Thursday, September 10, 2015

Snapshot of the Democratic Race in Iowa


The Huffington Post's Pollster.com legacy site remains a fantastic resource for following political campaign polling, but sometimes their work requires a bit of tweaking in order to gain a more realistic idea of the situation in any given race. This morning let's look at how the Democratic race in Iowa is shaping up and make a few common sense adjustments to see if we can see what is going on.

The image at the top of this post is a custom chart I created by making the following changes to the Pollster.com model:

1) I altered the time period to January 1, 2015 to the present.
2) I chose less smoothing.
3) I chose a percentage range of 0% to 70%.
4) I removed the individual poll plot points to produce cleaner trend lines.

This chart suggests that Hillary Clinton is in a slow decline while Bernie Sanders is surging. Joe Biden's numbers are wishy-washy, as the Vice President does his best to impersonate Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, with his "to run or not to run" monologue. I predict Democratic primary voters will get tired of the Hamlet act sooner rather than later. The rest of the Democratic pack lags far behind.

The questions raised by this chart are two-fold:

1) Will Hillary Clinton's decline continue at a steady rate, or will she reach a steady floor of supporters who will not desert her in any case? Can Clinton halt the decline and regain support?

2) Likewise, can Sanders continue to gain on or even surpass Clinton in Iowa, or does Sanders have a built-in ceiling of support (say 40%) that he will struggle to exceed?

Bonus questions posed by this chart are:

3) Will Joe Biden get in in time to make a credible run, or is he there simply as a spoiler to divide the "not Hillary" vote? If Biden can draw enough support from Sanders, he can throw the contest to Clinton if she can maintain a strong base of support.

4) What will the Democratic pack do? Supporters of O'Malley, Webb, and Chafee could be game changers if they abandon their first choice in favor of Clinton or Sanders. Will any of these three candidates really continue in the race until the Iowa caucuses on February 1, 2016? In addition, there are about 10% undecided in a race where Sanders trails by about 9%.

Looking at these numbers and the surrounding circumstances, I conclude that Hillary Clinton still maintains an edge in this race, but the outcome is far from certain with nearly five months left until Iowans gather in caucuses.

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