Perusing Presidential Predictors

By Jim Ellis

July 18, 2019 — Most of the attention surrounding the upcoming presidential campaign has revolved around polling, but other factors may be better long-term predictors of what may happen in next year’s national election.

Economic indicators might be the most accurate predictor in presidential elections. | pandologic

The Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas firm, a bipartisan public affairs enterprise, has compiled some interesting historical trends that may provide major assistance in at least determining what to study in preparation for the next presidential campaign.

Two of the strongest factors relate to a candidate’s Washington experience and the state of the economy during a president’s two-year re-election cycle.

The Vietnam War and Watergate scandal prove to be an interesting historical divider. According to the Mehlman firm’s research, prior to Vietnam and Watergate, the candidate having the most Washington experience won nine of the 10 presidential elections from 1936 through 1972, inclusive. Yet, after Vietnam and Watergate, the candidate with the most Washington experience lost nine of the next 11 presidential contests from 1976 through 2016.

This series of statistics doesn’t play well for former Vice President Joe Biden. Of all presidential candidates in US history, Biden has the most Washington experience having served in elective office for 44 years when combining his time in the US Senate and two terms as vice president.

Should Biden not become the nominee, Sen. Bernie Sanders would then have the most Washington experience, a total of 30 years at the campaign’s end when combining his service in the House and Senate. Sanders aside, the remaining candidates, including President Trump, all have relatively equivalent Washington experience meaning this topic would not be much of a factor unless the Democratic nominee were either of the aforementioned Biden or Sanders.

The economic indicator, however, might be the most accurate predictor. Charting the presidential elections for 100 years between 1912 and 2012, the Mehlman group found that in the 12 elections where the incumbent was running for a second term and there was no recession during the two-year election cycle, all 12 won the related campaign. In the six elections where an incumbent president was running when facing a recession during the concurrent campaign years, five were defeated. Only President Calvin Coolidge in 1924 was re-elected under such circumstances.

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The Budding Five-Way Race

By Jim Ellis

July 16, 2019 — We’ve seen an interesting trio of polls released over the past week that tested the New Hampshire Democratic electorate all within the same relative time span. The cumulative result produced three different leaders and found the top five candidates all within striking range of the top position.

As we reported last week, Change Research simultaneously conducted polls in three of the first four voting states, including New Hampshire, which, as we know, hosts the first primary election on Feb. 11. Though the state is small and has only 24 first ballot delegates to the Democratic National Convention, the primary is an important contest because front runners failing to meet early expectations often find themselves initiating a downward spiral.

Change reported that their June 29-July 4 New Hampshire survey results (420 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters) projected Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to be ahead of the pack, but through a very slim margin. It’s not particularly surprising to see him leading here when we recall that he took 60 percent of the New Hampshire primary vote over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The top candidates scored 26-24-14-13-13 percent in this first Change Research Granite State poll in the person of Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, ex-Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), respectively.

This week, Change is back with an updated New Hampshire survey, and this time uses a much larger polling sample (July 6-9; 1,084 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters). Now, the research organization projects Sen. Warren to be the leading candidate, with a commensurately small advantage, 22-20-19-15-13 percent over Sanders, Biden, Harris, and Buttigieg.

Since the margin between Sanders and Warren is equivalent when both are forecast as leaders, the order is largely irrelevant. Basically, the Change data is suggesting that the two are tied with the other three lurking closely behind.

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House Primary Challenges

By Jim Ellis

The Justice Democrats’ logo (click on image to go to their website)

July 16, 2019 — Controversy has been arising lately from the Congressional Black Caucus as the organization leaders are charging that the left faction Justice Democrats are isolating their members for primary challenges. But the number of Democratic incumbents having to defend themselves from potentially serious nomination opponents reaches well beyond the CBC.

In fact, currently 24 Democratic House members have what appear to be credible primary opponents and at least five more could soon be in a nomination race.

What makes these challenges potentially different and is clearly one reason more ideological candidates are coming forward in what used to be no-win campaigns, is the amount of money being raised online for such contenders.

For example, though his 2016 challenge of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) went down to a landslide 57-43 percent defeat, South Florida law professor Tim Canova raised just under $4 million for his campaign. Almost all of the fundraising came in online donations after presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed his candidacy. Therefore, it is possible that several of the challengers listed below could also begin to attract national electronic donations under the right circumstances.

The Justice Democrats scored heavily in 2018 when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset then-Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley did likewise to veteran Massachusetts Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Somerville). The credibility gained in those races make their support of 2020 Democratic challengers more noteworthy.

In addition to the incumbents listed below, other members, including Democratic Conference chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), are also on the Justice target list. Democratic National Committee member and former congressional nominee Rob Zimmerman confirms he is considering launching a challenge against Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove/Huntington). Observers also report that 2018 candidate Adem Bunkeddeko, who held Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn) to a 53-47 percent primary win, may make another run.

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Change Reasearch Three-State Polling Shows Interesting Results

By Jim Ellis

July 15, 2019 — Just before the July 4th holiday break Change Research conducted a series of research studies in three of the first four Democratic presidential caucus and primary states.

The firm tested either 420 or 421 likely Democratic nomination event voters in each place during the period of June 29-July 4: in Iowa (420 respondents), New Hampshire (420), and South Carolina (420).

Iowa is, as we know, the site of the first caucus vote, which is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2020. This will be followed by the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 11 and the South Carolina primary pegged for Saturday, Feb. 29. The Nevada Democratic electorate, with their caucus placed on the calendar for Saturday, Feb. 22, was not polled.

Part of the media coverage surrounding these surveys looks at the aggregate numbers that these three individual places produced. The three states are highly important because they, together, will set the race’s early tone. But, from a statistical perspective, the aggregate total has little bearing as to who would eventually become the Democratic nominee.

These aggregate Change Research numbers, however irrelevant to the actual race trajectory, have captured some attention because they are so close. The sum of the candidates’ support percentages from the combined three states, from a total of 1,261 respondents, find Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) leading the group with 19 percent apiece, closely followed by former Vice President Joe Biden at 18 percent, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) with 17 percent, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg posting a combined 15 percent preference. No other even candidate breaks the three percent level.

What carries much greater weight, however, is the individual candidates’ status in the individual early trend-setter states. As has been prevalent in Iowa’s electoral history, neighboring regional Midwestern candidates have typically done well in the first caucus. Such is the case again according to this Change Research poll.

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The Trump Issues

President Donald Trump | whitehouse.gov


By Jim Ellis

July 12, 2019 — International pollster YouGov, surveying for The Economist magazine (July 7-9; 1,500 US adults from the YouGov opt-in Internet panel, 1,140 US registered voters, 592 likely Democratic primary voters) finds former Vice President Joe Biden maintaining a lead over the nomination field, but his margin is dissipating.

In this poll, Biden has a 22-17-14-11-5 percent advantage over Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, respectively, but the survey contains much more information.

This YouGov poll presents an exhaustive study of the electorate and some of the more interesting findings containing the respondents’ views regarding President Trump’s performance in certain key issue areas. In fact, the YouGov pollsters queried the respondents on 17 different subjects that yielded various conclusions.

In almost every poll, President Trump records upside-down overall job approval ratings. In this particular survey, his approval index is 43:53 percent (-10) positive to negative within the registered voter sample.

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