Sunday, July 10, 2016

First General Election Forecast: Hillary 50, Trump 44, Johnson 4, Stein 2. (Electoral College 348-190)

The Original Splash Brother, Manute Bol

I have been meaning to write a post about the general election race for weeks. It's not a very exciting topic this far out but I wanted to put my "morning line on the record and now that Nate Silver's forecasts are up, it's time to write.  Nate's forecast is Hillary 49, Trump 45, Johnson 5. That leaves a little more than 1 percent for Jill Stein, the Green Party candi anddate.  (When writing abot's models, I will, unless otherwise indicated, refer to their Polls-Plus Forecast, because I believe it's most accurate.)

My morning line is HIllary 50, Trump 44, Johnson 4, Stein 2, with the Electoral College at 348-190.

My central thesis for this election is that Hillary Clinton is the favorite for two broad reasons: the fundamentals of the election favor the incumbent party and the Republican nominee is unlikely to persuade many voters to vote for him over Clinton who didn't already vote Republican four years ago. As for fundamentals, I mean the fact that Barack Obama is liked by more voters than he is disliked. The economy is generally solid and the opposition party has nominated a dumpster-fire. That dumpster-fire said things to get the nomination that probably preclude mutliple paths to the White House.

This shold make Hillary Clinton the clear favorite, and she is that.  But she comes with her own baggage and has some highy unfavorables.  As a betting matter she has been right about a 3-1 favorite ever since both parties settled on their respective nominees.  I think that accurately reflect the state of the race, and is consistent with the 538 model.

1. Specific States.

In 2012 Barack Obama won 332 Electoral Votes. Mitt Romney won 206. President Obama won 10 out of 11 close states that year. That's actually good news for the GOP.  The only state they really have to defend is North Carolina, which Romney won by just two points. The next closest margins of victory was Georgia by eight, Arizon and and Missouri by nine. Clinton needs to worry about Florida (less than one point in 2012), Ohio (three), Virginia (4), Colorado and Pennsyvlania (5) and New Hampshire (six).

So Donald trump needs a net gain of 64 Electoral Votes.  The quickest distance to that, using 2012 margins of difference is to win Florida (29 EV), Ohio (18), Virginia (13) and Colorado (9). I think that Trump's racist comments about undocumented immigrants will translate into atrocious numbers among Latino voters. That probably puts Florida and Colorado out of reach. If so, he will need to win some blue states in the Upper Midwest.

Think of Trump as having three paths to 270 Electoral votes. Each is based on the assumption that he doesn't lose any Romney states. The crucial states are Florida and Colorado, because they have high numbers of Latino voters and I think they will be hard for Trump to win.   :

A. Direct Line: Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado.

B.  Without Colorado:  If he wins FL, OH & VA but loses Colorado, he will have 262 Electoral Votes. He could get the remaining eight by carrying one of the below configurations;
        i. Pennsylvania
        ii.Iowa and New Hampshire
        iii Minnesota or Wisconsin. (Or Michigan, which is extremely unlikely.)

C. Without Florida.  If he wins OH & VA but not CO or FL, Trump is in a huge electoral hole. He would have 237 electoral votes and need to win. To dig out of that hole, he probably needs to win either Michigan or Pennsylvania. Winning both PA & MI would be enough to win, but that's unlikley to happen.  If he wins Pennsylvania, he gets within 13 votes and needs two more upsets among New Hampshire, Michigan and Wisconsin. If he wins Michigan but loses Pennsyvlania, then he needs to win both Wisconsin and Minnesota.

If Trump loses both FL and CO,  He would probably need to win Pennsylvania and Michigan. That's very unlikely.

The forecasts on show some traditionally red states as being competitive. At the moment, Nate gives Hillary a 25% chance of winning Arizona, Missouri and Georgia. But as the election gets closer, I think those states will tend to move in Trump's diretion.  My official prediction is depressingly familiar. I think Clinton will win back North Carolina and I think she will win Nebraska' 2nd congressional district. That will get her 348 Electoral Votes.

2.  Vice Presidential Choices.

Way back in November of last year I wrote that Tim Kaine would be the Democratic nominee for Vice-President.  I'm sticking with that. He's the safe, sensible choice with experience in the senat and the exective. He also helps win one of the most competitive states, Virginia  Hillary has the lead and she's a small-c conservative by nature. This is the safe pick.

The Republican running mate sweepstakes have come down to a handful of choices. Chris Christie would be absurd. Newt Gingrich would be terrible, but I think he's good at telling people like Donald Trump what they want to hear.  That can't hurt when wooing a narcissist. I think General Flynn disqualified himself when he said today that he was tepidly pro-choice.  I think Trump wold face a delegate revolt if he chose Flynn.

That leaves Governor Mike Pence of Indiana.  The biggest question about this pick is whether Pence wants to give up being governor of Indiana.  He's up for re-election and can't be on the ballot there twice.  I don't know if he wants to give up being Governor for a 25% chance of being Vice-President. But he has to know that this will elevate his name recognition and it will allow him to play the grown up for the next 18 weeks.  When 2020 comes around, he will have credibility with the people who loved Trump and perhaps with the establishment if he is thought to have made the race more competitive than it should have. He also has to consider the possiblity that should they win this thing, Trump might resign after a few months to cash in on his new fame. (This is a real prospect.)

So I think Pence is the smart choies of the remaining candidates. And really, how exciting can it be to govern Indiana?  So we are looking at Clinton-Kaine and Trump-Pence.  Neither of these choices affect any of my electoral college predictions, but they probably make Virginia and Indiana slightly more likely to stay with the party that they chose in 2012.

3. Worst Case Scenarios.

So I'm writing that there is a 25% chance that Donald Trump will be the next President-elect of the United States. Let's try to break down that that means.

First let me say that I'm always open to the idea that the Trump campaign is a giant scam and that the candidate will back out at some point rather than face ignoble defeat.  But I don't think he will do this before the convention. He can't pass up that much free air time. But if things look bad in September, he might invent an excuse for him to dropout and say that his electors should just vote for Pence instead of him. I know this is crazy. The stuff of a bad novel by a political beat reporter. But what part of 2016 has not been just that?  So let me clarify that I think the odds of the election winner are something like this: Clinton 75%, Trump 23%, somebody else, 2%.

But that leaves Mr. Trump with a 23% chance of winning. To put that in sports terms that's roughly equivalent to Manute Bol's three point field goal percentage. Sounds crazy but some of those shots went in. A more common sports analogy would be an NFL team with a 7 point defecit halfway through the third quarter. So Trump can win this. It's just not very likely.

My operating assumption for the past several months was that Trump's best chance of winning involved something horrible happening on American soil, most likely a terrorist attack that makes people willing to try out his ridiculous idea of banning Muslims and building a wall along the southern border. The mass shooting at the Orlando night club did nothing to move the prediction markets. So far the the mass shooting of Dallas police officer has also had no effect. But I'm leaving the room open for an October surprise. If we have multiple ISIS-linked or insipred attacks on the homeland in October, Trump's odds will improve.

He also has some issues to make hey with. He is running, contra the mainstream of the Republican party against free trade. He's going to promise people a return to the economy of the 1950 and 60s. He's also going to imply a trunt ot the culture of the 1950s. That does has some appeal. He is currently leading white men by more than 20 points. (Makes you proud, doesn't it?)

I think a Trump victory means four things happened:
1. Major terrorist attack on American soil or extended instances of violence against police officers.
2. A "scandal" of some sort that tarnishes Hillary more than Benghazi or the Email server have.
3. Tepid economic numbers in the fall.
4. Trump rebranding his message for the general electorate in a way that accentuates the economic insecurity of working class people while simultaneously convincing Wall Street that he won't actually impose any of his whackadoo economic poliices.

That last one is quite the typerope to walk. I don't think he has political chops or interpersnal skills to do it.  That's why I'm an optimist.

4. Best Case Scenarios

This election cycle is already a wasted opportunity. When Hillary's only meaningful challenge came from a 74 year old socialist, it meant that the party was not about to change. And when the Republicans nominated Donald Trump they doomed themselves to four years of bleating the No True Scotsman Fallacy.  When Trump loses,people like Ted Cruz will say "It's because we didn't nominate a real conservative."  And in four years, they probably will do just that.

Hillary's vote margin over Trump will probably be bigger than the 3.95% that Obama's beat Romney by. But I don't think he will win by a bigger margin than the 7.3% that Obama beat McCain by in 2008. Even if she does, I think the only red states that become competitive are Georgia, Arizona and Missouri.  A sweep of all the battlegrounds plus those three would get her up to 384 Electoral Votes. That's close to a route, but not quite the stuff of history. A truly historic meltdown by Trump might make Kansas, South Carolina and Montana competitive. But even adding them to the Blue pile would leave Trump far short of Goldwater-McGovern-Mondale territory.

A Clinton blowout probably involves for things happening;
1. A relative lack of serious terrorist activity.
2. Trump being unwilling or incapable of toning down his campaign rhetoric.
3. A massive fund raising dsparity because rich people determine that they are better off with Hillary for four years than the dumpster-fire.
4. Television ads that rehabilitate Clinton's image and cement Trump's imge among indpendents.

The hardest part is rehabilitating Clinton's image.  I think there's 40% of the population that will vote for her opponent no matter how dangerous that opponsent is.  That's why I'm not too excited about Kansas or Mississippi turning blue or even purple.  Hillary won't play aggressively enough to make them copetitive.

5.  Third &; Fourth Party Effects.

Gary Johnson is approaching double-digits in polls that include him. A lot of this is the result of Trump and Clinton both being so unpopular. But as people begin to take their vote seriously, they will not turn to Libertarians in huge numbers. I think his ceiling is eight percent and will have to fight like hell to get five percent.  His best chance of making a dent is that Trump becomes so odious that many Republicans just can not vote for him and look their neighors in the eye.  But I don't see the groundswell happening this year.  Mid single digits it is.

Jill Stein of the Green Party recently offered to ste aside so that Berne Sanders coud instead run as the Green Party candidate. Okay, that was difficult to type with a straight face. What she actually did was she pretended that she would step aside for a candidate who she knew full well intends to endorse Clinton because she things it will curry her favor with disaffected lefties.  It might, but they are small in number. Bernie supporters are already telling pollsters they will vote for Mrs. Clinton in higher numbers than Clinton supporters were saying the same of Barack Obama in 2008.  But to be fair, these Sanders voters are from the left-wing of the party whereas the Clinton supporters of 2008 were from the rightwing of the party. Voting Green was never an option for them. But it will be for about 5% of the population, especially if the polls indicate that Clinton is certain to win the election and prevent a Trump presidency.  Her ceiling is three percent. People still remember the Nader effect. It will kee her number down.  (As will her pseudoscientific opinions about GMO and vaccines, among other things.)

6.  What to Look Forward To:
A quick run down of the major events of the next 17 and a half weeks.

i. Trump's VP announcment: Probably No Later than July 15th. (That's when Pence has to decide between running for Governor or running for Veep.  I think he's say Veep.)

ii.  GOP convetion in Cleveland (and the ensuing riots). This is really Trump's best chance to put a new spin on his shtick. His one big asset as a candidate is that he knows how to use the medium of television to his advantage.  I think the convention will be more variety show than politcal theater.  People will talk about it. And there will be lots of confrontation in the streets. Here's a big prediction: on July 22nd pundits will be calling this a toss-up election. (Bettors will not.)

iii. Hillary's VP announcement. Probably Kaine but maybe some other boring white guy.

iv. DEM convention in Philadelphia (and the ensuing floor debates). I think Bernie's delegation will vote for HIllary. I also thin it will include enough young Occupy types to make the convetion less boring and sanitized than the Democratic conventions have been ever since Bill and Hillary took the reigns of the party 25 years ago.  But Hillary and Kaine will both give great speeches that no one will be offended by or remember 2 months later and she will get her bounce and the pundits will say she's the favorie again.

v.  First Presidential Debate, September 26th in Dayton, OH.

Circle your calendars for this one.  The Quantum unknown in this election will be how Hillary reacts to debating a sociopath. If Bobby the Brain Heenan were not in ill health, I would want the Dems to hire him for debate preparation.  She has to be ready for the worst of it. But Trump's big advantage is that he can also probably benefit from being (relatively) sane at this forum.  He will be on stage, one one one with someobe that's been in the national political scene since before I could vote. He can probably do 50% crazy and 50% relatively calm and come away scoring points. Or he might call her something horrific and storm off the stage  30 minutes in.  Like I said, circle your calendars.

vi. Vice Presidential Debate October 4th in Farmville, VA
I lived in Virginia for like 4 years. No idea where Farmville is.  And I can't be bothered to Google it. Becuase that's how important the Vice Presidential debate is.

vii. 2nd Presidential Debate in St. Louis, MO.
Probably less compelling TV than the first, but Trump might act from the other end of the crazy scale just to keep her guessing this time.

viii. 3rd Presidential Debate in Las Vegas, NV
Perfect location but I shudder at the lame analogies about who needs to win the big jackpot and roll box cars on top of split aces in order to parlay a oh,, fuck it. We'll all be so sick of these two people by then.  Trump might sneak in one last attempt to look normal in order to hold onto a state or two, The big questioin will be which stattes are in play by then.

ix.  Election Day, November 8th.
Don't forget to vote. And then the polls will close and we'll find out that we have elected our first president.  The only concession will probably come in the form of a deranged Tweet storm of obscenities  And won't hat be worth watching?

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Eenie Meenie Miney Blow (TWD Season Six Finale Reaction)

First of all, I hate this gimmick.  It's an insult to the audience. Who shot J.R. was a great gimmick. That was 30 years ago.  Now we expect a story to be told.  And who the hell wants to spend the summer watching trailers of Father Gabriel talking to Spencer. There are three huge problems with this cliff-hanger. One is that it's absurd to think that Negan could resp ond to the loss of 50 of his men by only killing one person.  Secondly, people will leak who was spotted on the set during the summer. And the biggest problem is that  by process of elimination, there's not a lot of suspense in who Negan picked.

My premise is simple. Negan needs to show the group and the audience that he is a bad ass. That leaves women and children out.  So Carl, Maggie, Michonne, Sasha and Rosita are out. That leaves six possibilities.  Eugene and Aaron just don't look that scary so I'll leave them out.  That leaves 4 possibilities:

1.  Rick.  He is safe. Not because he's the lead character but because if I'm Negan, I absolutely want this imbecile to be in charge of  my biggest threat.  I thought he was dumb all season but tonight he really outdid himself. He managed to look genuinely surprised that the Saviors kept turning up at all the dead ends.  And then he really seemed to think he could carry Maggie through those woods without getting caught.  Dumbass.

2.  Darryl.  Also safe. AMC gave him a reality show which is probably there way to pay him what he's worth to the network while locking down the female demographic over the summer.

3.  Glenn.  Well if they were going to repeat the comic story, then they probably would have told us that tonight.

4. Abraham.  He looks and is tough. He was present for almost all of the Savior deaths and he puffed out his chest as if to volunteer for the task.  The death of any of the other three characters would have been a big deal.  People would have talked about it more than the cliffhanger. Abraham? Not so much.

So I think Abraham is the victim.  But don't worry about waiting six months to find out.  Someone will spot him with or without that mustache by then.  Which is why this cliff hanger was dumb.

Another Complaint.

The Morgan and Carol story line was not well managed this season.  Tonight it became obvious that they were building to put Morgan in a situation where he has to kill someone.  It was a cop out to make the choice so simple.  Of course he shot the man who was about to shoot an innocent woman laying on the floor defenseless.  If they wanted to make this a bigger deal for Morgan, they should have made it a closer call. Even Eastman the cheesemaker told Morgan that he would not let Morgan kill him.  So yes, killing to prevent a different killing is moral. That's the first day of Intro to Moral philosophy. This show really should be more complex by now.

One Silver Lining.

But first, one more complaint. ;-)  Think about the last 2 episodes.  What was advanced in terms of story?  I guess Carol and Morgan had some resolution. But apart from that all we built up to was seeing Negan. Everyone knew that Negan was coming. So this was 2 and a half hours of air time to tell us nothing we didn't already know.

But what an entrance! Jeffrey Dean Morgan was great.  Ten minutes of monologue building to a bullshit cliffhanger.  But he kept it all fresh, fascinating and terrifying.  This peace of casting might even be the makeup we need for the Governor.  So as mad as I am by the finale, I'm already looking forward to Season Seven.  So my protests are meaningless in the marketplace.

Early Thoughts on Season 7.

The creators have put themselves in a bind for how to promote this season.  I think Morgan and Carol will wing up in a place called the Kingdom which will probably take up an episode or two but it's hard to say for sure what the central conflict will be.   I think the season will be political.  Rick will be plotting a war to kill Negan but he won't have the manpower to make that happen. Maggie and Michonne will be instrumental in that political process, as will Jesus and the people at the Kingdom.

But I really hope we get some good deaths. It's crazy that we went an entire season without losing anyone that we really care about. Doctor Denise had potential but she didn't get to make much of an impression. I could care less about Jesse and her idiot children.

So next year I'm hoping there's death and a tiger.   Google it.

Oh yeah...Zombies (The Walking Dead Season Six Finale.)

I used to post about The Walking Dead with some frequency.  I still watch and enjoy the show but I haven't taken the tie to write a post since November when only a few hours of the current season had aired. That post was called "All Tactics, No Strategy" and lamented the short-sighted nature of Rick's leadership.  This season has done nothing to change my mind on that point.

I'm writing this with just over one hour to go before the season six finale begins. This episode is the most highly anticipated because it is expected to mirror the events of the 100th episode of the Comic Book.  (Comic Spoilers ahead....)  In that issue, Negan arrives and beats Glenn to death with a baseball bat.  Ever since Glenn's bogus near-death experience in the beginning of this season a lot of folks have wondered if the TV show would match that story line exactly.  It certainly might.  But I hope it doesn't because I have come to conclude that for the good of the group, and the show, Rick should die tonight.

Let me state upfront that I think this is very unlikely.  The show is still a hero's journey and Rick is the hero.  He is who we met in the first cold open. This is a Western and he is the sheriff.  Killing him would be a monumental leap of storytelling that probably means the actor made unreasonable salary demands to go forward.  But if they go this route, then our merry band of survivors will be better off.

This season has been entertaining.  The production values are still remarkable for a cable TV show and the acting is fine even when the writing is uneven.  But this is the first season where it felt like the producers were hoarding the characters we care about.  No one of importance has died.  (Sorry Jesse and Dr. Denise, but you know it's true. The coolest character to die was probably the leader of the Wolves and I wouldn't put him in the Top 25 of characters the show has given us.)

So tonight they either go big or leave the audience feeling gypped. I think one of 4 major characters has to die tonight or else the show will feel lost its ability to make us feel like everyone is vulnerable. Those 4 characters are the only adults left from the first season: Rick, Darryl, Carol and Glenn. I will consider each in turn.

1.  Rick is an imbecile.  Don't believe me?  Let's review ever decision he has made since smoking the cannibals in Father Gabriel's church.

a.  Treat the Alexandrians like idiots.  What did that gain anyone?
b.  Lead 30,000 Walkers past the gates of Alexandria on foot.  What could possibly go wrong?
c.  Decide to walk a baby through a giant herd of zombies only to remember halfway through that babies cry.  How did that work out for Jesse?
d.  Kill 50 of Negna's men in return for a few weeks of rations from the Hilltop.
e.  Kill the guy claiming to be Negan before Carol and Maggie can tell him that the guy is lying. Gee, maybe that guy had some valuable intel on the Saviors.  But we'll never know, will we?
f.  Lounge around eating apples while bragging about how easy it will be to kill whoever is left of the group you have violently attacked on three separate occasions.
g.  Let 7 of your best fighters go chase Carol while Negan is preparing to storm your gates.  Tonight we'll find out just how expensive that stupidity was.

2.  Darryl would hurt the show too much.  If he dies it is because the actor got tired of the terrible plot lines and I will wish him well.   Also, the ratings will drop like a rock next season.

3. Carol is the obvious favorite of the writers. She is the best actress in the company and her story line has been compelling.  I think she escaped for a reason last week and I don't expect her to return in time to save anyone tonight.  We'll see her, but it will be next year and I think her story will take a big new turn that we don't see coming.

4.  Glenn.  Well, they are relying on the Comic Books more and more.  He is a fan favorite and his death would shock the audience, even those who expect it to come.  It is the safe choice in some ways but I think he will leave a hole in the show that won't be easily plugged.

One long shot possibility is killing Michonne or Maggie.  The audience cares enough about them but I don't think either character is ready to go.  The cruel thing to do to Maggie would be to kill Glenn and have her miscarry.  That seems to cruel.  Little Herschel ought to be here next year.

Death Probabilities tonight:  Glenn 60%, Darryl 25%, Rick 10%, Carol 3%.  Maggie & Michoone 1% each

Minor Deaths.

I think we'll get at least one B player death tonight.  Abraham would be the obvious choice. (In the comics he died 2 issues before tonight.)  Tara and/or Heath might get killed.  (Apparently the actor who plays Heath is on a different show starting this fall.)   Rosita, Sasha and Aaron would all be losses worth mentioning.

They will probably throw in a 3rd rate player too.  Tobin, Spencer, etc.  Someone that people will say "Oh that guy too, huh?"  Look for this in the 2nd act.

The biggest storytelling challenge is to make Negan the bad guy.  Consider the death toll so far:

Darryl killed 9 guys with the grenade launcher. Rick murdered 25 people in their sleep at the satellite compound.  Carol and Maggie killed 4 more at the slaughterhouse, then lured another 10 to join them in death. And Darryl, Abraham and Rosita killed at least 2 more by the rail road tracks.  That's 50 dead against only poor Doctor Denise.

Negan's going to have to make quite an impression tonight to make us feel bad about whatever it is he does to Rick's group.  Maybe killing Rick is the wrong way to go, thematically.  After all, Rick deserves to die.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Duper Tuesday (What to Expect)

There are 2,473 delegates this year.  The magic number to have a majority is 1,237.  After tonight we will have a much better idea of whether or not Donald Trump can get to that number.  And we will know for sure that no other candidate has a realistic chance of getting a majority.  This is my attempt to lay out the math so you can understand the significance of the results as they roll in.There are six Republican Primarires today.

1.  What we already know.
The Northern Mariana Islands have already spoken, awarding all nine delegates to Donald Trump.  That means the up to the minute Delegate Count is this:  Trump 472, Cruz 371, Rubio 166, Kasich 63, Others 21.  (Most of the "Others" delegates are uncommitted, either because the candidate who won them will not be put in nomination as the convention or because people voted to send uncommitted delegates to Cleveland.)

2.  Safe Estimates.
Most of the attention on today's primaries has been given to Ohio and Florida because they are big states that award all of their delegates to the state-wide winner. There are actually more delegates available in the other three contests, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina. Here's how the delegates are likely to break down there.

A. Illinois 69 Delegates.  Fifty-four of the delegates are award to the winner of each congressional district in the state.  That's 18 separate battles for three delegates apiece.  The state wide winner will get 12 bonus delegates and three are for state party officials.  Trump is heavily favored to win the state and is likely to win about 12 of the districts.  A reasonable assumption would be he gets 48 delegates while Cruz wins 4 downstate districts to get 12 and Kasich or possibly Rubio might win 2 districts in or near Chicago.  That breaks down to Trump 48, Cruz 12 and Kasich 9.

B. Missouri has similar rules to Illinois but fewer congressional districts.  The The statewide winner will get 28 delegates and there will be eight congressional district levels for three delegates each.  This race is very close but I expect that Cruz will win because he has been able to focus his efforts there while Trump fights for Ohio and Florida.  The math there could be something like Cruz 43, Trump 9.

C. North Carolina.  Simplest math of the night.  Every 1.43% of the vote gets you a delegate.  Trump has commanding leads in all the polls but these rules will prevent him from running up the score. If he wins with 45% of the vote to 35% for Cruz and 10% each for Rubio and Kasich, the numbers will look something like Trump 34, Cruz 25, Rubio 7, Kasich 6.

So my combined estimate for the proportional states totals up to this: Trump 91, Cruz 80, Kasich 15, Rubio 7.  That sets the stage for one of three scenarios at the end of the night.

3. The Possible Scenarios After Tonight.

Trump will almost certainly win Florida, but we have to consider that Rubio has a chance of pulling the upset.  Kasich is more likely than not to win Ohio, but it's far from guaranteed. So let's look at where the math will stand in a few hours time, depending on which winner take all states Trump wins.

Trump has 472 delegates.  If he gets 91 from the proportional states, he will have 562. Add Ohio he has 623. Add just Florida but not Ohio and he has 661.  Add moth and he has  722.

Cruz has 362 Delegates. He can't win OH or FL but I estimate he will have 442 at the end of the night.

Rubio has 166 and should win a handful in NC.  If he also wins Florida he will have about 270 delegates and will stay in the fight.  If he lose Florida, he will leave the race with about 172 delegates.

Kasich has 63 delegates. He'll win about a dozen in the small states and needs to win Ohio's 66 to stay in the race.  If he does he'll have around 240 delegates and can be the establishment choice going forward.

If Trump has a big night, winning OH and FL, he will be on pace for well over 1,300 delegates.  He will be the nominee.  Even with a split he will be the heavy favorite.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Republicans Have Two Options

Donald Trump under performed slightly yesterday.  He was expected to win three races but only won two.  He lost Kansas by a two to one margin and Maine by a lot more than I thought possible. My prediction was that Trump would be at 77% in the Prediction markets today and he is only at 64%. Cruz, Kasich and Rubio are all slightly higher, although at least I got the order right.

I think we learned three things  yesterday:

1. Marco Rubio will not be the Republican nominee.  He finished last in Maine and a distant third everywhere else.  He is almost certain to win Puerto Rico's primary today, but that is the last contest he will win this year.  He is done.
2. Ted Cruz will stick around until June but he can't get to 1,237 delegates.  He has done well so far but there are very few states that he can win that have not yet voted. A bigger problem for him is that almost none of the states he's likely to win have Winnter Take All rules.  He could get all 32 of Idaho's delegates if he manages to get over 50% of the vote, and he might win all 27 of Montan's delegates  but he has no chance of winning Ohio, Florida,  or Arizona or New Jersey.
3. Donald Trump will get at least a plurality of the delegates and has a good chance of winning a majority. The media narrative of elections is almost always about "momentum" and who beat expectations. Yesterday Cruz took back the momentum and exceeded expectations. But he didn't win enough delegates to match what would be his target to get a majority. Trump is ahead of that pace and he has his best states to look forward to later in the calendar.

This leaves the Republicans Two Options: they can nominate Trump or they can screw him out of the nomination. I'm not sure which option is worse for them, but neither is good.

Votes and Dlegates Math

Popular Vote Percentage Raw Vote
Trump 34.6%      3,603,656
Cruz 28.8%      3,002,218
Rubio 21.3%      2,221,276
Kasih 6.9%          714,355

Trump is winning the vote by six percent and over 600,000 votes. Through 19 states, Trump has won 12, Cruz has won six contests and Rubio only one. One interesting metric is how often a candidate finished first or second.  Trump has done so 18 times, Cruz 12, Rubio 5 and Kasich only three times.

The Delegate Math also favors Trump.  He currently has 391 delegates, to 248 for Cruz, 176 for Rubio and just 37 for Kasich.  As of this writing 18 delegates from Louisiana have not been allocated and Rubio is likely to win all or most of the 23 delegates from Puerto Rico. 

There are about 35 contests left. I played with the delegate allocations for each and came up with the following final projections:

Trump; 1,250 (51%)
Cruz:      732 (30%)
Kasich   286 (12%)
Rubio    178    (7%)

The biggest variables are the Winner Take All states.  I have Trump winning Florida, Arizona and New Jersey but Kasich winning Ohio. My numbers are predicated on Rubio dropping out after losing Florida and Kasich staying in after winning Ohio.

Cruz had a good day but I don't see the delegate math working out for him getting to 1,237. I think his ceiling is about 900.  He also seems to be determined to knock Rubio out by campaigning hard in Florida. That probably guarantees 99 delegates to Trump.  If Trump manages to win Ohio (he led by five in the most recent poll), then his path to 1,237 seems very likely. 

The outcome of the nomination will probably be determined by California on June 7th. The state wide winner gets 10 delegates for winning the state and then each of California's 53 congressional districts have 3 delegates that are awarded to whoever wins that district and three are reserved for party officials.  If Trump wins the state, he'll probably need wins in 17 or 18 California congressional districts to cross the line to 1,237.  Maybe by then the party will have rallied around Cruz or Kasich or decided to make Trump fight a bunch of two-front wars against one or the other throughout the Golden State.  

My math has Trump winning California and 23 of its congressional races. Cruz wins 22 and Kasich wins 8. My methods are far from exact. But that might not even matter. If Trump wins Ohio and Florida on March 15th, he might not need any of California's delegates. And unless Cruz can carry his "momentum" to the big states of the Northeast, he won't be able to prevent Trump from being nominated on the first ballot.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Super Saturday Expectations

There were a few interesting developments this week on the predictions markets for the Republican nomination.  Donald Trump fell by more than10 points despite having won 7 of the 11 contests on Super Tuesday.  He went from a peak of 83 percent down to a bottom of just below 70 percent before rebounding up to 73% as I write this.

What's most interesting about this is that none of that advantage went to Marco! Rubio.   He won Minnesota on Tuesday but finished third almost everywhere else. (Behind Kasich in New England and Cruz and Trump everywhere else.) The gains went to Ted Cruz, who went from a low of 2% back to nearly double digits, to John Kasich who bounced up from 1% to 5% after looking like the only adult in Thursday night's debate in Detroit. And last but not least both sides of the 2012 ticket, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan entered the market at 1% and have stayed there since.

But now we're back to a voting day. Four states weigh in on Saturday, with a primary in Lousiana and caucuses set for Maine, Kentucky and Kansas.  The delegate math won't move much today. None of these states are winner-take-all and all four candidates can expect to win at least some in one or more states.  The real test today is whether an intense week of anti-Tump effort can anyone slow his momentum.  Here are a few good things to watch for:

1. How many states does Trump win?  He's a heavy favorite in Maine, Louisiana and Kentucky.  Cruz should win Kansas, but Trump was leading in the most recent poll.  If Trump gets four wins today, that's a pretty resounding rejection of the #NeverTrump movement by the base.

2. Can Kasich win Maine?  John Kasich is the only candidate still running without benefit of having won a contest yet.  But he has done well in New England so far, having finished in 2nd place in New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. If Thursday's debate has really created a groundswell for a candidate more mature than the shrieking babies he has shared this stage with, then he just might be competitive in Maine. A victory will help him enormously going forward, especially in Michigan.

3. Can Cruz pull an upset somewhere?  Cruz should win Kansas.  It's a closed caucus and it's right in the alley of the other states he's won (OK and TX to the south, Iowa to the Northeast.) Winning there is expected. But if he pulls off an upset in KY or LA, then he can make an undisputed claim as the most viable alternative to Donald Trump.

4. Will Rubio even get a 2nd place?  Marco Rubio has been abandoned by the establishment and by Fox News in particular.  In between Nevada and Super Tuesday, Marco got on the gutter with Trump and came out of it looking worse for wear.  It's not hart to imagine him finishing 3rd in all four places and he might be 4th in Maine.  That will hurt his images very much and I don't think a likely win in Puerto Rico on Sunday will do him any particular favors going forward in the GOP.

5. How big of a number can Trump put up in Louisiana.  It's the only primary today and it's in the deep south, where Trump has done especially well so far.  If he gets over 40% he starts to look like a presumptive nominee rather than just a front runner. Rubio could also miss the 20% mark here which would mean he gets no delegates from another sizable state.  He can't let happen.


1.  Louisiana: Trump 43%, Cruz 27%, Rubio 19%, Kasich 10%.
2. Kentucky:  Trump 34%, Cruz 30%, Rubio 27%, Kasich 9%
3. Kansas      Cruz 37%, Trump 32%, Rubio 22%, Kaich 9%
4. Maine     Trump 28%, Kasich 27%, Cruz 26%, Rubio 19%

So rough night for Rubio, again.  I think at noon on Sunday the Predictwise market will look like this:

Trump 77%
Cruz 12%
Kasich 5%
Rubio  4%
Ryan 1%
Romney 1%

By the way I think Ryan is the best buy in this market.  He's a much more logical consensus pick at a brokered convention than Romney. If the establishment is out to get Trump, then he's well positioned. But I think their opportunity to do that depends on Trump losing both Ohio and Florida and I don't think that is likely.  After March 15th the GOP will have two choices: nominate Trump or screw him out of the nomination.  I'm really not sure which is worse for them in the long term.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What to Watch For

So tonight is probably the night that Trump goes from front-runner to all but certain nominee. I do not think it will be possible for another candidate to get a delegate majority but after today, even if Trump romps, it will still be possible to deny him an outright majority of delegates.

He is heavily favored to win 10 of the 12 GOP contests being held today and he also leads in Minnesota by a closer margin. Ted Cruz is likely to win Texas but probably won't do well in other places.

Here are the most important things to watch for tonight.

1. Can Rubio salvage a win?  There are at least two states where he has a more than theoretical chance of winning-Minnesota and Virginia. If he wins both we can expect an avalanche of endorsements running towards him the rest of this week. If he gets a split, he at least avoids the talking point that he can't win anywhere.  If he loses everywhere than he is probably doomed.

2. Can Rubio get 20% in Texas?  Texas' delegates are awarded proportionally unless the winner exceeds 50% of the vote. I don't think Cruz will get to that number. In order get a share of the delegates a candidate must receive at least 20% of the vote. If Rubio doesn't hit that number, than Trump and Cruz will split all 155 of those delegates. That's 31 delegates that Rubio could lose by a very close margin. He can not let that happen.

3. Can Rubio keep it close in Georgia?  Trump broke out the heavy guns in Georgia yesterday: Bill France the head of NASCAR.  Most recent polls have Trump with a big lead but with Rubio pulling head of Cruz in second place.  If he has a prayer of being the nominee, this is a state where he will close well.

4. Can Bernie win anywhere other than Vermont?  Minnesota, Colorado, Oklahoma and Massachusetts should all be competitive for the Democrats tonight. Hillary will roll to big victories everywhere else.

5. Will Kasich show any signs of live?  He should compete in Vermont and Massachusetts. I don't think he will win either but his path to the nomination involves denying Trump a majority, winning some big northern states and then hoping to be the consensus grown up choice at the convention.

6. Can Trump get to 50.1% in Alabama? If so he wins all 50 delegates there. That's when the math really starts to look bad for the Field.

Official Predictions for Super Tuesday.

GOP: Trump wins everywhere except TX (Cruz) and MN (Rubio)

Texas: Cruz 41% Trump 29% Rubio 21%  Carson 5% Kasich 4%
Minnesota: Rubio 41%, Trump 39%, Cruz 14%, Kasich 6%
Georgia: Trump 49%, Rubio 27%, Cruz 18%, Carson 6%
Alabama: Trump 52%, Cruz 23%, Rubio 19%, Carson 5%

DEM: Clinton wins everywhere except VT, OK & CO
Vermont: Sanders 84%, Clinton 15%
Oklahoma: Sanders 52%, Clinton 48%
Colorado:  Sanders 51%, Clinton 48%
Minnesota: Clinton 53%, Sanders 47%
Massachusetts: Clinton 54%, Sanders 46%