Friday, December 21, 2007

Handicapping the Democrats

First, an update from yesterday. Several polls have McCain moving up sharply and Guiliani dropping off the electoral map. As currently positioned, it’s quite possible that Guiliani will be done by the end of January. People just don’t like him (no surprise, he’s a total dick) and his scandals have caught up with him. McCain’s rise, to me, is startling as I have long considered him DOA but some people are now predicting he will win the whole thing. I won’t go that far as some of the polls they cite which show McCain’s rise have been vastly divergent results from the bulk of other polls out there (polling is a variable “science” that I may tackle in another post) and since these predictions are based on the moment not on potential trends. But I will say this: McCain is the least ape-sh*t of the GOP candidates and that’s got to be appealing to the core who are turned off by the evangelical option and the flip-flopper. At any rate, this could all change on a dime. As we all saw with George “Macaca” Allen, one mistake can destroy a campaign and trends don’t necessarily mean anything.

Now, onto the Democrats.

The Democrat side is much more challenging to predict because they use a proportional system to divide up the delegates. As I understand it, any candidate that receives less than 15% of the vote will be disregarded and the remaining candidates will receive a proportional share of delegates based on the percentage of votes they receive. What isn’t clear is this: Are the actual votes for the sub-15% candidates subtracted meaning that delegates for above-15% candidates are calculated only based the new percentage of support?

In other words, Candidate X, Y, and Z get 32%, 30%, and 23% in the primary while Candidates A,B, and C get 7%, 3%, and 5% for a total of 15%. Assuming there are 1000 total votes, then as I understand it, the 150 votes for A, B, and C would be discarded and new percentages would be calculated for the others. In this case, X goes to 37%, Y to 35%, and Z to 27%.

Based on the guidance manual I read yesterday (page 15), I believe this is how things work. But I could very well be wrong as the manual was a bit unclear on this and I had not the time to give it a full examination.

That being said, this system obviously is harder to predict in that there’s no telling how many total votes are likely to be cast so the following predictions are more rough than the GOP side.
To win the Democratic nomination for president a candidate has to accumulate 2,184 total delegates. Some delegates have already “voted”. These are congress members and other special delegates that exist outside the primary process. The current count follows:

Clinton – 75
Obama – 31
Edwards – 16
Dodd – 10
Richardson – 7
Biden – 1

(This will be the last time Dodd, Richardson, and Biden are mentioned.)

Due to similar problems with state primary moves (as described yesterday) the following primaries and their values count for January:

Iowa – 56
NH – 30
Nevada – 33
South Carolina – 54

Michigan and Florida won’t count unless they move the primaries back, which doesn’t look likely to happen, so I will ignore them. That leaves 4 races to start momentum going.

According to the latest poll data, Iowa is statistically tied between Obama and Clinton. However, trend lines show Obama moving ahead and Clinton dropping. Assuming those trends continue up to the election, an Obama victory is looking likely. Edwards is also trending upward of late. However, Iowa is a caucus state, not a straight primary and that makes any prediction unreliable at best (due to the power of groupthink). The “winner” will get a huge momentum boost and that’s spells good things for Obama but it says here that those 56 votes are split 21 Obama, 19 Clinton, and 16 Edwards.

New Hampshire is a bit more clear cut. Trend lines show sharp increases for Obama and Edwards and a very steep decline for Clinton. I’m going out on a limb here and saying that those trends continue and that NH follows Iowa’s lead (as it historically has). Obama 12, Clinton 11, Edwards, 7.

Nevada is a Clinton stronghold and she’s been far ahead for the entire race. That being said, trends lines show both Clinton and Obama gaining with Edwards dropping. At current levels this is a 2-candidate race and I will estimate the vote count at Clinton 21 and Obama 12.

South Carolina is a bit closer. Trend lines show Obama nudging into Clinton territory but Edwards is also trending up. Right now, Edwards is hovering at that 15% line. I say he makes it over, but just barely, while Clinton nudges out Obama. That would result in the following count: Clinton 23, Obama 22, Edwards 9.

Based on these estimates (which are incredibly loose and subject to great error) this would leave the following total before Super Tuesday (with percent accumulated for the nomination):

Clinton: 149 (6%)
Obama: 98 (4%)
Edwards: 48 (2%)

I fully expect, therefore, that Clinton will be leading the pack at the end of January. But, as you can see, it’s unlikely that her position will be dominant or even strong. The majority of her advantage still remains with the pre-pledged delegate endorsements she has received. In terms of actual popular vote her margin is extremely thin (74-67).

I also expect that Edwards is probably going to be on the outside looking in. His inability to win South Carolina will be his undoing. He’s from the South. He has to win there to have a chance and right now, it’s not looking good. This is too bad for I quite like Edwards but I’d say it’s looking more like he’s headed for the Vice-Presidentship or a cabinet post.

At any rate, no matter how poorly I have predicted the ballot count, February 5th still remains decision day. There are 2064 delegates up for grabs in one day and the day’s winner will likely win the nomination.

I have no information about the strategies of the various campaigns, but it’s looking increasingly likely that Obama needs to win early if he wants a chance. I suggest that he needs to win both Iowa and New Hampshire to build the necessary momentum. People have to start to believe that he’s a winnable candidate and he will only solidify that image (and destroy Hillary’s aura of invincibility) with wins. There is also a chance that he could win South Carolina. It says here that if he wins Iowa, NH, and South Carolina, he’s the next Democratic candidate for President.



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