Friday, February 21, 2020

The Michigan-Pennsylvania-Wisconsin Story, According to Quinnipiac

This week, Quinnipiac released polls of the three key swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin--the three states that put Donald Trump in the White House.
So: how'd the Democrats fare in the trial heats? In two the three states, Michigan and Pennsylvania, tested Democrats all beat Trump by varying amounts. In Wisconsin, however, all tested candidates lose to Trump by varying amounts. This is consistent with the general patterns we've seen in other states polls, with Wisconsin being the weakest of these three states for the Democrats.
Looking at the crosstabs Quinnipiac provides for all three polls is instructive, especially the white college and white noncollege tabs. It's highly likely that trends among these two groups will determine the general election outcomes.
For simplicity's sake, I focus on Biden's tabs in the three states (Sanders and Biden perform very similarly against Trump in Michigan and Wisconsin, while Biden has an advantage in Pennsylvania.
Using the States of Change data I can compare the margins in the Q-polls to those among these two groups in 2016. The results are quite interesting.
First, the good news. In Pennsylvania Biden is running ahead of Clinton's performance among both white college (+25 vs. +9 in 2016) and white noncollege voters (-16 vs. -29). In Michigan, the big improvement is among white college voters (+16 vs. -2); the figures for white noncollege are virtually identical (-22 vs. -21).
But in Wisconsin, the bottom drops out. While white college performance for Biden is fine (+14 vs. +15 in 2016), white noncollege shows a sharp drop (-26 vs. -19).
One doesn't have to 100 percent believe the Q-poll figures to see that they provide considerable food for thought.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Is Trump's Approval Rating Really Going Up?

I've written about this before but there are reasons to be skeptical that his remarkably stable approval ratings are suddenly headed upwards. The excellent G. Elliott Morris explains in The Economist.
"[E]ven after correcting for demographic biases, pollsters’ data can still be unrepresentative. They may have the right shares of Latino voters and boomers, but nevertheless have too many Republicans or Democrats. This concern is pronounced when an event causes especially good, or bad, news for a political party. At such times surveys can suddenly be swamped with partisans who are eager to voice their love, or hate, for the president.
In the wake of Mr Trump’s acquittal in the Senate, pollsters suspect that such a bias could be affecting polls. Courtney Kennedy, the director for survey research at the Pew Research Centre, says that there is a “strong possibility” that the recent uptick in Mr Trump’s ratings has a wave of optimistic Republicans as its source. She says that outlets can control this problem by adjusting their data to have the correct shares of Democratic- and Republican-leaning voters, but the idea is relatively new and few pollsters have data good enough to perform such corrections.
The Economist’s analysis of polls taken during Mr Trump’s impeachment proceedings affirms Ms Kennedy’s suspicion. In polls that weight their data to represent America’s partisan balance or the results of the 2016 election, the share of adults who approve of Mr Trump’s job as president has risen by half a percentage point since impeachment proceedings began in earnest last October. But in polls that do not, Mr Trump’s ratings have increased by over three percentage points."
Now if we only had a candidate who could take advantage of the fact that Trump is still really, really unpopular and likely to remain so....

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

What If Everyone Voted? Be Careful What You Wish For!

I've questioned the wonder-working powers of high voter turnout before but, shockingly, not everyone has agreed. But here is some more evidence undercutting the more-turnout-will-solve-everything thesis from a massive study by the Knight Foundation. There's a great deal in their report, including a very interesting typology of nonvoters, both their characteristics and reasons for not voting, which suggest a complex phenomenon not reducible to voter suppression and/or insufficiently radical candidates.
But, regardless of motivation,what if all those nonvoters really did vote? Surely the Democrats would kick Trump's ass back to Mar-a-Lago for good. Sorry, it's not that simple, as the chart of key swing states below shows. Democrats would benefit some in the national popular vote but wouldn't be helped sufficiently in the Electoral College to take Trump out.
If this doesn't make you question the turnout mythology currently popular in Sanders wing of the Democratic party, I don't know what will.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Could Bernie Bros (and Gals) Cost Democrats the Election If Bernie Doesn't Get the Nomination?

The assumption here seems to be that Bernie voters will be so ticked off if he doesn't get the nomination that they'll defect in huge numbers voting third party, voting for Trump or just not voting at all. Result: Democratic defeat. It's kind of like that old National Lampoon cover: "Buy this magazine or we'll shoot this dog".
I think people can calm down about this one. If Democratic voters refuse to "buy" Bernie, I think it's quite unlikely there will be mass defections. After all, in 2016, the defection rate of Bernie supporters--who you may remember will apoplectic by the end of the process--was actually relatively low: according to CCES data, 17 percent of Bernie supporters either voting third party, voted for Trump or didn't vote. That compares to Clinton supporters in 2008, 30 percent of whom wound up voting for McCain or not voting.
So, defections by supporters of a losing candidate in a contested primary do happen. But there's no reason to panic about how deep the defections will be if Bernie doesn't get the nomination this year. They're not really gonna shoot the dog.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Hey Liberals, It's Not Just Crazy Trump Voters Who Want Increased Border Security

Polling data consistently show that improved border security is a strong majoritarian position among voters. And that includes Hispanic voters (see below, from Pew data). That is why progressives need to have plans for improved border security--and sound like they mean it. It's a big problem when the Democratic idea that has gotten the most attention this primary season is decriminalizing illegal border crossings. This fits the textbook definition of an unforced error.

Friday, February 14, 2020

No, Radical Policies Won’t Drive Election-Winning Turnout

My new piece in the Washington Post in now available online (it will be in the print edition this weekend). Faithful readers of my FB feed/blog will note some familiar arguments and language. But it's even crisper and clearer this time around!
"No myth is stronger in progressive circles than the magical, wonderworking powers of voter turnout. It’s become a sort of pixie dust that you sprinkle over your strenuously progressive positions to ward off any suggestion that they might turn off voters. That is how Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), now the Democratic presidential front-runner, has dealt with criticism that his more unpopular stances — including eliminating private health insurance, decriminalizing the border and covering undocumented immigrants in a government health plan — might cost him the votes he needs to beat President Trump.
Sanders’s explanation of why this is not a problem is simple, and he has repeated it endlessly. When a member of the Los Angeles Times editorial board asked him whether “a candidate as far to the left as you” would “alienate swing voters and moderates and independents,” the senator replied: “The only way that you beat Trump is by having an unprecedented campaign, an unprecedentedly large voter turnout.” Faiz Shakir, Sanders’s campaign manager, adds: “Bernie Sanders has very unique appeal amongst [the younger] generation and can inspire, I think, a bunch of them to vote in percentages that they have never voted before."....
The turnout equation does not necessarily return positive results for a candidate like Sanders. The reverse is more likely. It is truly magical thinking to believe that, in a highly polarized situation, only your side gets to increase turnout. And if the other side turns out in droves, you might not like the results — a warning Democrats would be wise to heed."
Despite what Sanders says, Democrats still have to persuade voters in the middle.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Klobuchar As Republican Killer

You may have heard that Amy Klobuchar has run well in her elections in Minnesota. But you probably don't realize how crazy good her performance has been there, as she's swept across all demographics in the state, decimating the GOP in most groups, while reducing their margins to pathetic levels in their best groups.
Consider these data points, both from Klobuchar's 2018 Senate run and, for comparison, from Clinton's Presidential performance in the state in 2016. (All data from Catalist Analytics)
White college women: Klobuchar +52, Clinton +23 (!)
White noncollege women: Klobuchar +21, Clinton -4 (!!)
White college men: Klobuchar +28, Clinton even
White 18-29: Klobuchar +39, Clinton +8
White seniors: Klobuchar +14, Clinton -15
Rural white: Klobuchar -5, Clinton -34
Rural white college: Klobuchar +14, Clinton -23
Rural white noncollege: Klobuchar -12, Clinton -38
I rest my case.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Meanwhile, In Wisconsin

In the most recent Marquette Law School Wisconsin poll, Biden, who has been running the strongest of tested candidates in the state, was up on Trump by 4 points. That's better than the December poll (a one point advantage) and the November poll (3 point deficit).
What's Trump's Achilles' Heel in the state? I've said it before and I'll say it again: white noncollege women. In a recent Global Strategy Group study, Trump's net approval was +28 among white noncollege men and -2 among white noncollege women. Wow. That's a really big difference. Leverage that difference and the Democratic candidate wins the state.

The Case for Klobuchar

Matt Yglesias, who I've long suspected was the closet political realist among the Vox crowd, has a nice piece up on the case for Klobuchar. Well worth reading after Tuesday's result in NH.
" a Sanders alternative who offers a genuine trade-off — she’s running on a less ambitious agenda, but that consists almost entirely of being careful to avoid politically unpopular positions. She’s for taking action on climate change, but not for a fracking ban. She’s for a public option and price curbs on prescription drugs rather than an expensive Medicare-for-all program. She’d do a better job than Sanders of appealing to swing voters, and Sanders would need to try to make it up by pulling in third-party supporters or new voters.
This is similar to the Biden pitch, but with stronger evidence...
She’s spent most of the 2020 campaign being largely ignored because she’s simply not that distinctive or interesting. She’s the typical age for a presidential aspirant, has the typical qualifications, and has somewhat banal Democratic Party policy views.
But typical is typical for a reason. If you want a political revolution or to take a shot at imposing a wealth tax on America’s billionaires, then probably none of this is very persuasive. Fair enough.
For a long time, though, Biden was riding high on something much simpler — the perception he could beat Trump and restore basic competence and integrity to government.
Over the past couple of weeks, Biden’s shortcomings have started to loom larger and he’s plummeting in the polls. But if his basic message appeals to you — and clearly it does appeal to a lot of Democrats — you owe it to yourself to ask if Klobuchar isn’t the most effective vehicle for that message."
She has less baggage than Biden, and a real track record of winning Midwestern swing voters.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Maybe It's Time to Start Thinking About Klobuchar

Sure, the current 538 model gives Klobuchar only a ghost of a chance (less than one percent) of getting the nomination. But that estimate can change rapidly as results come in. Look at what happened to poor Joe Biden after he got hammered in Iowa.
Speaking of Biden and Klobuchar, check out these critiques of Medicare for All at the last debate (from Ryan LIzza's Politico article):
Here’s Biden hitting Sanders on Medicare for All:
"Look, Bernie says that you have to bring people together and we have to have Medicare for All. But Bernie says — and he says he wrote the damn thing. But he's unwilling to tell us what the damn thing is going to cost.
The fact that we're in New Hampshire, a very level-headed group of people, look at the numbers. How much is it going to cost? Who's going to pay for it? It will cost more than the entire — the entire federal budget we spend now. More than the entire budget. The idea middle-class taxes aren't going to go up is just crazy.
When they did it in Vermont, what happened? They doubled the state income tax and then had a 14 percent tax on withholding. And they finally did away with it. So how much is it going to cost? When Bernie — you ask Bernie that — I'll ask him again tonight — sometime — if you ask Bernie that, he says, go figure, 'I don't know, we'll find out.' I think that was on CBS. He said, 'We'll find out' or something to that effect.
Imagine you're going unite the country, walking into the Congress, and say, 'I got this bill. It's going to provide Medicare for everybody. I can't tell you how much it's going to cost, we'll find out later; it's likely to be double whatever the — everything we spend in the federal government.' Who do you think is going to get that passed? I busted my neck getting Obamacare passed, getting every Democratic vote. I know how hard it is.'
Here’s Klobuchar:
"I keep listening to this same debate, and it is not real. It is not real, Bernie, because two-thirds of the Democrats in the Senate are not on your bill and because it would kick 149 million Americans off their current health insurance in four years.
And let me say what else. Elizabeth wants to do it in two years. And, Pete, while you have a different plan now, you sent out a tweet just a few years ago that said, 'henceforth, forthwith, indubitably, affirmatively,' you are for Medicare for All for the ages."
And so I would like to point out that what leadership is about is taking a position, looking at things, and sticking with them. I have long believed that the way that we expand health care to more people and bring down premiums is by building on the Affordable Care Act with a nonprofit public option. That is the best way to do it.
And practically, look at this--the Affordable Care Act is now nearly 10 points more popular than the president of the United States. So why would we talk about blowing it up?
What we need to do is build on it — mental health care, addiction, long-term care — those are the things that would make it better for everyone."
Whoa--quite a difference! I can definitely see Klobuchar being quite effective against Trump.....Biden, well, less so..
So does she have a shot? As the chart below shows, she's now within a few points of Warren and Biden. If she had a good night and blew past them to wind up in third....that just might be the beginning of something interesting (though granted her odds would still not be great). We'll see.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

What Carville Said!

After yet another underwhelming debate, perhaps it's time to cue up a good James Carville rant.
"The fate of the world depends on the Democrats getting their shit together and winning in November. We have to beat Trump. And so far, I don’t like what I see. And a lot of people I talk to feel the same way..... We just had an election in 2018. We did great. We talked about everything we needed to talk about, and we won. And now it’s like we’re losing our damn minds. Someone’s got to step their game up here.....
We have candidates on the debate stage talking about open borders and decriminalizing illegal immigration. They’re talking about doing away with nuclear energy and fracking. You’ve got Bernie Sanders talking about letting criminals and terrorists vote from jail cells. It doesn’t matter what you think about any of that, or if there are good arguments — talking about that is not how you win a national election. It’s not how you become a majoritarian party.
For fuck’s sake, we’ve got Trump at Davos talking about cutting Medicare and no one in the party has the sense to plaster a picture of him up there sucking up to the global elites, talking about cutting taxes for them while he’s talking about cutting Medicare back home. Jesus, this is so obvious and so easy and I don’t see any of the candidates taking advantage of it.
The Republicans have destroyed their party and turned it into a personality cult, but if anyone thinks they can’t win, they’re out of their damn minds....
[The Democratic Party will win] [b]y framing, repeating, and delivering a coherent, meaningful message that is relevant to people’s lives and having the political skill not to be sucked into every rabbit hole that somebody puts in front of you.
The Democratic Party is the party of African Americans. It’s becoming a party of educated suburbanites, particularly women. It’s the party of Latinos. We’re a party of immigrants. Most of the people aren’t into all this distracting shit about open borders and letting prisoners vote. They don’t care. They have lives to lead. They have kids. They have parents that are sick. That’s what we have to talk about. That’s all we should talk about.
It’s not that this stuff doesn’t matter. And it’s not that we shouldn’t talk about race. We have to talk about race. It’s about how you deliver and frame the message. I thought Cory Booker’s “baby bonds” plan was great and the kind of thing the party could connect to people’s actual lives.
We have one moral imperative here, and that’s beating Trump. Nothing else matters....
The real argument here is that some people think there’s a real yearning for a left-wing revolution in this country, and if we just appeal to the people who feel that, we’ll grow and excite them and we’ll win. But there’s a word a lot of people hate that I love: politics. It means building coalitions to win elections. It means sometimes having to sit back and listen to what people think and framing your message accordingly.
That’s all I care about. Right now the most important thing is getting this career criminal who’s stealing everything that isn’t nailed down out of the White House. We can’t do anything for anyone if we don’t start there and then acquire more power."
Or as Nancy Pelosi put it: "Just win, baby". As Carville notes, we ain't gonna do that unless we step up our game.
Why the longtime Democratic strategist is "scared to death" of the 2020 election

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Bernie as Nominee: Be Careful What You Wish For!

With the Iowa results (finally) in, the 538 model has flipped and now sees Sanders as the most likely candidate to garner a majority of delegates to the convention and therefore the nomination. This should make Sanders fervent supporters--and they tend to be very fervent--quite happy, even if his current advantage in this metric is fairly modest.
But let's say Sanders does ride his current advantage to the nomination. Where would that leave the Democrats? Tom Edsall covered this topic in his Times column today and detailed both the reasons why Democrats might be optimistic and might be pessimistic. On the pessimistic side:
"Most political scientists I contacted this week saw greater disadvantages for the Democratic Party in a Sanders nomination than in the possible selection of other leading candidates.
Andrew Engelhardt, a postdoctoral researcher at Brown, wrote, that
"a Sanders nomination would be helpful for other party races to the degree he can encourage individuals who would otherwise not participate to actually turn out. It’s unclear if he helps Democrats win in more moderate districts."
Engelhardt then noted that a January Economist survey “found that independent and Republican identifiers see Sanders as quite extreme relative to most other prospective Democratic candidates.”
Winning Republican voters is a lost cause for any Democrat, Engelhardt noted, but nominating Sanders could turn away
any who may at least consider someone like Biden or Buttigieg. Further, it may go so far as to encourage these individuals to turn out and vote against Sanders and other Democrats.
Wendy Schiller, a political scientist who is also at Brown, noted in an email that
"Sanders appears to generate the most fervent and intense enthusiasm among his supporters, but polls continue to show that Biden attracts more support among the key groups that are known to get out the door to vote in general elections, especially black voters and voters over the age of 35."
At the moment, Schiller continued,
"the evidence today just isn’t there that Bernie Sanders at the top of the ticket can generate high enough turnout among black voters to put the Democrats in the White House 2020."
Eitan Hersh, the Tufts political scientist, raised a different set of concerns about a Sanders nomination, primarily that he would mobilize conservatives:
"Democrats will turn out no matter who their nominee is because they are mostly motivated by their opposition to Trump. Republicans would look at a moderate like Biden or Klobuchar and think the stakes are lower than if the candidate is Sanders or Warren. So they might stay home more."
How would a Sanders nomination influence the outcome of races for Senate, House and local offices?
“Lots of caveats here,” Hersh wrote,
"but if you want my best guess, it’s that the logic does apply: Democrats should be concerned about heightened counter-mobilization that limits their chances up and down the ballot if they nominate a more ideologically extreme candidate like Sanders."
Now it may be that the country is ready to elect as president a 78-year-old angry democratic socialist calling for revolution. But if I were a partisan whose top priority was to bring the Trump presidency to an end, I would not bank on it."
I would add to these observations, the data on key suburban community types recently released by Dante Chinni's American Communities Project (ACP).
"This year, the ACP is partnering with Dynata, the world’s largest first-party survey insights company, to conduct monthly surveys to measure how each of the 15 community types is reacting to politics in 2020. Now that Dynata has completed its initial December survey, the ACP examines how each of the four big Democratic potentials — Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren — does in a head-to-head matchup against Trump in the Exurbs (1159 responses) and Middle Suburbs (569 responses).
The early results are good for Biden, less so for Sanders....
The Exurbs and Middle Suburbs are more than bellwether communities. Together they represent the pull and push of Trump and his unique brand of politics. The Exurbs underperformed for Trump, giving him less support than other recent GOP nominees. On the other end, the Middle Suburbs surged for the president. (Furthermore, the groups hold lots of voters in the states that were very close and that won Trump the White House: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.)...
Among the big four Democratic frontrunners, Joe Biden’s numbers are the strongest with voters in both community types. In the Exurbs, Trump’s eight-point victory margin would be a Republican low for this century and big red flag for his campaign.
And a one-point win for Trump in the Middle Suburbs would likely mean a big defeat overall. It’s the kind of number that suggests Democrats would win back Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Overall, Biden beats Trump by about six points in the national popular vote....
The numbers are less impressive for Sanders. Trump runs up a big 15-point win the Exurbs. That’s not a huge surprise. Exurban voters probably don’t see a lot to like about the idea of a “Democratic Socialist” as president. They have money in their bank accounts and in the stock market."
Yep. Be careful what you wish for. The stakes will be pretty high this November.