Sanders can win the nomination: New Analysis

I developed a predictive model for the Democratic primaries that was designed to have the following features:

1) It does not rely on polling;

2) It does use exit polling and other information to set certain parameters;

3) It mainly uses prior primary or caucus results to predict the future, and thus assumes that the status quo is the best indicator.

4) It calculates likely voting patterns based on ethnicity (White, African American, Hispanic), and using likely Democratic party distribution among these groups to predict each contest's outcome.

That method outperformed most other predictions for Super Tuesday and accurately predicted who would win in the four contests held over the last weekend. However, in states that Sanders won last weekend, and in at least two of the Super Tuesday results, the method underestimated how well Sanders would do. Notably, the numbers used to predict those primaries accurately predicted how Clinton would do in Louisiana, and generally.

In other words, mostly, where Clinton won, the model was accurate, but where Sanders won, Sanders did better than expected, not counting "favorite son" states where he did even better.

The most likely reason for the difference between prediction and reality over last weekend, since this is a status quo poll, is a change in voting patterns. In other words, it is possible that Sanders is picking up some momentum. That does not explain why the largest of the primaries, Louisiana, fit the predicted pattern while the others do not.

A second possibility is that Sanders outperforms expectations in caucus states. That seems almost certainly a factor, which I can not explain.

A third possibility is crossover voting or independents favoring Sanders in some, but not all, states. If Republicans are voting in the Democratic contest, or independents are showing up at the Democratic events, specifically because they want to vote for Sanders, that could explain a localized Sanders surge. This does not do well explaining last weekend's results, because Sanders won in closed caucuses. But, it could explain some earlier results, such as Massachusetts and Minnesota. I know for a fact that some Republicans and a lot of "independents" (as in, "I never did this before, see how independent I am") voters showed up in the Minnesota caucus. The question remains, of course, where were these voters in Louisiana?

One explanation for this may be that the indies and centrists in more conservative southern states, which also happen to have a lot of pro-Clinton African American voters, are mostly registered Republicans or chose to participate in the Republican rather than Democratic process, while similar voters in less conservative or liberal states were already more likely to be Democrats or to at least participate this year in the Democratic primaries or caucuses. Differences in voter turnout across states seem to conform to this pattern.

Last weekend barely added enough data to consider revising the model. Assuming that the status quo method still works, but with somewhat adjusted numbers to match Sanders wins so far, and combining projections into the future with primary results so far, this model now puts Sanders on top at the very end of the primary process, like this:

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 9.57.31 AM

I quickly add that I don't have a lot more confidence in this projection than the previously developed projection that has Clinton winning. But this new projection is important because it accounts for what might be recent changes in how people are voting.

Michigan's primary, to be held tomorrow, is important. Michigan is relatively diverse, and is northern (less conservative, etc.). The modified model predicts that Sanders will swamp Clinton in Michigan, picking up over 70 delegates to Clinton's low-fifties. In contrast, the previous iteration of the model predicts that Clinton will win with about 66 delegates and Sanders will pick up a healthy 60 or so.

Michigan's contest is a primary, not a caucus, but it is open, so cross-party activity is possible.

Michigan will be a test between the two models, the older one that ultimately favored Clinton, and the revised (but far less certain) one that suggests that Sanders could eek out a victory.

Michigan plus last weekend's contests combined will give me enough data to produce The Model of Models which will accurately predict the outcome of primaries coming up in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio. Or not. We'll see. It is possible that I'll add an element to the model, using one set of assumptions for red states, another set for blue states.

One week after Michigan, Son of Super Tuesday happens. If either one of the candidates is very strong on that day, that may finish off the other candidate. The actual number of committed delegates is not too different between the two candidates, and the so-called "Super Delegates" will probably be obligated to go with whoever enters the Convention with the most delegates.

More like this

Sanders has done well in very white states with either a) liberal electorates or b) Democratic electorates where only the real liberals are left

a) describes Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire (when you add in the favorite son effect), Wisconsin, Iowa, Connecticut, Minnesota, and he won in Colorado. Massachusetts falls here too and he only lost narrowly, even though he needed to beat Clinton by a lot.

b) describes Oklahoma, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Kansas and Nebraska. There just aren't many Democrats in any of those states and the people remaining are pretty left-y.

The caucus factor is one that has a huge effect that I think you underestimate. Caucuses reward the kinds of things we associate with Sanders-- huge rallies and expressions of support. Primary states reward votes. The dynamics are really different. Sanders hasn't got that much outreach (or rather it's not very good) into non-white districts. (If it had been good those folks would be voting for him, They haven't.)

Neither describes the states like Texas and California and Michigan, which are more diverse and the most delegate-rich.

Sanders did better reaching out to minority voters last night, though not a few PoC are a bit miffed at his equating black neighborhoods with "ghetto" which is at best outdated. But even that won't help him much I suspect.

Here's my prediction: he loses Michigan by ~15 points, So Hillary gets ~70 delegates and he gets ~60. He will do well, but not win, in New York, where his support will be concentrated upstate. PA will be similar, but he won't do so well there. (i.e. he will lose out around Philly and pick up what support he can in the western steel region).

Mathematically speaking Sanders has to outdo Clinton (in delegate counts) 2 to 1. To offset the superdelegates he needs 2.5 or even 3 to 1. That is just plain unlikely as all get out.

Is it mathematically possible for Sanders to be nominated? Yes. Is it probable? No.

I'm not underestimating the caucus effect at all. I'm saying that I don't understand it yet.

I see what you are saying, but I don't have any reason to believe that huge rallies will bring people to the caucus to cast a ballot and leave (like happened in Minnesota) but not to go to a primary and leave. It just doesn't all hang together.

I suspect there may be a hidden variable that makes a state more likely to have a caucus and makes a state friendlier to Bernie. Keep in mind, the way caucuses work across these states is vastly different.

Yeah, I think he might have miffed more then he endeared in the diversity area last night, but we'll see!

The modified model which favors clinton has him win in Michigan (as noted above), tie or barely win in Florida, win by a reasonable margin in Illinois, win fairly strongly in Missouri, tie or jut barely win in N. Carolina, win big in Ohio. He'd win strongly in New York.

Essentially, this model has Sanders winning LOTS of states, but often just barely, so it takes a long time to erase Clinton's current lead. That may not happen until California, where he'd do pretty well and just win.

The caucus factor is one that has a huge effect that I think you underestimate

I agree with Jesse on this point. To simplify things a bit: Hillary's support tends to be wide but not deep, while Bernie's tends to be deep but not wide. Caucuses tend to favor the latter, because attending a caucus is a much bigger effort in time and energy than a primary. Not surprisingly, it has been in caucus states where Bernie has outperformed expectations--of the primaries that Bernie has won so far, VT and NH have a favorite son effect while OK polling indicated a toss-up which Bernie won narrowly. And even in caucus states where Hillary has won (IA and NV), she only won narrowly. There may be some other caucus states coming up, but most of them are small states--Washington is the biggest one I know of that hasn't happened yet. MI, FL, OH, and CA are all primary states with diverse electorates, and I expect Hillary to take all four. Bernie will get a favorite son boost in northeastern New York (Plattsburgh is part of the Burlington media market), but not enough to offset Hillary's advantage south of Albany. I don't see where the Bernie votes are to make up his deficit.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 07 Mar 2016 #permalink

Eric, that may be right. I'm still less sanguine about the caucus effect being a unary thing. But, if Sanders' recent successes are mainly the caucus effect, which is on my list (as noted) of possible explanations, and that's it, then he is not going to win this nomination, probably. But, if there is a shift in voting patterns, he could.

This is why Michigan is a good test. A shift in voting patterns has Sanders beating Clinton, or at least, doing way better than expectations (may be something close to a tie). If that happens, we have a close race coming up. If it does not happen, we have a long slog, with Clinton perhaps looking over her shoulder, but Sanders never catching up.


Ohh, looky look. Greg's model spit out a recursively coupled series of hokey sticks. The mind boggles.

Speaking of which:

In their “hottest year ever” press briefing, NOAA included this graph, which stated that they have a 58 year long radiosonde temperature record. But they only showed the last 37 years in the graph.

Link to anti-science site deleted

^^ How to grok, how to grok? Greg?

Jesse - Sanders doesn't have to win the primary election campaign by a huge enough margin to overcome all the unelected superdelegates. He only has to win 51% to convince most superdelegates that they'd better vote for the candidate their states' voters favored, rather than publicly engage in the spectacularly undemocratic gifting of the nomination to a well-connected insider who lost the primary election. Clinton thought she could beat Barack Obama in 2008 with superdelegates' votes - in fact we saw identical news stories about how his campaign was hopeless because she had such a huge margin, when superdelegates' non-binding statements of support were counted - but when the chips were down those people decided to vote for the winner of the delegate count. In this election they'll have the added consideration that in this economy and at this cusp, a populist vs. a fascist has a real chance of winning, whereas a widely disliked BAU elitist vs. a fascist would probably end up with the installation of a big orange Fuhrer come January, and the superdelegates don't want future generations blaming them for it.

Here's a snippet from a Counterpunch article on Sanders' path to the nomination: "Michigan (March 8th), Illinois and Ohio (March 15), and Pennsylvania (April 26) may well be the deciding factor in whether Sanders can survive the lead built by Clinton with the Southern Firewall. Each of the states has a black population roughly equivalent to the U.S.’s overall black population of 12-13% and Michigan and Illinois also have Latino populations which qualify it for The Latino Gauntlet (11 of the top 20 Latino states by population that vote within a single month during the primary and caucus cycle in 2016). I am projecting that Sanders needs to win these states by an average of 15% to have a chance at the nomination.

… The Sanders campaign has bet big on Illinois and Michigan showing a different face of the African American community. We simply have no idea if a 15% average win in these states is possible as no voting has taken place in similar states yet and polling is virtually non-existent in three of the four states. …"…

For single issue voters under 50, there is *burn one for Bernie*:

Sanders supports medical marijuana and the decriminalization of recreational marijuana, as well as the right of states to opt for full legalization, his campaign website says. He has come out in favor of ending the federal prohibition on marijuana, and co-sponsored the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015 to ensure access to banking services for legitimate marijuana businesses. However, Sanders said last year he is not a fan of marijuana himself.

"... I smoked marijuana twice, didn’t quite work for me. … It’s not my thing, but it is the thing of a whole lot of people"…

The republican field is entirely made up of *we'll stomp drugs out of this country*. You know, the kind of thing that makes me want to dig up Nancy Reagan's skull and smoke pot out of it.

It's all the way global governence based on *climate change* anyways (you should be so proud)... might as well vote in the guy who will fill the prisons with something other than pot smokers.

By Mitzi Dupree (not verified) on 07 Mar 2016 #permalink

Hitlary's got that whole reveling-in-the-ill-gotten-gains-of-Mena-Arkansas going for her. Sanders would be the smart money to play her up truthfully as un-jewish *minch* she is.

**Minch is the medical definition for 'stretched anal passage'

By Mitzi Dupree (not verified) on 07 Mar 2016 #permalink

Greg - just curious but a few days ago I ran across something that said the super delegates rarely vote against the public (i.e. the results of the primaries and caucuses.) I have no idea if that's the case or not but it seems to me that if that's the case then Hillary has a much harder road to slog to win the nomination, and Bernie's chances would be correspondingly better. Is that the historical case and if so what is your take on that remaining so in this election?

By Douglas Alder (not verified) on 07 Mar 2016 #permalink

Douglas Alder,

Greg posted the details about his model on February 28th. He indeed ignores Super Delegates, who are non-committed and thus likely to switch their allegiance if Bernie were to win more committed delegates.

By Pierre-Normand Houle (not verified) on 07 Mar 2016 #permalink

@jane -- while superdelegates tend to vote main chance, the fact is that Sanders still has to win twice as many in order to win the pledged ones, and that alone makes it hard. Meanwhile some of the superdelegates have endorsed Clinton already. That means you have a limited number remaining. So Sanders has the added task of getting past the ones that have already effectively committed their votes. This is why the "endorsement primary" is so important. Hillary has effectively locked up almost every single Democratic senator (40 of them at my count), 12 Democratic governors (how many are left?) and (correct me if I am wrong) 159 Representatives. That's a big chunk of the superdelegate population, since congresspeople and governors are already superdelegates that is 221 of them. (There are ~700).

Also whether or not a result is democratic or not isn't much of a concern. Superdelegates will sometimes follow the votes of their district, sometimes not. The 2008 campaign showed that. But the whole point is to make sure that insurgent campaigns fail if the party leadership thinks they are a threat. That is the reason superdelegates exist. A lot of this dates from the middle to late 60s, when first the civil rights supporters ("Freedom Democrats") and then later the anti-war Democrats made a serious challenge to the party leadership. (Recall that the only "peace candidate" in 1968 was Robert Kennedy, every other person running said continuing to carpet bomb the Vietnamese was a fine idea. This is a huge reason the Chicago convention went down the way it did).

"The modified model predicts that Sanders will swamp Clinton in Michigan, picking up over 70 delegates to Clinton’s low-fifties."


Since you started presenting your model, I have developed my own version, depending (as I understand your model) solely on the same demographics you are using (percentage of whites, blacks, and Hispanics in each state) to predict the Democratic primary results. According to my version of the model, Clinton has a slight edge in Michigan, with a predicted 53% in the vote, for about 69 delegates, to Sanders 61.

Doug/Pierre, yes, exactly. That's why I'm ignoring super delegates. I assume that if nothing untoward happens they'll go with the majority.

Jesse, the "super delegates" are not obligated to vote for those candidates they've endorsed. That endorsement is a political act of a politician independent of their role as a non-committed delegate. It is mainstream media that matches the endorsement to the presumption of how each delegate will vote. Since delegates are likely to vote with the majority (barring some untoward event) this is pretty much a fabrication of the media and has no consequence.

Pierre - thanks - Greg I wonder if that will be the case though this time. Bernie clearly represents a threat to the established order of business for the DNC. After all, according to DWS, their role was created for just this sort of situation, to vote against the will of the people (assuming Bernie wins enough delegates), should they choose someone outside the established order.

By Douglas Alder (not verified) on 08 Mar 2016 #permalink

@8. Mitzi Dupree

"The republican field is entirely made up of *we’ll stomp drugs out of this country*. You know, the kind of thing that makes me want to dig up Nancy Reagan’s skull and smoke pot out of it."

Erm, couple of small pedantic points here : One I don't think that shes actually been buried yet and two, eww ..! I think she'll be a bit ripe! Not sure what sort of a high you'd get and there may be a few undertaker's chemicals and preservatives to consider there too ..

OTOH, yeah, smoking dope should be legalised or at least decriminalised and Nancy Reagan and the Republican .approach then and now is just totally wrong and needlessly harmful.

@ #16

Two words: George McGovern. The super delegates are there to help prevent another electoral disaster line 1972, in which the Democratic candidate manages to win 1 state (Massachussets) and the District of Columbia, giving Richard Nixon a 49-2 state, and 520-17 electoral college, victory. The idea is that the super delegates will have a better understanding of and appreciation for electability.

FWIW : (Disclaimer : Aussie but have followed US politics pretty closely over years and remember we live in the world America makes too!)

Of course, Sanders could win although I think its pretty unlikely and long odds. Question is - will he?

(Hmm.. my pedant gear may be still be sticking a bit, sorry! ;-) )

I'm fine with either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton for POTUS - I actually prefer the latter because think she's very pro-science (wanted to be an astronaut s a girl) experienced, capable and tough and I think she's come in for a wa-ay too much hate from people who have been too harsh on her.

I also think she'd make the Republicans head's explode & curious to see what they hate more an African-American POTS or a female one but then any Democratic party President would do that and Bernie Sanders would be the first Jewish President which would be great and his policies are generally really appealing too if sometimes probably unrealistic and I think he's done the left wing of politics a lot of good just by pushing the envelope and been proudly "socialist" etc ..

Any of the Republicans Trump, Cruz or Rubio winning would I think be an absolute nightmare for the world generally. Rubio I guess we could survive and is least bad but not by all that much whilst Trump is marginally ahead of Cruz in the sense that being executed by electric chair is probably marginally better than being executed by being fed into a wood-chipper feet first. I don't think Kasich really stands any chance and really the water-damaged robot Rubio doesn't seem likely now either. Although, I'd really rather Rubio and much rather Kasich - although I know he's not as moderate as he seems - than the unpredictable narcissist or the oily, slimy vile religious bigot.

But basically, please America, please, choose wisely and choose whoever the Democratic voters pick for your next President.

Douglas: "Bernie clearly represents a threat to the established order of business for the DNC. After all, according to DWS, their role was created for just this sort of situation, to vote against the will of the people (assuming Bernie wins enough delegates), should they choose someone outside the established order."

Established order in the Democratic party? Excuse me a second.


Sanders does not represent a threat to the Democratic party. He is a hard core democrat that happens to have been an independent, as per a New England tradition (esp. northern New England).

The uncommitted delegates were invented over a period of time following a primary season that saw the second ranked but emerging candidate murdered, the arrest and major trial of seven Americans for insurrection because they protested the war, at least one major reporter carried off the convention floor by thugs, etc. etc. That was the beginning of the end of the old party boss system. The reaction to that was to have the people chose all the delegates. But that was then seen as having a bit too much democracy for a party, which serves but does not necessarily incorporate democracy (as well it should not, fully) so uncommitted delegates were added into the mix, to retain some authority at the top.

Within the party, individuals go from lower to higher levels of responsibility based mainly on elections. In parallel, there are the constitutional elected officials of the party. So, party officers (elected within the party) and elected officials (elected by the people) together are responsible for what a party represents and how it operates. The little people (those who show up for primaries or caucuses, vote, and perhaps volunteer for candidates) chose the majority of delegates, but the elected party officials and constitutional office holders, as responsible individuals who are also elected, get to pick (or be) some, as a sort of control rod.

People often conflate the whole "dark money" thing with this system. The Koch Brothers, etc., certainly do fund campaigns (ie., buy politicians) but that is not mediated or desired by the party, especially the Democratic party. Indeed, the interests of the party emerge from the grass roots, and the interests of funded candidates may very well conflict.

I would say that on balance, the party officials would in many ways be happier with Sanders than with Clinton if they think Sanders could and would do more about taking that money out of politics.

Think of it this way. The party has a small amount of money. The koch brothers and other corporate special interests and 1%ers have a lot of money. Much of that party money comes from the state or federal governments. So, if you are small time and want to run for a small time office (council, assembly, etc.) in a given county or state, you can get much, maybe all, of the money you need from the party, and do just a little bit of fund raising. The party is happy with that. If you are running for a bigger office, like Congress, you may still get that money, but it is small change. For many candidates, and specifically for many candidates that are at odds policy wise with the party, that money comes from the outside.

The party faithful and party officers would be much happier to see much more of the money come from the government (channeling that $2 checkbox on your tax form, but maybe making it $100 and not optional to run all the elections) and to have very little or zero come from these outside interests.

In short, the Dark Money is at odds with the Democratic Party structure and goals.

Not sure what sort of a high you’d get and there may be a few undertaker’s chemicals and preservatives to consider there too

I've got ya covered, StevoR #17. A sad offshoot of ripping people off by exploiting prohibition:

Dank --Marijuana; the practice of lacing cigarettes with formaldehyde

Before running down the couple, Jones had smoked a cigarette dipped in embalming fluid laced with PCP

By Mitzi Dupree (not verified) on 08 Mar 2016 #permalink

@Jesse - As Greg says, the fact that a superdelegate senator now says he supports Clinton over Sanders does not mean that he will actually vote for her at the convention no matter what the popular vote was. Clinton lost superdelegates in 2008. Of course the party bosses would prefer a "moderate" neocon Wall Street hawk over a social democrat. However, they have to consider both the "optics" of tossing the people's choice and the electability issue.

The latter, BTW, includes not just the present-day polls showing Clinton weak against Trump, but uncertainty about what may happen with the FBI investigation. Obama has unwisely left the FBI in the control of hard-core right-wingers. It is possible that they see no basis for indicting Clinton, but they are trying to drag this out as long as possible to hurt her. It is also possible that they do think there will be grounds for an indictment, but they plan to hide it until after she wins the nomination, maybe even until October, for the purpose of devastating the Democratic campaign. If you were a superdelegate without inside information, and Herr Drumpf was going to be the alternative, would you want to gamble on which was true?

Honestly, most "party bosses" (elected and appointed operatives of the Democratic party) are left of the Party's candidates. No kidding.

Jane #22,

" It is also possible that they do think there will be grounds for an indictment, but they plan to hide it until after she wins the nomination, maybe even until October, for the purpose of devastating the Democratic campaign."

"If you were a superdelegate without inside information, and Herr Drumpf was going to be the alternative, would you want to gamble on which was true?"

If I were inclined to conspiracy theories, I would think that 35% of the money going to Sanders is from Republican astroturfing, and 75% of the negative comments about Hillary on the internet is from a Republican-sponsored spamming operation, with lots of concern trolling.

That's something we have seen over and over in various areas of interest, like climate change, and in previous elections (e.g. against Kerry.)

So, as a superdelegate, I would decide that Republicans have been afraid of Hillary for a long time because she was the most likely to succeed at being the first female president. (I think President Obama took them completely by surprise-- they never imagined an African American doing what he did.)

That makes my decision easy-- their analysts agree with me that she would win, while Bernie would lose, the general election.

@jane/ Greg--

I don't think that Bernie Sanders is some kind of revolutionary. However, the issue of money in politics being orthogonal to the goals of the party assumes there's little overlap in the class of people represented by that money (eg the Koch family) and the party leadership. There's a lot, actually. On the Democratic side you have the Kennedys and Roosevelt descendants who still have a lot of influence, for instance. And whatever the Kennedy's principled positions (there are many) I can tell you that the oligarchy that runs the country isn't going to tolerate any serious threats. Nor is the National Security State, which also shares a lot of personnel with a relatively small subset of families and "connected" people. Sanders is not a serious threat to either, not yet.

And the idea that the party leadership is to the left of the candidates is a mixed bag-- I say that as one who has met a few local level folks here and there. And I can tell you, some are, but many are not. The Democratic party people in Massachusetts? Probably. The ones in Michigan? Again, maybe so -- but those in Virginia and Texas not so much. The ones elected in 2006 were for the most part not (that's how they got elected) and the Democratic party that very year shot down their own candidate (Ned Lamont) in CT who wasn't even that progressive but was certainly to the left of Joe Lieberman. Lieberman is a Republican who left the Democratic Party (if an Eisenhower era one) and his Democratic opponent -- who won the primary was deep sixed by his own party, who walked away from him. They did the same thing to McGovern -- the party leaders didn't want a peace candidate and were quite public about throwing the election rather than challenge the National Security State.

So while you are correct that a superdelegate's endorsement isn't a one-to-one correlation, it sends a strong message (that is why they do it) and in a contest where 51% of the voted-in delegates went for Sanders I would bet money that the superdelegates who endorsed Clinton would stick with her.

I mean, why do you think the Democratic leadership was endorsing southerners to run when it was clear the more racist Democrats were going to the GOP? It wasn't like the party leaders were interested in a left / liberal alternative that might get more people voting. They did everything they could to move the party rightward on the theory that it was the way to electoral (college) success. Almost every single person in leadership positions now is a product of that period of "New Democrats" otherwise known as the Dem version of the Southern Strategy - try and make up with Dixiecrats. Bill Clinton was a product of that. The only person I can think of who "matters' in the party who isn't in that group is someone like Biden and his being 73 years old (or Sanders being 76) is no accident.

Anyhow, point is, given the stated purpose of the superdelegates to exist at all, I can certainly see them bucking the will of the party rank and file. This isn't always some weird evil thing, but generally the effect is and has been to keep the party moving right. And they have (in downticket races) done this before: Connecticut was only one example, there are other instances where the party leadership actively tried to block more progressive candidates in local races. See the conflict in Chicago with Rahm Emmanuel, or what went down with Andrew Cuomo who made a deal with DeBlasio to get the WFP off his back -- and then promptly went corporate. At every level the push is rightward, absent a lot of pressure.

This pattern gets repeated over and over again. I'm not saying that a progressive wing of the Democratic party is nonexistent, but I would say that for example, Elizabeth Warren won her seats in spite of the national leadership, not because of them.

In Minnesota you have the DFL which kept the state-level party honest, as it were. That hasn't happened as much elsewhere.

Clarification: Lieberman is an Independent, but I described him as an Eisenhower-era Republican because that's what he is, to draw a distinction between his position and the current GOP and Democrats.


Speaking of conspiratorial ideation....

Look, the point of having a political party is either to win or to make a statement.

Winning allows one to get something done. It does not guarantee a Utopian outcome of some kind. I am extremely thankful for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; I say triangulate and compromise all day if you can hit that magic number of 5 on SCOTUS, and get a workmanlike bunch of other stuff done as well.

There is not now, nor has there ever been in the USA, great support for extreme changes that would fit with a purported "liberal" or "progressive" agenda. Anyone who runs on a ticket promising to raise taxes and take away people's health insurance will lose, lose, lose. There is ample evidence of that, and while it may be partially the result of propagandistic efforts on the part of interest groups, it is the people who give us the governments we have. Not the hidden cabal.

If you believe that there is some savior out there who will lead you to glory (Ned Lamont? Seriously??), you are extremely naive about politics and human nature.

Jesse - One of the problems with the internet is that tone, expression, and nuance are not seen. Your comment might be read to suggest that anyone willing to acknowledge the possibility that Hillary might have committed a criminal offense was 75% likely to be a Republican "concern troll." That would piss me off but good - however, it may not be what you meant.

Under ordinary circumstances, you are quite right that a well-known, pro-war, pro-business-as-usual candidate like Hillary would have a much better chance than Sanders in a general election. These are not ordinary times. Domestically, we suddenly seem to have a critical mass of people who have been crushed by this economy, and an outpouring of hatred for the "Washington establishment" they blame. Abroad, even many of the Islamophobic bigot portion of the population are fed up with endless war; if we still derive any net profit from imperialism, the class most of them belong to isn't getting it; they get their young men coming home in body bags and wheelchairs. Business as usual is becoming unbearable. Other countries in this kind of mood have been years or months away from revolution or civil war. A populist now has a much better chance of being elected.

@zebra -- it isn't conspiracy theory when the party leadership is open about it.

Either way, the purpose of a political party is to provide an organization so people can act collectively to do something -- whatever that is. I think your definition is at best ahistorical.

"promising to raise taxes and take away people's health insurance" wasn't the promise. (And how the hell did Teddy Roosevelt win, when he backed an income tax?)

Poll after poll shows that there are a lot of ideas that many Americans get behind (health care as a right is one). It doesn't lose because people hate the idea, it loses because (in part) the folks who don't want to see that happen make damned sure it does not.

The way things change in a major way is not via savors. The way they change is when you tell the ruling class that you change or face the pitchforks. That's what happened during the Depression. FDR wasn't a savior, he was a guy who saw what happened with the Bonus Army. He was seeing what was happening elsewhere. He was smart enough to know that the Communist Party (the largest political organization of its day, by the way) was a very real threat to win just at the ballot box. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oklahoma(!) all sent Socialists and Communists to Congress.

You don't need a "hidden cabal" -- all this shit is public. The Democratic party publicly disavowed its progressive wing in the late 60s.

I think of it as a kind of weird mirror image to the GOP. The Republicans wanted to get all the disaffected Democrats on their side and said "the Klan is AOK with us!" effectively. The Democrats dithered after the Civil Rights Act -- a principled position on the part of LBJ by the way to support that.

So what did they do? You have two choices. One is to say, "You know what? Fuck the racists. There are more good people in the country than evil ones, and we can make a case that not killing people who have darker skin for voting is a good idea"

But nooooo. They got scared. "Oh no we need to win in the south! Better embrace racist policy to get white people to vote for us!"

This is why Trump exists. This is why Bill Clinton existed. the Democrats were able to say to Labor and minorities "hey, you have nowhere else to go" and they were right.

I don't see Ned Lamont as a savior for fuck's sake. he was, though, an incremental step. Just like lots of local candidates are. But the party has made it crystal clear that the people who matter (I'm looking at you Debbie Wasserman) don't want a serious challenge to any orthodoxy.

This is also why Bernie Sanders exists as a candidate. This is a guy who wasn't even part of the Democratic Party for decades.

(And if you tell me Barack Obama proves the party leadership didn't back racist policy we need to have a long chat about what institutionalized racism is).

Barack Obama wasn't some magic progressive. A lot of progressives backed him because the thought was that he would at least listen. But on many issues he basically threw everyone under the bus, and offered up the stuff that doesn't really challenge the fundamental structure of power in the way that the right to organize (which was finally protected under FDR) does. Gay marriage is fantastic but it doesn't do that.

The problem with triangulation, as they call it, is that it stops you from getting out a message that people can vote for. It's a defensive posture. And a defensive posture in politics is death. I have lots of things to vote against, but every successful political movement I know of gave people something to vote for. Even the current crazy angry racist wing of the GOP has things they stand for and can articulate. simply and clearly.

The Democratic Party spent years on the defensive. The whole conversation moved to the right -- do you realize that Richard F-ing Nixon proposed single payer and price controls in health care?

Look, I see this as someone who feels like Winston goddamned Smith in 1984 - nobody seems to remember anything but me -- and who is not a single-issue voter. I also happened to know (knew, in some cases) many of the activists and such (primarily in WI and the upper midwest, and from a generation earlier in New York).

So believe me, I know how this stuff works. I have watched it happen. In the late 90s I covered the local Democratic organization in Connecticut (Windsor Locks) which at the time punched well above its weight. they got a governor elected, after all. Seeing state level people mess with each other was instructive.

I just read the following on CNN regarding demographics in Michigan and can't make any sense of it. Can anyone else do?

'As it began to dawn on the Clinton campaign that the Michigan contest would be much tighter than it had anticipated, Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton's communication director, said that demographics were partly to blame.

"Michigan looks a lot like states that Sen. Sanders does well in. The Democratic vote is only about 75% white -- that is always coming in at a disadvantage to us," Palmieri told reporters Tuesday night in Ohio.'

By Pierre-Normand Houle (not verified) on 08 Mar 2016 #permalink

@21. Mitzi Dupree : Wow. Bloody hell. (Shakes head.) Okay, thanks for that I guess. Somethings new learnt today then.

The unpledged delegate count in Michigan was 65 Sanders, 58 Clinton. Halfway between your model original and the revised formula?

I'm guessing that another update with these results would still have Clinton winning, but by a smaller margin than the original.

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 09 Mar 2016 #permalink

Right now I'm working with two different ideas. One is that open primaries and caucuses are different from semi-open and closed caucuses. This assumes that there is a flocking of unexpected voters to the primaries generally, because of both Trump and Sanders, and this ends up affecting the results. The other is simply a northern vs. southern split. I'm not entirely sure how to justify that, but it may be a factor.

Either way I'm not that happy about having to add another factor, because I was going for simple. But it would still be simple, I suppose.


Of course the "openness" of primaries matters. There was apparently a fair amount of crossover voting going on. (And I repeat, there's no such thing as an "independent", or at best a very small number.)

But really, I have to go back to my earlier critique, which is that outcomes for individual States will depend greatly on the grand-tactical decisions about resource allocation and tactical decisions about local themes. It seems to me that the aggregate result here favors a conventional Hillary, (in character as it were), slow-but-steady-wins-the-race victory model.

Well, looking at the results from Michigan I can say

a) I was happy to be wrong about Sanders losing. I figured about a 60-40 or a 55-45 split in favor of Clinton, but he won the state -- narrowly.

b) I don't think this alters the calculus much. Sanders is still about 14% behind where he needs to be to wrap up a majority of pledged delegates. Clinton is up by about the same amount. Absent a decisive win in Ohio and Florida the math doesn't look good for Sanders yet.

Michigan was a good proving ground-- clearly Sanders can win the Democratic electorate in a state like that, which is good because it's a hell of a lot less favorable to him than his typical profile (I expect him to win a lot of the delegates in Idaho).

But I'm calling it a fluke unless he wins Ohio. In a proportional race it doesn't matter how many states you win if they are all places where few people (and fewer Democrats) actually live.

Sanders has some other favorable states coming up, but he will have to win them in blowouts to make it past the 50% mark at the end of the day. I said before he has to pick up delegates in a 2:1 ratio and that hasn't changed -- in fact Clinton still ended up with a net gain on Sanders because of Mississippi. That's Sanders' fundamental problem -- all the places he wins simply do not matter mathematically if Clinton gets blowouts in a few delegate-rich states. If you get to a situation where he has to basically win 80% of the vote in California, for instance, forget it.

So put me in the camp that wants to believe in Sanders, but still doesn't think the math works absent some crushing wins. That's just math: the next delegate rich states are IL and NC as well. IF Sanders can get enough black voters who are royally pissed off at Rahm and link Clinton to him via the Obama loyalty she has shown, then he has a shot. But he is behind by 700 Illinois and Ohio have 355 between them. He would basically have to win them both at 60-40 levels to make a dent in Clinton's lead, And he'd have to do at least as well in NC and Florida -- and he would still be way, way behind.

(I'd be happy if Sanders got offered something from a Clinton administration but I won't hold my breath).

@jane-- I didn't mention anything about Hillary Clinton committing an offense -- maybe you are responding to another comment? Anyhow your point about critical masses of people is well taken, and that's precisely why I think the Democratic party strategy of rightward drift is both unprincipled and bad strategy overall. But having watched this happen through five election cycles I am not confident that Wasserman Schutlz or her associates are going to have a come to Jesus moment.

Jesse: "Anyhow your point about critical masses of people is well taken, and that’s precisely why I think the Democratic party strategy of rightward drift is both unprincipled and bad strategy overall."

Yes. Echoing the late, great Molly Ivins on Clinton back in 2006:

"Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling...

"...You sit there in Washington so frightened of the big, bad Republican machine you have no idea what people are thinking. I'm telling you right now... If Democrats in Washington haven't got enough sense to OWN the issue of political reform, I give up on them entirely...

"...Do not sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite. If the Washington-based party can't get up and fight, we'll find someone who can."

She had some well-turned words for Bill as well:

"If left to my own devices, I'd spend all my time pointing out that he's weaker than bus-station chili. But the man is so constantly subjected to such hideous and unfair abuse that I wind up standing up for him on the general principle that some fairness should be applied. Besides, no one but a fool or a Republican ever took him for a liberal."

By Obstreperous A… (not verified) on 09 Mar 2016 #permalink

Zebra, I actually agree with your conclusion, but I restate that the value of this model is mainly to contrast actual outcomes with the status quo. The status quo will usually predict the outcome, just as it does with weather and behavior and everything else, scaled properly. (If it has not snowed at all and been over freezing for the last week, next week will more likely than not be the same; when it isnt', that may be a change in season).

jesse and OA,

Why is winning a bad strategy?

Can you explain how gay marriage and universal health coverage (where it isn't blocked by Republicans) is "rightward drift"? How President Obama, by hanging in there, might tilt SCOTUS, or Hillary by not scaring people, so that Citizens United would be overturned, along with voting rights and union rights and reproductive rights being protected, is "rightward drift"?

I think you guys didn't grow up seeing women being butchered and black men being lynched, if you are worried about "rightward drift".

Is it "rightward drift" compared to some previous Democratic president I'm not aware of?

No candidate has or will ever win telling people that she will raise their taxes and take away their health insurance.* So I am left with the conclusion that people who support such a platform are either Republican trolls or incredibly naive and/or irrational.

The reality of the USA electorate is that it is in many ways exactly "Republican lite". Now, if you want to change that, show me the money. Show me how you are going to duplicate the efforts of the phony think tanks and ALEC and so on at the local level. Win some Governorships at the same rate as they have, and flip the House and Senate.

But you would have to do it with "real" liberal campaigns, which is never going to happen in most States.

*Yes, the Sanders platform is about taking away people's health insurance and raising their taxes.

Jesse - Whoops, I conflated you with Zebra - sorry about that! And there's no question that there's been a rightward drift among the Democrats; it's worth noting that Richard Nixon had on several issues positions that would be decried as impossibly liberal for Democrats to offer today.

zebra, winning doesn't mean jack if the guy who wins throws you under the bus.

Let me tell ya, sometimes the winning Democrat has been worse than a Republican. Why? Because when a Democrat wins and does something egregious the response is just like yours -- don't go after them because the GOP will be worse.

The issue with incarceration is a case in point. When the Democrats decided to embrace racist policy, they told black voters "screw you, you have nowhere else to go." And they were to some extent right. (I am talking about incarceration here). Many 3-strikes laws were passed under Democratic governors in the 90s, for example.

In New York the Working Families party is a step towards a Labor Party, which would go a long way. The DFL in Minnesota also helps some.

Zebra, I get the sense you're seeing this from the end result, rather than thinking through how we got there. That is, you have to understand there's a whole history of attacks on the Labor movement that went on for 50 goddamned years. For example Taft-hartley was a very, very shrewd move, because absent outlawing unions altogether, it stunted their growth.

The point I (and I think some others would make) is that you have to build a movement and if you're going to do it within the Democratic Party, fine, but you have to acknowledge that there is a problem.

Fuck me, nobody thinks winning is bad. But the position that the electorate is just the way it is is ahistorical. Political movements exist to change people's minds. By your reasoning nobody should have supported Truman's inclusion of the civil rights plank in 1948 because Strom Thurmond -- who actually did take away electoral votes -- existed, and you shouldn't offend Southern Democrats if you want to win.

Electorates do not change by magic. The issue is building the basis for victory that lasts. One reason the Democrats got hit hard in 2010 was that a lot of voters who were excited about them two years earlier stayed home. And one reason that the South is so heavily Republican is that the Democratic Party gave up for more than a decade. The effects of decisions made years ago are with us right now, and that is one. (This is why Dean's 50 state strategy was so important and helped Obama win). One reason the Democratic organization in say, Oklahoma is small is the national party said, "Welp, we can't win, fuck it. You need money? HAHAHAHAHA. Don't bother."

You want to know why right wing people got elected? School boards. City councils. County boards. I saw this in action in Florida. I mean come on, where the heck do you think all these bright young Republicans come from?

In most relatively conservative states -- even ones with a very strong Left tradition -- there's almost nobody doing that kind of stuff at the local level. And there was almost nobody for years, so the GOP was the only game in town. And the evangelicals especially were all about retail politics. ALEC isn't the beginning of the strategy, it's the end goddamned result.

You want to know why abortion rights are under attack? Because no Democrat was willing to say "Yes, abortion on demand, because when the hell else would you want one, when you don't demand it?" Nobody in the party was willing to craft a legislative strategy, and you're left depending on the courts, and what the hell (politically speaking) do you think is going to happen then? Do you think it makes people feel connected to the law in any real way? It took 20+ years for anyone in the party leadership to wake up and smell the coffee, and they are playing catch-up now at best.

Winning national elections is part of it, but it's the end of a process, not the beginning. I think that's the disconnect between us.

Not much left for me to say, if you're paying attention.

"Why is winning a bad strategy?"
Heh. Well, I've got nothing against hyperbole... if there's a point to it.

Sometimes you have to hold your nose if you're going to vote for a candidate, but they should always be held accountable. Simply nipping at their heels won't do the trick either. The real possibility of loosing large chunks of arse, however, will help keep them sober.

This business of marching in lock step to the polls and then pulling a Rip van Winkle when your candidate wins is for the birds.

By Obstreperous A… (not verified) on 09 Mar 2016 #permalink

I want everybody to take a breath, watch one season of House of Cards followed by one season of West Wing. As an escape from politics, of course.


Politics isn't beanbag. It isn't exactly science, but there is a difference between factual, rational analysis and dodging facts and reason in aid of some self-serving narrative.

We have seen that with climate change and other issues, and if the idea is to promote scientific and rational thinking, you can't run away from some disagreements.

Aren't you making a political statement with your ethnic model?

No, I'm not. I can't imagine what such a political statement would be. Ethnicity is the easiest to obtain variable consistent across states that also varies across states. Age and sex don't vary across states. It is well established fact, undodgable fact, that voting patterns vary across ethnic groups. The reason for doing this the way I've don it is blatantly obvious and repeatedly explained. What are you playing at here?


I'm not playing at anything. I just think that getting some better resolution in your model would not be that hard-- male v female at least. Also party affiliation and the effects of closed and open primaries, and maybe some other bits of detail.

I think you have to acknowledge that the assumption of uniformity in the first place has implications. You're saying "there's a status quo", and Bernie or Hillary is doing something to change that. But as I pointed out earlier, they are indeed making choices in campaigning practice in each State, which are designed to affect the outcome, for that State. Is there a teleconnection between Hispanics in Michigan and those in California?

It's about time that Bernie starts thinking about conceding and endorsing Hillary.

“A simple model [by Alan I. Abramowitz] based on two predictors — the racial composition of the Democratic primary electorate and a dummy variable for region — explain over 90% of the variance in Hillary Clinton’s vote share in this year’s Democratic primaries through March 8.”

This model accurately predicted Bernie’s win in Michigan.

The model shows that Clinton will win 3 states (FL, IL, NC) and Bernie will win 2 states (MO, OH) on March 15.

Unfortunately for Berniebots, using this model, Hillary will still add 88 to 118 pledged delegates to her lead and Bernie will need:

67 - 68% of the remaining delegates to win the nomination (if committed superdelegates are included now).

58 - 59% of the remaining delegates to win the nomination (if superdelegates are distributed by winning percentage, as wishfully proposed by Berniebots).

58 - 59% of the remaining delegates to win the nomination (if superdelegates are not included, yet.).

Bernie will need to beat Hillary by an average of 18 to 36 points for the 28 remaining caucuses and primaries.

None of these scenarios is likely. For any of these scenarios, Bernie will be in an even worse shape than he is today.

Bernie is done. Hillary has won.

“A Simple Model for Predicting Hillary Clinton’s Vote in the March 15 Democratic Primaries”…

By David Rezachek (not verified) on 11 Mar 2016 #permalink

Sorry David, your namecalls against Sanders supporters disqualify you from being considered an informed and reliable source. Just because Dixie votes early does not mean that Southern Democrats are the only people whose votes should be counted. In a very close nationwide race, it's hardly unthinkable to me that Clinton's blowout wins in the one region that strongly favors her could be followed by enough blowout wins in regions favoring Sanders to give him 58% of the delegates remaining after March 15 (assuming March 15 goes as you imagine it will).

Nor do I think it is safe to assume that non-white voters will continue to vote overwhelmingly for Clinton, even as Sanders climbs in polls, buys more ads in their states, and becomes more familiar to them. Aside from the fact that the Clintons have spent decades pandering for votes from these communities, and are hence familiar, there is no logical reason based on candidates' identities or policies why the split should be so greatly in Hillary's favor, and indeed the gap is already starting to narrow. (By saying this I do not mean to carry water for the hint that white people's votes somehow are less valuable, the Clinton supporters' parallel to the GOP's opposite assumption.)