A Look Ahead to the Presidential Race

Vice President Joe Biden speaks to DNC2012 (Photo: John Christian Hansen)
Vice President Joe Biden

Happy 2020 and with the new year are wonderful conversations on the direction the Democratic presidential primaries and caucuses have before us in a few short weeks.

Two chats stand out: one from a Joe Biden supporter and one from a Bernie Sanders supporter (I’m likely to cast my ballot for Elizabeth Warren).

On the Biden side, it appears the former vice president has a commanding lead in the vast majority of states who have conducted polls and FiveThirtyEight.com says all the polling indicators point to a Biden nomination but cautions no candidate has a lock.  And its entirely possible GOP research shows this too which is why President Trump extorted Ukraine into announcing an investigation.

My source predicts that a Biden nomination will so anger the progressive wing of the party that they might stay home or not cast a ballot for the Democrat.  Likewise, my source thinks a Bernie Sanders nomination might have a similar effect from party moderates who might not vote for Sanders if he is the Democratic nominee.

With my Bernie supporting friend, I got a lecture that I need to get used to the idea that Sanders will be the party’s nominee — citing Bernie’s Q4 fundraising punctuated with a discussion of the journalistic integrity of the LA Times for not covering the sanders rally in Venice (the LA Daily News didn’t cover it for the next day and, frankly, limited coverage overall).  Of course, any media coverage of Bernie must be overwhelmingly positive or its biased against the candidate speaking out against media conglomerates even thought the LA Times isn’t one.

FiveThirtyEight.com has a well established reputation for tracking multiple polls has a national poll on the preferred Democratic candidates and a state-by-state poll status (not every state as a poll and some of them are months old, so take the state polls with a grain of salt.  Biden leads Sanders by nearly 10 points with Warren trailing Sanders by about 2.5 percent.

From FiveThirtyEight, this:

In fact, Biden’s steady polling average over the year echoes what happened with three previous front-runners: Ronald Reagan in 1979, Bob Dole in 1995 and Al Gore in 1999, all of whom were leading the field in the second half of the calendar year before the election. All three had an unadjusted polling average of 30 percent or more in the first half of the year and were within 3 percentage points of their original number in the second half of the year (Reagan went from 34 to 37 percent; Dole, 46 to 44 percent; Gore, 54 to 55 percent). So the fact that Biden’s polling average has been pretty stable isn’t unprecedented — or even a bad sign. While only Reagan won the general election, all three went on to win their party’s nomination. A fourth candidate, Ted Kennedy in 1979, was in a similar situation the year before the election, and while he fell short of the nomination, it took a sitting president — Jimmy Carter — to block his path. However, those candidates all polled better than Biden — some significantly better — so Biden is by no means a sure bet to win the Democratic nomination, especially as he seems to have experienced a small downturn in the second half of the year, and not an uptick.

But according to our analysis, someone polling around where Biden was in the second half of the year has roughly a 35 percent chance of claiming the Democratic nomination. A 1-in-3 chance isn’t great, but this is still better than, say, Bernie Sanders’s or Elizabeth Warren’s chances. They essentially tied for second, with an unadjusted polling average around 16 percent in the second half of the year, which historically has meant a 10 percent chance of winning.

For the state-by-state polls (use the pull down menu), Biden leads in Alabama, Arizona, California (thought both Warren and sanders were leading in the most recent polls in the Golden state), Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa (1.6% lead over Bernie), Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada (a 7% lead over Bernie), New Hampshire (a 0.1% lead over Sanders), New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.  Biden’s lead over Sanders and Warren in swing states of PA, FL, MI and WI are sizable.

Warren led the last poll in her home state of Massachusetts (which lists Biden in the lead) and she leads in Minnesota, Montana and Wyoming.

Sanders leads in Colorado, New Mexico, and Oregon.

States with no poll include Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia.

Democrats have nominated candidates who trailed going into Iowa and New Hampshire before.  But what I’m most concerned about would be apathy from Sanders voters if he doesn’t win the nomination.  Statistics of Sanders voters who cast a ballot for Trump in 2016 prove to be a difference in key states of Michigan, Wisconsin at Pennsylvania.

I’d hope that any nominee the Party puts forward against Trump will earn the support of all voters, includnig the Never Trumper Republicans.

It’s still really early.  Let’s see how this all plays out.