Tag Archives: Iowa Caucus

The Changing Presidential Campaign

Feb. 12, 2016 — The presidential candidates are now exiting the race just as fast as they were entering about a year ago. In early to mid-2015, there were 17 Republican candidates and five Democrats, but after yesterday those numbers are now, respectively, seven and two.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and businesswoman Carly Fiorina joined the cavalcade of Republican candidates abandoning their presidential quest, as both came to the realization through disappointing New Hampshire finishes that neither has a path to victory in the national contest. Since the Iowa Caucus ended, ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD), ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Christie, and Fiorina have all left the race.

Breaking 10 percent of the New Hampshire vote was a must for Christie, because that is the minimum vote threshold required in the state’s delegate apportionment formula. Realistically, the New Jersey governor needed a John Kasich-type finish (second place) to jump-start his effort in order to seriously vie for the moderate and establishment sectors’ support. Virtually making New Hampshire a watershed state for his campaign, it was little surprise that Gov. Christie ended his national effort when he failed to achieve his stated Granite State goals.

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Bush Surging in NH? Really?

Feb. 5, 2016 — A late-breaking Harper Polling New Hampshire survey (Feb. 1-2; 425 likely New Hampshire primary voters) finds ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush surprisingly claiming second place within the Republican presidential field, but he’s still far behind leader Donald Trump. There are, however, three reasons to question the results.

According to the new data, half of which was gathered after the Iowa Caucus results became known, Trump commands first position with 31 percent preference. Bush is second registering 14 percent, followed closely by Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 12 percent. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) posts 10 percent, with Iowa winner, Sen. Ted Cruz, not faring particularly well in the Granite State, dropping to nine percent support.

All of the remaining candidates –- and still including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) who both suspended their presidential campaigns Wednesday morning -– find themselves landing only in the mid-to-low single digits.

There appears to be methodological flaws in the survey, which was conducted through an Interactive Voice Response mechanism. First, the favorability indexes are curious in that the only candidate with a positive ratio is Donald Trump. All of the other Republican contenders, remembering that the respondents are GOP primary voters, are seriously upside down.

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Bloomberg at 29 Percent

Feb. 1, 2016 — Hidden within the hubbub about whether or not Donald Trump would attend the Fox News debate last week, and perched on the cusp of the long-awaited Iowa Caucus voting scheduled for today, we find a Luntz Global poll (Jan. 26-27; 900 national registered voters) that projects former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) scoring as high as 29 percent in a hypothetical race against Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D). He posts 28 percent if the Republican nominee were Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Pollster Frank Luntz makes the argument that Bloomberg has an actual path to national victory and uses Ross Perot’s 1992 independent candidacy to support his analysis. He quotes period surveys that found Perot beginning his first presidential quest with low single-digit voter preference, rising as high as 39 percent in the polls, and ending with 19 percent of the popular vote.

Luntz believes Bloomberg has the potential to do much better, particularly when his data finds the Independent already approaching 30 percent, approximately 10 times better than Perot’s beginning point.

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Both Parties Virtually Tied

Jan. 15, 2016 — A plethora of polling is underway in Iowa, now just 19 days away from voters casting the first ballots of the 2016 election cycle. The new surveys are consistently finding that both party contests have tightened substantially.

For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton had been breaking away from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) since mid-September, but the most recent polls, those conducted since the beginning of this month and year, are making the political atmospherics uncomfortable for the former Secretary of State and First Lady. Sen. Sanders has seen a resurgence of Iowa support forming behind his candidacy, and he has now pulled into a virtual tie with Clinton.

Since New Years Day, five pollsters surveyed the Hawkeye State Democratic electorate and found Clinton leading in only three of the five studies. According to NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist College, Quinnipiac University, American Research Group, and Public Policy Polling, the spread between the two candidates now sits in a range of only three to six percentage points. Their sample sizes swing from 422 likely Democratic Caucus attenders to 600 from Jan. 2 through the 12th.

The fifth pollster, Gravis Marketing, reported their new findings yesterday. Surveying 461 likely Democratic Caucus attenders earlier this week (Jan 11-12), Gravis projects Clinton’s advantage again soaring to 57-36 percent, or back in the scope of what we were seeing in mid-September through the end of 2015. Since Gravis derives a much different conclusion than the other four pollsters surveying in the same time frame with similar methodologies, it is reasonable to consider that their latest poll could be an anomaly. We will find out for sure on Feb. 1.

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Democratic Race Tightens

Jan. 13, 2016 — Several new polls are showing a tightening of the Democratic presidential campaign nationally, and for the upcoming Iowa Caucus (Feb. 1) and New Hampshire primary (Feb. 9). But, is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s grasp on the party nomination threatened? We think, not.

The new Investors Business Daily/TIPP poll, which, the New York Times rated as the most accurate of the 23 pollsters they tested in the 2012 presidential campaign, posted their latest national results. The survey (Jan. 4-8; 967 “Americans”) finds Clinton leading Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) by her smallest margin in months, 43-39 percent. The last 10 national polls, not including this most recent IBD/TIPP data, finds the former First Lady’s advantage averaging approximately 55-33 percent.

The IBD/TIPP poll appears inherently flawed. First, surveying “Americans” tells us that not all of the respondents are registered voters. Second, the overall sample of 967 participants contains only 378 likely Democratic primary voters, which is the fundamental segment for determining the Clinton-Sanders ballot test. Keep in mind, however, this group of less than 400 people is supposed to represent the nation.

Such a sample may be adequate for a lone congressional district, but falls far short of the number necessary for forming accurate national conclusions. Therefore, standing alone this poll should be discarded, but it does serve as a potential base point from which to begin judging what may be a developing trend.

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South Carolina Polling Flawed

Dec. 22, 2015 — South Carolina is an important early primary state and may have an even greater role than usual in setting the tone for the 2016 Republican race. Two December polls surveyed the Palmetto State Republican electorate, but the data snapshot does not provide us with a true indication of delegate apportionment and this latter point, from a nationwide perspective, is determinative regarding who wins the GOP presidential nomination.

With current polling suggesting that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) may place first in the Iowa Caucus and Donald Trump well positioned to top the field in the New Hampshire primary, scoring a big delegate haul in South Carolina will give one of the candidates a clear momentum boost heading into the eleven-state Super Tuesday contests scheduled for March 1.

It’s the South Carolina delegate apportionment system that renders the latest state polls inconclusive. Under Republican Party rules, the state uses a Winner-Take-All by congressional district option, and then awards a large chunk of the at-large delegates to the statewide winner. The polling misses a key point because it does not segment the responses into the state’s seven congressional districts. This is largely because the individual district sample sizes would be too small to produce reliable results.

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The Early States’ Delegate Formula

Dec. 16 2015 — When voting starts in the Iowa Caucus on the first day of February, much more will be happening than simple vote counting. Here, delegate apportionment begins and it is this latter system that will determine who becomes the party nominee.

Since the Democratic battle is virtually clinched for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we will concentrate on the Republican side for the purposes of this report. Under Republican National Committee rules, all states voting before March 15 must use a proportional system to divide their delegates. By definition, this means multiple candidates will be awarded delegate votes, thus expanding the chances that the nomination process will deadlock after all 56 primaries and caucuses are conducted.

The Republicans allow several delegate apportionment systems: Winner-Take-All, where the candidate with the most statewide votes is awarded all of the particular state’s delegates; Winner-Take-All by congressional district, where each CD hosts its own “election”, if you will, and awards three delegates to the candidate with the most votes; while the remaining entities require either 20, 15, 13, 10, 5 or 0 percent of the vote to qualify for delegate apportionment.

In chronological order:

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Calculation Politics

Dec. 11, 2015 — A just-released New Hampshire poll gives us meaningful insight into delegate projections and the small size of each candidate’s support basis by the time February concludes. Though the first four voting entities — Iowa caucus (Feb. 1), New Hampshire primary (Feb. 9), South Carolina primary (Feb. 20), and Nevada caucus (Feb. 23) — will be portrayed as trendsetters, in terms of delegate calculation these states will likely have reduced influence upon the 2016 election cycle’s direction.

Early this month, CNN and WMUR television sponsored a University of New Hampshire poll of Granite State voters (Nov. 30-Dec. 7; 954 registered New Hampshire voters; 402 likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters, 370 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters), the results of which were released yesterday. On a cautionary note, UNH has not proven itself as a particularly strong pollster, often producing wild results inconsistent with other similar surveys. The liberal Daily Kos Elections organization, for example, rates them as one of the least reliable pollsters on the political scene irrespective of partisanship.

For purposes of our delegate calculation exercise, however, the survey’s accuracy is not particularly relevant. The Republican delegate calculation formula is of prime importance, the actual determining factor about who will win the party’s presidential nomination. Therefore, in order to process New Hampshire’s delegate apportionment we will consider this poll the benchmark.

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Biden: Not Quite Yet

Oct. 21, 2015 — Twitter has been chirping recently with “insider” tweets that Vice President Joe Biden had decided to enter the 2016 presidential campaign. The Washington Post even ran a draft article quoting unnamed sources denoted with a notation of “XXX” that Biden had made his final decision. It wasn’t long before the editors quickly withdrew the piece, claiming it had been inadvertently placed. Hours later it was determined that the VP is not yet launching his official presidential effort.

The decision is a tough one because Biden is clearly not in a position to simply announce for president and expect everyone to flock to him. In fact, he has several major obstacles to overcome to win the nomination and it is doubtful that he can.

First, all of the early national polling suggests his entrance in the race would only earn him support in the high teens to low 20s, slightly trailing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT), and about 20-plus points behind front-runner Hillary Clinton.

The Monmouth University poll results, for example, released only Monday and fielded after the first Democratic presidential debate (Oct. 15-18; 1,012 adults, 340 self-identified Democrats or Democratic Party leaners), is typical of the numbers we see.

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Trump Creating an Open Convention?

Sept. 9, 2015 — Now that Donald Trump has pledged to remain in the Republican nomination process and not enter the general election as an Independent, can the current front runner win a majority of pledged delegates? Can he do so outside of a brokered convention?

In actuality, Trump’s current situation makes going to an open convention even more likely than originally believed.

To review what we have previously stated several times during the year, holding a brokered Republican convention for the first time in what will be 96 years could happen if several elements fell into place.

First, a field featuring a large number of candidates is required. No question the 17 contenders who comprise the Republican candidate universe certainly qualify as being “large”.

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What Boxer’s Retirement Means; An “SEC” Primary?

At the end of 2014, California Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) provided strong hints that she would not seek a fifth term in 2016. Yesterday, she made that decision official. In a video hosted by her grandson, Sen. Boxer announced that she will not be a candidate for the Senate next year, thus ending what will be a 34-year-career in Congress.

The succeeding election now marks the first time since Boxer originally won in 1992 that California will host an open US Senate campaign. A plethora of Democrats are expected to enter the statewide fray. The most interesting dynamic will be the interplay between political allies Gavin Newsom, the state’s lieutenant governor, and California Attorney General Kamala Harris. It would be surprising to see the two close colleagues challenge each other, but stranger things have happened in politics. It is also possible that neither will run. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is apparently not giving serious consideration to the Senate race. One potential major contender who is seriously looking at becoming a candidate is former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Another mayor drawing attention is Sacramento’s Kevin Johnson, a former NBA professional basketball player.
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Winning the “Not Romney Primary”

Now that most of the dust has settled from the first-in-the-nation caucus for the GOP presidential nomination, it may be a good time to provide additional texture to the popular political punditry concerning the current state of the GOP presidential nomination contest. Sorting out the true meaning of an election is rarely done well during the night of the contest itself, and so it is with Iowa in 2012.

The major media and the “political punditariat” always are inclined to follow the horse race aspect of any campaign. As media consultant Mike Murphy humorously said recently on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, “the pool of national political reporters are like a bit like a Tyrannosaurus – 30 feet tall, sharp teeth, red meat-eating, with small brains, but they can follow movement.”

Watching only the shiny moving objects this past Tuesday would indicate that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney very narrowly won the Iowa Caucus over former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. The real importance of the Iowa Caucuses, however, may not be his eight-vote victory. Rather, the truly significant aspect is the winnowing of the field in the “Not Romney primary.”

In fact, Romney’s difficulty in cracking through an apparent support ceiling among GOP primary voters and caucus participants has led to a virtual parade of aspirants to the “Not Romney” mantle in this year’s nomination contest.

After Iowa, it seems clear that Mr. Santorum has become the true leader of the GOP’s “Not Romney” primary contest.

All of the political air that had filled the Palin-Trump-Bachmann-Perry-Cain-Gingrich bubble had to go somewhere and in Iowa that somewhere was to the campaign of Rick Santorum, the only contestant not to have a turn at being the “Not Mitt Romney” candidate. His timing was fortuitous, message clear and pitch-perfect for Iowa Caucus goers, and he failed to implode as others had done before him.

At this writing it’s becoming increasingly clear that Mr. Romney has a current “floor” of about 18-23 percent of the Republican primary electorate and a hard “ceiling” ranging from 25 (Iowa, South Carolina, Georgia) to 40 percent (New Hampshire, Michigan, Massachusetts), depending upon the state. In a six- or seven-candidate caucus or primary field, that’s almost always enough to finish in the top three, and sometimes first. As the field winnows, however, a hard ceiling of 25-40 percent rarely prevails.

It seems clear that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will now turn his rhetorical fire toward Romney, which seems unlikely to improve his own standing, but will very likely hurt his target, thus making him more vulnerable to a Santorum charge.

Performance in the nomination contests through Super Tuesday will largely be expectation-driven. The punditariat has already begun saying that should Romney score less than 40-45 percent in New Hampshire, he will have insufficient momentum to be successful in South Carolina, Florida and the Super Tuesday states of the South. Santorum has been in the low single digits in New Hampshire (and elsewhere) and his impressive showing in Iowa already is being discounted as a “one-state wonder” in some quarters. If, however, the Pennsylvanian places second in the Granite State and Romney finishes in the 30s rather than the 40s, the fight for the nomination will essentially become a two-man race.

The serial movement of conservatives from one “Not Romney” candidate to another, and the former governor’s lack of growth among self-described conservatives suggests that he has emerged as their least favorite option. This is anything but a catbird seat for someone hoping to win the GOP presidential nomination. Romney does have large amounts of campaign and Super PAC money, but conservative dollars are sitting on the sidelines just waiting to flow to the eventual “Not Romney” primary contest winner.

The days and weeks ahead will put all remaining GOP candidates to the test. Considering all that we’ve seen so far, how this ends is anyone’s guess.

20-19-18-17 Percent

Selzer & Company, the polling firm that conducts the Iowa Poll for the Des Moines Register, was in the field during the November 10-12 period, this time for the Bloomberg News Service, asking some unusual political questions of 2,677 adults. Within this large group, they found a subset of 503 individuals who said they were planning to participate in the Republican Caucus meetings Jan. 3.

Among the group of presidential candidates, retired business executive Herman Cain was the choice of 20 percent of the responders; Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) was next with 19 percent; Mitt Romney scored 18 percent; and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich registered 17 percent. This suggests that, for this first delegate selection vote that will likely set the tone for the rest of the nomination season, the race is virtually a four-way tie.

The Iowa Caucus is becoming more important than even the most recent past years. The eventual Hawkeye State winner has the very real potential of becoming Mr. Romney’s chief rival. The key to beating the former Massachusetts governor is to isolate him in a one-on-one campaign, and become identified as the more conservative candidate. On the other hand, Romney wins in a crowded field, where his consistent poll standing in the low to mid-twenties might be enough to claim victory if the others rather evenly split the large number of outstanding votes.
Since he enjoys big leads in the New Hampshire primary polls, a victory in Iowa could provide Mr. Romney with enough momentum to wrap up the nomination early. No non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate has ever won both the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary. Sweeping the two could make Romney unstoppable.

On another poll question, 29 percent of those sampled reported that their minds about who to support are set. A full 60 percent said they could still change their opinion, yet another piece of supporting evidence attesting to the volatility of this Republican nomination campaign.

In testing the tax reform ideas of the major candidates, 24% said they would favor a platform that described Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan (9 percent corporate and 9 percent personal income tax rates, and a 9 percent national sales tax). This was trumped by an approach that would create three individual personal income tax rates at 23, 14 and 8%, however. Thirty-two percent said such an option would be their top tax reform choice. Gov. Rick Perry’s proposed 20% flat tax rate was named by 14% of the Republican sample.

As the Iowa campaign begins to heat up, the race is getting closer. Much more will follow before the voters make a final determination right after the first of the year.

A New Primary Schedule

Florida’s move this past weekend to change its primary date to Jan. 31 in violation of Republican National Committee rules will drastically alter the GOP presidential nomination fight. Under RNC dictates, the only states permitted to conduct a delegate selection event prior to the March 6 Super Tuesday date are Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Florida is willing to accept penalties that will reduce their 99-member Republican National Committee delegation to approximately 50, coupled with other sanctions, in order to make the move.

But accepting intra-party punishment is not the only factor involved in altering their election schedule. Under the Voting Rights Act, all or parts of 16 states are subjected to federal approval of all electoral moves, including primary/caucus date selection. Therefore, it is the Obama Justice Department that will have to grant Florida, New Hampshire, and South Carolina “pre-clearance” or, in this case, permission, to schedule a nominating event in January 2012. Only Iowa and Nevada, in this group of five states, may move unencumbered because they are not part of the group of 16.

The RNC’s originally proposed calendar began with the Iowa Caucus in early February, but Florida’s attempted move to the last day in January means the other four states are forced to leap-frog the Sunshine State in order to maintain their prominent political position. This means five nominating events, two caucuses (IA, NV) and three primaries (NH, SC, FL), will be held in the first month of next year followed by a five-week void until Super Tuesday in early March.

How does the proposed schedule change affect the current crop of candidates and potential late entries? The big winners under the new calendar are the two front-runners, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. The early and compressed voting schedule favors the better-known candidates and those having the largest campaign war chests. The quicker time frame featuring five shotgun-style nominating events in a 29-day period gives less time to the current also-rans to ramp up a credible campaign and makes gaining momentum from an early surprise victory even more difficult because there simply won’t be enough time to cement a previous win.

But the potential late entries are an even greater disadvantage under the new voting schedule because they will now have less time to construct a major campaign operation from scratch. Therefore, Florida’s decision this weekend makes it even more unlikely that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin will become official candidates.

If the GOP fight winnows down to a two-candidate race in January, then watch for a very interesting race. Perry wins a one-on-one match with Romney if he can successfully cast himself as the conservatives’ candidate and frame Romney as the moderate. On the other hand, as we have seen particularly in the last 10 days, Romney has the superior campaign apparatus, so Perry will have to make a rapid operational improvement or he risks losing his early strong standing.

As so often in American politics, the schedule can be the determining factor in deciding battles. Such may be the case with the 2012 GOP presidential contest. At the very least, however, this weekend’s Florida decision has set this campaign upon a brand new course.