So much of politics in both Ireland and Britain is still incredibly binary that coming at a political figure or topic from a different angle is usually met with disdain, disgust or distrust.
The purpose of this short blog is simply to ask and then answer why I believe the North’s unionist politicians should be (at least secretly) hoping for a UK Labour government, and as soon as possible at that.
This has very little to do with Keir Starmer’s political nous or charisma (he has been a disappointing leader so far for a number of reasons) or his commitment to defend and champion the Union (his Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary of State recently said that a Labour government should be “neutral” in the event of an Irish Border Poll and;
“The principal of consent is still very much in tact. It is only for the people of Northern Ireland to determine their own constitutional future and polls still suggest there is still a very firm majority for remaining in the United Kingdom.”
Since the Brexit vote in June 2016, the DUP (who have been the largest unionist party since then) have largely backed the Conservatives, initially through the Confidence & Supply deal with Theresa May and, more recently, through backing Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal before they realised it created a customs border down the Irish Sea.
However, even after that betrayal, very few in unionism have claimed that a Labour government would be “better” or more “conducive” to serving unionism’s interests. My view is that they still believe the NI Protocol can be removed or changed enough to satisfy the Loyalist vote. Because of that, David Frost’s hardline comments and bravado has just about kept them onside.
Fortunately for Unionism, I believe that the Protocol is here to stay and while the next 18 months may result in some political humiliation, there will ultimately be some economic benefits to the North from its implementation.
If this is the case, and the Conservatives are not going to waste any major diplomatic capital on alleviating Unionism’s concerns, what is the benefit to the Union of having such a chaotic, dishonest and divisive London government?
My own view, and it is widely shared and not an original thought, is that Boris and the Brexiteers have been an incredibly beneficial recruitment tool for United Irelanders but also for the Alliance party - as disillusioned unionists find it increasingly challenging to vote for the DUP or TUV, and to a lesser extent the UUP.
So why Keir Starmer and his Labour party? Well, they are boring, predictable and lack any grand vision *but* those aren’t necessarily bad things for unionists and middle-ground voters who were relatively happy before 2016 and aren’t looking for constitutional change.
While it’s currently impossible to ignore the corruption and other crises the Conservative Government are suffering, there is every chance that a Labour government, which seems to have now dropped all of the policy promises that former leader Jeremy Corbyn championed, will initially get a lot less bad press and could even bring a slightly feel-good factor to the Union.
I am not saying he will be the saviour and end all the current momentum of the Irish Unity proponents. However, he may cut off one current supply of fuel for that campaign, which is the chaos and dishonesty of the current regime.
At the moment, Unionism is losing almost every battle and morale is undoubtedly low. When this is the case, it is foolish to simply endorse the status quo. It might be hard to comprehend for some loyalists, but maybe a leader whose words are not as supportive of the union, but whose actions do less to damage it, might be the reset button that Northern Ireland needs to survive the next decade…
I haven’t written about the 2020 US Presidential Election since May though this does not mean I haven’t been following it closely. The lack of writing was down to a combination of a relatively traumatic 2020 personally but probably more because I didn’t find it as exciting once Joe Biden had successfully won the Democratic Primary. I was, and remain, a big fan of Bernie Sanders and initially I was both disappointed by Biden’s candidature and sceptical of his chances of beating Donald Trump in the Presidential Election.
The reasons for my disappointment and fear will be well known to many. Joe Biden is not the most charismatic of political figures and, if he wins tonight, he will be 78 by the time he becomes President in January. Unlike Trump, who is also in his seventies, Biden displays evidence of his advanced age in almost every media appearance.
I was initially very concerned that the buoyant economy of the United States would be enough to convince enough Independent and 2016 Trump voters who had previously voted Democrat to close their eyes to creeping authoritarianism and numerous incidents of racism and misogyny that has cloaked the White House in shame since January 2017.
However, as I wrote back in May, the coronavirus pandemic allayed many of my fears for Biden’s election chances. It has had a lasting and damaging impact on the American economy and the incoherence of Trump’s messaging and actions have finally convinced many of his ineptitude. Furthermore, there has been clear evidence that Trump has acted against the advice of his pandemic team when he felt a different course of action would boost his image and/or re-election chances. Unfortunately for him, he has now squandered his chances of being re-elected and I fully expect Joe Biden to be the named the President-Elect in the next twenty-four hours.
While many are now writing up their final predictions and filling out the extremely addictive, www.270towin.com state map predictor, I already want to focus on what I believe a Joe Biden presidency can and should deliver. I am now writing on the assumption that Joe Biden not only wins but that the Democrats hold the House and retake the Senate.
A short video clip went viral this week which showed Barack Obama receive a basketball and land a three-pointer from a difficult angle and then confidently stride off claiming “that’s what I do!” followed by a sheepish looking Joe Biden who still struggles to claim the mantle of being the leader now and not the follower. I know many in the US are simply hoping that Biden can bring back the perceived glory days of Obama’s two-term presidency when Biden served as the Vice President.
I don’t think that would be enough and I believe that while Biden has not nearly promised as much as Obama did before his election, Biden has the much greater opportunity to exceed the expectations of most observed of American politics.
There is a vastly different political landscape in the United States to 2008 when Obama was elected. Back then, the emphasis was almost purely on taking measures to ensure the economy got back on track with little emphasis on what structural inequalities had caused the Crash in the first place.
The Democratic Party has been dragged to the Left by Bernie Sanders’ Presidential Candidate runs in 2016 and 2020. However, there are many more powerful, progressive voices in the party now like Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and others. Their voices will not be silenced, and I believe Biden knows he will need to work with others in the Party and not try and be a one-man show.
As I have briefly mentioned above, I do believe that the Democrats will also take the Senate and if/when they control all three branches of the US Government, Biden might really be able to lead the ship to four years of genuine political change that could have long term positive impacts on numerous strands of US society. Many of the people will simply want an America that isn’t run by Donald Trump, but I think Biden’s presidency will go further.
His election website has a lot of very positive campaign pledges and if even some of them are honoured, we could see an America with a Green New Deal, wider healthcare coverage and a minimum living wage. Furthermore, I hope that Biden has learned from his experiences as a Vice President that change can be difficult and it requires work and compromise, the advantage for Biden is that the middle ground of the Democratic Party has moved to the Left and the public’s appetite for change is greater than ever.
In summary, I initially didn’t believe Joe Biden could beat Donald Trump but I have been convinced otherwise for over six months now. In that time, I have closely observed the dynamics of both his campaign and the Democratic Party. I now believe that not only can Biden exceed the minimal expectations that many have for his presidency but that his (first?) four years could really go on to be a historical American Presidential term…
This is my first blog post in over two months. That gap roughly coincides with the Covid 19 crisis escalating across Europe and the rest of the world and directly impacting the vast majority of our lives.
Up until then, 2020 had already been an interesting year politically for me with a shock (almost) victory for Sinn Fein in the Irish General Election, Joe Biden clinching the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination and Kier Starmer becoming the leader of the UK Labour Party.
While all three of these results could have long term consequences, they were all overshadowed by the media and political black hole that is the most deadly pandemic in decades. As I write this, the global number of infected stands at over 4.5 million people with 300 thousand fatalities. I genuinely have no idea if that number double, triple or quadruple by the end of the year though the exponential growth does seem to have (at least) temporarily tapered off in most European countries at present.
What I want to write about today though is some probable political consequences and impacts of this pandemic over the next one to five years. I am going to write about this in relation to areas of interest for me, as I have mainly written about politics in certain countries since I started A Bit Left and A Bit Lost. However, I really want to emphasise though that I am trying to think about this as objectively as possible. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people subconsciously see this pandemic as an opportunity to further their causes or, at the very least, have optimistically decided that the majority will suddenly come into line with their views given the shared experience we have all endured. I hope to write about some lifestyle trends that may change in a later article.
A Massive Break for Fine Gael
There will be people who call this distasteful but there will be "winners" from any crises. It's clear my political views do not align with Fine Gael but that is not why I am writing this. Fine Gael had a horrific election on February 8th, coming third in the number of seats behind both Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein with 35, 38 and 37 respectively. Leo Varadkar was only elected on the fifth count and a number of high profile TDs like Regina Doherty lost her seat. The election did not produce a clear winner though and as negotiations were slow to begin, the Covid 19 pandemic rapidly came to the fore. Varadkar and Simon Harris, the outgoing Health Minister, maintained their positions as in Irish law they do so until a new Taoiseach and government are elected in the Dail. This allowed Fine Gael to "own" the early addresses to the nation which took place when the electorate was following every detail, had not endured the worst of the daily deaths and lockdown fatigue had not yet kicked in. Negotiations are still ongoing thought does noes appear that Fine Gael and Fianna Fail will go into coalition together on a rotating Taoiseach basis, propped up by some of the smaller parties. On February 12th, Varadkar stated "I think the likelihood is that at the end of this process that I’ll be the leader of the opposition...", it is now possible that Varadkar takes the first round of the rotation and is returned as Taoiseach despite his party finishing third. This is no small way would be a result of his performance during the pandemic.
A Setback for a United Ireland in the Short Term
The United Kingdom has suffered terribly in the pandemic with one of the highest total number of fatalities of any country in the world. The Tory Government has endured an awful lot of criticism ranging from accusations of arrogance and "ignoring the science" to incompetence and a haphazard approach to testing. There are many in the North of Ireland, and in the South, who still view Irish Unity through the prism of "England's difficulty is Ireland's gain". I do think the pandemic has exacerbated the differences between England and the other three nations of the United Kingdom. I also think that the budgetary constraints that the almost certain Covid 19 recession will bring will be at the forefront of the average Irish voter's mind for the foreseeable future, particularly as it does appear that Sinn Fein will be locked out of government. I have always felt that 2025 is a decent target for a Border Poll though I know many campaigners of Irish Unity would prefer it sooner. With the current ambiguity of what triggers a Border Poll in the Good Friday Agreement, I think both the Irish and British governments will be able to bat away calls for a Unity vote as "distracting" and "frivolous" over the next three years (my short term definition here). This will be less feasible when the global economy starts to pick up again and further details have emerged about different countries' performance during the pandemic.
The Democrats are Now Clear Favourites in November
Once it became clear after March 3rd (Super Tuesday) that Joe Biden was the likely Democratic candidate, I felt that November was a toss up. Biden has the potential to carry a broad coalition of Democratic voters, especially as Bernie Sanders endorsed him almost immediately. On the other hand, Trump should not be underestimated and at that time, America was still enjoying a very buoyant economy with incredibly strong jobs. The pandemic has changed all of that. It has directly led to thirty-three million job losses in seven weeks and has obliterated Trump's bulwark of a "record-breaking economy". I now think the dial has firmly moved to the Democrats. Biden remains a candidate with clear weaknesses; he is gaffe-prone and the cloud of sexual assault allegations looms over him. I think he can actually learn a little from the British Conservatives campaign in 2019, he doesn't need to always be front and centre where he is most exposed. He needs to get more accomplished and popular speakers like Barack Obama "batting" for him. There is a very small chance that the American economy recovers between now and November but that is highly unlikely. Therefore, as of today, the Democrats are favourites to re-take the White House and could even flip the Senate on a very good day.
Less Short Term Impact on British Politics
The Conservative majority is large enough that there will be no short term fundamental changes in British political dynamics. Keir Starmer is gaining some early plaudits for his PMQs performances but we could still be four and a half years from the next British election so it all feels a little irrelevant now. Boris Johnson may need to start watching his back in two to three years if his performance as Prime Minister continues to disappoint some influential Conservative factions but again, that is for the future. The Scottish Assembly elections next May could genuinely be historic but I think we need to hold back on making predictions on them for now as, unlike the US Presidential Election in November, I do think some underlying fundamentals cold shift by then.
I’ve spent a lot of time read, analysing and writing about the 2020 Democratic Primary contest.
It’s been a fascinating journey and has really touched upon some of the key questions in politics in the 21st Century.
The Left versus the Centre?, can minority candidates compete at the highest level of American politics or was Barack Obama the exception to the rule? and what type of candidate is best placed to beat Donald Trump in November?
As I mentioned yesterday on Twitter, I have called the race for Joe Biden. His lead is not yet insurmountable in the delegate count but his polling versus Sanders for the next ten or so states, today and this day week, means it will all be over by April 1st.
When I first wrote about this race back on March 3rd, 2019, Joe Biden was leading the hypothetical polling (he had not yet announced that he would run) but behind Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris in betting odds.
While the race itself has been very fluid with many candidates making bursts for the front of the pack, Biden has always been in the top two while Sanders has mainly stayed in the top three or four.
In the end, I think not enough experts and observers focused on the fact that the moderates have always been about 60% while the progressives rarely surpassed 40%. Hindsight is 20/20 but it should have been more obvious that if a progressive managed to dominate that lane, the Democratic Party would strongly encourage the weaker moderates to drop out and endorse the moderate frontrunner. From a polling standpoint, that has always been Joe Biden.
There are seven states tonight and Biden should win at least six and maybe all seven. I don’t expect Sanders to drop out yet – I also don’t believe he should as Biden needs to be tested in a 1 v 1 debate format on March 15th- but I think he may start to think about it after March 17th if he is also comprehensively beaten in the four states that have their primaries that day.
I am going to take a break from writing about American politics for a few months now. I will still make observations on Twitter but until Biden is officially unveiled as the Democratic Candidate, I’ll refrain from writing about hypothetical match ups and November previews.
I am quite disappointed with the results and the candidature of Joe Biden from my own personal perspective. However, my real fear is that Donald Trump eviscerates Biden in the debates and we have another four years of Trump as President.
The Democratic Party and most of the media have waxed lyrical about both Biden’s ability to build a broad coalition of support and to defeat Trump. For all our sakes, I hope they are correct…
,The last week has easily been Joe Biden’s best of the campaign. After the New Hampshire Primary, it looked like his campaign was in freefall and there was even a small chance that he wouldn’t make it to Super Tuesday.
At that point, Bernie Sanders was the clear frontrunner and there was a small window here he was projected to win every single state by some analysts. However, Biden’s recovery started in the Nevada debate where he steadied the ship. He followed that up with a second-place finish there and then had a massive win last Saturday in South Carolina. Since then, he’s been endorsed by Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar (who both dropped out in the last few days) and is now polling first in quite a few of the races.
I have a preview of each state below. I have included the number of delegates for each state, their current polling from www.270towin.com and my predictions of how the candidates place.
A few caveats though;
California – 415 Delegates
Sanders 34.6%, Warren 15.4%, Biden 15%, Bloomberg 12.6%
It is almost inconceivable that Sanders does not win in California today. I will be looking closely at who finishes second. I expect both Warren and Biden to clear the 15% threshold though I think Biden will eventually finish in second. I don’t think Bloomberg makes the 15% cut.
I used eventually because the final results will not be available for a few weeks.
Sanders, Biden, Warren
Texas – 228 Delegates
Sanders 29.9%, Biden 21.6%, Bloomberg 17.7%, Warren 12.9%
This will be very close between Sanders and Biden and I don’t think the gap is anything near 8% that the polling average shows. Last night, Beto O’Rourke endorsed Biden and I can see a lot of the previously undecided swinging his way. I expect the final gap between Sanders and Biden to be within 3% and I think Warren overtakes Bloomberg
North Carolina – 110 Delegates
Sanders 25%, Biden 23.8%, Bloomberg 16.6%, Warren 11.2%
The polling has not painted a clear picture in North Carolina with Sanders leading in more polls but Biden having a substantial lead in others. I think the recent momentum will help Biden to take North Carolina and I can see Warren falling just below 10%
Biden, Sanders, Bloomberg
Virginia – 99 Delegates
Sanders 22.3%, Biden 19.7%, Bloomberg 17.3%, Warren 10%
This is another state that I think Biden has now overtaken Sanders in. I can see a very strong finish for Biden with him claiming approximately 35% of the vote. However, unlike North Carolina, I don’t think Bloomberg clears the 15% anymore so this will be a strong delegate haul for Biden.
Massachusetts – 91 Delegates
Sanders 22.4%, Warren 19.6%, Bloomberg 12%, Biden 11.8%
This should be Warren’s last stand. If she can’t win here, she realistically can’t win anywhere. Unfortunately for her, I don’t think she will and I expect Sanders to take it with Warren in second and a few late voters getting Biden over the 15% threshold.
Sanders, Warren, Biden
Minnesota – 75 Delegates
Sanders 22%, Warren 13.5%, Biden 8.5%, Bloomberg 6%
Sanders should be the strong favourite here as he had a fantastic result in 2016. Even though the former state frontrunner and home Senator, Amy Klobuchar, has dropped out and endorsed Joe Biden, I still expect Sanders to win but I think Biden could leapfrog Warren into second place.
Sanders, Biden, Warren
Colorado – 67 Delegates
Sanders 30.5%, Warren 17.5%, Bloomberg 12.5%, Biden 10.5%
I expect a big win for Sanders here as the state’s demographics are very favourable for his coalition. I also think it will be one of the states where Joe Biden does not manage to clear the 15%.
Tennessee – 64 Delegates
Very hard to predict without any polls but I think it should be Biden’s state as the demographics are closer to South Carolina. Sanders will probably clear 15%. I am not sure how much Bloomberg has spent here but he could finish above Warren.
Biden, Sanders, Bloomberg
Alabama – 52 Delegates
Again, very difficult to predict and my only real prediction is that the gap between Biden and Sanders here is larger than in Tennessee. I will hazard a guess that Bloomberg manages to beat Sanders into his only non-top two finish on the night.
Biden, Bloomberg, Sanders
Oklahoma – 37 Delegates
Bloomberg 18%, Sanders 17%, Biden 11%, Warren 8% ***Only One Poll***
Very difficult to call but I think both Biden and Sanders will overtake Bloomberg.
Biden, Sanders, Bloomberg
Arkansas – 31 Delegates
Bloomberg 20%, Biden 19%, Sanders 16%, Warren 9% ***Only One Poll***
Another very murky state with little polling data. Biden’s late boost should get him over the line here too.
Biden, Sanders, Bloomberg
Utah – 29 Delegates
Sanders 28%, Bloomberg 19%, Warren 15%, Biden 6%
Sanders looks strong here and I expect a solid win for him. I think Biden will make a lot of ground from that 6% poll, mainly at the expense of Bloomberg.
Sanders, Warren, Biden
Maine – 24 Delegates
Sanders 25%, Bloomberg 14%, Biden 12%, Warren 9% ***Only One Poll***
This should be another win for Sanders though Biden will be much closer than this poll suggests. I think this state could be one of the few that genuinely resembles a two-horse race.
Vermont – 16 Delegates
Sanders 51%, Warren 9%, Bloomberg 7%, Biden 5%
As his home state, I can see Sanders clearing the 50% mark here and winning the vast majority of the delegates. It will be interesting to see whether Warren or Biden finishes second.
Democrats Abroad – 13 Delegates
At this stage I am just guessing.
Sanders, Warren, Biden
American Samoa – 6 Delegates
Hillary had a big win here in 2016 so I suggest it will be a state that Biden wins.
Biden, Sanders, Warren
Tomorrow is the Nevada Caucus. I am genuinely very excited as we will finally get a clearer picture as to how the candidates will fare in a state that is more representative of the overall demographics of the United States.
In the New Hampshire Primary, Sanders (25.6%) won by a tighter than expected margin as Pete Buttigieg (24.3%) had another strong performance. However, the standout star in many ways was Amy Klobuchar who outperformed expectations winning 19.7% of the vote and being the third and final candidate to win delegates.
On the other hand, it was a disastrous night for Elizabeth Warren (9.2%), Joe Biden (8.3%) and Andrew Yang (2.8%) who I correctly predicted would withdraw from the race after New Hampshire.
The ten days since then have been a story of two halves. The first few days coverage was mainly focused on the rise of Micheal Bloomberg in the polls. His astronomical spending on TV ads had really lifted his national polling numbers even if he is not competing until the 16 state battles on March 3rd aka Super Tuesday. Some were been beginning to question whether he was the real frontrunner after Sanders’ less than stellar New Hampshire win.
There was also a lot of debate as to whether Buttigieg, Klobuchar or even both could capitalise on their strong showing in the first two contests to kick on and build a broader coalition of support that included the very important Latino and Black voter groups.
On Wednesday night at the Nevada debate, it was quite clear that Sanders is the frontrunner as gloves were barely landed on him whereas Bloomberg was skewered constantly. In particular, Warren really hit him hard and this has certainly given her a boost ahead of voting tomorrow.
There was also little love lost between Buttigieg and Klobuchar and I do wonder whether both camps have decided that there is only room for one of them in this campaign. If that is the case, I would expect Buttigieg to outlast Klobuchar as his support is stronger both in Nevada and nationally ahead of Super Tuesday.
Klobuchar does have her home state, Minnesota, on that day. A win there would probably allow her to withdraw with her head held high whereas a defeat surely indicates she cannot win anywhere and donations would quickly dry up.
Moving back to Nevada, Sanders is the clear favourite and could win by 10% or more on a good day. The 30% of the voting population of Nevada that are Latino are likely to come out in droves for him and the only blip in his Nevada campaign has been a fallout out with the Nevada Culinary Union. It is significant however that the union still did not endorse another candidate.
Ahead of New Hampshire, I said Sanders had to win. Now, I think another narrow win is not enough to maintain momentum, he needs a clear victory with a margin of at least 5%…
Joe Biden is the only other candidate consistently polling at or around the 15% needed to win delegates. Unfortunately for him, in the 3 most recent Nevada polls his best score has still been behind Sander’s worst and it would be a massive upset if he managed to pull off a win. I think a good night for Biden is a strong second finish while a bonus would be if no other candidate polled above 15%.
As for the rest of the candidates, a finish above 15% would be a great result and I think Warren is the only other one who could even dream of winning tomorrow but even after a strong debate performance that is highly unlikely.
I’ll do another write-up next Friday ahead of the South Carolina Primary the following day. I don’t think we’ll see a narrowing of the field before then but with seventeen state contests in four days, by Wednesday, March 4th the national picture will be a lot clearer…
Tom Steyer (Implied Probability: 0.3% / New (National Polling: 2% - 4%) (Nevada Polling: 10% - 11%)
Amy Klobuchar (Implied Probability: 0.7% / -2.1% (National Polling: 4% - 9%) (Nevada Polling: 9% - 11%)
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 2.8% / -2.2% (National Polling: 12% - 16%) (Nevada Polling: 12% - 16%)
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 7.7% / -1.0% (National Polling: 15% - 22%) (Nevada Polling: 14% - 18%)
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 10.6% / -1.3% (National Polling: 8% - 13%) (Nevada Polling: 10% - 17%)
Michael Bloomberg (Implied Probability: 18.2% / -6.2% (National Polling: 9% - 15%) (Nevada Polling: N/A)
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 48.5% / +8.8% (National Polling: 24% - 32%) (Nevada Polling: 25% - 35%)
The New Hampshire Primary takes place today. I just wanted to pen a few thoughts without going into too much detail as I am very time limited today. The last update was a week ago to preview Iowa.
I have always presented a fixed set of data about the top seven candidates which I have placed at the bottom today. However, I have then always added a little blurb on each candidate’s recent changes in polling and probability, as well as assessing their prospects. Unfortunately, today I am just going to write a short preview on how tonight will go and what that will mean for the race to be the Next Democratic Presidential candidate.
Bernie Sanders simply has to win tonight. This will be the easiest of all 50 states for him and if he fails to win here, then we might start to see the decline of his campaign.
There are a few reasons why I believe this to be the case;
Buttigieg had a fantastic result in Iowa and it looks like he either won by a very small margin or finished level with Sanders. However, Buttigieg really exceeded expectation there and got a big bump in national polls. He will struggle to reach the 15% threshold in Nevada or South Carolina unless he can win tonight or, at the very least, poll very strongly.
Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren need to get over the 15% threshold so that they can stay relevant. If they fail to do so, there is a small chance that they will end their campaign, but I would say that is very unlikely for now as both should still hit 10% at the very least.
Finally, tonight may well see the end of Andrew Yang’s Presidential tilt I can’t see him getting over 5% while there isn’t one single state where he is polling above 15% and has a has a realistic chance of gaining delegates. He’s added a different dimension to the debate so far but I think his time in the spotlight is almost up…
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 0.6% / -1.5% (National Polling: 2% - 4%) (New Hampshire Polling: 3% - 4%)
Amy Klobuchar (Implied Probability: 2.8% / +1.5% (National Polling: 3% - 6%) (New Hampshire Polling: 7% - 14%)
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 4.0% / -2.1% (National Polling: 14% - 18%) (New Hampshire Polling: 10% - 12%)
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 8.7% / -20.3% (National Polling: 17% - 28%) (New Hampshire Polling: 10% - 12%)
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 11.9% / +9.4% (National Polling: 6% - 10%) (New Hampshire Polling: 19% - 23%)
Michael Bloomberg (Implied Probability: 24.4% / +10.1% (National Polling: 9% - 15%) (New Hampshire Polling: 0% - 1%)
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 39.7% / +1.6% (National Polling: 19% - 25%) (New Hampshire Polling: 27% - 30%)
Voting finally starts today in the Democratic Primary for the next US Presidential Candidate. I have been tracking this for over a year and there have been many false dawns and a few shock dropouts. There have been some significant changes since my last update in December.
I have always included the top seven candidates but unless Amy Klobuchar pulls off a huge shock in Iowa tonight, I think we are down to five genuine contenders. It is important to note that you must hit 15% of vote to get ant delegates whatsoever, so there is a chance that a high-profile candidate may withdraw if they fail to do so tonight.
We will learn a lot tonight about the relative strength of four of these five, Michael Bloomberg is the exception as he has decided not to campaign in the first four states.
The markets now have Bernie Sanders as the favourite ae he has enjoyed an incredible start to 2020 in polling terms. However, it becomes much more difficult for him after the first three states and I still believe Joe Biden should be the frontrunner.
I just want to highlight that I have always ranked the candidates by their implied probability from their betting odds, but again I have excluded Hillary Clinton (who is currently wedged between Amy Klobuchar and Andrew Yang) as she is not currently running.
This may be the last time I write an update in this format but I will decide that during the week as I hope to have another write up before the New Hampshire Primary on Tuesday, February 11th. Polling from Realclear and probablity from Betfair Exchange.
Amy Klobuchar (Implied Probability: 1.3% / -1.5% (National Polling: 3% - 7%) (Iowa Polling: 6% - 11%)
Klobuchar probably needs to break 15% tonight to remain competitive and stay in the race. Unfortunately for her, it doesn’t look likely now, and I think she may withdraw after tonight or after New Hampshire next Tuesday. She has had some moments during the race but never lived up to the hype and I think she will now look to throw her wight in behind a different moderate candidate.
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 2.1% / -1.0% (National Polling: 3% - 8%) (Iowa Polling: 3% - 5%)
This is my exact same update from last time:
He has hardly moved in polling or probability, but he has stuck in there, outpolling supposedly more serious candidates like Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard. I really can’t see him winning at this stage, but I am very, very curious as to where his eventual endorsement will go.
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 2.5% / -8.1% (National Polling: 6% - 7%) (Iowa Polling: 15% - 18%)
Buttigieg has dropped in both Iowa and New Hampshire polling since the last update in December. In December, I wrote that he didn’t have the national numbers to be a top tier candidate and would need to win at least one of Iowa or New Hampshire to gather the momentum required to win. That look less likely now he could even withdraw after New Hampshire if he fails to hit 15% in either of the first two.
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 6.1% / -10.0% (National Polling: 13% - 20%) (Iowa Polling: 13% - 21%)
Warren has continued to decline over the last month which leaves her quite far from the dizzy heights of early October. Her national and Iowa ranges are very competitive, and she can still win but it is looking less likely as she is clearly second to Bernie Sanders among the progressive membership of the Party. I do expect her to stay deep into the race though and some are suggesting she could ultimately be the compromise candidate.
Michael Bloomberg (Implied Probability: 14.3% / +4.8% (National Polling: 4% - 12%) (Iowa Polling: 0% - 1%)
It is very difficult to assess Bloomberg’s chances as we will get very little indication of his electability over the next few weeks until Super Tuesday on March 3rd. Bloomberg has unlimited funds, is aggressive in criticising Trump and has a wow factor from being a “real” successful, billionaire entrepreneur. He is much sharper than Joe Biden and the DNC may unite behind him if Biden falters. They have already changed debate rules that benefit him moving forward, coincidentally after he gave them the maximum permissible donation…
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 29.0% / -2.7% (National Polling: 26% - 30%) (Iowa Polling: 15% - 25%)
The biggest threat to Biden is that one candidate wins both Iowa and New Hampshire and then he goes into the Caucus (February 22nd) and the South Carolina Primary (February 29th) trailing. When I last wrote in December, this looked unlikely, but now that Bernie Sanders has pulled ahead in both states, he looks under more pressure. An Iowa win and I believe he is the overwhelming favourite. A failure to win in any the first three and much of his support and many of his allies may evaporate…
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 37.6% / +21.5% (National Polling: 19% - 27%) (Iowa Polling: 19% - 28%)
Sanders is now the bookies’ favourite but I believe he is being overestimated *if* and *until* he wins Iowa, which is basically neck and neck as things stand between him and Biden, with Warren and Buttigieg not too far behind.
He has the momentum, the movement and the people on the ground to win the nomination but he needs to use all three of these vital ingredients to win States now. If he fails to do, his campaign could still fizzle out to Biden or Bloomberg in the centre or get overtaken by Warren on the Left…
Up until about three weeks ago, there was a widely held consensus that the next Irish election was going to be a two-way battle between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, where all the other parties would be squeezed, and the Golden Age of the Independents would come to an abrupt end. It hasn’t transpired that way and I want to add a few thoughts on why I think that is the case.
I am going to initially focus this article on Sinn Fein as their meteroric rise in the polls has been the story of the campaign so far but I will then take a deeper look at the four other main parties; Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour and the Greens.
In fact up until a few weeks ago, I don’t think anyone really foresaw the rise in the polls for Sinn Fein that now sees them neck and neck with Fine Gael in joint second and only a few percent behind Fianna Fail (The Red C Poll today has them both tied first on 24%).
I had lost a little faith in Sinn Fein’s potential to be an agent of genuine change, as opposed to a protest party. I actually think Brexit is partly to blame for this. Brexit had taken up so much focus and media coverage that it was then easier for the political establishment and the average voter to simply assume it’s only between the big two as no one else was offering anything different.
In October, I wrote a state of play piece on Irish politics. It mainly focused on Fine Gael and Fianna Fail but did include this scathing analysis of Sinn Fein;
Sinn Fein have been stagnant in 2019 from a polling and (in my view) policy perspective. The Irish electorate are largely sick of protest, anger politics that dominated in the aftermath of the financial crash and the Troika but genuine frustrations exist.
More exciting policies are needed and while Sinn Fein are in the best position to deliver this platform (as the third largest party in nearly all of the polls) of progressive change, they are in danger of losing out if the Greens or the Labour Party can capture the momentum.
I didn’t realise that Sinn Fein had many of these policies in place. More importantly, they also had the frontbench to deliver these ideas in a modern and coherent fashion. It has been rightly noted that Eoin O Broin, Pearse Doherty and Louise O’ Reilly have been very strong in their media performances.
Mary Lou McDonald has undoubtedly changed the political landscape in Ireland. She has lifted Sinn Fein while also allowing the party’s message to connect with parts of the electorate that were simply unreachable under Gerry Adams.
Furthermore, her domineering approach and confrontational debating style have prevented the Independent News & Media group from simply portraying her as a puppet controlled by “shadowy figures” in the IRA Army Council. It just doesn’t work and when Micheal Martin has tried to use this line in the debates, it has fallen flat. Moving forward, the only scaremongering attacks that can be used on Sinn Fein will be over their economic policies.
In the two polls this weekend, Sinn Fein have polled 21% and 24%, averaging 22.5%. This would be an 8.7% increase in their vote from in 2016. It must be noted that Sinn Fein have in the past underperformed their polling but that was usually preceded by a gradual decline in polling from the start of the election campaign until the end. I don’t see any signs of that in 2020 and leads me to believe that they will hold up better this time around.
I expected Fine Gael to perform much better than they have done so far both in the polls and from a media perspective. The RIC memorial scandal was an absolute disaster and the worst possible start to the campaign and it now feels like a “Eureka” moment where the Irish electorate suddenly decided they’re just a bit useless.
They’ve made mistakes on health and housing but I did think that the overall state of the economy would be good enough for their vote to hold up but this is proving not to be the case. As for Brexit, even in my home Border constituency of Louth, I’ve been told it is not coming up on the doors at all.
Conversely, I think Leo Varadkar’s debate performances have slightly exceeded my expectations. In the debates, I actually think Varadkar has come across quite well. He definitely seems a lot humbler and I thought this approach might have led to a small boost in the polls this weekend. However, that has not been the case at all.
I am beginning to question if the viewers at home are seeing disinterest where I saw humility? I did say at the start of this post that I would not make predictions, but I can see Simon Coveney as the next Fine Gael leader in the not so distant future.
If you were a foreign observer or new to Irish politics, you’d think Fianna Fail would be happy with how this campaign has gone so far. They have been first in every poll and Micheal Martin is the clear favourite to be the next leader.
However, that only tells half the story and Martin in particular has had a very poor campaign. He has ruled out working with both Fine Gael and Sinn Fein but there is increasing dissension in the ranks that they must do a deal with one of the two in order to ensure a stable government led by Fianna Fail. He will come under increasing pressure if the polls are in any way accurate. I think he can still be Taoiseach if he works with Fine Gael but he has surely ruled out any agreement with Sinn Fein far too vehemently for a coalition to work *under his leadership*…
The Greens and Labour have both had decent campaigns, but Brendan Howlin has a much tougher task than Eamon Ryan. Howlin has probably performed marginally better but is facing a tide that is going out on Labour. Ryan has looked slightly all over the place at times and looks likes the “old guard” when contrasted with the optimistic, radical wing of the party as portrayed best by Saoirse McHugh.
Fortunately for him though, there are plenty of voters who will currently vote (or give a preference to) the Green Party candidate, such is the heightened awareness of environmental issues. They will have issues down the line about the future direction of the party but I expect them to be mainly all smiles when they are sipping on their organic Champagne on the night of February 9th.
The last debate is meant to take place on Tuesday night between Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin. RTE have announced they will decide tomorrow if Mary Lou McDonald will participate. I actually see it as “win either way” situation for Sinn Fein.
If she isn’t included, the debate loses legitimacy and will have less public interest. If she is included, it will now be the “Mary Lou debate” but both Varadkar and Martin will have to be careful not to combine attacks on her, as this will play right into the Sinn Fein narrative of “they’re both the same”.
I may get write a little more in the run up to the election before making my final predictions for every constituency and seat on Friday evening. It’s been interesting campaign so far and, as I’ve mentioned already, one no one predicted. It is also clear that it will be quite challenging to come to a resolution after the debate. Finally, I think the next eighteen months may be one of the most fascinating periods in Irish politics in a very log time…
Before I sat down to write these predictions, I was not too excited about what 2020 had to offer in terms of political events and potential outcomes.
Thankfully, when quickly I began to realise that there is a lot to look forward to and the twelve months ahead could be a watershed year in many ways. I realise that my projections can often be a little bit biased towards the Left but I think I have managed to avoid doing so here, with the exception of Bernie Sanders as my pick for the Democratic Presidential Candidate.
In general, I actually see a relatively calm year and my previous fears of a massive global downturn have substantially subsided, particularly for 2020. There are certainly serious structural deficits in the global economy but they seem to be further from many minds than they even were this time last year.
Finally, I do see a further increase in “Green” politics across the planet. With the exception of a firm prediction for the Irish Green Party, I have not quantified this in any 2020 outcome as I see it more as a guiding theme that will impact and aid certain parties and figures in the contests discussed below.
Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic Presidential Nomination
I predicted that Bernie Sanders will be the next American President for almost two years now. I am not going to change it as this late juncture.
Objectively, looking at all the polling evidence, he is only the second favourite as things stand behind Joe Biden. However, I believe he has consolidated second place and is best positioned to challenge Biden while also capturing the hearts minds of both Democratic voters and the wider American electorate. That said, he probably does need to win at least two of the early states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina) to win so there should be further clarity on this prediction quite early in the year.
Democrats to Win the American Presidential Election
This is not an easy call to make at all. In fact, without knowing the Democratic nominee it may be a pointless endeavour. However, I still believe that Donald Trump will not be able to hold enough of the swing states required to repeat his 2016 victory.
I can see the Democrats taking back at least three of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana while Florida and Arizona could also become competitive.
Fine Gael to win Most Seats in next Irish General Election
The first of two Irish General Election predictions that are slightly hedged. Just like in the US Presidential Election, it is a toss-up between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail for who will finish with the Most Seats and lead the next Government.
I have gone with Fine Gael for Most Seats as I believe on the day enough people will decide that they are happy enough with the status quo to return Fine Gael with the most seats.
Michael Martin Next Taoiseach after next Irish General Election
However, on the other side of this hedge, there is a lot of discontent with the Fine Gael leadership and they will have very few options for coalition partners if the results are as tight as the current polls suggest.
Martin is a very shrewd political operator and may be able to cobble together a coalition involving the Greens, Labour and a smattering of Independents if the numbers are there to lead.
The Irish Greens to (at least) Double Seats to 6
The Greens are certainly a party on the rise again in Ireland. They only won two seats in the 2016 election but their ranks have been bolstered after Joe O’Brien’s by-election win in Dublin Fingal.
Further seat gains will not be easily come by but I can still see them double their current number to at least six as I believe they will be relatively transfer-friendly across the political spectrum.
Sinn Fein to (buck national trend?) Hold Two Seats in Louth
Sinn Fein currently holds 22 seats in the Dail having lost two TDs in Peader Toibin and Carol Nolan before Mark Ward won the Dublin Mid-West by-election in November 2019. It will be extremely difficult for Sinn Fein to make gains or even hold their current numbers given their recent electoral performances and current national polling.
However, I can see Louth being a rare bright spot as I think even with a first preference vote share drop, they still have a better chance of holding on to two seats than Fine Gael do, given the local political dynamics at play. As my home constituency, I will be following it closely as we approach the 2020 Irish General Election.
A Ministry of all Ireland/Island Affairs to be Created
Probably my most speculative call for 2020. Irrespective of whether Fine Gael or Fianna Fail lead the next government, I think there is a decent chance a new ministry is created that has a further all-island element. It may not explicitly mention Irish Unity, but the intention will be clear.
No Comprehensive Trade Deal Reached Between Britain and EU
Boris Johnson has 364 days to strike a trade deal with the European Union before the transition period ends on January 1st, 2021. I don’t believe he’ll manage to do so and there will almost certainly be a further extension or a contingency plan put in place to avoid Britain and the EU trading on WTO terms from that date forward.
Keir Starmer next Labour Leader
I don’t think Keir Starmer is the preferred candidate for any major faction of the British Labour Party. More importantly, though, I don’t think there are many groups that he has really isolated.
I think he has the ability to unsettle Boris Johnson at the dispatch box and he may just be able to unite the party in a coherent opposition.
Sadiq Khan to be next London Mayor
Sadiq Khan winning the 2020 London Mayoral Election may be a rare electoral bright spot for the Labour Party in recent times. He will face some opposition from the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and Rory Stewart but I expect him to hold on and win a second term.
No Second Scottish Independence Referendum in 2020
If I was Scottish it would make my blood boil but there simply won't be a second Scottish Independence Referendum this year because the English, specifically the English Conservatives, won't allow it. When Westminster refuses to grant a Section 30 to Holyrood Parliament then what options will the Scottish Government have?
They may have some further leverage and legitimacy if the SNP win a majority in 2021, but until then I simply can't see Boris and Cummings allowing a risky distraction (in their eyes) like another referendum.
DUP to Win Most Seats if Stormont Election Held
We should know relatively early in the New Year if there will indeed be a 2020 Stormont Election. If an election does come to pass I expect the DUP to win the Most Seats, though they will return with a reduced number of MLAs. This will partly be down to the large number of vulnerable Sinn Fein MLAs who scraped in on the last seat in the 2017 Assembly Election.
Benjamin Netanyahu Resigns or is Forced Out as Likud Leader
My final prediction for 2020 is that Benjamin Netanyahu resigns or is forced out as Likud leader and steps away from frontline Israeli politics. Between corruption cases, a third General Election in a year and internal party challengers, surely his time at the top will come to an end in 2020.
I got quite a lot wrong in 2019. I actually can’t even really put all the errors down to one single thematic error. I think I was probably a little too pessimistic in terms of where the economy would be, while I also envisaged less movement in British Politics.
Paradoxically, I also predicted we’d have an Irish General Election by now, which has been pushed back into next year. Overall, it wasn’t my best effort at predictions but it has given me plenty of food for thought as I try and be a little bit more successful looking at the year ahead.
Beginning of a serious global economic downturn
There have been many threats to the global economy in 2019 and, at times, it did look like 2019 could be the year that the ten year bull run ended truly ended.
However, this simply wasn’t the case. The markets ended the year quite strongly and most people, thankfully, didn’t experience the economic and financial woes I feared a global recession would bring about.
Brexit to happen
This was a strange one to call. In legal terms, Britain remains a member of the European Union as we start 2020, so I was wrong. However, Boris Johnson’s massive majority won on December 12th meant that in many people’s minds, Brexit has been a foregone conclusion since.
The actual exit date will be January 31st at the very latest though the transition period agreed means that very little will change until January 1st, 2021.
No British General Election
What can I say about this one? I was just wrong. I thought Theresa May would somehow get Brexit over the line, hang on and try and avoid having an election until she could get some initiative back on her domestic agenda. I was wrong on all three fronts...
Theresa May to be Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn still to be Leader of the Opposition on January 1st 2020
Theresa May is long gone and while Jeremy Corbyn is staying in place until a new Labour leader is elected, it’s fair to say I called this one badly too.
Irish General Election to take place
It threatened at times and this was definitely a contrarian view on January 1st 2019. However, the majority were correct and the Fine Gael - Fianna Fail Confidence and Supply Agreement survived another year. There is very little doubt that there will be an election in 2020.
Trump to still be President on Jan 1st 2020 even if impeached…
I called this one correctly. I felt he could be impeached but believed he would not resign and would fight all the way. I’ll be making a few 2020 predictions in American politics so I wont delve too deeply now.
No Northern Ireland Assembly
I simply couldn’t see it getting back up and running in 2019. As I sit here writing this on January 1st, Simon Coveney is again travelling to Belfast to try and get the parties to agree on on a dela to get Stormont back up and running. If they don’t agree to do so by January 13th, the Northern Ireland Secretary, Julian Smith, has stated he will call an election.
Arlene Foster to be replaced as DUP Leader
Arlene Foster has survived as the DUP leader but she has overseen one of their worst ever years and I can’t really see how her leadership continues for much longer. Her leadership isn’t quite as hollow as Jeremy Corbyn’s but she must be quite close to being put out of her misery.
Far-right gains to be disappointing in EU Parliamentary Elections
This may be my happiest correct prediction. The far-right did make gains but they have not gained control of the EU Parliament and their influence has only slightly increased. There have been many gains for the far right across the globe in recent years and, unfortunately, it is still too early to decide if they have reached their high tide of influence.
Social Democrats to win the Most Seats in Danish General Election
The Social Democrats won the Most Seats in the June 2019 General Election and their leader, Mette Frederiksen became the Prime Minister. A reminder that the European Social Democrats haven’t gone away you know…
Socialist Party to win the Most Seats in Portuguese General Election
The Socialist Party increased their share of the popular vote from 32% to 36% and gained a further 22 seats for a very impressive electoral performance. Portugal is the beacon of hope for socialism in Europe currently...
It’s been almost four months since I last wrote about the Democratic Presidential race. There have been dropouts, new entrants and major changes. Kamala Harris dropping out did come as a shock to many, myself included, but it was clear that her campaign was on the wane and her chances of winning the nomination were slim.
Michael Bloomberg has finally entered the race and may prove to be a formidable candidate, especially if gets a chance to debate in the 7th Democratic Debate on January 14th (for which the qualifying criteria has not yet been released by the Democratic National Convention).
So far in these updates, I have focused on the national polling from Realclear Politics available here and the implied odds probability from Betfair Exchange here . I will continue to use these as I believe this lends consistency and allows a clear way to track progress and change in individual candidate’s campaigns and momentum.
However, I will now also reference individual state polling, also from Realclear, when I dig down deeper into each candidate’s update below. The early state polling for places like Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada is a valuable resource that can help paint a broader, yet more accurate picture, of the candidate’s potential success.
I just want to highlight that I have always ranked the candidates by their implied probability from their betting odds, but I have in this case excluded Hillary Clinton (who is currently wedged between Andrew Yang and Michael Bloomberg) as she is not currently running.
Amy Klobuchar (Implied Probability: 2.8% / NEW (Polling 2% - 5%):
Klobuchar has never yet figured in the top seven but has benefited from qualifying for the 6th debate which took place last night on the 19th of December. By many accounts, she was also the strongest performer of the night. It would be the perfect time to get a campaign boost and with a strong showing in the 7th debate, she could potentially be a serious contender for the Iowa caucus on Monday, February 3rd.
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 3.1% / -0.6% (Polling 2% - 6%):
He has hardly moved in polling or probability, but he has stuck in there, outpolling supposedly more serious candidates like Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard. I really can’t see him winning at this stage, but I am very, very curious as to where his eventual endorsement will go.
Michael Bloomberg (Implied Probability: 9.5% / NEW (Polling 3% - 7%):
A big political beast who has entered the race quite late on but has immediately jumped into 5th favourite. A billionaire and a two-term Mayor of New York, he has massive name recognition and may be seen as a counterweight to the more radical left-wing candidates like Sanders and Warren, but with experience and a professionalism that Buttigieg and Biden struggle with respectively.
As I mentioned in the summary, he needs to get into the 7th debate but if he manages to and does well, I believe he can win the nomination.
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 10.6% / +5% (Polling 5% - 13%):
Buttigieg is the perfect candidate to illustrate the point that national polling alone is not enough to get the full picture of a candidate’s prospects. He very rarely polls above 10% nationally (the 13% poll I have referenced in his polling range is a bit of an outlier). However, he currently leads in Iowa polling and is second in New Hampshire, which has its primary on February 11th.
I think he needs to win one of these two. Winning an early state contest counts for an awful lot but coming second doesn’t, even if the votes are basically designated proportionally. Without an early win, I fear his campaign will flounder.
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 16.1% / -15.6% (Polling 12% - 18%):
Warren has had a tough four months since my last update on the race. Warren has definitely struggled in that period. In late August, she was the markets’ clear favourite to win. Since then, her chances have halved while she has dropped from 1st to 3rd favourite. That said, her polling range has only marginally decreased from 14% - 20% to 12% to 18%.
She has still had some good moments in debates and stump speeches, but she struggled badly with the enhanced media scrutiny and attacks from rivals that come with being the frontrunner. Without that added pressure, she may again start to slowly creep up in polling.
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 16.1% / +2.9% (Polling 13% - 25%):
Sanders had a heart attack on October 4th. In the aftermath it felt to many that this was effectively the end of his campaign. It was assumed that this would further add to the perception of him being too old and fragile to be the President of the United States.
However, soon after, he procured the endorsement so Congresswomen Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar and has since campaigned with vim and a vigour that has defied his critics. He is second in Iowa and leading in New Hampshire, though is well behind Joe Biden in both Nevada and South Carolina.
If he comprehensively defeats Warren in each of these four states, she may withdraw and could perhaps endorse him. This isn’t likely yet but may be his best chance of catching Joe Biden.
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 31.7% / +7.3% (Polling 23% - 32%):
Biden is back on top in terms of betting as well as polling (which he has led from day one). I am beginning to be a bit more bullish on his chances and think a ~30% implied probability is a bit too low. Yes, he makes gaffes and isn’t a very slick debater but he has constantly polled first and there is no evidence that this will fall drastically.
His biggest threat is that one candidate wins both Iowa and New Hampshire and then he goes into the Caucus (February 22nd) and the South Carolina Primary (February 29th) trailing. Even if that was the case, he has a large lead in both currently and this would not be a fatal blow. This is the first update where I genuinely see him as not only the current leader but also as the candidate who indisputably has the best chance of winning the Democratic nomination.
I haven’t written very much recently about British politics, but I have probably never followed an election as closely as I have this one. I will be writing a separate prediction with some solid numbers later but this is a little different.
I am picking ten recommendations where I believe the betting favourite can lose. I am basing it purely on constituency odds from Paddy Power based at 11am on Wednesday morning as between them, they cover all 650 constituencies.
Furthermore, I am looking at it in a slightly different way. I do not expect all ten to win but I am hoping that I can correctly predict five non favourites and that overall I would at least break even.
Therefore, I have a few outsiders that can win if Labour gain at the expense of the Conservatives and a few vice versa though this is not perfectly balanced. I then have some less correlated seats across Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The approach would be to have an equal amount on each seat and then hope to make a small gain. There are much better political tipsters and resources out there, this is more a personal exercise I am sharing.
I am ranking them in order of largest outsider to shortest, would love to her your thoughts;
Current MP: Chris Hazzard
Sinn Fein Majority: 2,446
Prediction: Michael Savage, SDLP (4/1)
This is quite a big outsider at 4/1 and I haven’t heard anyone recommend it but I think it could come into play if there is a province wide swing to the SDLP away from Sinn Fein.
Most of the attention has focused on the battle between both parties in Foyle but I think this could be one to watch on a particularly good night for the SDLP/bad night for Sinn Fein.
Current MP: Emma Dent-Coad
Labour Majority: 20
Prediction: Emma Dent-Coad, Labour (13/5)
A very high-profile seat in the last two years given the awful tragedy of Grenfell Tower. More recently, the former Conservative MP, Sam Gyimah, has decided to run here for the Liberal Democrats. It’s going to be very tight finish but 13/5 is quite generous for Labour.
Current MP: Jared O’ Mara
Labour Majority: 2,125
Prediction: Olivia Blake, Labour (9/4)
This seat caused one of the biggest shocks in 2017 when the Nick Clegg was beaten by Jared O’Mara. Unfortunately for O’Mara, he has had a torrid time since as he has struggled with depression and alcoholism. It is simply assumed that this seat will go back to the Liberal Democrats but I think it could be worth watching.
Current MP: Martin Whitfield
Labour Majority: 3,083
Prediction: Martin Whitfield, Labour (9/4)
Another 9/4 for a Labour incumbent that the markets see as struggling to hold their seat. What has made me think this may be good value is that the YouGov MRP has Labour ahead and the SNP seem to be struggling in the last days of the campaign.
Current MP: Paul Girvan
DUP Majority: 3,208
Prediction: Danny Kinahan, UUP (17/10)
Danny Kinahan held the seat from 2010 to 2015. I sense quite a lot of disillusionment with the DUP and I was not at all impressed by their performance in NI debates. South Antrim is probably the only seat that unionists can show their anger with the DUP, safe in the knowledge that South Antrim will still return a Unionist MP.
Current MP: Judith Cummins
Labour Majority: 6,700
Prediction: Narinder Sikhon, Conservative (6/4)
This is one of about twenty seats that can go to the Conservatives from Labour if the Conservatives manage to have a strong showing. It’s current projected have Labour only 1% by YouGov. While I think it is more likely, Labour slightly outperform their current polling, I want to have a few on both sides of any potential movement.
Current MP: Derek Thomas
Conservative Majority: 312
Prediction: Andrew George, Liberal Democrats (5/4)
This is a seat where would be Labour voters can vote tactically to remove the incumbent Conservative MP. It may be on the constituencies that decide Boris Johnson is not fit to be Prime Minister and votes for the Liberal Democrats
Dagenham & Rainham
Current MP: Jon Cruddas
Labour Majority: 4,652
Prediction: Jon Cruddas, Labour (11/10)
I think Jon Cruddas has a better chance of defending a 4.6k lead than 11/10 suggests, particularly in an outer-London seat that voted 69% to Remain and where the Brexit Party are also competing.
Current MP: David Hanson
Labour Majority: 4,240
Prediction: Rob Roberts, Conservative (11/10)
A Labour seat that voted 54% to Remain. YouGov have it as a tossup while Electoral Calculus have it as a Labour Hold. It is a seat that could move if the Conservatives slightly exceed their final polling.
Current MP: Theresa Villiers
Conservative Majority: 353
Prediction: Emma Whysall, Labour (Evens)
One of the few potential gains Labour could make in this election. Chingford and Woodford Green (Labour 6/4) is a more appealing upset story given the stature of Iain Duncan Smith but I still prefer this seat at Evens given the Greens got four times the Conservative majority in 2017.
As we head into the final two and a half months of 2019, I wanted to write a little about the current state of play in Irish politics. A lot has changed in the public’s perception of the parties, while many of the underlying, fundamental dynamics remain the same since I last wrote a piece.
My headline back in March was “If the Next Irish General Election comes in 2019, it's Fine Gaels to Lose...” and while they may still be slightly ahead in the polls – though it could equally be called a dead heat – I no longer think this is the case.
I wrote a lot about how the Confidence & Supply agreement was more favourable to Fine Gael than Fianna Fail. There are two main reasons for this, and they weren’t as obvious when the C&S was agreed back in April 2016.
The first is Brexit. I don’t know if there has been a “safer” issue to don the green jersey than Brexit for Irish politicians in my lifetime. The signing of the Good Friday Agreement was a phenomenal achievement, but it involved major compromises by all sides and there were many awkward meetings that didn’t always make for the best of optics.
Brexit is different in the sense that nearly all Irish politicians are united in their opposition to any land borders on the island of Ireland. It also helps that the government’s position has been wholeheartedly endorsed by all the European countries and many high profile Democratic politicians in the US.
As the Brexit vote came in June 2016, it was impossible to foretell but I am quite confident in stating that Micheal Martin would have demanded a frontline role in Brexit negotiations had he known how prominent the issue would become. It’s been a difficult position to have where you back Fine Gael’s actions but have to try and garner some attention/credit for the accomplishments.The second issue is the economy. It probably was a little more predictable back then that the Irish economy would continue to have another 2-3 years of strong growth as the Irish economy was buoyant the global outlook was also positive.
However, in my view, Fine Gael have squandered a lot of this potential upside by failing to adequately address two of the public’s major concerns; health and housing. The Children’s Hospital scandal severely dented Fine Gael’s reputation as the party of economic prudence while continued housing shortages and astronomical rent prices have helped to facilitate Fianna Fail’s resurgence in Dublin and other major urban centres.
This led to Fianna Fail leading a national opinion poll for the first time in on April 16th since July 2017, while leading five out of the ten since. They are now the bookies’ favourites to win the most seats at the next election and Micheal Martin is the favourite to be the next Taoiseach.Sinn Fein have been stagnant in 2019 from a polling and (in my view) policy perspective. The Irish electorate are largely sick of protest, anger politics that dominated in the aftermath of the financial crash and the Troika but genuine frustrations exist.
More exciting policies are needed and while Sinn Fein are in the best position to deliver this platform (as the third largest party in nearly all of the polls) of progressive change, they are in danger of losing out if the Greens or the Labour Party can capture the momentum.
I think the Greens are in a stronger position since their strong showing in the European elections in May, as well as a European-wide boon in green party voting support. Their main decision in any pending election campaign will be deciding whether to openly court being part of a coalition or whether they want to stand alone and continue to grow their support from the opposition benches.
This could be seen as a battle between the old guard who have experience of the perks of government against the Young Turks who want a radical overhaul.Their current ceiling seems to be around 10-12% but I actually think they could hit 15% in polls in the run up to a General Election with a well-executed campaign.
The final point is when will the election take place. I predicted at the start of the year that it would fall some time in 2019. However, once Brexit was delayed from March 29th and October 31st was the new deadline, the consensus moved to a Spring/early Summer 2020 election. This position was endorsed by both parties at the time.
I do think that the gradual increase in Fianna Fail support at the expense of Fine Gael leaves Leo Varadkar with a major strategic decision; does he decisively strike with a (if it happens) post Brexit deal snap election or wait and hope that Fine Gael will increase their lead again between now and next Spring. At this stage, it is probably more likely that the election will happen in 2020 but I do think many political commentators are underestimating the chances of a snap late November/early December election.
Regardless of when it takes place, I still think Fine Gael are slight favourites unless there is a disastrous crash our No Deal Brexit or another major financial scandal erupts in the days preceding the vote. Alternatively, an election held after the public deem Leo’s handling of Brexit a success could be very beneficial for his party’s chances of forming the next government…
For the second time in 2019, the Israeli electorate go to the polls and again it is too close to call.
In April, the key battle was between Netanyahu and Benny Gantz and this remains the case now.
However, the situation has deteriorated for Netanyahu since, as the net has closed around some of the activities of him and his wife in relation to allegations of corruption.
It may not be too surprising then that he has stated that he would like to pass legislation that leaves Israeli MPs immune from prosecution while in office.
However, Netanyahu also faces challenges on the right from smaller parties who have increased their appeal in recent years by offering different versions of right wing Isaeli politics.
His most potent challenger on the right is probably Avigdor Lieberman. His secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu seeks to break the link between the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and the right-wing governance while not conceding an inch to the Palestinians – he famously resigned as Defence Minister of Israel in November 2018 after calling the Gaza ceasefire as “surrendering to terror”.
These aren’t his only challengers, he also has more traditional right-wing rivals like Yamima,, comprised of 3 smaller parties ahead of this election, who are currently polling between 7% and 10% which could give them up to 12 seats in the next 120 seat Knesset.
Netanyahu is not giving up his dominance of the right though. He has vowed to annex up to 30% of the West Bank if he wins tomorrow.
Benny Gantz’s Blue & White Part has been on 32% in the last 6 opinion polls which puts them practically neck and neck with Netanyahu’s Likud.
However, the last 20 polls have given Netanyahu a clear lead, approximately 10%, in the Preferred Prime Minister question.
This leads to me to believe that Netanyahu will again find a way to form a majority and remain as Prime Minister. He has undoubtedly moved the electorate to the right during his second, ten-year stint as Prime Minister and it will be very difficult for Gantz to create a stable, left of centre majority, even if his Blue and White Party end up with the most seats.
I believe Netanyahu is one of the most destructive and destabilising figures in global politics and would love to see him replaced with a less belligerent leader.
Unfortunately, I acknowledge that he is one of the craftiest and politically astute leaders anywhere in the world. Like every politician, his career must eventually end but I think he may yet again defy the critics and remain Prime Minister when the final votes are counted….
I had intended to write this in the immediate aftermath of the second round of the Democratic Debates, hosted by CNN, which took place on July 30th and 31st. However, I got a little distracted by summer and other events which means the last update is now almost two months old.
There was serious movement in that update where the field went from having two main frontrunners in Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to flattening out to five serious candidates, with Warren, Harris and Buttigieg joining. That first set of debates were very damaging for Biden who looked his age and was hammered by Kamala Harris (in what was almost certainly a pre-meditated attack) on his actions on race in the past.
What started then and has continued now is the rise and rise of Elizabeth Warren in the betting markets and polls. In this collection of blogs, I have always ranked by the implied odds from the betting markets which has been at considerable variance with the raw data from the polls. Warren has risen in both and is now basically joint second in the polls with Bernie Sanders (though individual polls very greatly) while she is now the bookies’ favourite after two very strong debate performances.
The next set of debates are set for September 11th and 12th and I will be closely following these as, so far, only ten candidates have qualified so there should be more speaking time and some serious rises and falls, based on performance.
Cory Booker (Implied Probability: 2% / NEW (Polling 1% - 4%):
Cory Booker has down well in the debates without yet getting the rewards in the polls. I still believe he can have his “time” with the media, and I can easily see him move into the low double digits with a break performance and become a serious contender.
It hasn’t happened for him yet but as the race moves forward and candidates drop out, it’s much better to get the momentum later on. He may also be deemed as an attractive unity candidate by the Democratic Party.
I think he offers a lot more value than Harris, who I would place him in the same grouping as, and I think his rise may come at her expense later on.
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 3.7% / -0.1% (Polling 1% - 3%):
Andrew Yang baffles me every time I write about him. He is incredibly stable and consistent with hardly any change in his polling or odds. He didn’t have a particularly good second debate and while he may not drop out of the top seven after the third round, I really can’t see him break the top five.
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 5.6% / -6.3% (Polling 3% - 8%):
He’s dropped a place; his polling is lower, and his odds are longer but none of this is fatal to Buttigieg’s chances. He’s definitely in a bit of a lull and there are criticisms that he is more style than substance but, on the other hand, I do think he can benefit from staying in the race, building his policy platform and communicating that to the Democratic electorate as the field narrows and each candidate gets more screen and debate time.
Kamala Harris (Implied Probability: 11.4% / -11.3%) (Polling 5% - 8%):
Harris had a fantastic first debate which propelled her to the top of the pile but then fell flat in the second debate which has seen her fall back. I think she is a little flat and doesn’t deliver consistently when the cameras are on her.
Harris can win the candidature and I expect her to last quite far into the process but must find that spark needed to really connect with a large part of the Democratic electorate as she is still not breaking 10% in any of the recent polls.
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 13.2% / +2.6%) (Polling 10% - 20%):
Sanders is holding steady in second with Elizabeth Warren in joint second but, since late April at least, he has been on the wane while her star has risen.
Their combined vote is enough to overtake Biden but it remains to be seen if they will continue to gradually expand the Left proportion or eventually turn on each other.
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 24.4% / +4.0%) (Polling 19% - 33%):
Biden recovered well in the second debate and despite being attacked from everywhere, he was able to parry off most the attacks.
He remains well ahead in the polling, though his lead is no longer insurmountable. It would be foolish to discount him and if the field below him continue to be divided quite evenly then he could easily do well in the early states and look like a presidential candidate in waiting.
Equally, he could continue to drop further gaffes and slowly fade away…
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 31.7% / +15.6%) (Polling 14% - 20%):
Warren is riding on the coattails of two great debate performances and is probably now just slightly ahead of Sanders and there is a good chance she consolidates the Left vote and then looks to eclipse Biden in the polls.
Even though she eventually endorsed Clinton in 2016, she is probably too far to the Left for many mainstream Democrats who may be happy to have her in the race now to split the vote between her and Sanders but who may then work against the eventual champion of that side of the party.
Having said that, if she performs well in the third debate, now that she has a much higher profile and may be the target of more attacks from across the field, then I believe she can eclipse both Sanders and Biden and become the frontrunner.
*Polling date taken from here
I haven’t written about British politics in some time, but I have been following quite closely with regular tweets.
The challenges with writing about British politics currently are manifold; the press coverage is omnipresent, everyone has an opinion, it is very difficult to keep up to date as there are constant small updates and finally, yet paradoxically, the underlying Brexit fundamentals remain the same.
I first tipped Boris Johnson to be the next Conservative leader in August 2017. At the time he was Foreign Secretary but was also tacitly criticising Theresa May’s performance as Prime Minister. When she failed to sack him after a particularly belligerent Telegraph article, I decided that she was already too weak to last much longer and that Boris would soon swoop in.
It didn’t turn out exactly as I had envisaged, and at times my belief in Boris to be the next Conservative leader and therefore Prime Minister wavered, yet we are now on the cusp of his premiership, bar a 40/1 Jeremy Hunt upset in the Conservative leadership announcement tomorrow.
The focus of this blog is to try and take a step back and assess how long Boris is likely to remain as Prime Minister. It’s an impossible challenge though I think it is reasonable to figure out some major early hurdles and analyse whether it appears likely that he will be able to clear them.
Firstly, Boris must maintain the confidence of the House via the Queen accepting he can form a majority. I am not a British constitutional expert, but it seems this is a lot easier than having a Vote of Confidence in parliament.
For this reason, I do expect him to become Prime Minister on Wednesday as expected. There is far too much uncertainty for many Conservative MPs to publicly denounce him as they would lose the whip immediately and would not be able to stand as a Conservative candidate at the next GE. There is also talk that up to six Conservative MPs could switch to the Liberal Democrats but even if they did, I am not sure they would take down a Boris government with Labour largely ahead in the polls.
Furthermore, the Liberal Democrats are also only announcing their new leader later today so those wavering Conservative MPs will probably delay this move until they see what direction the party are moving in, what sort of new leader bounce the Tories and Liberal Democrats enjoy respectively and how much traction Boris is getting in his negotiations with the European Union.
Once he does pass this initial hurdle, the next step will be to survive any Motion of No Confidence put forth by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party in September. I think he will survive that as the hatred of many MPs (unfortunately from all parties) for Jeremy Corbyn should be enough to prevent them voting down Boris at that stage, especially if he has made any progress in talks and/or has downplayed No Deal Brexit (though not dismissed it as that could be fatal too).
After that, there is another parliamentary break and not long until October 31st. I think this is the moment we will know if a Boris Johnson premiership is any different to that of Theresa May’s. Under her stewardship, I would have confidently expected another delay while somehow avoiding a second referendum or general election.
I’ve realised that this takes us up to October 31st and I have decided, for now, that is my ne plus ultra. I think Boris will still be Prime Minister on that date, an election will not have been called though I can’t decide if the United Kingdom will be leaving the very next day.
That prediction will have to come at a later stage, when things have become a little clearer….
A lot has changed since the last update. There have been a few further new entrants, candidate’s campaigns have slowly waned while others are finally gaining momentum.
However, this week has been dominated by the first two Presidential debates, which took place over two nights on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, with ten candidates taking part in each.
These debates had plenty of talking points and have certainly moved the dial on a number of candidates. In each of the two debates, female candidates dominated while the more established, incumbent runners took some serious flak.
This has led to some dramatic changes in the rankings while one of the former favourites, Beto O’ Rourke has fallen out of the top seven and it looks like time is a serious contender has come to an end.
Furthermore, it has flattened out the race from two main contenders (Biden and Bernie) leading the way to what currently looks like a very competitive five way race…
Tulsi Gabbard (Implied Probability: 2.9% / NEW (Polling 1% -3%):
In my view, Tulsi Gabbard has always been an exciting, radical candidate with many traditionally contrarians American foreign policy views that are becoming more mainstream as the party drifts to the Left. She was one of the stars of the first night of the debate and had one of the highlights of either night when she lectured Tim Ryan on the America’s continued involvement in Afghanistan. She backed Bernie Sanders in 2016 and I think she will ultimately end up being a high profile endorsement of his again as we reach the competitive end of the campaign.
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 3.8% / -1.3%) (Polling: 1% - 2%):
I wrote in the last update that;
“Yang has been remarkably consistent over the last six weeks. Despite polling on average at 1% and in 11th place, he remains in sixth place in the probability rankings. He needs to be do more and be heard by a larger proportion of the electorate if he is going to kick on from here.”
This remains the case and I am now very surprised that he has managed to stay in the top seven as he hasn’t really managed to further his audience. He did manage to pitch his key policy of a universal basic income in the debate, though I don’t think it has captivated the public imagination.
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 10.6% / -9.2%) (Polling 13% - 27%):
It’s been a strange lull in the campaign for Bernie Sanders where he hasn’t had any major blunders but it’s impossible to shake the notion that his star has waned slightly. This is also reflected in the polling where instead of consistently polling second, he is now behind Warren in about half of the polls. It’s the most over rated piece of analysis on the Democratic race but it’s impossible not to ask why Bernie in particular, when you can get Bernie’s policies from about 3 or 4 other younger, fresher candidates who are less belligerent against the parties’ establishment?
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 11.9% / +3.6%) (Polling 4% - 9%):
Buttigieg has slowly and steadily increased his polling and is now undoubtedly a top tier candidate. That said, he didn’t particularly shine in the second debate (which was definitely the more competitive of the two) and he may need to launch a few policies in the short term to not only maintain the growth but also to re-capture some of the earlier excitement around his candidature.
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 16.1% / +8.4%) (Polling 7% -19%):
Warren has arrived in a big way. She was already rising in the polls due to a number of exciting policies and a slicker, more authentic approach to the media but she then dominated the first debate and looked like a genuine, potential president. While I was previously sceptical, I now believe she can win and, for the first time, is now a serious, credible alternative to Bernie Sanders for many on the Left in Party.
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 20.4% / -6.3%) (Polling 25% -38%):
Biden still has a massive lead in the polling (though his numbers will probably take a hit following this performance) but he looked rattled at points in the second debate and he was skewered by Kamala Harris when she turned on him and confronted him on his record on bussing earlier in his career. He did bite back that he has always tried to protect people and not a prosecutor but it was lost in the moment and it will now be interesting to see if he can reclaim the top spot or we’re already reached, and passed, peak Biden.
Kamala Harris (Implied Probability: 22.7% / +14.2%) (Polling 5% - 8%):
Harris has jumped up two places to take the lead in the betting. This is mainly based on her strong performance last night though she has always been seen as a very strong candidate by many in the press. I think she is much more suited to questioning and debating then to stump speeches (where she sometimes fails to capture the crowd) and I imagine her campaign team are now wracking their brains trying to think of ways to build on her momentum between now and the next set of debates on CNN. I think this may include a number of interviews on the main talk shows that focus on her childhood and formative years in order to connect further with the wider electorate.
*Polling date taken from here
The biggest change since my last update has been Joe Biden entering the race. He has more than doubled his chances of being the next Democratic Presidential Candidate and six of the other seven candidates
Beto O’ Rourke (Implied Probability: 4.8% / -9.9%) (Polling 3% -6%):
I think O' Rourke's star has truly waned now. In the last update six weeks ago, I claimed that Pete Buttigieg offered a more dynamic, compelling alternative for Democratic voters looking for a fresh candidate who could appeal to a vast swathe of the Party's voters. When I googled O' Rourke today, the only headlines he had generated recently were articles about his regret over his Vanity Fair campaign launch. I think there is every chance he drops out of the top seven in the next few months.
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 5.1% / -0.2%) (Polling: 1% - 2%):
Yang has been remarkably consistent over the last six weeks. Despite polling on average at 1% and in 11th place, he remains in sixth place in the probability rankings. He needs to be do do more and be heard by a larger proportion of the electorate if he is going to kick on from here.
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 7.7% / +4.3%) (Polling 5% - 12%):
Apart from Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren has had the best time of it among the Presidential hopefuls since the last update. She has more than doubled her chances, moved up two places and her polling has increased significantly. I have said for a while that, despite some very interesting and innovative policy launches, she needed momentum. Warren's campaign now seems to have sparked a little and it will be interesting to follow if she can close the gap on Bernie Sanders and challenge him for the champion of the progressive side of the party.
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 8.3% / -2.8%) (Polling 2% - 10%):
It appears as if Buttigeig is in this campaign for the long haul. He needs to continue to build his voter recognition levels and launch more policies. He is definitely focusing on the former and in the last three days alone, he appeared on Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert. I personally found this appearance a little cringey but Jimmy Fallon is definitely an influential media star for young, liberal voters in the United States. I do think he can do quite well in the debates if he makes it to them in a strong position but he'll need more substance to keep the momentum until then.
Kamala Harris (Implied Probability: 14.7% / -6.1%) (Polling 5% -10%):
The second update in a row where Harris has dropped by a place. In my view, third looks about right for her at the moment. Harris is certainly a very strong candidate but can not be currently classed in the category as Bernie Sanders, yet alone Joe Biden. The upper end of her polling is similar to Buttigieg and Warren and it is in this second tier of candidates she should currently reside. She has recently started to work on her appeal to voters on the Left and she still has the potential to win, especially if she can take her home state California early on.
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 19.6% / -1.7%) (Polling 11% -25%):
Sanders has continue to campaign well though last time my concern for his chances was "has had everything go right for him so far and avoided any major controversies but still never polls above Joe Biden". This was before Biden had formally entered the race. Now that he has, the gap has increased significantly and Sanders will have to lift his game even higher. He is a good speaker though and once he sees off the challenge from Warren on the left he may be able to frame it as Hillary 2.0 versus the Left.
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 26.7% / +14.2%) (Polling 33% - 46%):
Biden is now the clear front-runner in almost every category. Polling, betting, endorsements and name recognition. In the last update, he was beginning to waver a little and I did wonder whether he would decide it wasn't worth it at all. However, he recovered from this slight flounder and he now has every chance of taking on Donald Trump in 2020. There is still an expectation that he may commit a few more gaffes and could throw it away but for now, the candidacy is Joe Biden's to lose...
*Polling date taken from here
There have been some significant changes since my last article a month ago. We have seen the 6th favourite at that time, Sherrod Brown, declare he is not running while Joe Biden has recently come under serious pressure for allegations of inappropriate touching, initially from Lucy Flores while six other women have since almost made claims.
At the suggestion of a previous reader I am going to add their performance from the most recent opinion polls (using this link for the polling data) to give a little more context and depth. This is very relevant for a candidate like Kamala Harris who has been the frontrunner, or very close to it, in the betting markets for quite some time without ever topping a poll.
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 3.6% / -1.4%) (Polling: 4% - 8%):
Warren’s campaign is still struggling to come to life. She has tried to embrace a few radical ideas recently like backing moves to dissemble America’s tech giants into smaller companies. I really think she is in serious danger of being a nearly-ran. While the two candidates directly above her have much chance of dropping out of the top seven by next month, they have come from nowhere and are causing a stir. The challenge for Warren is that she has had every advantage starting off her campaign but is now barely making headlines.
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 5.3% / New) (Polling: 1% - 2%):
I know very little about Andrew Yang but his campaign and approach have been very sleek and well timed. He is certainly targeting younger, more radical voters and if he can increase his polling slightly, he could make a stir in the early debates. However, I ultimately don’t think he will be a top tier contender and will be surprised if he stays in the top seven.
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 11.1% / New) (Polling 1% - 4%):
The most interesting candidate in the field. Yes, I am slightly biased as his paternal ancestors hail from my current home, Malta, but he has so many facets to his candidacy. He is a gay Afghanistan veteran, Harvard and Oxford graduate who speaks seven languages. He is currently mayor of South Bend, Indiana. I highly recommend watching this short profile of him from the Tonight Show. I will be following him closely as, in my opinion, he is a much more interesting character than Beto O’ Rourke who also represents the “fresh face” of the Democratic Party’s 2020 candidates.
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 12.5% / -3.6%) (Polling 26% - 33%):
Biden has had a horrific week for reasons I’ve mentioned already. He still hasn’t officially announced his intention to run but that is seen to be one of American politics’ worst kept secrets. However, these allegations will certainly have been food for thought for him and his advisors. He’ll probably have to try and reverse the damage in the next few weeks before announcing as I am certain he will not want to kick off his campaign in this cloud of controversy. There also still a small chance he decides it’s simply not worth running at all…
Beto O’ Rourke (Implied Probability: 14.7% / No Change) (Polling 5% -12%):
Since Beto announced his intention to run on the 14th of March he has managed to raise a significant amount without really exploding out of the tracks. There have been criticisms of the blandness of his key messages and I do wonder if he will really make his mark in the business end of this campaign. Incredibly, he is the exact same odds as he was a month, which is even more surprising given the other major swings.
Kamala Harris (Implied Probability: 20.8% / -0.9%) (Polling 8% -12%):
She has fallen one place to second, but Harris is a big beast who many believe will go all the way. One of her major advantages is that her home state, California, has moved earlier in the campaign from June to March. If I was her campaign manager, I would still be slightly concerned by her polling numbers which are not really ticking upwards. However, I would still not bet against her and I think she will be there or thereabouts at the business end of proceedings.
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 21.3% / +4.6%) (Polling 18% - 26%):
The bookies have him favourite and I think I agree. My one concern is that he has had everything go right for him so far and avoided any major controversies but still never polls above Joe Biden. However, he has raised the most funds, has a very strong online presence and has managed to prevent Elizabeth Warren eating into his vote (at the outset many progressives feared that if they both ran it would split the progressive vote). I have long backed Sanders and have grown more confident over the last month, but his age is such a massive disadvantage and I do worry he could struggle against younger candidates in the early primaries, especially in California. On the flip side if he starts strongly, and Biden’s star continues to wane, he could convince the Party that the electorate have moved to the left and it would be fatal not to support his candidacy for a second time.
Notable Others: It would be foolish to discount Cory Booker (3.3%)(2% - 4%), Tulsi Gabbard (2.9%)(1%) or Amy Klobuchar (2.5%)(1% - 3%) yet but Klobuchar in particular has dropped significantly. There are other candidates, but they aren’t making the impact required to be mentioned this time.
It's been a tumultuous start to the year for Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu with the Israeli Attorney General, Avichai Manderbilt, announcing on Thursday that he intends to indict him on a number of corruption-related charges.
On top of that, his party Likud has fallen behind the new Blue and White left of centre party led by former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army, Benny Gantz. For any more mere mortal politician, either of these would be very ominous ahead of the next General Election on April 9th.
However, Netanyahu is no ordinary politician. Despised politically by many (including this author) for his machiavellian tactics and seemingly genuine contempt for the plight of the Palestinian people, there are still very few analysts or followers of politics who really question his political acumen.
He has been the Prime Minister since 2009 (he previously also served from 1996 to 1999) and in that time has achieved numerous goals that at one point or other looked almost impossible. From his perspective the chief among them include completely stalling two-state negotiations through intermittent wars, military crises and clever delays, reversing the United States's involvement in the Iran de-nuclearisation deal and convincing the United States to recognise Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.
He has achieved many of those goals by promoting himself as a safe pair of hands who knows how to forge alliances around the world with like minded leaders. These key allies include Donald Trump, Viktor Orban and, most recently, the new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
However , even with all those achievements, this time might be different. While Netanhayu has displayed an almost magical hold over Israeli elections and an understanding of the Israeli electorate unmatched by any of his domestic rivals, he now also has to contend with the independent judiciary in the run-up to the election.
I last wrote about Netanyahu's struggles with corruption accusations over a year ago and even then it looked like he may be forced to resign. However he has held steadfast. He must now be hoping he can command a mandate form the Israeli electorate on April 9th and beat any charges that come his way.
If he can make it to July as premier, he will become Israel's longest serving Prime Minister. Given everything he is up against, it is looking increasingly unlikely. That said, there is no probably no politician in world politics better equipped to succeed...
This is the first in a new series of articles I'm going to run in the race to become the Democratic 2020 Presidential candidate. I will rank the top seven candidates in order of implied probability from Betfair Exchange. Implied probability gives the % chance of an event occurring based on the odds. I prefer using the exchange as it is more fluid and reflects changes more accurately.
I will try to write a new article quite regularly (but at least thirty days apart) and I will highlight how the candidates have moved both positionally and from a probability perspective. To keep it exciting I'll write from least to most likely to become the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate. Despite the fact that more than 10 candidates have already announced, with another ten or so actively exploring, I will keep it at the top seven so I can focus more on each one. Naturally, the candidates with the highest percentage will dominate the majority of the post. When the race gets close to the finale, the number of candidates will have whittled down to a handful but for now it is a massively open and competitive field.
7: Elizabeth Warren (5%):
Warren announced her campaign on February 9th. She was one of the first Democratic heavyweights to do it and it was expected she would rapidly become one of the favourites, competing with Bernie Sanders on the progressive side of the party. However, it simply hasn't happened for Warren so far. She doesn't seem to have the charisma on the campaign trail and if she doesn't gain some momentum soon, this once very promising campaign is set to fail before it ever really began.
6: Sherrod Brown (5.1%)
The sixty-six year old Ohio Senator was one of Bernie Sanders' strongest allies in the Senate but ultimately endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. He is seen as a potential unity candidate but hasn't announced if he will run yet. He is currently finishing his "Dignity of Work" tour which has seen him visit many of the most important early primary and caucus states.
5: Amy Klobuchar (5.9%)
The Minnesota Senator announced she would run a day after Elizabeth Warren on February 10th. She is seen as a tough, no-nonsense candidate who could garner the support of the Democratic Party elites while being competitive in "purple" states like her own Minnesota. There have been accusations of bullying from former members of her staff which may haunt her moving forward.
4: Beto O'Rourke (14.7%)
At the moment we have a "Big Four" in terms of probability. Beto is one of the rising stars of the party. Up until a few weeks ago he was the favourite but his delay in announcing his bid has been seen by some as indecision after a meteoric rise in profile following a very close defeat to Ted Cruz for a Texas Senate seat in the November midterms. If he does announce and gathers some momentum, he could easily become the front-runner.
3: Joe Biden (16.1%)
The two-time Democratic Vice President is loved by many on the Democratic side and even now before he has announced if he will run or not, leads almost every poll with approximately 25% to 35% of the votes. Though he is another candidate who could become the front-runner with a well-executed announcement, there is a still a significant chance he'll decide it isn't for him...
2: Bernie Sanders (16.7%)
To many, Bernie Sanders should have been the candidate to take on, and beat, Donald Trump in 2016. However, that campaign, and the grassroots success it had has undoubtedly pulled the party to the Left. The question is now whether Bernie Sanders is still the candidate that best represents democratic socialism in the United States in 2019 and 2020. His campaign has started well with large crowds and very impressive fundraising but it still remains to be seen whether his chance of being President of the United States has passed.
1: Kamala Harris (21.7%)
The front-runner. A Senator from California, she also served as the state's Attorney General from 2011 to 2017. She has almost everything going for her. A woman of mixed background, she embodies the diversity that many in the party want to see come to the fore, in direct contrast to candidates like Biden and Sanders. She was also very impressive in the Senate Hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The key questions that remain are can she compete on the campaign trail and is she progressive enough for the Democratic Party in 2020?
Notable Others: Cory Booker(4.8%) is very unlucky to miss out though having announced on Feb 1st, he will need to get moving up the chart soon. Tulsi Gabbard (4.2%) is an interesting candidate from Hawaii and who is very anti-war but I will be very surprised if she ever really becomes a key candidate in this race.
I haven't written about Irish politics for quite some time as I have had less time to write overall and the antics in Britain have kept me enticed. Unfortunately, following British politics these days is a little bit like watching the 2000s TV show Lost; it is hard to take your eyes off but you never seem to get anywhere from watching it.
I've spent some time looking at the polls and recent events in Ireland and I still believe Fine Gael is in the driving seat to win the most seats at the next election and could even come quite close to an absolute majority if a few things go their way.
There is no doubt that the Confidence and Supply Agreement has been much more beneficial to Fine Gael than Fianna Fail. The contrasting fortunes of Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin since the last election on Friday 26th February, 2016 are striking given Fianna Fail came within 1.2% and 6 seats of equalling Fine Gael's performance.
In hindsight, I've come to believe Fianna Fail gave way too much in exchange for very little. While the formation of the government did take quite some time and the public was getting itchy for progress, they effectively allowed Fine Gael to take complete control with no real opposition in a period of sustained economic growth. Not only that but with Brexit, Fine Gael were able to really boost their support by being seen to stand firm in their desire to prevent a hard border and protect Irish interests.
From this perspective, very few could have predicted when Fianna Fail and Fine Gael made their agreement on April 29th, 2016 just how potent a role Irish nationalism would play in the following three years. Even more difficult to predict would have been that Fine Gael would be the party to benefit the most form this dynamic.
The visuals of Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney and even one of Ireland's least nationalist parliamentarians, Neale Richmond, firmly holding the line on the backstop and Brexit, in general, have been very powerful.
I started with this background because it's very difficult to asses the parties' relative strength today without looking at the wider context. While housing and health are both major issues of concern for the Irish electorate, the economy and Brexit seem to be playing a more active role in formulating Irish voters' opinions.
Firstly, the health care system has been a perennial problem for Irish governments and while public anger sparks up intermittently (the Children's Hospital overspend/ Simon Harris Confidence Vote being a recent example), I think to many it is simply something that can't be "fixed".
On a different note, the housing crisis is more of a double-edged sword. The rapid rise in purchasing and rental costs has caused serious hardship for many but (and this is less spoken about) the sharp rise in property prices has benefited many people, who are now either seeing their pre-Crisis properties return to the black or are simply enjoying the bump in the assets on their balance sheets.
There are risks for Fine Gael. A major climb-down on the backstop between now and March 29th or the unmitigated disaster of a No Deal Brexit could really damage though a No Deal Brexit now seems much less likely than an Extension to Article 50.
At some point in the mid-term, the Irish economy will slow down as this sustained period of economic growth can not continue forever. However, even then it is difficult to see why or how Fianna Fail or Sinn Fein will capitalize.
Fianna Fail has tacitly approved every legislative action Fine Gael has taken since the Confidence & Supply Agreement commenced. They really are not in a position to criticise. While they have re-grown their core base, I believe in an election campaign the undecideds will see through their allusion of being an opposition party.
At the same time, I don't believe Sinn Fein have truly done enough to convince the electorate (outside of their 15-20% core support) that they are ready to lead.
I personally would like to see Sinn Fein lead a centre-left coalition and break the hegemony of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail but over the last 18 months they have simply shouted too much while failing to deliver eye-catching, transformative policies like what we are seeing from Labour in Britain or Bernie Sanders and even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the United States.
Fine Gael have, rightly or wrongly, positioned Sinn Fein as a party of protest and complainers. Unfortunately for Mary Lou McDonald, the label is beginning to stick. I do believe Sinn Fein can mount a more concerted challenge to Fine Gael than Michell Martin's Fianna Fail currently can but this will not be the case if we see an election in 2019. Sinn Fein will need longer to deliver these policies through a groundbreaking manifesto as there have been rapid changes in the Left in the kast 18 months; nationalisation, wealth taxes, company ownership and battling climate change are now very much part of the conversation.
For all of these reasons, I find it very, very difficult to envisage an Irish General Election in 2019, where Fine Gael do not win the most seats. The real question is whether Fine Gael will be able to orchestrate an election. Obviously, if local and European elections go badly for them in May, then my thesis is wrong and they may be happy to see out the new Confidence & Supply extension until summer 2020.
However, if I am correct and Fine Gael do win quite comfortably, I expect them to up the ante with the aim of forcing an Autumn election, without being deemed by the Irish public as being the party who forced it. A difficult but feasible task, particularly as a number of Micheal Martin's colleagues are becoming less and less comfortable with the Confidence & Supply agreement, as recent remarks by John McGuiness and Marc McSharry have shown.
In summary, my view that Fine Gael will win the Most Seats in the next election hasn't changed, I also believe there is a very good chance we'll see a 2019 election and finally the main opposition parties have to do more to differentiate themselves on policy, not just on soundbites...
The snap Spanish general election called on February 15th by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez came about after the Catalan parties his minority government relied on rejected his budget.
It was always going to be difficult for Sanchez, who has been in the job for less than a year, to pass his budget. Deep tensions still exist in Spain and the Catalan Question has most certainly not been resolved. Unfortunately for Sanchez, the trial of the Catalan leaders, accused of rebellion and misuse of public funds, began at almost the same time as budged negotiations came to a head.
I last wrote about Catalonia and Spanish politics in late 2017 and early 2018. This was at the time of the Independence referendum and the subsequent crackdown by Madrid at the behest of the former Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy.
Rajoy was forced to resign on June 1st, 2018 when he lost a Vote to No Confidence, called by Pedro Sanchez, following the sentencing of a former People's Party treasurer for 33 years for money laundering, among other crimes.
The law in Spain dictates that the leader of the party who successfully pass a Motion of No Confidence must form the next Government. Incredibly, that led to Pedro Sanchez becoming the Prime Minister despite his Socialist Party having less than a quarter of the total Congress seats.
Since then, the Socialist Party have polled consistently somewhere between 22% and 28%. In fact, they have placed first in over the last 20 polls stretching back since the election as called. While it is not inconceivable that they will not win the most seats on April 28th, they certainly look set to do so today.
I think it's fair to say they have benefited from a buoyant economy as Spain had a great second half of 2018 with economic growth set to hit 2.2% in 2019 and 1.8% in 2020. There is a finally a sense of the "the good times are back" for many in Spain though this can rapidly change if Europe heads towards a recession.
The Socialist Party have benefited from a splintering of the right of centre vote. The Citizen's Party have taken quite a lot of former People's Party voters who became disillusioned with the corruption while the Vox Party, a more right-wing party, are now regularly polling at over 10%.
I will definitely start following the election campaign more closely as we reach the crescendo. I do believe that the Socialists will win most seats but forming a government will prove very difficult. We may end up seeing a coalition of the right, though it remains to be seen whether the People's Party or the Citizens would replicate their Andalusian coalition in a national election...
The last four days have been tumultuous in British politics. At the time of writing, we've seen 8 Labour MPs and 3 Conservatives leave their respective parties to form The Independent Group. Most of the analysis I have read so far has implied that it will be much more damaging to the Labour Party in the short and long term.
So far, this has been reflected in the early polls where the core Conservative vote seems to have remained in the high 30s, while Labour have dropped into the 20s. Based on this, any early snap election would result in the Conservatives regaining their majority and Labour suffering seat losses.
As things stand this probably is the case. I believe there are a lot more Labour MPs whose loyalty is wavering and if we see a mass exodus then it could take Labour years to repair. Their issue would then be that all the “moderate” MPs would be replaced by socialist or more left leaning candidates at the next election, whereas the constituency profile of Britain probably requires a broader offering of candidates to win a majority, or to even secure the most seats.
What has struck me so far though is how several of the seriously Corbyn-skeptic Labour MPs who have come out and said they will stay with the party, some examples being Stephen Kinnock, John Mann and Stella Creasy.
There is no doubt that there is a serious disconnect between the Labour leadership and its members on Brexit. Their policy has been vague though, in my opinion, not quite incoherent or contradictory. However, the fact is that isn’t what the majority of its members or voters want as a Brexit outcome. The next 6-9 months will be a very dangerous time for an election as they could lose a massive chunk of their 2017 support if it became a Brexit election.
However, I actually believe the Tories current level of polling stability is a little misleading. They have lost 3 strong, female MPs who were unpopular with a large part of the Conservative membership but who have relatively strong national profiles.
While the number of other potential defectors seems to be in the single digits at the moment, if the trend of dynamic, outspoken MPs continues (examples would include Justine Greening and Johnny Mercer) they will actually serious impact their “electoral brand”.
Simultaneously, the potential emergence of The Brexit Party (which has so far been absent from polling) could also take votes from the right, especially if Brexit is delayed.
What is true is that Brexit voters’ loyalty certainly seems to be to Brexit above all else and they will vote with the party that the believe best serves this purpose (in the last election we saw former UKIP voters move back to the Conservatives as they believed Theresa May would deliver for them.
Now that seems less likely, and if Nigel Farage gets seriously involved, they could start to lose %s in the polls to both The Brexit Party and potential even UKIP again , May may take an even harder line or look more favourably on a No Deal Brexit.
This would almost certainly result in further Conservative defections to The Independent Group. The question is are there really many sensible, slightly right of centre voters who would stop voting Conservatives in large numbers?
If so, Theresa May is doing almost everything possible to drive the very MPs that they would look favourably on as future leaders away. I believe this could ultimately do serious electoral damage to the Conservatives and while there may be a sensible way to avoid it by remaining in the Customs Union and possibly the Single Market, I don’t think Theresa May will take this approach.
So ultimately, I don’t believe Brexit will break the Conservatives like so many political analysts do, but it may be the catalyst for more centre right MPs and centrist voters to realise this isn’t the party that has the policies they want to vote for, and not only on Brexit…