August 2019 update: 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and general election polling

It has been just over two weeks since the second Democratic presidential nomination debates, so it is time for an updated assessment of the relative position of the 23 declared candidates remaining. Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel ended his campaign on August 6, 2019, and it appears former Colorado John Hickenlooper will end his bid on August 15, 2019.

To learn how I calculate NSW-WAPA (national-and-state-weighted weighted-adjusted polling average), please see here[1]. Note that I recently altered my methodology slightly: within my post-early-state weighted average of each candidate’s WAPA, I now weight the nine states[2] scheduled to hold their nomination contests on March 3, 2019 (“Super Tuesday”) twice as much as all subsequent contests[3]

And, as usual, here is the August 2019 lighthouse photograph in my Down East 2019 Maine Lighthouses wall calendar.

Aug 2019 lighthouse.JPG

Table 1 below aggregates data from all national and state-level polls publicly released since January 1, 2019, including:

  • 149 national polls (including 32 weekly Morning Consult tracking polls)
  • 19 Iowa Caucuses polls
  • 22 New Hampshire Primary polls
  • 4 Nevada Caucuses polls
  • 18 South Carolina polls
  • 35 Super Tuesday polls[4]
  • 33 polls from 13 other states.[5]

This makes a total of 280 polls, up from 247 in the last update.

Table 1: National-and-state-weighted WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate National IA NH NV SC Post-SC NSW-WAPA
Biden 29.5 23.6 23.3 30.2 36.4 27.3 27.9 (-0.7)
Sanders 16.7 15.1 19.0 19.1 12.6 15.3 16.4 (-0.1)
Warren 10.4 13.1 13.5 18.0 9.1 12.6 13.2 (+0.6)
Harris 8.6 9.7 8.7 8.6 9.9 9.7 9.2 (–)
Buttigieg 5.6 9.1 9.1 8.0 4.9 6.7 7.7 (-0.3)
O’Rourke 4.1 2.6 2.2 3.1 1.8 5.3 2.8 (-0.3)
Booker 2.5 2.5 1.6 1.3 3.5 1.5 2.2 (-0.2)
Klobuchar 1.3 2.7 1.5 1.1 0.6 1.0 1.5 (–)
Yang 1.0 0.7 1.3 1.5 0.7 0.7 1.1 (–)
Gabbard 0.7 0.6 1.4 1.1 0.3 0.5 0.84 (+0.11)
Castro 0.9 0.7 0.2 1.0 0.1 1.0 0.59 (–)
Gillibrand 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.4 0.3 0.3 0.50 (+0.09)
Delaney 0.3 0.9 0.5 0.00 0.3 0.2 0.43 (–)
Steyer 0.03 0.1 0.4 1.0 0.4 0.1 0.40 (+0.30)
Inslee 0.4 0.4 0.2 0.3 0.1 0.3 0.26 (+0.06)
Williamson 0.2 0.05 0.3 0.4 0.3 0.1 0.24 (+0.07)
Bennet 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.00 0.2 0.4 0.20 (+0.04)
Ryan 0.3 0.1 0.3 0.00 0.2 0.2 0.16 (-0.01)
Bullock 0.2 0.3 0.00 0.00 0.1 0.1 0.10 (+0.03)
de Blasio 0.3 0.05 0.00 0.00 0.1 0.1 0.04
Moulton 0.1 0.04 0.1 0.00 0.00 0.03 0.03
Messam 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.1 0.04 0.03
Sestak 0.00 0.1 0.00 n/a 0.00 0.06 0.02
DK/Other 14.6 15.8 15.0 4.4 16.9 16.0 13.7 (+0.4)

There has been little substantive change in the relative standing of the 23 remaining candidates over the last two-three weeks, despite some short-term effects from the second round of debates (see below). Former Vice President Joe Biden remains the nominal frontrunner (27.9), primarily because of his dominant position in South Carolina primary polls; his weighted average of 36.4% is well ahead of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, California Senator Kamala Harris and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. By contrast, the race is much closer in polling for the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary; in these first two contests, Biden is only averaging 23-24%, with Sanders close behind at 15-19% and Warren at 13-14%. Harris and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg are not much further behind, hovering around 9%.

These five candidates continue to dominate the race overall, albeit with Biden continuing to decline while Warren continues her steady ascent (up from 8.5% in early June to 13.2% now), capturing just under three-quarters of the support of those polled. Just behind these five are four other candidates with an NSW-WAPA of 1.0 or higher: former Texas member of the United States House of Representatives (“Representative”) Beto O’Rourke, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Perhaps not surprisingly, these are also the only nine candidates to have qualified for the next round of Democratic presidential nomination debates (September 12-13, 2019). Overall these nine candidates account for 81.9% of currently-declared Democratic nomination preferences. Factor in 13.7%s[6] undecided or choosing an unlisted candidate, that means the remaining 14 candidates are divvying up just 4.4% between them.

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In the previous update, I assessed the short-term impact of the first round of Democratic presidential nomination debates by comparing support for each candidate in polls conducted by the same pollster within one month prior to, and just after, those debates. Meeting these criteria for the second round of debates are six national polls[7] and one Texas poll[8]. For ease of presentation, Table 2 presents data only for the 12 candidates with an NSW-WAPA of 0.5 or higher (including Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand). Values listed are simple arithmetic averages (with the Texas poll change weighted twice the changes in national polls); weighting by pollster quality or time between polls made little difference.

Table 2: Average change in polls from the same pollster before and after July 2019 Democratic presidential debates:

Candidate National TX Weighted Average
Biden -1.0 +4.5 +0.4
Sanders +1.8 +4.0 +2.4
Warren +1.8 +1.0 +1.6
Harris -3.5 -3.0 -3.4
Buttigieg +0.3 +3.0 +1.0
O’Rourke -0.3 -14.5 -3.9
Booker +0.8 +1.0 +0.9
Klobuchar -0.5 0 -0.4
Yang -0.3 +2.0 +0.3
Gabbard +0.3 0 +0.3
Castro -0.2 +2.0 +0.4
Gillibrand -0.2 0 -0.1
DK/Other +1.0 -1.0 +0.5

Examined this way, support for Harris—who had risen 7.7 percentage points (“points”) following the June debates—dropped fully 3.4 points following the July 2019 Democratic debates. O’Rourke also declined significantly (-3.9 points), but that was almost exclusively due to an astonishing 14.5-point drop (from 38% to 23.5%) in the Texas poll. The largest post-July-debate increases were for Booker (+0.9), Buttigieg (+1.0), Warren (+1.6) and Sanders (+2.4); no other candidate saw her/his support shift by more than 0.4 points in either direction. Finally, the percentage not choosing a listed candidate increased slightly.

**********

To the extent that the polling for the 2020 presidential election between a named Democrat and Republican Donald J. Trump changed, it is due to the modestly-increased likelihood (55.7%) that someone other than Biden (who would hypothetically beat Trump nationally by 8.4 points) and Sanders (by 5.2 points) will be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. Thus, once you weight for the likelihood of being the nominee, the Democrat would beat Trump by 3.6 points. This is actually slightly higher than the median Democratic presidential margin (+3.0 points) in the previous six presidential elections, which include three elections with an incumbent seeking reelection and three elections with no incumbent. However, once you exclude Biden and Sanders, the margin over Trump decreases to 0.7 points; Warren would hypothetically win by 1.5 points and Harris by 1.0 points, while Buttigieg would lose by 1.5 points.

Still, given that state-level results actually determine the winner of a presidential election (via the Electoral College), it is more informative to look to those polls, where they are publicly-available. Using my 3W-RDM, a measure of how much more or less Democratic a state’s voting is relative to the nation as a whole, this polling[9] implies Democrats would win the national popular vote by between 2.6 (excluding former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders) and 5.6 (including Biden and Sanders) points on average. Most encouraging to Democrats should be the polls from North Carolina (R+6.0) and Texas (R+15.3), which show a very close race, implying a 6-7-point win and a 12-14-point win nationally for Democrats, respectively; these polls confirm strong opportunities for Democrats in the southeast and southwest. By contrast, however, a few polls from Democratic-leaning Maine (D+5.9) and Nevada (D+2.0) imply Democrats would lose nationwide by 2-5 points. Those remain the exceptions, however, to what continues to be encouraging news for Democrats in 2020.

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 (1).

[2] Alabama, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia

[3] As of this writing, I have at least one poll from (in chronological order) Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Washington, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Oregon

[4] Primarily from California (14) and Texas (9)

[5] Primarily Florida (9) and Pennsylvania (5)

[6] This does include polls that limit the number of candidates queried.

[7] Morning Consult Tracking, HarrisX, Change Research, Quinnipiac University, YouGov, Reuters/Ipsos

[8] University of Texas at Tyler

[9] From Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, Iowa, Arizona, South Carolina, Minnesota, Nevada, Massachusetts, Florida, New York, Kentucky, Maine, Ohio.

July 2019 update: 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and general election polling

With the second Democratic presidential nomination debates scheduled for the evenings of Tuesday, July 30, 2019 and Wednesday, July 30, 2019, here is an updated assessment of the relative position of the 25 declared candidates; because United States House of Representatives member (“Representative”) Eric Swalwell of California dropped out of the race on July 8, 2019, a spot opened on the debate stage for Montana Governor Steve Bullock on the first night of the debates. Among those not making the cut are billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who declared his candidacy on July 9, 2019.

To learn how I calculate NSW-WAPA (national-and-state-weighted weighted-adjusted polling average), please see here[1]. Note that I recently altered my methodology slightly: within my post-early-state weighted average of each candidate’s WAPA, I now weight the nine states[2] scheduled to hold their nomination contests on March 3, 2019 (“Super Tuesday”) twice as much as all subsequent contests[3].

And, of course, here is the July 2019 lighthouse photograph in my Down East 2019 Maine Lighthouses wall calendar.

July 2019 lighthouse.JPG

Table 1 aggregates data from 129 national polls (including 30 weekly Morning Consult tracking polls) released since January 1, 2019; 18 Iowa Caucuses polls; 20 New Hampshire Primary polls; three Nevada Caucuses polls; 17 South Carolina polls; 30 Super Tuesday polls[4] and 30 polls from 12 other states.[5] This makes a total of 247 polls, up from 176 last month.

Table 1: National-and-state-weighted WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate National IA NH NV SC Post-SC NSW-WAPA
Biden 29.6 22.9 24.7 32.6 36.8 27.1 28.6 (-2.6)
Sanders 16.8 15.9 19.5 17.5 13.0 15.7 16.5 (-1.1)
Warren 10.1 12.3 13.8 15.8 8.9 12.2 12.6 (+1.3)
Harris 8.6 9.5 9.1 8.4 9.8 10.1 9.2 (+0.9)
Buttigieg 5.6 9.3 9.7 7.8 5.1 6.9 8.0 (+0.6)
O’Rourke 4.3 3.0 2.5 3.7 2.0 5.7 3.1 (-0.7)
Booker 2.5 2.7 1.8 2.0 3.8 1.5 2.4 (-0.5)
Klobuchar 1.3 2.7 1.4 1.1 0.5 1.2 1.5 (-0.2)
Yang 1.0 0.6 1.2 1.9 0.8 0.6 1.1 (+0.1)
Gabbard 0.7 0.6 1.0 1.1 0.3 0.5 0.73 (+0.09)
Castro 0.9 0.8 0.1 1.0 0.1 1.1 0.59 (+0.04)
Delaney 0.6 0.9 0.5 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.43
Gillibrand 0.4 0.4 0.6 0.0 0.4 0.3 0.41
Hickenlooper 0.4 0.2 0.3 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.24 (+0.04)
Inslee 0.5 0.4 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.2 0.20
Williamson 0.3 0.1 0.3 0.0 0.4 0.1 0.17 (+0.13)
Ryan 0.03 0.1 0.3 0.0 0.2 0.2 0.17 (-0.03)
Bennet 0.2 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.3 0.16 (+0.08)
Steyer 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.0 0.3 0.1 0.10
Bullock 0.00 0.2 0.00 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.07
Gravel 0.3 0.1 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.07
de Blasio 0.2 0.1 0.00 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.05
Moulton 0.00 0.1 0.1 0.0 0.00 0.04 0.04
Messam 0.1 0.00 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.02 0.03
Sestak 0.00 0.1 0.00 n/a 0.00 0.02 0.02
DK/Other 14.1 16.3 12.4 6.7 15.7 15.0 13.3 (+2.0)

Were the Democratic National Committee using NSW-WAPA to determine eligibility for the July Democratic debates, Steyer would be on stage instead of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Still, these are differences of fractions of a 1/10 of a percentage point—a coin flip would be just as effective.

It is clear the first Democratic presidential nomination debates measurably impacted the relative standing of the candidates. Thus, while he remains the (nominal) front-runner, especially in South Carolina (36.8%, well ahead of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at 13.0%), former Vice President Joe Biden saw his support drop 2.6 percentage points (“points”) to 28.6% in just over one month. This is a substantial amount given that my methodology (slow to discount older polls; weighs early state polls much higher than national polls) mitigates against rapid polling fluctuations. Other candidates with notable declines are Sanders (-1.1 points to 16.5%), former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke (-0.7 points) and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker (-0.5 points).

By contrast, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren continues her steady climb, from 8.5% at the beginning of June, to 11.3% at the end of June to 12.6% at the end of July; she is close to challenging Sanders for the second spot behind Biden. California Senator Kamala Harris, meanwhile, has moved back into fourth place behind Warren, jumping 0.9 points to 9.2%. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg also climbed 0.6 points (to 8.1%), while a modest increase for entrepreneur Andrew Yang (1.1%) now makes him one of only nine candidates with an NSW-WAPA higher than 1.0.

At this point, fully three-quarters of those likely/eligible to vote in a 2020 Democratic presidential primary or caucus choose one of just five candidates: Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris and Buttigieg. Another 8.1% choose O’Rourke, Booker, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Yang, with fully 13.3% (up 2.0 points[6]) undecided or choosing an unlisted candidate. The remaining 16 candidates are divvying up just 3.7% between them.

**********

A more apples-to-apples way to measure the (short-term) impact of the June Democratic debates is to compare support for each candidate in poll—conducted by the same pollster—in June 2019 (end date no later than June 25, 2019) to those with a start date no earlier than June 28, 2019. Meeting these criteria are eight national polls[7], two Iowa Caucuses polls[8], two New Hampshire Primary polls[9], two South Carolina Primary polls[10] and one Texas poll[11]. For ease of presentation, Table 2 presents data only for the 11 candidates with an NSW-WAPA of 0.5 or higher (including Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro). Values listed are simple arithmetic averages; weighting by pollster quality or time between polls made little difference.

Table 2: Average change in polls from the same pollster before and after June 2019 Democratic presidential debates:

Candidate National IA NH SC TX Weighted Average
Biden -4.9 -8.5 -8.5 -9.0 -4.0 -7.9
Sanders -3.4 -5.5 -1.0 +1.0 0.0 -1.9
Warren +1.8 +5.5 +2.0 +2.0 +2.0 +3.0
Harris +7.3 +11.5 +3.5 +8.5 +7.0 +7.7
Buttigieg -1.1 +2.0 -1.5 -3.0 -4.0 -1.1
O’Rourke -0.3 -1.0 -2.0 -3.0 +2.0 -1.4
Booker -0.5 -2.0 0.0 0.0 -1.0 -0.7
Klobuchar 0.0 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 -0.1
Yang +0.5 0.0 +0.5 -0.5 +1.0 +0.2
Gabbard -0.1 -0.5 +1.5 +1.0 -2.0 +0.3
Castro +0.1 +1.0 +0.5 +0.5 +1.0 +0.7
DK/Other +0.1 -0.5 +1.0 -0.5 -9.0 -1.0

Examined this way, support for Biden in public polls dropped fully 7.9 points from the month prior to the June 2019 Democratic debates to the month after those debates, almost exactly mirroring the 7.7-point increase for Harris. Moreover, the 3.0-point increase for Warren equals the sum of the declines for Sanders (-1.9 points) and Buttigieg (-1.1 points). Also noticeably declining were O’Rourke (-1.4) and Booker (-0.7), while Castro had a modest increase (+0.7). The percentage not choosing a listed candidate actually dropped by a not-insignificant 1.0 points.

**********

To the extent that the polling for the 2020 presidential election between a named Democrat and Republican Donald J. Trump changed, it is due to the modestly-increased likelihood that someone other than Biden (who would hypothetically beat Trump nationally by 8.3 points) and Sanders (by 5.2 points) will be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. Thus, once you weight for the likelihood of being the nominee, the Democrat would beat Trump by 3.4 points. This is actually slightly higher than the median Democratic presidential margin (+3.0 points) in the previous six presidential elections, which include three elections with an incumbent seeking reelection and three elections with no incumbent. However, once you exclude Biden and Sanders, the margin over Trump decreases to 0.4 points; Warren would hypothetically win by 1.4 points and Harris by 0.9 points, while Buttigieg would lose by 1.5 points.

Still, given that state-level results actually determine the winner of a presidential election (via the Electoral College), it is more informative to look to those polls, where they are publicly-available. Using my 3W-RDM, a measure of how much more or less Democratic a state’s voting is relative to the nation as a whole, this polling[12] implies Democrats would win the national popular vote by between 2.4 (excluding former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders) and 5.3 (including Biden and Sanders) points on average. Most encouraging to Democrats should be the polls from Texas (R+15.3), which show a very close race, implying a 12-14-point win nationally for Democrats; these polls confirm strong opportunities for Democrats in the southwest. By contrast, however, a few polls from Democratic-leaning Maine (D+5.9) and Nevada (D+2.0) imply Democrats would lose nationwide by 2-5 points. Those are the exceptions, however, to what is generally encouraging news for Democrats in 2020.

Enjoy the debates!

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 (1).

[2] Alabama, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia

[3] As of this writing, I have at least one poll from (in chronological order) Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Oregon

[4] Primarily from California (13) and Texas (7)

[5] Primarily Florida (9)

[6] This does include polls that limit the number of candidates queried.

[7] Emerson College, Morning Consult Tracking, YouGov, Reuters/Ipsos, Change Research, Quinnipiac University, CNN/SSRS, Fox News

[8] Change Research, YouGov

[9] Change Research, YouGov

[10] Change Research, YouGov

[11] YouGov

[12] From Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, Iowa, Arizona, South Carolina, Minnesota, Nevada, Massachusetts, Florida, New York, Kentucky, Maine, Ohio.

Road trips and the fine art of tipping (Epilogue)

Following the election of Republican Donald J. Trump as president of the United States in 2016, I immediately began to donate small sums to a wide variety of organizations and political candidates. And as the race to the be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee began to take shape, I began making $10 donations to my favorite candidates. Specifically, I donated to eight different candidates (including one Senate candidate in South Carolina), four of the them twice.

As a consequence, however, my e-mail Inbox is flooded with fundraising pitches; nearly all of them go directly into my Trash folder, unopened (ditto for text messages). I did open e-mails that offered to put me into a raffle of sorts if I made another donation, one to meet and have a drink (alcoholic or otherwise) with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and one to be flown to the first Democratic debates, courtesy of California Senator Kamala Harris. I did not win either prize, though, to be fair, I had already briefly met Senator Warren in Logan International Airport in 2013.

Another e-mail I opened revealed that South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg was going to be speaking in Somerville, Massachusetts, a short drive over the Charles River from our Brookline apartment. Intrigued, I soon learned that attendance required a minimum donation of $50. I passed.

But that meant when I received an e-mail from the campaign of former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro alerting me to three town halls the candidate would be holding in July 2019, I was wary. Nowhere in the e-mail could I find a payment requirement, though, so I tried registering to attend the Thursday, July 18, 2019 town hall at Nashua Community College (NCC), scheduled to start at 7 pm.

It was not until I had completed the process that I discovered there was no donation “cover charge”—and I was, in fact, registered. For the day after my wife Nell, the girls and I were scheduled to return from a three-night vacation in Maine…itself the day before I planned to rise at 7:30 am to watch Special Counsel Robert Mueller testify before the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees of the United States House of Representatives (“U.S. House”). I figured the last thing I would want to do was make the hour-long drive (likely twice that at that time of day) to attend a town hall meeting.

But then Mueller’s testimony was postponed until July 24…and I decided, what the heck?

The only question: would I go alone or with one/both daughters?

**********

In Part 1 of this series, I observed that my zeal for tipping stems from three sources:

  1. My father’s example, especially the year he spent driving a taxicab in Philadelphia
  2. My own experience delivering food
  3. Observing how hard folks in the service industry work for a low base salary

I also presented photographic evidence of the appeal of Bath and described an epic six-hour drive (in which I tipped multiple able servers) one recent Sunday night/Monday morning.

Part 2 details that trip to Maine, mixing family adventure (and ample tipping) with two visits to the Denny’s in Augusta, Maine, where I encountered a female manager and a waitress who exemplified matter-of-factness (and, in the latter case, sunny optimism) in the face of personal setbacks.

**********

Our social butterfly nine-year-old daughter had a previously-scheduled engagement that Thursday afternoon (requiring Nell’s oversight), leaving our 11-year-old daughter free. Grudgingly, she agreed to make what I anticipated would be a two-hour drive north to Nashua. I mitigated her reluctance somewhat by promising that if she got too bored, she could take her book and read quietly somewhere, just so long as I knew where she was.

Meanwhile, while the Denny’s in Salem, New Hampshire that used to be the endpoint of many a meandering solo nocturnal drive had closed, the one in Nashua is still open…and still open 24 hours a day. I told “11” (hat tip here) that we could stop for a meal there after the town hall.

“What kind of food do they have?” she asked.

I answered something to the effect of “a little bit of everything” before “9” chimed in with, “They have crepes!” Apparently, the latter daughter had seen a commercial for Denny’s highlighting their new crepes. I was dubious but said nothing.

Because the doors would open at 6:30 pm, my plan was to leave no later than 4:30 pm, knowing that our route—Beacon Street west to I-95 north to US 3 north—would put us in rush hour traffic. And, in fact, we pulled into the NCC parking lot shortly at about 6:25 pm, giving me time to make a mad dash for the men’s room.

Having answered that urgent call of nature, we checked in at the table covered in bumper stickers, window placards and informational brochures. I grabbed a handful of bumper stickers and brochures, provided my e-mail address (“You already have my e-mail address.” “Yes, but we like to have an accurate head count.” Fair enough), and found two seats for us. They were about three rows back from the platform on which Secretary Castro would speak, to the right if you were standing on stage.   4130-32

IMG_4130.JPG

And we waited. I instantly regretted not bringing my coffee thermos (black, half regular/half decaf) from the car, but I did not want to risk missing anything.

I need not have worried. Seven pm came and went, with no sign of Secretary Castro.

At 7:23 pm, I began tweeting…more out of boredom than annoyance (“11” was engrossed in her book):

Waiting for @JulianCastro to start his Nashua, NH town hall. (Running 22 minutes late)

The two young women in pink Planned Parenthood t-shirts sitting behind us are cracking me up, dissecting the admittedly-eclectic playlist and the relative heights of the various candidates.

Ten minutes later:

32 minutes and counting…

Finally, at 7:40 pm, some news:

“He should be here very soon. His flight was extremely delayed from San Antonio.”

Oy.

40 minutes and counting…

Soon after, a young female aide began to distribute blank pieces of white paper (hastily cut into halves) for attendees to write questions for Secretary Castro. I had hoped that I—or even “11”—could ask a question live, but they were trying to save time. The question I wrote (“11” demurred), having just read Rachel Maddow’s excellent Drift, was “Under what circumstances, if any, would you bypass Congress to deploy American troops?”

At around 7:50 pm, a local student organizer took the stage to explain how Secretary Castro’s position on strengthening public schools was why he was backing him. He then introduced a longtime leader of New Hampshire’s Latinx Democrats (I neglected to record his name).

I noticed that once they started to speak, the previously apathetic “11” started to pay close attention.

Finally, at 8:04 pm, the second speaker gestured to our rear…and I turned to see Secretary Castro standing there, smiling widely, wearing a white dress shirt open at the color and black suit pants.

And the entire room came to life. As I tweeted:

8:04 pm — Secretary Castro takes the stage to standing ovation.

**********

Cynics may mock the first-in-the-nation status of the Iowa Caucuses and venerable New Hampshire Primary, primarily because they are predominantly white rural states, but I have two counter-arguments:

  1. Recently, both states have become swing states at the presidential level, with Iowa just 4.7 points more Republican than the nation as a whole—and New Hampshire all of 0.1 points more Democratic.
  1. For all that you can follow various presidential candidates on television and other media, nothing better reveals what a candidate is like than to see her or him negotiate a town hall, where anyone and everyone can ask any and every question they choose. And said candidate must answer every question.

There are many versions of the apocryphal story of the New Hampshire voter who, when asked whether she was ready to support Candidate X, responded that, well, she had only met him four times, so it was too soon to say.

Conversations I overheard in the audience confirmed that notion, including the young ladies sitting behind us who were both remarking on the height of former Texas U.S. House member Beto O’Rourke and dissecting the eclectic playlist that, with great foresight, did not repeat a song for nearly 90 minutes. New Hampshire (and Iowa) voters take their roles as the earliest voters very seriously.

And besides, the 2020 Massachusetts Democratic Primary, in which Nell and I cast our ballots, is on March 3, only 24 days after the 2020 New Hampshire Primary.

**********

Secretary Castro has been a top choice of mine since I watched his announcement video on January 16, 2019. His remarks that Thursday night covered much of the same ground, including the fact his grandmother emigrated from Mexico to Texas when she was seven years old, supporting herself as a maid and house cleaner. Her daughter became a single mother to Secretary Castro and his twin brother Joaquin, now a Democratic member of the U.S. House from Texas, when her husband died while the Castro brothers were young. Those same brothers would ultimately attend Ivy League universities, earn law degrees, and achieve high-level political offices.

I single out these biographical elements because they resonate deeply with me. Both of my grandfathers[1] were born it what was then called the Pale of Settlement, arriving in Philadelphia (where I was born) when they were four and seven years old, speaking only Yiddish. One became a successful business owner and community leader, while the other served on the Philadelphia Police Department for nearly 20 years. Ten years after I was born, meanwhile, my parents would separate, and my mother (who would soon buy the small carpet-cleaning company she first joined as a telephone solicitor in 1976) raised me alone; my father died a few years later, aged 46. I would then attend Yale (BA, political science, 1988) and Harvard (MA [ABD], government. 1995) before earning a doctorate in epidemiology in May 2015. That said, the highest political office I have yet won is Chair of the Ezra Stiles College Council.

Still, while his remarks were familiar, he was even more charismatic in person, speaking completely off the cuff about a wide range of domestic issues, including health care, education, jobs and wages, and immigration. Curiously, it was only during the latter discussion that he mentioned President Trump. The question of impeachment never arose.

What also never arose, including in the four questions he answered (I only remember the first one—”How will you make immigrants feel welcome?”—because it was asked by a local nine-year-old girl) was any discussion of foreign, national security or military policy. That is not, apparently, what interests early-state voters at this point. I made this same observation to two high school girls who interviewed me for their newspaper as I stood in the “selfie line.”

Or, as I tweeted at 9:05 pm:

45 minutes of remarks followed by four questions. Audience rapt. My 10-year-old daughter even interested.

Striking, though, that outside of immigration—not a single word or question about foreign or military policy.

Now waiting in line for photo. 🙂

Yes, that is an egregious typo regarding “11” s age. I make no excuse.

As the selife line snaked slowly forward, Secretary Castro excitely announced that he would appear on night 2 of the July 30-31, 2019 Democratic presidential nomination debates. He also read of the names of the nine other candidates with whom he would be appearing.

Shortly after this news, “11” asked how much longer we would be. I said, in that hopeful parental way, “not too much longer…but you may sit down if you want.” Relieved, she did just that.

And then something remarkable happened.

She quietly put down her book, walked over to the registration table, and picked up one of the placards. As she sat down again, she asked me to make sure she went on stage with me so that she could get Secretary Castro to sign it.

Well, I’ll be. (To be fair, she still prefers Harris or Warren…but if Castro ran with a female vice-presidential running mate, she would be down with that).

Finally, we walked on to the stage; for the record, I am a hair under 5’10” tall.   4135

IMG_4135.JPG

As a young male aide kept his finger pressed on the photo app of my iPhone, I introduced myself, thanking Secretary Castro for adding his voice to the most diverse field of candidates ever; I have never been prouder to be a Democrat, I added. He then turned to “11,” who politely (and with great maturity) introduced herself, after which he asked what grade she was in.

Oh, and he signed her placard.

Castro 2020 poster 1.JPG

Castro 2020 poster 2.JPG

And that was that.

*********

We made our way to Denny’s, and not a moment too soon because I was famished. “11” ordered the banana chocolate hazelnut crepes (“9” was correct) with scrambled eggs, hash browns and bacon (she ate about half of that, which was fine) along with orange juice. I ordered their version of a chicken cheesesteak with peppers and onions, seasoned fries (of course) and decaf.

Our order was taken by an older white-haired waitress best described as “a lifer.” She was cheerful and efficient, and when a rowdy party was seated in our section—with a husband sitting in a booth with four other patrons, while his wife and two men sat a nearby table—she never lost her cool.

I tipped her accordingly.

The drive south to Brookline was much faster, and we arrived home shortly after 11 pm. “11” and I chattered incessantly, both about the town hall and more personal, edge-of-adolescence matters, the entire way.

*********

I end where I began, pointing out that all servers must be adequately tipped, both because it is primarily how they earn a living and because it simply is the decent human thing to do. Mr. Pink’s cynical aversion to tipping is flat wrong, as the opening scene of Reservoir Dogs makes that clear.

One final note about art.

On June 2, 2019, I drove to Providence, Rhode Island to spend time with a close college friend who lives in Beirut, Lebanon; he was there for a mathematics conference. We ate a superb meal here, then we walked and talked for a bit. Down one street, I came across this passionate call to artistic arms.

Until next time…

[1] By which I mean my “legal” grandfathers. I was adopted in utero.

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!

**********

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.

June 2019 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.

June 2019 calendar photo.JPG

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

**********

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.

A wicked early look at 2020 Senate and gubernatorial races

In recent posts, I began to take a wicked early look at the 2020 U.S. elections. First, I assessed the field of Democrats seeking to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in 2020. Then I turned to the 2020 presidential election itself, pondering how Democrats would potentially fare against Trump.

Now I turn my attention to

  1. The 34 elections for United States Senate (“Senate”) to be held in 2020.
  2. The three gubernatorial elections to be held 2019 (Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi) and the 11 gubernatorial elections to be held in 2020.

My goal is primarily to provide the view from 30,000 feet: what the “fundamentals” in each race reveal about the overall partisan landscape—and what the likelihood is Democrats will have the Senate majority in January 2021 (and cut into the Republican advantage in governor’s mansions) As such, I only briefly discuss actual or potential candidates in these races, other than incumbents seeking reelection.

“Fundamentals” are simply the sum of three values:

  1. The state’s partisan lean, measured by my 3W-RDM (weighted[1] three-election average of the difference between a state’s Democratic [minus Republican] margin in a presidential election and the Democratic [minus Republican] margin in the total national vote in that election).
  2. The estimated effect of incumbency (incumbent office-holders tend to receive a higher percentage of the vote than an open-seat candidate of the same party).
  3. The national partisan lean, as measure by the “generic ballot” question (variations on “If the election for were held today, would you vote for the Democratic candidate, the Republican candidate, or some other candidate?”)

**********

Just bear with me as I explain how I estimated the effect of incumbency for Senate and gubernatorial elections. As usual, unless otherwise noted, election data come from Dave Liep’s indispensable Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections.

Senate. I first calculated an “expected margin of victory”[2] for each Democratic Senate nominee in the 35 Senate elections in 2018[3], the 34 Senate elections in 2016[4] and the 35 Senate elections in 2014[5]: a state’s 3W-RDM plus the national Democratic margin (minus Republican percentage of all votes cast) in that year’s elections. Using three elections years guarantees a minimum of two Senate elections from each state. The margins for the three previous Senate election years are:

2014 = D-5.8%

2016 = D+0.9%

2018 = D+9.9%

Next, I subtracted each actual margin (Democratic minus Republican) from the “expected” margin. I then calculated three averages of these differences within each election year:

  1. Races with Democratic incumbents
  2. Races with Republican incumbents
  3. Open-seat races (where expected margin is for party currently holding the office)

Within each election year, then, the effect of incumbency for Democrats is simply the first average minus the third average[6], while the Republican advantage is the second average minus the third average[7]. And the estimated effect of incumbency for each party is the weighted average (2018=3, 2016=2, 2014=1) of the election-year averages.

For Democratic Senate incumbents, the effect is +4.4 percentage points (“points”), and for Republican Senate incumbents the effect is +2.6 points. Somewhat arbitrarily, I divide these values by 1.5 for incumbents who have won a special election, but not yet served a full six-year term and by 2.0 for incumbents who were appointed to the seat and have yet to face the voters.

Governor. Complicating these calculations is that five states hold their gubernatorial elections in odd-numbered years; thus, in November 2019, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi will elect a governor, as will New Jersey and Virginia in November 2021.

As a result, I analyzed data from two-year cycles: 38 gubernatorial elections in each of 2017-18[8] and 2013-14[9], and 15 gubernatorial elections in each of 2015-16[10] and 2011-12[11]; going back to 2011 guarantees at least two gubernatorial elections from each state (with New Hampshire and Vermont, which hold gubernatorial elections every two years, included four times[12]). The calculations were otherwise the same, except for calculating a four-cycle weighted average (4,3,2,1)[13]: for Democratic gubernatorial incumbents, the effect is +5.7 points, and for Republican gubernatorial incumbents the effect is +8.5 points.

That the effect of incumbency is stronger for governors than for Senators reflects how partisan Senate elections have become.

**********

Let us now turn to the elections themselves. I base the “national lean” of D+6.0 on generic ballot polls listed on FiveThirtyEight.com, which have varied between D+2 and D+9—and mostly between D+5 and D+7—over the last few weeks. While this value is broadly in line with the last four Senate election years (weighted average=D+4.3 points; unweighted average from last two presidential election years= D+6.5), it is much higher than the last four gubernatorial election cycles (weighted average=D-0.6 points; unweighted average from last two presidential election years= D-3.2).

2020 Senate elections. Republicans currently hold 53 Senate seats, with 47 held by Democrats (including Independent Senators Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucus with Democrats), meaning that to win back the majority in 2020, Democrats need either to win a net four seats, or win a net three seats and win the presidential election (Democratic Vice President would break 50-50 tie).

Table 1. 2020 Senate election overview

Name State Run

2020

3W-RDM INC Nat

Lean

Total Last margin First elected
DEMOCRATS
Edward Markey MA Yes 22.1 4.4 6.0 32.5 23.9% 2013
Jack Reed RI Yes 18.0 4.4 6.0 28.4 41.3% 1996
Richard Durbin IL Yes 14.7 4.4 6.0 25.1 14.6% 1996
Chris Coons DE Yes 12.5 4.4 6.0 22.9 13.6% 2010
Cory Booker NJ Yes 12.0 4.4 6.0 22.4 13.5% 2012
Jeff Merkley OR Yes 8.7 4.4 6.0 19.1 18.9% 2008
Tom Udall NM No 6.5 0.0 6.0 12.5 N/A
Gary Peters MI Yes 2.2 4.4 6.0 12.6 13.3% 2014
Mark Warner VA Yes 1.5 4.4 6.0 11.9 0.8% 2008
Tina Smith MN Yes 1.5 2.9 6.0 10.4 10.6% 2018
Jeanne Shaheen NH Yes 0.1 4.2 6.0 10.3 3.3% 2008
Doug Jones AL Yes -28.4 2.2 6.0 -20.2 1.7% 2017
 
REPUBLICANS
Susan Collins ME Yes 5.9 -2.4 6.0 9.5 37.0% 1996
Cory Gardner CO Yes 2.2 -2.4 6.0 5.8 1.9% 2014
Joni Ernst IA Yes -4.7 -2.4 6.0 -1.1 8.3% 2014
Thom Tillis NC Yes -6.0 -2.4 6.0 -2.4 1.6% 2014
David Perdue GA Yes -9.6 -2.4 6.0 -6.0 7.7% 2014
Martha McSally AZ Yes -9.7 -1.2 6.0 -4.9 Apptd 2019
John Cornyn TX Yes -15.3 -2.4 6.0 -11.7 27.2% 2002
Lindsey Graham SC Yes -15.7 -2.4 6.0 -12.1 15.5% 2002
Cindy Hyde-Smith MS Yes -18.5 -1.6 6.0 -14.1 7.3% 2018
Steve Daines MT Yes -18.6 -2.4 6.0 -15.0 17.7% 2014
Dan Sullivan AK Yes -19.2 -2.4 6.0 -15.6 2.1% 2014
Bill Cassidy LA Yes -22.2 -2.4 6.0 -18.6 11.9% 2014
Pat Roberts KS No -23.4 0.0 6.0 -17.4 N/A
Lamar Alexander TN No -25.8 0.0 6.0 -19.8 N/A
Ben Sasse NE Yes -25.8 -2.4 6.0 -22.2 32.8% 2014
Mike Rounds SD Yes -25.8 -2.4 6.0 -22.2 20.9% 2014
Tom Cotton AR Yes -28.2 -2.4 6.0 -24.6 17.1% 2014
Mitch McConnell KY Yes -28.7 -2.4 6.0 -25.1 15.5% 1984
James Risch ID Yes -34.2 -2.4 6.0 -30.6 30.7% 2008
Shelley Moore Capito WV Yes -35.5 -2.4 6.0 -31.9 27.7% 2014
James Inhofe OK Yes -38.1 -2.4 6.0 -34.5 39.5% 1994
Mike Enzi WY No -45.7 0 6.0 -39.7 N/A

At first glance, Democrats appear to have a significant advantage in the 2020 Senate elections (Table 1): of 34 Senate elections scheduled for November 2020, fully two-thirds (22) are currently Republican-held. And of those 22 seats, fully 73% (16) are potentially more vulnerable because they include…

Moreover, only one currently-Democratic seat appears particularly vulnerable as of now: Jones’ seat in deep-red Alabama (D-28.4); a reasonable estimate is that Jones would lose to a generic Republican by around 20 points. Even with the full effect of incumbency (+4.2), a repeat of Democrats’ strong overall performance in 2018 (D+9.9) and a pro-Democratic error of 5.4 points in 3W-RDM (the average miss over time), Jones would still be down about nine points to a generic Republican. Yes, Jones overcame similar odds in December 2017, but that was against a severely compromised Republican opponent.

And while first-term Democratic Senators Gary Peters of Michigan and Tina Smith of Minnesota (who won by double-digits in November 2018 after being appointed to replace Democrat Al Franken in December 2017) could be vulnerable—along with Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Mark Warner of Virginia, who narrowly won reelection in 2014—if Democrats only break even in 2020, as of now, they appear quite likely to prevail. They would join six safe Democratic incumbents (Ed Markey, Jack Reed, Richard Durbin, Chris Coons, Cory Booker[14] and Jeff Merkley) and a likely-safe open seat in New Mexico (with Democratic United States House of Representatives member [“Representative”] Ben Ray Luján a strong candidate to win the seat).

Ben Ray Lujan

2020 New Mexico Democratic Senate candidate Ben Ray Luján,

However, Democrats should not be banking on New York Senator Chuck Schumer switching from Minority to Majority Leader in January 2021 just yet. While as many as 16 Republican-held seats are arguably vulnerable, only two are in states that even lean Democratic: Maine (D+5.9) and Colorado (D+2.2). And while Gardner is clearly vulnerable (he underperformed by about four points in 2014, when he beat incumbent Democrat Mark Udall), even a slight improvement by Republicans in the total national Senate vote puts that seat at toss-up status, at best. And Collins has been winning statewide in Maine since 1996, including winning her fourth term by an eye-popping 37.0 points!

Plus, the next four most vulnerable Republican incumbents (all finishing their first term)—Ernst, Tillis, Perdue and McSally—represent states averaging 7.5 points more Republican than the nation as a whole; this is why even in a very good Democratic year the fundamentals have these races “toss-up” at best. Moreover, while it is true that Ernst, Tillis and Perdue won in 2014 by an average of just 5.9 points (with McSally losing by 2.3 points in 2018)—a hair over the overall Senate Republican that year—all four now have the modest added advantage of running as incumbents in lean-Republican states. And where Democrats have a strong candidate to run against McSally—former astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of former Representative Gabby Giffords (D-AZ)—other strong candidates such as former Iowa Governor (and Secretary of Agriculture) Tom Vilsack and former Georgia House Speaker Stacey Abrams have ruled out running for the Senate in 2020.

Mark Kelly

Left to right: former Representative Gabby Giffords and 2020 Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly

Abrams and Vilsack are not the only high-profile Democrats choosing not to challenge vulnerable incumbent Republican Senators. Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice will not challenge Collins, while former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is running for president in 2020 instead.

Beyond those six races, Democratic chances to flip seats only get slimmer. Former South Carolina Democratic Party chair Jaime Harrison is formally exploring a bid against Senator Lindsey Graham. And while former Representative Beto O’Rourke (D-TX; running for president) and Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX) passed on a run, Air Force veteran Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar, who came within 3 points of defeating incumbent Representative John Carter (D-TX) in 2018, plans to run against Senator John Cornyn. Even with Democrats winning nationally by six points, however, the fundamentals suggest both Harrison and Hegar begin their races down around 12 points.

Jaime Harrison

2020 South Carolina Senate Democratic candidate Jaime Harrison

MJ Hegar

2020 Texas Senate Democratic candidate MJ Hegar

Mississippi, meanwhile, will see a rematch between Espy and Hyde-Smith as she seeks a first full term. But while he came within about seven points of unseating her in 2018, this will be a tough Senate race for Democrats to win, as the fundamentals have him down by 15.1 points—similar to the Democratic position against first-term Senators Daines in Montana (where outgoing Democratic Governor Steve Bullock is apparently running for president instead) and Sullivan (who only defeated Democratic incumbent Mark Begich by 2.1 points in 2014) in Alaska.

Mike Espy.jpg

2020 Mississippi Democratic Senate candidate Mike Espy

That leaves 11 Republican-held Senate seats which average 30.3 points more Republican than the nation. Even with three open seats it is very difficult to see how Democrats flip any of them. One intriguing exception, however, could be in Kentucky, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (quite unpopular at home) is seeking a seventh term; if Air Force veteran Amy McGrath (who, like Hegar, came within three points of defeating an incumbent Republican Representative in 2018—in this case Andy Barr) were to run, she may be able to overcome the fundamentals showing a generic Democrat down 25.1 points to McConnell.

The bottom line?

While there are several plausible paths for Democrats to win back a Senate majority in 2020…

  1. Win presidency; Jones win in Alabama; win Maine and Colorado and one of Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona
  2. Win presidency; Jones lose in Alabama; win Maine and Colorado and two of Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona
  3. Lose presidency; Jones win in Alabama; win Maine and Colorado and two of Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona
  4. Lose presidency; Jones lose in Alabama; win Maine and Colorado and three of Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona
  5. Any of 1-4 above but substituting wins in even more Republican states such as Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alaska and Kentucky.

…a great deal would have to go just right for Democrats in each scenario. In fact, it is easy to foresee anything from Democrats net losing a handful of seats (Alabama and some combination of Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Virginia) to winning a clear majority (holding Alabama, sweeping the six most vulnerable states and maybe even picking off South Carolina and/or Texas and/or Mississippi and/or Kentucky) is possible.

The silver lining for Democrats, though, is that forcing Republicans to invest money, time and resources in states like Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas makes it that much harder for them to beat Democratic incumbents in Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Virginia.

2019-20 Gubernatorial elections. Republicans currently occupy governor’s mansions in 27 states, with Democrats occupying the remaining 23.

Three gubernatorial elections will be held in 2019, all in southern states averaging 23.1 points more Republican than the nation (Table 2). The lone Democrat is John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, and while the fundamentals have him down to a generic Republican by 10.5 points, he is generally popular with voters in his state and thus more likely than not to win reelection. By contrast, the only Republican governor to seek reelection this year—Matt Bevin of Kentucky—is the least popular governor in the country; still, the fundamentals have him beating a generic Democrat by a whopping 31.2 points. As for the open seat in Mississippi, the fundamentals have a generic Republican defeating a generic Democrat by 12.5 points.

This means that the likeliest outcome is no net change in partisan control of governor’s mansions in 2019—though that could mean the parties switch control in Louisiana and Kentucky!

Table 2. 2019-20 Gubernatorial election overview

Name State Run

2019/ 2020

3W-RDM INC Nat

Lean

Total Last margin First elected
2019 DEMOCRATS
John Bel Edwards LA Yes -22.2 5.7 6.0 -10.5 12.2% 2015
2019 REPUBLICANS
Phil Bryant MS No -18.5 0.0 6.0 -12.5 N/A
Matt Bevin KY Yes -28.7 -8.5 6.0 -31.2 8.7% 2015
2020 DEMOCRATS
John Carney DE Yes 12.5 5.7 6.0 24.2 19.2% 2016
Jay Inslee WA No 12.1 0.0 6.0 18.1 N/A
Roy Cooper NC Yes -6.0 5.7 6.0 5.7 0.2% 2016
Steve Bullock MT No -18.6 0.0 6.0 -12.6 N/A
 
2020 REPUBLICANS
Phil Scott VT Yes 27.7 -8.5 6.0 25.2 14.9% 2016
Chris Sununu NH Yes 0.1 -8.5 6.0 -2.4 7.0% 2016
Eric Holcomb IN Yes -16.3 -8.5 6.0 -18.8 6.0% 2016
Mike Parson MO Yes -15.9 -4.3 6.0 -14.2 Succ 2018
James Justice WV Yes -35.5 -8.5 6.0 -38.0 6.8% 2016
Doug Burgum ND Yes -29.4 -8.5 6.0 -31.9 57.1% 2016
Gary Herbert UT No -33.1 0.0 6.0 -27.1 N/A

Looking ahead to 2020, two states currently governed by Democrats, Delaware and Washington, are all-but-certain to remain in Democratic hands, with Governor John Carney poised to reprise his nearly-20-point win in 2016 and a Democrat (state Attorney General Bob Ferguson?) heavily favored to succeed Governor Jay Inslee (running for president instead).

Equally certain to remain in Republican hands are West Virginia and North Dakota (where James Justice—who switched parties after winning as a Democrat in 2016—and Doug Burgum will seek reelection), as well as Utah, where Governor Gary Herbert is term-limited from seeking reelection.  The fundamentals in these states have Republicans ahead by 32.3 points over a generic Democrat.

That leaves six races which could be competitive—although Governors Eric Holcomb of Indiana and Mike Parson (who became governor in June 2018, following the resignation of Eric Greitens, just elected in 2016) of Missouri—are ahead in the fundamentals by 14-19 points.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper barely defeated Republican incumbent Pat McCrory in 2016, and while the fundamentals have him beating a generic Republican by 5.7 points, this race would be a pure toss-up in a neutral partisan environment. Montana is another story, though, with Bullock retiring after two terms (and 16 consecutive years of Democratic governors); the fundamentals suggest a generic Republican would win back the governor’s mansion in Helena by 12.6 points (and that is with Democrats winning by six points nationally).

That only leaves two New England Republican governors who just won reelection last year, but who the fundamentals see as highly vulnerable: Phil Scott, who won by nearly 15 points in deep-blue Vermont (D+27.7), and Chris Sununu, who “only” won by 7.0 points in swing-state New Hampshire. If they did not lose in 2018, though, it is unlikely (though not impossible) they will lose in 2020.

The bottom line?

As of May 2019, the 14 gubernatorial elections in 2019 and 2020 will most likely result in a net gain of 1 (with Republicans winning the open governor’s seat in Montana) governor’s mansion, expanding their overall lead to 28-22—but races this year in Kentucky and Louisiana, and next year in Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Vermont could yet surprise.

Until next time…

[1] The most recent election is weighted “3,” the 2nd-most recent election is weighted “2” and the 3rd-most recent election is weighted “1.”

[2] That is, relative to the Republican candidate. I excluded data from special elections such as the December 2017 Senate election in Alabama.

[3] For the California Senate election, I used the total votes for Democratic, Republican and all-other-party candidates in the June 5, 2018 “jungle primary.” For the Mississippi special Senate election, I used the results from the runoff election on November 27, 2018. For the Maine and Vermont Senate races, I counted as “Democratic” votes those cast for Independent Senators Angus King and Bernie Sanders, respectively, since each man caucuses with the Democrats (and there was no Democratic Senate nominee in Vermont); in Maine, I counted the Democratic votes as “other.” Notably, counting votes for King and Sanders as “other” (and Democratic votes in Maine as “Democratic”) only changes the national Democratic margin from +9.9 percentage points to +9.4.

[4] For the California Senate election, I used the total votes for Democratic, Republican and all-other-party candidates in the June 7, 2016 “jungle primary.” For the Louisiana Senate election, I used the results from the runoff election on December 10, 2016.

[5] I excluded the Alabama Senate race in which Republican incumbent Jeff Sessions ran unopposed.

[6] These values were +0.9% in 2018, +6.5% in 2016 and +10.6% in 2014.

[7] These values were +2.6% in 2018, +3.6% in 2016 and -0.7% in 2014.

[8] I counted the 2018 Alaska gubernatorial election as a Democratic open seat after Independent Governor Bill Walker suspended his reelection campaign on October 19, 2018, throwing his support to Democratic nominee Mark Begich.

[9] I counted Walker as a Democrat in 2014 Alaska gubernatorial election (though counting him as “Other” would have made little material difference). I counted the Rhode Island gubernatorial election as a Democratic open seat although outgoing Governor Lincoln Chafee was an Independent (who briefly sought the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination).

[10] For the 2015 Louisiana gubernatorial election, I used data from the runoff election held November 21, 2015.

[11] Because incumbent Republican governor Bobby Jindal easily cleared the 50% threshold on election day 2011, for the 2011 Louisiana gubernatorial election, I used the sum of all votes cast for the candidate of each political party (Republican, Democrat, Other) that day.

[12] West Virginia is counted three times because it also held a special gubernatorial election in 2011.

[13] Democratic incumbency “advantage” was +2.0% in 2017-18, +6.3% in 2015-16, +5.7% in 2013-14 and +18.9% in 2011-12; the corresponding Republican values were +17.3%, -3.4%, +10.3% and +5.1%.

[14] Or whoever replaces him, should he become the next president or vice president of the United States.

May 2019 update: Democratic presidential nomination and general election polling

It has become a tradition that for my birthday my wife and daughters present me with a new Maine (usually lighthouse-themed) wall calendar from Down East.

May 2019 calendar.JPG

Last year was no exception; here is the May 2019 entry on my “Maine Lighthouses” calendar.

I use this photograph to introduce what I anticipate to be a monthly updating of two recent posts:

**********

I begin with the 2020 Democratic nomination polling, assessed by 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 pollster quality and number of days to a given primary or caucuses. The NSW weights are, in rank order, Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary (weight=5), Nevada Caucuses and South Carolina Primary (4), a time-weighted average of all post-South Carolina nominating contests (2) and national (1).

Since the initial post, there have been

  • 16 new national polls (including 4 Morning Consult tracking polls)
  • 2 Iowa Caucuses polls
  • 3 New Hampshire Primary polls
  • 0 Nevada Caucuses polls
  • 1 South Carolina Primary poll
  • 2 Texas Primary polls
  • 1 poll each for the California, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin Primaries

… for a total of 27 new polls (and 86 in 2019).

Three of the 16 “new” national polls were conducted wholly (ABC News/Washington Post, January 21-24, 2019; CNN/SSRS, March 14-17, 2019) or partially (USC Dornsife/LA Times, March 15-April 15, 2019) before March 31, 2019. I also fixed a few formula errors in my Excel workbook, so comparisons of polling averages between the previous post and this post should be taken with a modicum of salt.

One other change is that an additional 10 candidates were included in at least one national or state-level poll,[1] including former Alaska United States Senator (“Senator”) Mike Gravel, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (“Representative”) Nancy Pelosi, actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and President Donald Trump, bringing the overall total to 53!

As for candidacy declarations, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced on April 17, 2019 that he would NOT seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. But four other candidates declared their candidacy since the previous post: California Representative Eric Swalwell, Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton, former Vice President Joe Biden and Colorado Senator Michael Bennet (with Montana Governor Steve Bullock hinting at a declaration later in May 2019).

And that still leaves former Georgia House Speaker Stacey Abrams, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gravel as possible candidates, for a total of 25.

As of May 2, 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 27.7 25.8 21.3 26.0 34.5 26.7 26.6 (-1.9)
Sanders 18.6 18.0 22.1 23.0 15.3 21.2 19.8 (-1.0)
Harris 8.2 8.3 7.6 9.0 10.6 9.5 8.8 (-1.3)
Warren 6.5 7.8 7.3 10.0 6.3 8.4 7.8 (-0.4)
O’Rourke 6.6 5.3 4.1 10.0 7.3 9.1 6.7 (+0.5)
Buttigieg 4.3 6.3 8.7 5.0 3.1 6.2 5.9 (+3.5)
Booker 3.2 4.1 3.4 2.0 8.2 2.7 4.1 (-0.1)
Klobuchar 1.7 3.6 2.6 2.0 1.0 2.2 2.3 (-0.4)
Yang 0.72 0.40 0.80 3.0 0.68 1.0 1.1 (+0.3)
Gabbard 0.65 0.41 0.79 2.0 0.74 0.56 0.89 (0.0)
Gillibrand 0.65 0.51 0.90 1.0 1.4 0.54 0.88 (-0.2)
Castro 0.91 0.98 0.07 1.0 0.68 1.5 0.76 (+0.2)
Abrams 0.21 0.00 0.00 0.00 3.1 0.17 0.62 (+0.6)
Delaney 0.33 0.90 0.45 0.00 0.00 0.17 0.35 (+0.1)
Hickenlooper 0.68 0.32 0.13 0.00 0.68 0.37 0.30 (+0.1)
Swalwell 0.17 0.28 0.29 0.00 0.23 0.17 0.20 (+0.1)
Ryan 0.18 0.19 0.58 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.19 (+0.2)
Inslee 0.46 0.42 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.24 0.15 (-0.0)
Messam 0.00 0.00 0.29 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.07 (+0.1)
Bullock 0.20 0.13 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.04 (0.0)
Bennet 0.03 0.13 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.03 (0.0)
Gravel 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.11 0.01 (0.0)
de Blasio 0.18 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.01 (0.0)
Williamson 0.11 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.01 (0.0)
Moulton 0.03 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.03 0.00 (0.0)
DK/Other 17.8 16.3 18.8 6.0 6.2 9.1 12.4 (+0.7)

The data in Table 1 suggest the following as of May 2, 2019:

  1. The top five candidates remain the same (and in the same order): Biden (26.6%), Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (19.8%), California Senator Kamala Harris (8.8%), Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (7.8%), former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke (6.7%).
  2. That said, more than half (53.6%) of potential Democratic primary/caucus voters prefer someone other than Biden or Sanders.
  3. The gap between Harris and Warren for 3rd place has narrowed from 1.9 percentage points (“points”) to 1.0 points.
  4. Surging from 8th to 6th place was South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose NSW-WAPA jumped from 2.4% to 5.9%—a remarkable 3.5-point jump.
  5. Buttigieg’s surge seems mostly to have come at the expense of Biden (-1.9), Sanders (-1.0) and Harris (-1.3). It also knocked New Jersey Senator Cory Booker (4.1%) and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar (2.3%) down one spot to 7th and 8th, respectively.
  6. Biden’s relative decline masks the fact he has seen a mini-bump in the national polls (weighted much lower than state polls) since his April 25, 2019 declaration of candidacy—and that he had been dropping somewhat before that.
  7. The mini-surge for O’Rourke (+0.5) comes entirely from two April 2019 polls of the 2020 Texas presidential primary[2]; O’Rourke averages 23.5% in the two polls, just ahead of Biden (21.5%), Sanders (18.0%) and Buttigieg (11.5%).
  8. The only other candidate to make an appreciable move was entrepreneur Andrew Yang (1.1%), from 11th to 9th, knocking New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (0.88%) from 11th to 9th. To be fair, however, they are separated by less than ¼ of a point.
  9. Rounding out the top 10 is Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard (0.89%), meaning five of the top 11 choices are women—all current members of the U.S. House or Senate.
  10. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Juan Cástro (0.76%) saw his NSW-WAPA increase slightly, but he is still stuck in 12th place overall, just ahead of…
  11. …Abrams, who at 0.62%, is the highest-ranked non-declared candidate.
  12. The remaining 12 declared/potential candidates—Maryland Representative John Delaney; former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper: Swalwell; Ohio Representative Tim Ryan; Washington Governor Jay Inslee; Miramar, FL Mayor Wayne Messam; Bullock; Bennet; Gravel; de Blasio; author Marianne Williamson and Moulton—continue to languish well below 0.5%.
  13. Even with a choice of 25 declared and potential candidates, 1 in 8 respondents still could not state a preference (11.9%) or preferred some other candidate (0.5%).

With all that, the fundamental pecking order remains the same for the 2020 Democrats (unlikely to change before the first Democratic presidential candidate debates on June 26-27, 2019[3]):  Biden and Sanders are the clear leaders, splitting just under half of the overall vote between them (46.4%), followed by Harris, Warren, O’Rourke and Buttigieg (29.2% total). Just behind these six are Booker and Klobuchar (6.2% total). Add Yang’s 1.1%, and 5 of every 6 Democrats polled prefer a total of nine candidates. While one of those nine men and women will probably (but not definitively) be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, the race is very much in flux with more than 15 months until Democrats convene in Milwaukee, WI on July 13, 2020.

**********

Little has changed since my first wicked early look at how various potential Democratic nominees fared against President Trump in hypothetical one-on-one matchups, both nationally and in a total of 12 states (AZ, IA, MA, MI, MN, NV, NH, NC, PA, SC, TX, WI; mean 3W-RDM[4]= D-1.9).

Weighting each Democrat’s WAPA (vs. Trump) by her/his NSW-WAPA shows Democrats ahead of Trump nationally by 2.8 points, down slightly from 3.1 points. Remove Biden’s 7.4-point margin against Trump, and the Democratic advantage drops to 1.1 points; Sanders, Harris, Warren, O’Rourke and Booker are each ahead of Trump by between 0.4 and 3.6 points, while Gillibrand trails by just 1.2 points and Buttigieg by just 3.4 points. All other tested 2020 Democratic presidential nominees trail by between 6.3 (Klobuchar) and 15.5 points (Messam).

A strict apples-to-apples comparison in national standings is complicated, though, by a significant change I made to my Excel workbook. I adjust general election polling margins by pollster bias (or what FiveThirtyEight.com calls “mean-reverted bias”): how much, on average, a pollster over- or underestimates Democratic election margins. The pollster HarrisX dominates national presidential “trial heat” polling (while not releasing a single state-level poll), including every publicly-released matchup between Trump and Delaney, Gabbard, Gravel, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Messam, Moulton, Ryan, Swalwell, Williamson and Yang. FiveThirtyEight has not yet estimated HarrisX’s pollster bias. However, Harris Interactive has a pro-Republican bias of 1.5 points, and in a recent article, Nate Silver notes that HarrisX conducted a poll for Scott Rasmussen. Rasmussen Reports/Pulse Opinion Research also has a 1.5-point Republican bias. Therefore, I decided to add 1.5 points to every Democratic margin reported by HarrisX. This boosted the weighted-adjusted average of Democrats against Trump by 0.4 points.

Finally, the only significant state-level change is that Democrats overall are beating Trump in Wisconsin by 7.4 points, up from 6.1 points, on the strength of a set of Zogby Interactive/JZ Analytics polls (Biden, Sanders, Harris, Warren, O’Rourke, Buttigieg) conducted April 15-18, 2019.

And the good news for Democrats remains that, collectively, the state-level polls imply a national margin of 6.0 points over Trump, twice what the national polls suggest.

Until next time…

[1] And that excludes New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan, included in an alternate version of a New Hampshire Primary poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire, April 10-18, 2019.

[2] Change Research, 4/18-4/20/2019; Emerson College, 4/25-4/28/2019

[3] They will be held over two nights to accommodate 20 (of at least 21) candidates, with no more than 10 appearing each night. Criteria for obtaining one of the 20 available debate slots may be found here.

[4] My measure of 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.