2016 Presidential Primaries Predictions: Early States

So this Presidential season I’ve been trying my hand at the predictions game, with mixed results.  I’ve been posting them on Facebook and I’m reposting them here, along with the actual results and, below them, both the commentary I provided at the time of the contests and some new commentary looking back now.

 

February 1 2016: Iowa

 

Democratic Party

RealClearPolitics Polling Average Predictions Results
Hillary Clinton: 48 percent Hillary Clinton: 50 percent Hillary Clinton: 49.84 percent
Bernie Sanders: 44 percent Bernie Sanders: 49 percent Bernie Sanders: 49.59 percent
Martin O’Malley: 4 percent Martin O’Malley: 1 percent Martin O’Malley: 0.54 percent
All others: 4 percent All others: 0 percent All others: 0.03 percent
I REALLY hope I’m wrong and Sanders finishes in first! I think most of O’Malley’s supporters will side with Sanders. Not bad, huh?  Looks like I actually overestimated O’Malley’s performance, but I don’t give predictions in non-whole numbers.  Pre-caucus polling showed that Clinton was polling ahead of Sanders by an average of 4 points, but I figured that the greater passion among Sanders supporters and O’Malley supporters defecting to Sanders where O’Malley was not viable would give Sanders some extra points, but not enough to overtake Clinton.

 

Republican Party

RealClearPolitics Polling Average Predictions Results
Donald Trump: 29 percent Donald Trump: 30 percent Ted Cruz: 28 percent
Ted Cruz: 24 percent Ted Cruz: 28 percent Donald Trump: 24 percent
Marco Rubio: 17 percent Marco Rubio: 18 percent Marco Rubio: 23 percent
All others: 28 percent All others: 22 percent All others: 25 percent
I haven’t seen much of a ground game for Trump so if he does win, it won’t be by much. There’s been a late surge in Iowa for Rubio and I think he’ll pick up the plurality of support from the also-rans. I got Cruz’s percentage right!  But unfortunately, not the order.  I predicted Cruz would have an excellent ground game and Trump a lousy one (or a non-existent one, it appears), but I didn’t think it would be enough to switch their order, as Trump went into the caucuses with a 5-point lead in the polls.  Interestingly, for Rubio I predicted he’d get 23 percent before I learned that the Republican caucus, unlike the Democratic one, doesn’t have a viability threshold rule.  After learning that, I figured the “All others” candidates would keep more of their supporters and I lowered Rubio’s number accordingly.  Guess not.

 

February 9 2016: New Hampshire

 

Democratic Party

RealClearPolitics Polling Average Predictions Results
Bernie Sanders: 55 percent Bernie Sanders: 57 percent Bernie Sanders: 60 percent
Hillary Clinton: 41 percent Hillary Clinton: 43 percent Hillary Clinton: 38 percent
All others: 4 percent All others: 0 percent All others: 2 percent
As with last week, I REALLY hope I’m wrong and Sanders finishes with a much greater lead than this. A 20-point Sanders victory would be my dream. I’m very happy to have been wrong in this case, and my dream came true!

 

Republican Party

RealClearPolitics Polling Average Predictions Results
Donald Trump: 31 percent Donald Trump: 29 percent Donald Trump: 35 percent
Marco Rubio: 14 percent John Kasich: 17 percent John Kasich: 16 percent
John Kasich: 13.5 percent Marco Rubio: 13 percent Ted Cruz: 11.7 percent
Ted Cruz: 11.8 percent Jeb Bush: 13 percent Jeb Bush: 11.0 percent
Jeb Bush: 11.5 percent Ted Cruz: 12 percent Marco Rubio: 10.6 percent
Chris Christie: 6 percent Chris Christie: 11 percent Chris Christie: 7 percent
Carly Fiorina: 5 percent Carly Fiorina: 3 percent Carly Fiorina: 4 percent
Ben Carson: 3 percent Ben Carson: 2 percent Ben Carson: 2 percent
Jim Gilmore: 0 percent Jim Gilmore: 0 percent Jim Gilmore: 0 percent
All others: 4.2 percent All others: 0 percent All others: 2.4 percent
Yes, the middle tier is a mess, but Kasich has seen a surge, and I think a lot of the establishment-supporting voters will gravitate toward him at the expense of Rubio. Bush and Christie are also moving up and I almost had them tieing or passing Rubio and Cruz, respectively, but in the end I decided that would be too optimistic for them, especially for Christie. Rubio will edge out Bush by less than 1 percent. Trump’s general incompetence at running a campaign will cause him to underperform the polls, though not as drastically as he did in Iowa. Well, looks like Trump can run a campaign after all, at least when it’s not a competitive caucus.  I knew Rubio was falling hard after his disastrous New Hampshire debate performance but I didn’t think he’d sink all the way to fifth place!  I also slightly overestimated Bush, so while I got Cruz’s percentage right, I got his order wrong because I thought Rubio and Bush would place higher (kinda like my predictions for Cruz and Trump in Iowa…).  I also thought Christie would do better than he ended up doing after his brilliant takedown of Rubio at the debate, but unfortunately for him, the result of his takedown was all anti-Rubio rather than pro-Christie.

 

February 20 2016: Nevada and South Carolina

 

Democratic Party (Nevada)

RealClearPolitics Polling Average Predictions Results
Hillary Clinton: 49 percent Bernie Sanders: 52 percent Hillary Clinton: 53 percent
Bernie Sanders: 46 percent Hillary Clinton: 48 percent Bernie Sanders: 47 percent
All others: 5 percent All others: 0 percent All others: 0 percent
Clinton’s excellent ground game will allow her to keep it close, but it won’t be enough to stop Sanders’s surge. I got the final percentages almost right, but, sadly, in the wrong order.  Clinton’s ground game, which she had been building up for the past 10 months, was TOO good to overcome.  This is the second caucus in a row where Clinton’s lead in the state’s single-most urban and populous county put her over the top. Something about urban caucus-goers and Clinton?  On the bright side for Sanders, he narrowed the gap in the polling considerably and he seems to have been at least competitive with Latinos, if not winning them outright.

 

Republican Party (South Carolina)

RealClearPolitics Polling Average Predictions Results
Donald Trump: 32 percent Donald Trump: 31 percent Donald Trump: 32.5 percent
Marco Rubio: 18.8 percent Marco Rubio: 20 percent Marco Rubio: 22.5 percent
Ted Cruz: 18.5 percent Ted Cruz: 18 percent Ted Cruz: 22.3 percent
Jeb Bush: 11 percent John Kasich: 12 percent Jeb Bush: 7.8 percent
John Kasich: 9 percent Jeb Bush: 11 percent John Kasich: 7.6 percent
Ben Carson: 7 percent Ben Carson: 8 percent Ben Carson: 7.2 percent
All others: 3.7 percent All others: 0 percent All others: 0.1 percent
I’ve been underestimating Trump because he didn’t seem like he knew how to run an actual campaign, but he overperformed the polls in New Hampshire, which makes me wary of underestimating him again. His RCP average right now is at 31.8 so saying he’ll get 31 is a safe bet, accounting for both his popularity and his subpar ground game.

Rubio, amazingly to me, has recovered from his “Let’s dispel with the fiction” autorepeat and somehow erased his laughingstock image. If I were an establishment/”moderate”-type Republican voter Rubio would be the last one of the three establishment lane candidates I choose. But yes, he is surging in South Carolina and will probably finish ahead of Cruz, though Cruz’s ground game will allow him to keep it close.

Kasich is also having a small surge of his own, and I would say he finishes a little ahead of Bush. Bush’s campaign is probably finito after this. Carson will plod on until he decides he’s giving up too much sleep.

I was pretty close with Trump’s percentage, and I got the Rubio/Cruz order right even though I didn’t quite get the percentages (remember, I don’t do decimal points for my predictions).  Clearly Rubio took some support from Bush and Kasich, though I’m not sure where Cruz got his extra percentage points from (also from Bush and Kasich? That can’t be right).  I didn’t get the Bush/Kasich order right, though they were so close it could have gone the other way.  Either way, it wasn’t enough to save Bush’s campaign.

 

February 23 2016: Nevada

 

Republican Party

RealClearPolitics Polling Average* Predictions Results
Donald Trump: 39 percent Donald Trump: 40 percent Donald Trump: 46 percent
Ted Cruz: 23 percent Ted Cruz: 28 percent Marco Rubio: 24 percent
Marco Rubio: 19 percent Marco Rubio: 22 percent Ted Cruz: 21 percent
John Kasich: 9 percent John Kasich: 6 percent Ben Carson: 5 percent
Ben Carson: 5 percent Ben Carson: 4 percent John Kasich: 4 percent
All others: 5 percent All others: 0 percent All others: 0 percent
Trump has been outperforming my expectations of him, but though he’s supposed to have a big advantage in Nevada, this is still a caucus state and I don’t know how good of a ground game he has. Cruz has shown to be excellent at organizing which is why I’m giving him a solid second place. I’m learning from my previous mistakes and not overestimating Kasich and Carson. Wow, I was pretty damn wrong with my predictions.  Trump vacuumed up more support than I expected, and got dangerously close to the 50 percent mark.  He’s becoming more and more acceptable to a broader swath of Republican voters, and he’s winning in multiple categories, not just the crazy segment.  That’s why he’s able to pick up at least some of the supposed “establishment” voters that everyone thinks are going to automatically back Rubio.

Rubio finished ahead of Cruz, despite this being a caucus state.  Interestingly, even so, Rubio failed to actually carry any counties, whereas Cruz took two counties in the eastern desert.  With this and his narrowly beating Cruz in South Carolina, Rubio looks like he’s surpassing Cruz as the Trump alternative with more support.

As if the gods wanted to make sure I was extra wrong with my predictions, Carson managed to somehow finish ahead of Kasich.

 

February 27 2016: South Carolina

 

Democratic Party

RealClearPolitics Polling Average Predictions Results
Hillary Clinton: 58 percent Hillary Clinton: 60 percent Hillary Clinton: 74 percent
Bernie Sanders: 31 percent Bernie Sanders: 40 percent Bernie Sanders: 26 percent
All others: 11 percent All others: 0 percent All others: 0 percent
This makes me sad. This makes me sadder.

 

The larger-than-expected drubbing is the result of Sanders failing to make any inroads among South Carolina African-American voters.  I really don’t understand why African-Americans would so overwhelmingly choose Clinton, the candidate of “superpredators”, mass incarceration, welfare reform, and subtle racism against Barack Obama the last time she was campaigning in South Carolina in 2008.

 

* No RCP average was available, so I put down the results of the most recent poll on RCP instead.

 

MARCH 8 2016 UPDATE: Added in the RCP polling averages and the “All others” category.

88th Academy Awards: Predictions and Choices

I haven’t been following the Academy Awards race at all since nominations were announced, mainly because my attention has been occupied by a competition in the other great love of mine: politics.  And now it’s Oscars day and I’ve run out of time.  So I’m just going to do a quick run-down of the top eight categories, and do the “what will win, what should win” thing.  At some point in the future I do want to revisit the nominations and my reactions to them.

 

Anything I’ve already seen as of this writing (February 28 2016) will be in bold.  Within each category, I will list the nominees in order from the one I liked the most to the one I liked the least (just off the top of my head).  This will apply only to the ones I’ve seen (which are the ones in bold).  Nominees I have not seen will be ordered alphabetically at the bottom of each list.

 

Best Picture

 

Room

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

Spotlight

Brooklyn

The Revenant

Bridge of Spies

The Big Short

 

What will win: The Revenant

What should win: Room

What did win: Spotlight

 

Ah, how Spotlight has fallen…

I might add that in my years of observing the Academy Awards, this might be the most solid line-up I’ve seen yet.  I think all of these movies were at least decent.

 

Best Director

 

George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road

Alejandro G. Iñárritu for The Revenant

Lenny Abrahamson for Room

Tom McCarthy for Spotlight

Adam McKay for The Big Short

 

Who will win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu for The Revenant

Who should win: George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road

Who did win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu for The Revenant

 

Best Actor in a Leading Role

 

Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant

Matt Damon for The Martian

Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs

Bryan Cranston for Trumbo

Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl

 

Who will win: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant

Who should win: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant

Who did win: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant

 

Best Actress in a Leading Role

 

Brie Larson for Room

Jennifer Lawrence for Joy

Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn

Cate Blanchett for Carol

Charlotte Rampling for 45 Years

 

Who will win: Brie Larson for Room

Who should win: Brie Larson for Room (though I was also very impressed with Jennifer Lawrence in Joy and I would place her as a close second)

Who did win: Brie Larson for Room

 

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

 

Mark Ruffalo for Spotlight

Tom Hardy for The Revenant

Christian Bale for The Big Short

Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone for Creed

 

Who will win: Sylvester Stallone for Creed

Who should win: Mark Ruffalo for Spotlight

Who did win: Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies

 

Sylvester Stallone’s performance in Creed was one of the most overrated ever.  I didn’t see anything special about it.

 

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

 

Rachel McAdams for Spotlight

Jennifer Jason Leigh for The Hateful Eight

Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs

Rooney Mara for Carol

Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl

 

Who will win: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl

Who should win: Rachel McAdams for Spotlight

Who did win: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl

 

Best Original Screenplay

 

Ex Machina

Spotlight

Bridge of Spies

Inside Out

Straight Outta Compton

 

What will win: Spotlight

What should win: Ex Machina

What did win: Spotlight

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

 

Room

The Martian

The Big Short

Brooklyn

Carol

 

What will win: The Big Short

What should win: Room

What did win: The Big Short

 

I’m just glad Steve Jobs was not nominated.

 

MARCH 8 2016 UPDATE: Added in the actual winners.

I Endorse Bernie Sanders for President in 2016

Bernie Sanders has been literally my favorite living politician since all the way back in 2005, when I first really learned about him in Matt Taibbi’s excellent and highly recommended “Inside the Horror Show That Is Congress”.  When I saw him begin to make the Presidential rounds and drop hints about a 2016 Presidential run in late 2014, I was excited, but skeptical that he would actually make the plunge into a sea of opposition money.  When he actually entered the race in late April 2015, I was very pleased, but skeptical that he would actually gain any traction against Hillary Clinton, she who was inexplicably beloved by all Democrats far and wide.  And now on the eve of the 2016 Iowa caucuses, Sanders is polling an average of just 4 points behind Clinton in Iowa, and is ahead by an average of a whopping 18 points in New Hampshire, which votes next week.  At every turn I have underestimated Sanders, which is probably a product of my own caution: candidates I agree with tend to not do well in Democratic primaries.

Up until now, I haven’t officially supported Sanders for the Presidency.  The reason was a third candidate in the race: Martin O’Malley, who was touting a slate of progressive achievements he’d racked up as governor of Maryland.  Even though I was already aligned with pretty much everything Sanders thought and said, and his candidacy represented everything I’d been wanting to see in U.S. presidential politics for years, I wanted to keep an open mind and give O’Malley a chance.

(I never remotely considered supporting Clinton in the primaries; she is a serious danger to the future of the Democratic Party and she basically represents a continuation of the ideology and governing style of President Obama, which is not what this country needs.  I can write more about her in the future, but for now, you can read my still-relevant opinions about her back during her first Presidential run in 2008.)

O’Malley has been running on liberal rhetoric and detailed policy prescriptions, essentially casting himself as the thinking liberal wonk of the Democratic field.  He’s been making the right noises and taking the right positions on issues like trade, wisely staking out a position to Clinton’s left while still staying to the right of Sanders.  And as Maryland Governor, he did take his state forward on education, the environment, and a number of social issues, though it should be noted that when you have a House of Delegates and state Senate that’s no less than 69.5 percent and 70.2 percent Democratic, respectively, it’s not just a somewhat empty boast – you almost don’t have the choice of not being a progressive.

But the more I learned about O’Malley, the more I found to dislike.  His obsessive focus on policy details and data and results (see here and here) reveals that he’s a technocrat who lacks a sense for the larger ideological battles at stake in this country.  He could be a great cabinet secretary; he’s definitely committed to making government work.  But to me, if you’re not comfortable thinking about politics in more ideological terms, as a battle between competing worldviews – which it is – you’re not cut out to be the President, the person who’s in one of the best positions to change the way people think about politics and government.  That’s what I’m looking for in a President – not someone who’s the best at the nuts and bolts of running a government bureaucracy, but a leader who will inspire people to take the country to where it needs to be.  That’s where O’Malley fails – and where Sanders would excel. (Incidentally, the times when he does try to campaign on more ideological terms, it’s been a total turn-off.)

And then it turns out that O’Malley’s liberalism is only of the recent variety – as in, since he started running for President – revealing him to be more a creature of opportunism than anything else.  His past is noticeably to the right of his present, he’s worked with business interests to water down the Democratic Party, and he’s had other long-standing ties to big corporations.  Most damning of all is this 2007 op-ed he wrote with Harold Ford, Jr. – one of my least favorite Democrats of all time – talking about how the Democratic Party had to work to “capture the center” through a “centrist agenda”. (See also this write-up about it.) Part of the op-ed was as follows:

Contrast the collapse of a conservative president with the success of the last centrist president. Bill Clinton ran on an agenda of sensible ideas that brought America a decade of peace and prosperity. He was the only Democrat to be elected and reelected president in the past seven decades, and he left office more popular than almost any other president in recent memory.

Nearly seven years after Bush succeeded Clinton in the White House, America is facing challenges as great as we’ve ever seen — a war against Islamist radicals who would destroy our way of life; global economic competition that demands we raise our game; and a quest for energy independence and efficiency that Al Gore has shown us could make or break our planet. To conquer such enduring problems, Democrats will need a broad, enduring majority — and a centrist agenda that sustains it by making steady progress.

Most Americans don’t care much about partisan politics; they just want practical answers to the problems they face every day. So far, our leading presidential candidates seem to understand that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. That’s why they have begun putting forward smart, New Democrat plans to cap and trade carbon emissions, give more Americans the chance to earn their way through college, achieve universal health care through shared responsibility, increase national security by rebuilding our embattled military and enable all Americans who work full time to lift themselves out of poverty.

Nope, nuh-uh.  O’Malley was out.

Which brings me to Bernie Sanders.  It’s not just that there’s practically no issue I can think of where I materially disagree with him.  It’s not just that he’s been consistent on the issues and on his worldview his entire political life.  It’s not just that he’s an unashamed advocate for an active and responsive government, and a believer in the good such a government can do for people’s lives.  It’s not just that he actually understands and appreciates that politics is a constant battle between the haves and the have-nots, the powerful and the powerless.  It’s not just that he deeply cares about the common person, the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the out-of-luck in a way no other viable Presidential candidate in my entire goddamn lifetime has.

What sets Bernie Sanders apart from so many other candidates – and hell, people in general – is that he understands how political change happens.  Practically everyone else involved in politics these days, whether as a candidate or a pundit or a regular Joe talking out of his ass, thinks of politics in terms of the details of one policy proposal or another, or the latest petty feud between two candidates, or yet another minor remark that’s being blown out of proportion, or the slow grind of the horse race.  Bernie Sanders understands that real political change happens from capturing hearts and minds, engaging with people on what’s important in this country, and leading them to do what’s necessary to make meaningful progress a reality.  And Sanders is fully ready to do his part as a candidate and as President, but he understands that it’s not just about him or about his proposals or about legislation or about Congress – though all those are very important as well.  He understands that what’s been missing in our politics, throughout the Obama years and going all the way back to the great liberal movements of the 1960s and 1970s, is that vital element of public engagement.  He understands that, as the late and great Paul Wellstone put it, “electoral politics without grassroots organizing is a politics without a base.”  Sanders is ready to step up and do his part to connect electoral politics and public policy back to grassroots organizing, so we can once again produce a broad movement for the progressive change our country so desperately needs – if we, the people, are ready to do our part.

So forget about all the talk about how to win over “swing voters” in a general election (inconvenient fact: a majority of Americans already agree with Sanders on most of the issues).

Forget about all the talk about Republicans chomping at the bit to demonize a “socialist” (campaigns aren’t about how much they can hit you with; they’re about how hard and effectively you can hit back).

Forget about all the skepticism about how Sanders will get his liberal agenda through a Republican Congress (if anyone can convince me that Clinton or O’Malley can get their agenda through a Republican Congress, I’ll make a small donation to that candidate’s campaign).

Forget about how Sanders is too old, or too grumpy-looking, or too crazy-sounding.

The point of the Sanders campaign isn’t just about Sanders.  The point, as Sanders will readily tell you himself, is to get people to stand up and take back control of the political system and the government that’s supposed to be serving them.  And there is no person better suited to leading that populist movement as our next President than Bernie Sanders.

I decided about two months ago, in early December, that it was time to rule out everyone else and simply embrace the truth that Bernie Sanders is, and always has been, the right candidate for me.  True to form, it took me until now, on the eve of the Iowa caucuses, to finally get around to writing this post and making it official.  Well let’s make it official: I officially endorse Bernie Sanders for President in 2016.  He has my full and vociferous support and I’ll be looking into making a small donation to his campaign – which will be my first political contribution ever.  I hope fervently that this will be the year when the American people finally take back control of their political destiny, so they can have a government and a society that truly cares about and works for them, and that process begins with electing Bernie Sanders as our next President.  Feel the Bern!