully 65 Senators will still be serving at that time: 35 Democrats (including two Independents, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, who caucus with the Democrats) and 30 Republicans.

That is right: rather than the current Senate, which has a 53-47 Republican majority, this “abridged” Senate would have a 35-30 Democratic majority. And the longest-serving Democratic Senator—who is not up for reelection in 2020—is Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, who was first elected in 1974!

So…Leahy would absolutely become the 46th president of the United States, sworn somewhere by Chief Justice John J. Roberts?

Well…not so fast.

And that is because of what I had forgotten on Wednesday: under Amendment XVII, governors are empowered to appoint a replacement for a Senator who leaves office before the end of her/his term—just about always a member of the same party as the governor.

In this scenario, these governors immediately appoint replacement Senators as soon as those 35 Senate terms expire at noon on January 3, 2021…and they are sworn in immediately. Traditionally, the vice president swears in each new Senator, so that may be the fly in the ointment here. Presumably, though, in this unusual circumstance Chief Justice Roberts could swear in all the appointed Senators at one time, somewhere in Washington, DC.

As for the governors themselves:

  • In the 12 states where a Democratic Senate term is ending there are
    • 8 Democratic governors
    • 2 Republican governors
    • 1 Democratic governor up for reelection in Delaware
    • 1 Republican governor up for reelection in New Hampshire
  • In the 22 states where a Republican Senate term is ending (with two in Georgia) there are
    • 15 Republican governors filling 16 seats
    • 6 Democratic governors
    • 1 Democratic governor not seeking reelection in Montana

Excluding the three states where a gubernatorial election is being held (or not…as our younger daughter pointed out, why would there be elections for governor if all the federal elections were postponed?), the new Senate would now include:

  • 35 + 8 + 6 = 49 Democrats
  • 30 + 2 + 16 = 48 Republicans

This is still a bare 49-48 Democratic majority, making Leahy the 46th president.

IF gubernatorial elections are held in Delaware and New Hampshire this November, though, it is very likely the incumbent wins both races, which adds one new Democratic and one new Republican Senator, for a bare 50-49 Democratic majority…and President Leahy.

That leaves it all up to Montana.

IF there is a Montana gubernatorial election this November, the Republican nominee would likely be favored to win. In that case, we would wind up with a 50-50 tie in the Senate. And with no vice president to break the tie, it is not clear whether Leahy or Republican Charles R. Grassley of Iowa, who was first elected in 1980. Of course, if a Democrat were elected the next governor of Montana, that would result in a 51-49 Democratic Senate majority…and President Leahy.

Perhaps the nod still goes to Leahy in the case of a 50-50 Senate split, as the longest-serving Senator overall. Perhaps there is something like a coin flip. Or maybe these two men—who have served together in the United States Senate for 40 years and are around 80 years of age—decide to serve jointly, with one as president and one as vice president.

The bottom line, though, is that it is far more likely than not that if there are no federal elections this November, Democratic Senator Patrick Joseph Leahy of Vermont would be sworn in at 12:01 pm EDT on January 20, 2021 as the 46th president of the United States.

Until next time…please be safe and sensible out there…

[1] Including Republican Kelly Loeffler, appointed to replace retiring Republican Johnny Isakson in December 2019.

Dispatches from Brookline: Social Distancing and Home Schooling I

In response to widespread social distancing being used to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, I plan to increase the frequency of my posts. And with the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination contest having effectively ended, I will not post nearly as often about American politics. Rather, I will describe how my family and I are dealing with the crisis, while presenting what I hope will be entertaining stories about…well, anything. 

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As of Monday, March 16, 2020, public schools in the suburban Boston town of Brookline are closed until at least Friday, April 3, 2020. I write “at least,” because public schools in Boston closed on Tuesday, March 17, 2020 and will not reopen until at least April 24, 2020; Brookline traditionally follows Boston’s lead in this regard.

My wife Nell—a former elementary school teacher who now works part-time as a children’s librarian at a local Catholic school—saw this coming the previous week. Knowing we would need to implement some classroom structure for our 4th– and 6th-grade daughters, we immediately took the following steps:

  1. We converted our dining room into a classroom, complete with white board and flip charts
  2. Nell ordered teaching supplies, including workbooks for math, science and reading; puzzles and drawing projects
  3. We began to sketch out a teaching schedule, determining that Nell would take the morning shift, and I would take the afternoon shift.

We divided the “school day” this way because while Nell is a morning person, I am an extreme night owl. Since I was laid off from my last professional salaried position in June 2015—and especially after I declared myself a writer in July 2017 and launched my “interrogating memory” book-writing project—I have maintained a distinctly counter-cyclical schedule. Basically, once the household quiets down around 11 pm—and after I have finished cleaning the kitchen and taking out any trash and/or recycling—I settle down at the desk in my home office for a few hours; this is why I publish most posts at around 3 or 4 in the morning EST. Following some quiet down time, I go to sleep close to dawn, awaking well past noon. There are exceptions, however. I awake at 7 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays to take the girls to school, allowing Nell to go to work. After taking the dog to the park for 20 or 30 minutes—often bathing in the upstairs walk-in shower when we return home, though, I get back in bed for a few hours until I need to pick up the girls from school…though I spend way too much of that time reading on my iPhone.

Still, this meant that I was already working at home. With Nell working just two days a week, this is far less of an adjustment for us than it might otherwise have been.

Meanwhile, putting my advanced degrees in political science and applied math (biostatistics, epidemiology) to good use, I decided to devote an hour each day to a general introduction to politics and government and an hour to a general introduction to statistics. That is, from Monday to Thursday. On Fridays, I plan to do something different: discuss the history of film noir, or watch a documentary about Hedy Lamarr, or something equally offbeat but still educational.

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On Monday, March 16, 2020, I came downstairs to find this in the “classroom.”

March 16

According to Nell, the girls had very much enjoyed their first morning of home-schooling. In fact, given the chaos that has recently descended upon the Brookline public elementary schools (e.g., two principals recently resigned in protest, even as the school district is negotiating a new teachers’ contract), they may learn more in these few weeks than they might otherwise have. I do not mean to disparage the quality of teaching in the Brookline public schools, which is generally very high. Our younger daughter has attention deficit disorder and a yet-to-be-formally-diagnosed learning disability, but with her school-based IEP (individual enrichment program) she has advanced by leaps and bounds; our older daughter is a voracious reader and diligent student, so she could probably thrive anywhere. It is just very difficult to teach and learn effectively in elementary schools with shaky leadership.

When it was my turn to teach, I used this document as a guide to begin sketching out the notion of politics as power: who has it, who decides who has it, and for how long. The section headings suggest the path our conversation took:

  1. What is politics?
  2. Birth of civilization
  3. Ancient Greece
  4. The Fall of Rome and its aftermath
  5. John Locke and the social contract

After an hour-long break, we reconvened—even as our younger daughter was fading somewhat—and I started talking about statistics, which I described simply as a way to describe a lot of information with only one or a few numbers. These latter sessions are far more interactive. Using a sheet of data about the presidents of the United States—year he first took office, length of term, age when took office, height and party affiliation (labeling Andrew Johnson a Democrat for simplicity), we focused on the most basic statistic—counts, also known as frequencies; this led to the idea of a variable, as opposed to a constant. They genuinely enjoyed seeing how old and how tall the various presidents were—and learning that about two-thirds of them were taller than my five feet, 9¾ inches.

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This is what greeted me on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, when I came downstairs.

March 17

When “Daddy school” started, we briefly reviewed what we had learned on Monday, then returned to Ancient Greece and Aristotle’s six types of government. This easily filled half of our time before we turned to a broader discussion of two types of modern governments: liberal democratic and authoritarian. The former we grounded in the social contractand John Stuart Mill’s “harm principle;” I pulled out my old paperback copy of On Liberty to read the key passage directly. We drew a distinction between classical liberalism (though I did not use that phrase; as Nell has pointed out more than once, these are not 20-year-old college students) and libertarianism. We then dipped briefly into ideology, contrasting liberalism with nationalism and fascism.

In the “applied math” class, we reviewed frequencies before turning to measures of central tendency (without using that term): mode, median and mean; we also defined range as the arithmetic difference between the maximum and minimum values. The president dataset was once again up to the challenge. And our older daughter got to use the white board to practice adding more than two numbers of two or more digits as well as long division.

When “Daddy school” ended, I ventured out into the world, stopping at our local CVS to pick up prescriptions for Nell and a few other items before driving to a nearby Star Market. The bread shelves where practically empty, as were most of the frozen vegetable freezers, though I was still able to find broccoli and spinach. Neither here nor at CVS could I find a single bottle of rubbing alcohol or can of Lysol disinfectant for our downstairs neighbors. As I waited quietly in the checkout line, the quirky young cashier—who told us she was 19 years old and this was her first job—told the man in front of me the Star was now limiting customers to two containers per day for milk, eggs, and a host of other products. I was only buying one gallon of milk and no eggs, so I was in no danger there. And despite 19-year-old-cashier’s worry people would try to skirt the two-per-day limit or, worse, get into fights, everyone I encountered—which was not very many people—was patient and understanding.

When I came home, I tried to convince Nell to make the following day’s word of the day “rationing.” She chose a different word, though, as you will see.

Much later that night—err, early morning—I was unwinding to various YouTube videos on our big screen HD “smart” television. I have long been a fan of WhatCulture’s take on pop culture, but this video I watched—in which members of the staff present how they are responding to the need for social distancing—is especially remarkable for how they address the new reality both soberly and comically.  Malinda Kathleen Reese’s humorous take on how properly to wash your hands is in a similar vein.

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This is what greeted me on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, when I came downstairs.

March 18 schedule

This was the first day the strain of being homebound began to show on our daughters. The older one—hormones coursing through her five-foot-six-inch frame—melted down in the morning over a range of issues; for the record, our younger daughter is only a few inches shorter. The latter daughter, meanwhile, perhaps responding to the fact one of her closest friends was having brain surgery that day, felt extremely nauseous.

Nonetheless, despite our older daughter now careening into wild hysterics over the Kool Aid man (your guess is as good as mine on this one), we soldiered on into “Daddy academy.” After another brief review, we turned to the American colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries. Specifically, we wondered how 13 disparate colonies, after overthrowing the “no taxation without representation” rule of tyrannical—Aristotle’s term for a solo ruler who makes rules solely on her/his own behalf—King George III of England could then fashion themselves into a nation.

It was while reading the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence that our older daughter decided she wanted to visualize the word “usurp.” This is a fairly accurate depiction, actually.

Usurp

Careening rapidly through the Articles of Confederation, we came to the process of writing the Constitution of the United States between May and September 1787. And once again, our older daughter had some thoughts on two unfortunate historical realities of the document as originally drafted: a slave being considered 3/5 of a citizen for the decennial census, and the fact women could not vote until 1920.

Kool Aid man was not happy about these things.

Molly react to Constitution

The applied math was far less dramatic. We reviewed range, mode, median and mean before turning to types of statistical distributions—how data are arranged from lowest to highest value—including normal, poisson and exponential. I also touched briefly on the idea of variance, or how narrowly or widely dispersed around the mean values of a variable are.

Later that night, this appeared on the white board—courtesy of Nell, who once made extra money drawing wall murals; as she says, she cannot draw something original, but she can copy anything.

Welcome to Thursday

Until next time…please be safe and sensible out there…

2020 Democratic primaries on March 17, 2020: My final polling update

[Update, 4:02 pm EST on March 17, 2020:

  1. Ohio did postpone its Democratic presidential primary, though all votes cast early will still count toward the final result–and will be extended until June 2, when in-person voting will occur.
  2. Swayble (C+ rating from FiveThirtyEight.com) released polls of the four states scheduled to hold primaries today. The data below are updated accordingly.]

Assuming none are postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 17, 2020, four more states will hold primaries to help select the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, bringing the total number of such contests to 28. Table 1 lists these states, sorted by poll closing times, and the number of pledged delegates each state will provide to the Democratic National Convention, which is planned for July 13-16, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A total of 577 pledged delegates are available on March 17, 14.5% of the total 3,979 to be awarded.[1]

Table 1: Democratic presidential nominating contests, March 17, 2020 by Poll Closing Times

Jurisidiction Poll Closing (EST) Pledged Delegates
Ohio 7:30 pm 136
Florida 8 pm

(most of state: 7 pm)

219
Illinois 8 pm 155
Arizona 9 pm 67
TOTAL PLEDGED DELEGATES 577

For what I have already written about the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination process, please see here. Three declared candidates remain—down from 28 in total, though only two have accumulated more than a handful of pledged delegates:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden                                                               868
  • United States Senator (“Senator”) from Vermont Bernie Sanders      718

United States House of Representatives Member from Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard has earned two pledged delegates, while 135 have been awarded to candidates no longer seeking the nomination.

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In the remainder of this post, I present final WAPA (weighted-adjusted polling average) for Biden, Gabbard and Sanders in each state, calculated either one or two ways depending upon available data; polls are up-to-date as of 1 a.m. EST on March 17, 2020. As with the 24 previous contests, a candidate must win ≥15% of the vote to be awarded delegates either statewide or within a Congressional district. All publicly-available polls conducted since January 1, 2019 may be found here.

And here is my updated weighting scheme:

  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 3, 2020, but before February 12, 2020 are weighted 2.00 or 1.00+fraction[2] times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 4, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 11, 2020, but before February 23, 2020 are weighted 3.00 or 2.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 12, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 22, 2020, but before March 1, 2020 are weighted 4.00 or 3.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 23, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 29, 2020, but before March 4, 2020 are weighted 5.00 or 4.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 29, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after March 3, 2020, but before March 11, 2020 are weighted 10.00 or 5.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before March 4, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after March 10, 2020, but before March 18, 2020 are weighted 15.00 or 10.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before March 11, 2020.

To provide context for the percentage either truly undecided or selecting a different candidate (“DK/Other”), I also include the aggregate final state WAPA for former New York City Mayor Bloomberg; former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar; billionaire activist Tom Steyer and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren combined (“BBKSW”). Their supporters still comprise a sizeable proportion of the “DK/Other” group in a few states (or represent votes cast early), adding a modicum of uncertainty to the outcomes of Tuesday’s races.

7:30 pm EST

Ohio

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Ohio Democratic Primary, which will conclude on June 2, 2020:

  • 10 since January 1, 2019
  • 4 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 2: Final (until June 2) Ohio Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Biden 59.9 60.3
Sanders 31.4 32.0
Gabbard 2.4 2.4
DK/Other 7.2 5.3
BBKSW 1.1 0.0

Biden appears headed for a landslide victory in the Buckeye state and could easily net 25-35 pledged delegates.

8:00 pm EST

Florida

On a lark in March 1993, I flew from Boston, Massachusetts to Tampa, Florida then rented a car to drive the short distance to Clearwater, where the Philadelphia Phillies hold their spring training. I attended four games that trip. Two years later, my then-girlfriend and I made the same trip, again attending four games; we followed up every year after that through 2000. Here is a photograph of Clearwater Beach from our 1998 trip.

Clearwater 1998

And here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Florida Democratic Primary:

  • 33 since January 1, 2019
  • 18 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 3: Final Florida Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Biden 60.6 61.5
Sanders 23.8 24.2
Gabbard 1.2 1.3
DK/Other 14.4 13.0
BBKSW 6.4 5.9

Biden appears headed for a better than 2-1 victory in the Sunshine State. In fact, the former Vice President could easily net 75-85 delegates out of Florida alone.

Illinois

In late June 2013, my then-coworkers and I attended the American Diabetes Association annual conference in Chicago, Illinois. On June 23, having a wee contrarian streak and a penchant for true crime, I abandoned the conference to make my way to this empty lot. On February 14, 1929, this was the site of the S-M-C Cartage Company—2122 N. Clark Street—then headquarters of the North Side Gang, led by George “Bugs” Moran. After the “massacre” that took place there that morning, however, Moran was pretty much the North Side Gang all by himself.

img_0425

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Illinois Democratic Primary:

  • 10 since January 1, 2019
  • 8 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 4: Final Illinois Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Biden 56.3 56.5
Sanders 30.6 30.7
Gabbard 1.4 1.4
DK/Other 11.7 11.4
BBKSW 2.4 2.2

These are very similar numbers to Ohio; Biden could easily net 25-35 delegates from Illinois.

9:00 pm EST

Arizona

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Arizona Democratic Primary:

  • 11 since January 1, 2019
  • 6 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 5: Final Arizona Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Biden 50.7 51.8
Sanders 30.9 31.5
Gabbard 0.9 1.0
DK/Other 17.4 15.7
BBKSW 5.1 4.0

Sanders’ demonstrated strength with non-Cuban Latinx voters may make Arizona his “best” state on March 17—meaning the only state in which Biden does not receive at least 60% of the vote. Even then, however, Biden is still likely to net 10-15 pledged delegates from here. 

**********

In a previous post, I cautioned that while Biden appeared headed for a 20-percentage-point (“point”) win in the 2020 Michigan Democratic Primary, Sanders had upset former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a similar situation in 2016, winning by 1.3 points. Well, history did not repeat itself: Biden won Michigan by 16.6 points last Tuesday, topping Sanders in every county in the state.

Assuming my WAPA are equally predictive on March 17 [eds. note: including the 25-35 pledged delegates he will likely earn from Ohio on June 2], I estimate Biden will earn between 150 and 160 net pledged delegates on March 17 (splitting the BBKSW percentage 3-2 for Biden and the “pure DK/Other” percentage 2-1 for Sanders). This would give Biden a commanding lead of just over 300 pledged delegates, one which will be exceptionally difficult for Sanders to overcome, barring something extraordinary like a health crisis or catastrophic stumble.

As always, though, I urge caution and humility. These polls are based on turnout models that the coronavirus may render moot. If, despite the need for social distancer, supporters of either Biden or Sanders are far more likely to make their way to the polls—or if Ohio does postpone its primary—the final results could be substantively different, and in either direction.

Still, my best guess is that as of March 18, 2020, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. will be the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.

We shall see.

Until next time…

[1] An additional 764, at least, “automatic delegates” (also known as “superdelegates”)—mostly elected Democrats—would vote on a second ballot if no candidate clears the 1,991-vote threshold on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention.

[2] Percentage of days the poll was being conducted were after the most recent primary or caucuses

2020 Democratic primaries on March 10: My final polling update

[Updated at 4:00 pm EST to account for late polls]

On March 10, 2020, six more states will hold primaries to help select the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, bringing the total number of such contests to 24. Table 1 lists these states, sorted by poll closing times, and the number of pledged delegates each state will provide to the Democratic National Convention, which will be held July 13-16, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A total of 352 pledged delegates are available on March 10, 8.8% of the total 3,979 to be awarded.[1]

Table 1: Democratic presidential nominating contests, March 10, 2020 by Poll Closing Times

Jurisidiction Poll Closing (EST) Pledged Delegates
Mississippi 8 pm 36
Missouri 8 pm 68
North Dakota 8 pm 14
Michigan 9 pm

(79 of 83 counties close at 8 pm)

125
Idaho 11 pm 20
Washington 11 pm

(balloting by mail)

89
TOTAL PLEDGED DELEGATES 352

In a previous post, I presented final polling updates for the 14 states (including American Samoa and Democrats Abroad) holding Democratic presidential nominating contests on March 3. Unlike previous contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, however, I have not yet posted a comparison of these polling averages to the final results. That is because votes are still being counted in California, while Dallas County in Texas may recount its votes.

Nonetheless, it is apparent that former Vice President Joe Biden strongly overperformed his final polling averages, emerging with an overall lead of 77 pledged delegates,[2] while United States Senator (“Senator”) from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren largely underperformed. Indeed, Warren ended her bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on March 5; former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had already ended his bid one day earlier. However, while Bloomberg immediately endorsed Biden, Warren has yet to endorse any other candidate. Meanwhile, on March 9, 2020 two more former rivals, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and California Senator Kamala Harris, endorsed Biden at a Detroit, Michigan rally.

Three declared candidates remain for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination—down from 28 in total:

  • Biden
  • United States House of Representatives Member from Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard
  • Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders

**********

In the remainder of this post, I present final WAPA (weighted-adjusted polling average) for Biden, Gabbard and Sanders in each state, calculated up to two ways depending upon available data polls are up-to-date as of 2 am EST March 10, 2020. As with the 18 previous contests, a candidate must win ≥15% of the vote to be awarded delegates either statewide or within a Congressional district. All publicly-available polls conducted since January 1, 2019 may be found here.

And here is my updated weighting scheme:

  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 3, 2020, but before February 12, 2020 are weighted 2.00 or 1.00+fraction[3] times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 4, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 11, 2020, but before February 23, 2020 are weighted 3.00 or 2.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 12, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 22, 2020, but before March 1, 2020 are weighted 4.00 or 3.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 23, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 29, 2020, but before March 4, 2020 are weighted 5.00 or 4.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 29, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after March 3, 2020, but before March 11, 2020 are weighted 10.00 or 5.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before March 4, 2020.

To provide context for the percentage either truly undecided or selecting a different candidate (“DK/Other”), I also include the aggregate final state WAPA for Bloomberg; former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar; billionaire activist Tom Steyer and Warren combined (“BBKSW”). Their supporters still comprise a sizeable proportion of the “DK/Other” group in some states, adding a modicum of additional uncertainty to the outcomes of Tuesday’s races.

8 pm EST

Mississippi

Only four polls were conducted here, with only two—with an average rating of C+ according to FiveThirtyEight.com’s pollster ratings—conducted after July 2019. Overall, Biden leads Sanders 72.1 to 24.5%, with Gabbard at 0.5% It would not be surprising if Biden netted more than 12 pledged delegates here

Missouri

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Missouri Democratic Primary:

  • 9 since January 1, 2019
  • 5 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 2: Final Missouri Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Biden 53.9 54.3
Sanders 34.5 35.0
Gabbard 2.0 2.1
DK/Other 9.6 8.7
BBKSW 4.3 3.6

Biden appears headed for a sizeable victory in the Show Me state and could easily net 12 or more pledged delegates.

North Dakota

Only one polls was conducted of the 2020 North Dakota Democratic presidential primary, by Swayable (C+) from March 7 to March 9,  2020; Biden led Sanders 65 to 31%, with 0% for Gabbard. In 2016, though, when North Dakota held caucuses, Sanders beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 64.2 to 25.6%, netting eight pledged delegates; all 2016 Democratic presidential nomination contest results are from Dave Liep’s invaluable Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Rather than extrapolate from a single, low-rated poll, so I will split the difference and say both Biden and Sanders earn seven pledged delegates here.

9 pm EST

Michigan

The company for which I worked in 2000-01 was headquartered in Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, so I spent the equivalent of four weeks in Michigan over those two years. Here I am standing in front of the original headquarters of Motown Records in June 2001.

Scan0028

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Michigan Democratic Primary:

  • 21 since January 1, 2019
  • 10 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 3: Final Michigan Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Biden 52.0 53.2
Sanders 31.8 32.6
Gabbard 0.8 0.8
DK/Other 15.4 13.4
BBKSW 4.9 3.8

While it might appear that Biden is headed for a win of a least 20 percentage points (“points”) in the Wolverine State, a similar polling lead for Clinton here four years ago turned into a 49.7-48.3% upset for Sanders, though Clinton still net 2 pledged delegates. Splitting the difference would give Biden a solid 10-point win, netting 12-15 pledged delegates.

11 pm EST

Idaho

Only two polls were conducted of the 2020 Idaho Democratic Presidential Primary, both by C+ pollsters after the Iowa Caucuses; on average, Biden led Sanders 51.5-42.5%, with Gabbard earning 2%. A close Idaho finish between Biden and Sanders would be in stark contrast to 2016, when Sanders won what were then caucuses 78.0 to 21.2%, netting 13 pledged delegates. I expect a tighter race this time, with maybe an 11-9 split in delegates for Sanders.

Washington

Every election in the state of Washington is conducted by mail; all ballots for this primary must be postmarked by March 10 or placed in a ballot drop box by 8 pm local time. As with California, no winner could be declared until Wednesday morning at the earliest.

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Washington Democratic Primary:

  • 7 since January 1, 2019
  • 4 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 4: Final Washington Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Biden 35.0 35.6
Sanders 35.1 35.4
Gabbard 1.1 1.1
DK/Other 28.8 27.8
BBKSW 11.8 11.1

Four years ago, when Washington—like Idaho and North Dakota—held caucuses, Sanders crushed Clinton 72.7 to 27.1%. This year, though, the race between Biden and Sanders appears much closer—though with two in seven potential primary voters up for grabs, either candidate could win by a double-digit margin. On balance, though, a 53-47% Sanders win is a plausible outcome, with a net of four-five pledged delegates.

There are two reasons to be extremely cautious about these “projections.” First, of these six contests, only Michigan’s Democratic voters were polled more than nine times, and even they were only polled 21 times by a total of 18 pollsters whose average rating is B-. Second, it is not unusual for primary and caucus voters to hit the brakes on a seemingly-certain nomination process; this is one explanation for Sanders’ Michigan upset in 2016. This can occur in one of two ways: voters who are only leaning toward the front-runner stay home, and other voters affirmatively choose an alternate candidate as a way of declaring “the race is not over because we have not yet had our say.”

All of this is to say: while Biden could easily come out of the March 10 primaries with a net gain of 56 pledged delegates (splitting the BBKSW percentage 3-2 for Biden and the “pure DK/Other” percentage 2-1 for Sanders)…

…there is a plausible scenario—Biden and Sanders split Idaho and North Dakota, Sanders wins Washington 53-47% and splits Michigan nearly evenly—in which Biden “only” nets 24 pledged delegates.

We shall see.

Until next time…

[1] An additional 764, at least, “automatic delegates” (also known as “superdelegates”)—mostly elected Democrats—would vote on a second ballot if no candidate clears the 1,991-vote threshold on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention.

[2] According to NBC News, as of 2 am EST on March 10, 2020

[3] Percentage of days the poll was being conducted were after the most recent primary or caucuses

2020 Super Tuesday contests: My final polling update

[Ed. note: A few hours after I published this, a complete set of Super Tuesday polls was released by Swayable (C+) and Data for Progress (B-/C+), as well as a Spry Strategies poll (C-/D+) of North Carolina. I did not update each state’s final WAPA, though I did update the projected distribution of pledged delegates.]

On March 3, 2020, for the first time during the 2020 Democratic presidential nominating process, multiple states—as well as American Samoa and Democrats Abroad—will hold contests on the same day; there is a reason this day is called “Super Tuesday.” Before examining those contests, you may review results from the Iowa Caucuses, New Hampshire Primary, Nevada Caucuses and South Carolina Primary.

Table 1 lists the 16 jurisdictions holding primaries on Super Tuesday, along with poll closing times and the number of pledged delegates each state will provide to the Democratic National Convention, which will be held July 13-16, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Table 1: Democratic presidential nominating contests, March 3, 2020 by Poll Closing Times

Jurisidiction Poll Closing (EST) Pledged Delegates
Vermont 7 pm 16
Virginia 7 pm 99
North Carolina 7:30 pm 110
Alabama 8 pm 52
Maine 8 pm 24
Massachusetts 8 pm 91
Oklahoma 8 pm 37
Tennessee 8 pm 64
Texas 8 pm 228
Arkansas 8:30 pm 31
Colorado 9 pm 67
Minnesota 9 pm 75
Utah 9 pm 29
California 11 pm 415
American Samoa n/a 6
Democrats Abroad March 10 13
TOTAL PLEDGED DELEGATES 1,357

This Tuesday will be the closest the United States has ever come to a national presidential primary, with three contests in New England, five in the south, three in the center of the nation and three in the west; fully 34.1% of the 3,979 total pledged delegates will be awarded.[1] Just five states—California, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia and Massachusetts—will provide 943 (69.5%) of pledged delegates awarded on Super Tuesday. And as with the four previous Democratic presidential nominating contests, a candidate must win more than 15% of the vote to be awarded any delegates either statewide or within a Congressional district.

As of this writing, there were five declared candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
  • United States House of Representatives Member from Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard
  • United States Senator (“Senator”) from Vermont Bernie Sanders
  • Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren

Bloomberg will actually be appearing on a ballot for the first time. And as I was writing this, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar ended her campaign—and, like former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, endorsed Biden.

In the remainder of this post, I present final WAPA (weighted-adjusted polling average), calculated multiple ways depending upon available data, for each candidate in each state, sorted by poll closing time; polls are up-to-date as of 2 am EST March 3, 2020. All publicly-available polls conducted since January 1, 2019 may be found here.

And here is my updated weighting scheme:

  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 3, 2020, but before February 12, 2020 are weighted 2.00 or 1.00+fraction[2] times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 4, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 11, 2020, but before February 23, 2020 are weighted 3.00 or 2.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 12, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 22, 2020, but before March 1, 2020 are weighted 4.00 or 3.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 23, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 29, 2020, but before March 4, 2020 are weighted 5.00 or 4.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 29, 2020.

To provide context for the percentage either truly undecided or selecting a different candidate (“DK/Other”), I also include the final state WAPA for Buttigieg, Klobuchar and billionaire activist Tom Steyer combined (“B/K/S”); their supporters consistently comprise a sizeable proportion of the “DK/Other” group adding a great deal of additional uncertainty to the outcomes of Tuesday’s races.

7 pm EST

Vermont

IMG_2671 (2)

Only one poll was conducted of Sanders’ home state, by Braun Research between February 4 and February 10, 2020; according to FiveThirtyEight.com’s pollster ratings, they have a B-/C+ rating.  Sanders led with 51%; no other candidate reached the 15% delegate threshold. It is very likely Sanders will accrue most if not all of the 16 available pledged delegates.

Virginia

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Virginia Democratic Primary:

  • 8 since January 1, 2019
  • 5 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 2: Final Virginia Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls February 2020
Biden 28.1 29.4
Sanders 23.4 24.2
Bloomberg 14.2 14.7
Warren 10.1 10.5
Gabbard 0.7 0.6
DK/Other 23.5 20.5
B/K/S 12.0 11.5

Both Biden and Sanders appear to have some momentum in Virginia going into Super Tuesday. In fact, in two polls conducted entirely after the South Carolina Primary, albeit with a C/C+ average, Biden averages 43.5% to Sanders’ 26.5%; neither Warren nor Bloomberg top 12%. If this holds, Biden could easily win well over half of Virginia’s 99 pledged delegates, with Sanders winning most of the rest, and allowing for the possibility Bloomberg and/or Warren top the 15% threshold in at least one of the Commonwealth’s 11 Congressional districts.

7:30 pm EST

North Carolina

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 North Carolina Democratic Primary:

  • 22 since January 1, 2019
  • 13 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020 (one poll overlapped)

 Table 3: Final North Carolina Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Biden 23.6 22.0
Sanders 22.8 23.8
Bloomberg 14.9 17.1
Warren 11.7 11.2
Gabbard 1.0 1.0
DK/Other 21.4 19.7
B/K/S 13.9 15.0

Similar to neighboring Virginia, it is difficult to discern momentum in these data, especially with just more than one in five potential voters either genuinely undecided or choosing a different candidate. Nonetheless, if these percentages are predictive, Sanders, Biden and Bloomberg will most likely divide the state’s 99 pledged delegates between them, though Warren could top the 15% threshold in at least one of the state’s 13 Congressional districts.

What these two Eastern seaboard southern states have in common is they will provide the first tests of two propositions:

  1. Biden has significant momentum, at least in southern states, from his landslide win in South Carolina.
  2. Bloomberg will fade following two poor debate performances.

8 pm EST

Alabama

Only two polls were conducted here, both in 2019: by Change Research between March 20 and March 23 and by Survey Monkey between July 2 and July 16; these pollsters have an average rating of C-/D+, so caution is urged. Still, Alabama resembles South Carolina in many ways, so Biden’s weighted average of 38.3%–with no other candidate topping 15%–is likely highly predictive; Biden could easily win the vast majority of the 52 available pledged delegates.

Maine

IMG_2771

Only five polls were conducted of the 2020 Maine Democratic Presidential Primary, of which two were conducted after the Iowa Caucuses: one by SocialSphere (B-/C+) between February 10 and 13, 2020, and one by Change Research (C) between March 1 and 2, 2020.

Table 4: Final Maine Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls February 2020
Sanders 31.2 36.3
Biden 20.3 19.5
Warren 16.0 13.4
Bloomberg 8.9 11.5
Gabbard 0.9 1.1
DK/Other 21.6 16.7
B/K/S 8.4 8.2

Fellow New Englander Sanders would appear to have momentum in Maine, and could easily more than half of the state’s 24 pledged delegates, with Biden and, possibly, Warren splitting the remainder.

Massachusetts

In the interest of full disclosure, here is the relevant portion of the ballot I cast last Thursday in the 2020 Massachusetts Democratic Presidential Primary:

Voting for Warren 2020

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Massachusettts Democratic Primary:

  • 11 since January 1, 2019
  • 5 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 5: Final Massachusetts Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Sanders 21.5 22.3
Warren 21.1 20.5
Biden 13.3 12.1
Bloomberg 10.4 11.5
Gabbard 2.4 2.5
DK/Other 31.4 31.1
B/K/S 21.8 23.8

It is very likely Sanders and Warren—who may not win her home state on Super Tuesday—will divide the Commonwealth’s 91 pledged delegates roughly evenly between them, though I would not discount the possibility Biden and/or Bloomberg winning at least 15% of the vote in one or more of Massachusetts’ nine Congressional districts.

 Oklahoma

Only three polls have been conducted of the 2020 Oklahoma Democratic Presidential Primary, though two of those were conducted after the Iowa Caucuses: one by SoonerPoll.com (B-/C+) from February 17 to 21 and one by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates (B-/C+) from February 10 to 13.

Table 6: Final Oklahoma Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Bloomberg 18.1 19.2
Biden 17.3 17.3
Sanders 11.6 12.1
Warren 8.7 8.6
Gabbard 0.0 0.0
DK/Other 44.3 42.8
B/K/S 16.3 17.2

While this appears to be a battle between Bloomberg, Biden and Sanders, I think Biden is very likely to win a large majority of the state’s 37 pledged delegates. Still, the more than 40% not choosing one of the five remaining declared candidates makes the outcome of this contest especially uncertain.

Tennessee

Only one poll has been conducted of the 2020 Tennessee Democratic Primary, by SurveyMonkey (D-) between July 2 and July 16, 2019. Biden led the poll with 33%, however, signaling the possibility he will win the vast majority of the state’s 64 pledged delegates.

Texas

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Texas Democratic Primary:

  • 35 since January 1, 2019
  • 12 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 7: Final Texas Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Sanders 26.7 28.7
Biden 22.4 21.9
Bloomberg 13.8 16.8
Warren 12.7 12.6
Gabbard 1.3 1.4
DK/Other 23.1 18.6
B/K/S 11.9 13.1

Sanders and Bloomberg would appear to have momentum in Texas heading into Super Tuesday, though it is a much closer race for delegates between Sanders, Biden and Bloomberg, with Warren likely accumulating some pledged delegates in around one-third of the state’s 36 Congressional districts. Still, it would not be a surprise to see Sanders win a plurality of the state’s 228 pledged delegates, with Biden not too far behind him.

8:30 pm EST

Arkansas

Only one poll was conducted here, by Hendrix College (B-/C+) between February 6 and 7, 2020. Bloomberg “led” with 20%, followed by Biden (19%), Sanders and Buttigieg each with 16%, and Warren at 9%; Gabbard was not included in the poll. A total of 36% were either undecided or chose a different candidate, with 21% choosing either Buttigieg or Klobuchar (Steyer was not included). Assuming a Biden surge and a Bloomberg collapse, however, I would expect Biden to win at least a plurality, if not an outright majority of the state’s 31 pledged delegates, with most of the remainder going to Sanders.

9 pm EST

Colorado

Only five polls have been conducted of the 2020 Colorado Democratic Presidential Primary, though three of those were conducted after the Iowa Caucuses.

Table 8: Final Colorado Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Sanders 30.8 31.6
Warren 16.5 16.4
Biden 11.7 10.3
Bloomberg 10.2 11.4
Gabbard 0.7 0.7
DK/Other 30.1 29.6
B/K/S 16.8 18.0

Sanders is very likely to win Colorado, though perhaps “only” by a high-single-digit margin, thus accruing a majority of the state’s 67 pledged delegates. Still, Warren could potentially finish a close second, winning a few dozen delegates herself. Biden might also accrue a handful of pledged delegates here.

Minnesota

This, of course, is Klobuchar’s home state, so extrapolating from existing polls is extremely tricky. Moreover, only four polls have been conducted of the 2020 Minnesota Democratic Presidential Primary, though two of those were conducted after the Iowa Caucuses: one by Mason-Dixon Research & Polling Inc. (B+) from February 17 to 20 and one by University of Massachusetts, Lowell (A-/B+) from February 13 to 19.

Table 9: Final Minnesota Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Sanders 19.0 22.0
Warren 18.3 13.6
Biden 12.8 8.5
Bloomberg 3.0 6.1
Gabbard 1.3 2.5
DK/Other 46.7 47.3
B/K/S 29.9 (Klobuchar 21.8) 35.1 (Klobuchar 28.0)

As with Colorado, Sanders now seems poised to win Minnesota, though perhaps “only” by a high-single-digit margin over Warren and Biden. Those three are likely to win nearly all of the state’s 75 pledged delegates, barring Klobuchar still receiving a significant share of the vote, particularly among those who voted early.

Utah

Only two polls were conducted here, by Suffolk University (A-) between January 18 and 22, 2020 and by HarrisX (C+) between February 22 and 26, 2020. Sanders leads across these two polls with 27.7%, followed by Bloomberg at 16.5%, Warren at 14.7%, Biden at 7.7% and Gabbard at 0.3%; fully one-third of voters (33.1%) were either truly undecided or chose a different candidate, of whom more than half (18.4%) chose Buttigieg, Klobuchar or Steyer. While, as with the other states whose polls close at 9 pm, Sanders is the favorite to win at least a plurality of Utah’s 29 pledged delegates, Warren could once again surprise here with a strong second place showing, with Biden the wildcard.

11 pm EST

California

IMG_3510

Given the Golden State’s propensity for counting votes slowly, and the fact their 415 pledged delegates represent nearly one-third (31%) of those available on Super Tuesday, the full impact of these 16 contests on the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination may not come fully into focus until early Wednesday morning, at the absolute earliest.

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 California Democratic Primary:

  • 53 since January 1, 2019
  • 16 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020 (one conducted almost entirely afterward)

Table 10: Final California Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Sanders 28.7 31.5
Biden 17.8 16.3
Warren 15.2 14.1
Bloomberg 10.4 12.9
Gabbard 1.8 1.9
DK/Other 26.1 23.2
B/K/S 14.2 15.3

The only question about the 2020 California Democratic Primary is how large Sanders’ margin of victory will be. The corollary question is whether Warren and/or Bloomberg reach 15% statewide and/or in any of the state’s 53 Congressional districts. If not, Sanders could possibly win two-thirds of the state’s 415 pledged delegates, netting a minimum of 138 delegates over Biden in just one state.

Later

American Samoa, Democrats Abroad

There is no polling to indicate how the 19 total pledged delegates available from these two jurisdictions will be divided among the candidates.

**********

Perhaps the only two indisputable things we know about Super Tuesday are that a) Sanders appears to be the only candidate who is competitive everywhere, and b) there are an unusually high number of voters either truly undecided or choosing a different candidate in pre-primary polling.

To get a sense of just how good a day Sanders could have—or not–here is a very back-of-the-envelope pseudo-prediction for the number of pledged delegates each candidate will receive on Super Tuesday, based on the following extremely arbitrary assumptions:

  1. Excluding a slight uptick from “DK/Other” voters, Sanders’s Super Tuesday percentages will closely match his final WAPA
  2. Biden will see an uptick in this final WAPA equivalent to 20% of the final WAPA for Bloomberg.
  3. Bloomberg’s results will be 80% of his final WAPA, with no uptick from “DK/Other” voters
  4. B/K/S will split their votes this way:
    1. 50% for B/K/S
    2. 20% each for Biden and Warren
    3. 10% for Sanders
  5. The remaining “DK/Other” voters will split:
    1. 45% each for Biden and Warren
    2. 10% for Sanders
  6. The 19 pledged delegates from American Samoa and Democrats Abroad will split 7 Sanders, 7 Biden, 3 Warren, 2 Bloomberg
  7. There is no substantive difference between statewide and Congressional-district allocation of pledged delegates. This is by far the least-defensible assumption.

Based upon those quite rosy assumptions for Biden and Warren, here is my extremely timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly not-quite prediction for the distribution of pledged delegates awarded on Super Tuesday:

Biden              470

Sanders          464

Warren           284

Bloomberg     139

I have to say, this rather surprised me—until I realized just how well Biden could do in Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and that he is likely to make the 15% threshold in every state. However, if I distribute the B/K/S and “pure” DK/Other votes evenly between Biden, Sanders and Warren, the delegate allocation looks like this:

Sanders          501

Biden              451

Warren           263

Bloomberg     139

This small tweak in assumptions is the difference between Biden and Sanders being effectively tied in pledged delegates after Super Tuesday and Sanders having a nearly-70 delegate lead.

And that is a huge difference.

We shall see.

Until next time…

[1] An additional 764, at least, “automatic delegates” (also known as “superdelegates”)—mostly elected Democrats—would vote on a second ballot if not candidate clears the 1,991 vote threshold on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention.

[2] Percentage of days the poll was being conducted were after the most recent primary or caucuses

2020 South Carolina Primary: How did my final polling averages fare?

Given the extremely volatile polling for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination now that voting has commenced, I will not provide global monthly updates for the next few months. Instead, I will focus on the first handful of primaries and caucuses: Iowa on February 3, New Hampshire on February 11, Nevada on February 22, South Carolina on February 20, the 14 Super Tuesday contests on March 3, and so forth.

Here is my updated weighting scheme:

  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 3, 2020, but before February 12, 2020 are weighted 2.00 or 1.00+fraction[1] times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 4, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 11, 2020, but before February 23, 2020 are weighted 3.00 or 2.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 12, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 22, 2020, but before March 1, 2020 are weighted 4.00 or 3.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 23, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 29, 2020, but before March 4, 2020 are weighted 5.00 or 4.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before March 1, 2020.

And then there were six—though it is somewhat unclear whether United States House of Representatives Member (“Representative”) from Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard is still actively campaigning. Within 24 hours of the announcement of results from the 2020 South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary, two candidates ended their bid to be the 2020 Democratic nominee for president: billionaire activist Tom Steyer and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Both men ran optimistic, forward-looking and generally positive races, and they are to be commended for ending their campaigns with class and dignity.

Traffic light trees 2 10-12-2008

I also praise the South Carolina Democratic Party for disseminating results from >99% of precincts within five hours of polls closing in their state at 7 pm EST on February 29, 2020. Earlier that day, I published my final 2020 South Carolina Democratic Primary WAPA (weighted-adjusted polling average) for the eight then-declared Democratic presidential candidates, calculated seven different ways (Tables 1 and 2):

  • 53 since January 1, 2019
  • 41 since the 1st Democratic debate on June 26, 2019
  • 22 since the 5th Democratic debate on November 19, 2019
  • 18 since the 7th Democratic debate on January 14, 2020
  • 15 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020
    • 7 between February 12 and February 22
    • 8 beginning February 23

Table 1: Final South Carolina WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Since 1st Debate Since 5th Debate Since 7th Debate Since

Iowa

Biden 33.2 33.0 32.4 32.2 32.3
Sanders 18.6 18.7 20.3 20.7 20.7
Steyer 11.4 11.7 13.4 13.5 13.5
Warren 9.1 9.1 8.4 8.1 8.1
Buttigieg 7.7 7.7 8.5 8.7 8.8
Klobuchar 3.9 4.0 4.6 4.8 4.9
Gabbard 2.1 2.2 2.5 2.6 2.4
Bloomberg 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.2
DK/Other 13.7 13.3 9.6 9.1 9.1

Table 2: South Carolina WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates following the Iowa Democratic Caucuses

Candidate Before Nevada Caucuses After Nevada Caucuses Change
Biden 26.0 36.5 +10.5
Sanders 21.2 20.6 -0.6
Steyer 15.7 12.9 -2.8
Warren 8.7 7.7 -1.0
Buttigieg 9.5 8.3 -1.2
Klobuchar 5.7 4.0 -1.8
Gabbard 2.1 2.2 +0.1
Bloomberg 0.7 0.0 -0.7
DK/Other 10.5 7.8 -2.7

Based solely on these numbers, one could reasonably draw the following conclusions:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden was rapidly rising in the polls.
  • No other candidate was moving in the polls more than a few points one way or the other.

Comparing WAPA to results. Table 3 lists the results of the 2020 South Carolina Democratic Primary as of 7:30 pm EST on March 1, 2020:

Table 3: Percentage of vote received in 2020 New Hampshire Democratic Primary

Candidate % Vote
Biden 48.4
Sanders 19.9
Steyer 11.3
Buttigieg 8.2
Warren 7.1
Klobuchar 3.2
Gabbard 1.3
Bloomberg (not on ballot) 0.0
All others 0.6

Table 4 lists the arithmetic differences between each candidate’s final South Carolina Primary WAPA and each of the three reported measures; positive values indicate better performance in the primary than in the polls.

Table 4: Arithmetic difference between Vote % and WAPA, 2020 New Hampshire Democratic Primary

Candidate All

Polls

Since 1st Debate Since 5th Debate Since 7th Debate Since

 Iowa

Mean

Difference

Biden 15.2 15.4 16.0 16.2 16.1 15.8
Sanders 1.3 1.2 -0.4 -0.8 -0.8 0.1
Steyer -0.1 -0.4 -2.1 -2.2 -2.2 -1.4
Warren -0.9 -0.9 -0.2 0.1 0.1 -0.4
Buttigieg -0.6 -0.6 -1.4 -1.6 -1.7 -1.2
Klobuchar -0.7 -0.8 -1.4 -1.6 -1.7 -1.2
Gabbard -0.8 -0.9 -1.2 -1.3 -1.1 -1.1
Bloomberg -0.3 -0.3 -0.3 -0.2 -0.2 -0.3

With one glaring exception, these polling averages were remarkably accurate; only one candidate did not finish within 1.4 percentage points (“points”) in either direction of her/his final WAPA. But this was a substantial exception: Biden outperformed his final WAPA by an average of 15.8 points. Even then, however, the average “miss”—regardless of direction—was only 2.7 points. And limiting the comparison only to the eight polls released in the preceding week, Biden still outperformed by 11.9 points, with only Steyer missing by >1.0 point (-1.6).

Bottom line. To evaluate these comparisons globally, I calculated two difference measures for each of the five WAPA, excluding “DK/Other” (Table 5):

  1. Means of the absolute value of each candidate’s value in Table 4
  2. Sums of the squared differences (“SSE”) between each WAPA value and final results

Table 5: Global differences between WAPA and results, 2020 New Hampshire Democratic Primary

Polling period Mean AV Difference SSE
All Polls 2.5 235.1
Since 1st Debate only 2.6 241.5
Since 5th Debate only 2.9 266.1
Since 7th Debate only 3.0 274.8
Since Iowa Caucuses 3.0 271.7
Iowa-Nevada 4.4 536.2
Post-Nevada 2.2 147.8
Average 2.7 257.8

The five primary versions of WAPA were very accurate, even with Biden’s large overperformance, missing by between 2.3 and 3.0 points in either direction, on average, and with a fairly low and narrow range of SSE. For the first time, however, it was the older set of polls that was (barely) more accurate.

There is one glaring exception to this pattern, though, that demonstrates how difficult it is to poll voters during a fast-moving presidential nomination process. Polling conducted between the Iowa Caucuses on February 3 and the Nevada Caucuses on February 22 was far less predictive of the final results (though, to be fair, still reasonably accurate) than polling conducted in the week after the Nevada Caucuses; the latter was by far the most predictive of all, even with Biden’s overperformance.

Given the variation in patterns over the first four Democratic presidential nominating contests, I will continue to use this template to assess WAPA.

Now, on to the 16 Super Tuesday contests, with 1,344 pledged delegates at stake, on March 3, 2020!

Until next time…

[1] Percentage of days the poll was being conducted were after the most recent primary or caucuses