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…