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News from the Votemaster

Happy New Presidential Election Year     Permalink

The day we have all been waiting for has arrived: the start of another fun-filled (at least for political junkies) presidential election year. No doubt it will be exciting all the way up to the election on Nov. 6, 2012, when the White House, 33 Senate seats, and all 435 House seats will be up for grabs, as well as innumerable state and local offices. Expect many twists and turns--they always happen. Will the Arab Spring arrive a year late in Saudia Arabia? Will the euro collapse and wreak havoc worldwide? Will North Korea do something terminally stupid? Will Ron Paul run for President as a Libertarian? Will Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton switch jobs? Will the Republicans shut the government down? Will a Supreme Court justice retire? Nobody knows, but stuff always happens.

This site will track the polls for President starting when the Republican nominee is known with some certainty. It will also track the Senate starting later in the year, when the candidates are known.

We won't be tracking the House this time because House polls are so infrequent. Last time around, we did track the House despite the fact that 373 of the 435 districts were never polled at all and the other 62 were only polled an average of twice in the entire year. The predictions given (which turned out to be pretty close) were mostly based on a mathematical model that used the PVI and the results of previous elections as the main inputs. This time that is impossible since almost all the congressional districts have been redrawn by the state legislatures or special commissions and have no histories.

Also of note is that news items by The Votemaster may be less frequent than in previous years due to circumstances not related to the election itself.

Iowa Caucuses Are This Tuesday     Permalink

Despite nearly a year of campaigning and endless polls, finally the first voters will get to speak on Jan. 3--literally. On that day, in 1784 precincts around Iowa, voters will get together at 7 P.M. for about 2 hours to listen to speeches by the supporters of the various candidates and then vote (by secret ballot) for their favorites. Technically, all that will happen is that Iowans will be electing delegates to the 99 Republican county conventions to be held later this year. At those conventions, another round of voting will occur to elect delegates to each of the state's four congressional-district conventions, where delegates to the state convention will be chosen. The state convention selects the delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL, which starts Aug. 27, 2012.

Despite the fact that only about 120,000 virtually all white middle-class Republicans usually show up (for an event that doesn't even select any delegates to the RNC), the media reads more into this event than any shaman ever read into the entrails of a goat. 120,000 people is the population of Coral Springs, FL, Carrollton, TX, or Thornton, CO. No one would dream of asking the residents of those cities to pick the next Republican nominee for President, yet this inalienable right has been bestowed on Iowa Republicans, mostly by historical accident. Have they done a good job with their immense power? In the table of winners below, you can see that in the past 10 presidential elections, there have been six contested Republican caucuses. Iowans got it right three out of six times, for 50%. To a baseball fan, batting .500 sounds pretty impressive but to a statistician, "random" is the word that comes to mind.

Year Ames straw poll Iowa caucuses NH primary GOP Nominee President
2012 Michele Bachmann ? ? ? ?
2008 Mitt Romney Mike Huckabee John McCain John McCain Barack Obama
2004 (Not contested) (Not contested) (Not contested) George W. Bush George W. Bush
2000 George W. Bush George W. Bush John McCain George W. Bush George W. Bush
1996 Bob Dole/Phil Gramm Bob Dole Pat Buchanan Bob Dole Bill Clinton
1992 (Not contested) (Not contested) (Not contested) George H.W. Bush Bill Clinton
1988 Pat Robertson Bob Dole George H.W. Bush George H.W. Bush George H.W. Bush
1984 (Not contested) (Not contested) (Not contested) Ronald Reagan Ronald Reagan
1980 George H.W. Bush George H.W. Bush Ronald Reagan Ronald Reagan Ronald Reagan
1976 (Not held) Gerald Ford Gerald Ford Gerald Ford Jimmy Carter
1972 (Not held) (Not contested) (Not contested) Richard Nixon Richard Nixon

Nevertheless, Iowa does have a real effect: it winnows the field. Candidates with big egos but no chance of winning may campaign for months before the caucuses, but when the voters show them the door, they often bow out.

Final Selzer Poll: Romney and Paul on top but Santorum Rising     Permalink

There have been polls galore of Iowa in recent weeks, but the one insiders have been waiting breathlessly for is now out. Ann Selzer, the queen of Iowa polling, published her final precaucus poll in the Des Moines Register last night. Here are the results:

Candidate Dec. 27-30 Dec 29-30
Mitt Romney 24% 24%
Ron Paul 22% 18%
Rick Santorum 15% 21%
Newt Gingrich 12%  
Rick Perry 11%  
Michele Bachmann 7%  

In the full 4-day poll, taken Tuesday through Friday, Mitt Romney has a statistically insignificant lead of 24% to 22% over Ron Paul, with Rick Santorum third at 15%. However, Selzer also looked at the final 2 days of polling separately, and there Santorum jumps into second place with 21%. She said that all the momentum is with him. By Tuesday, every voter in Iowa will have memorized her numbers and this will only add more to Santorum's momentum. The bottom line is that Romney, Paul, and Santorum are very likely to be in the top three, but any of the six possible orderings is realistic.

Does it matter? Somewhat. If Romney actually comes in first and then wins New Hampshire next week, the race is probably over and Romney is the nominee. If Paul wins, he will certainly continue in the race for a while since he has money, organization, and a very loyal fan base. Unfortunately for him, the fan base does not include the leadership of the Republican Party, most of whom would probably prefer Hillary Clinton as their nominee to Paul. While Paul's views on the economy are tolerable, albeit extreme (abolish the Fed), the racist statements he has made in the past and his position on Israel (abolish it, too) and Iran (not a threat) are anathema to the leadership.

The main thing they are worried about Paul is that if he wins Iowa and comes in a good second in New Hampshire and South Carolina, he might ultimately decide to drop out and run as a Libertarian, as he did in 1988. Such a move would almost certainly cause President Obama to be reelected. Paul is not running for Congress again, so this is his last hurrah and he might decide to go out with a bang, not a whimper. What better way than to reelect Barack Obama to show the Republican Party the consequences of ignoring him and his views? It worked real well for Ralph Nader in 2000, so why not give it a shot? The main concern Paul probably has about a third-party run is the biblical approval of visiting the sins of the fathers unto their sons and grandsons down to the fourth generation. Paul has only one generation to worry about: his son, Rand Paul, the newly elected senator from Kentucky, is not likely to move quickly into the Republican leadership if his father single handedly defeats the Republican nominee.

Santorum is the new Huckabee. Just as Mike Huckabee came out of nowhere to win the Iowa caucuses in 2008, it is possible for Santorum to do the same this year. Again, the Republican establishment does not want him, but for different reasons than with Paul. Santorum is a huge supporter of Israel and checks every conservative box. His problem, like Huckabee's in 2008 is lack of money, lack of organization, and no crossover appeal. If Santorum does win Iowa, or come in a close second, the media will have a new hero and Wednesday half the publications in the country will have headlines like: "Can Santorum Stop Romney?" The answer is: No. The Romney juggernaut is too powerful for an underfunded candidate like Santorum. The fourth quarter fundraising totals have not been released yet, but in the third quarter of 2011, Romney raised $33 million to Santorum's $1 million. The fourth quarter is not likely to be much better for Santorum. He is not likely to do well in New Hampshire because the state's Republicans are more libertarian than conservative although he might have a shot at winning South Carolina if enough of his rivals drop out. But then comes Florida, a big, expensive, state where he won't be able to compete with Romney in the air war.

This year has had so many surprises, that another one Tuesday can't be ruled out. The thing to look for is how well Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry do. They alone have enough money and enough organization to wage a long campaign. All they seem to lack are votes.

Similarly, a win by Ron Paul, also possible, would also pretty much ensure that Romney gets the nomination because Paul has little to no chance in South Carolina, Florida, and Nevada (although he might come in second in quirky and somewhat libertarian New Hampshire). Basically, the only candidates with enough money and organization to go the distance are Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, and if neither can win Iowa, with an electorate consisting of 60% evangelicals, where can they win? It either one loses but finishes reasonably close to the winner, he might get a second chance in South Carolina, but after that, the map favors Romney.

While predictions are always dangerous--especially about the future--here's one for the record: Michele Bachmann will come in last on Tuesday, blame the media for her dismal showing, then drop out to spend more time with her family.

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-- The Votemaster

Previous headlines

Dec16 No Fireworks in Final GOP Debate
Dec11 Romney Offers Perry a $10,000 Bet During Debate
Dec11 Where is Sarah Palin?
Dec11 The 2012 Contest: Whole Foods Clients vs. Cracker Barrel Shoppers
Dec07 Gingrich Way Ahead in Iowa
Dec07 Obama Gives Fiery Speech Attacking the Republicans
Dec07 Pelosi Backtracks on Releasing Dirt
Dec04 Herman Cain Drops Out
Dec04 Gingrich Pulls Away in Iowa
Nov29 Woman Accuses Cain of Long-Running Affair
Nov23 Romney's Extended Family Could be a Problem
Nov23 Republicans Ignore China, Eurocrisis in Debate on Foreign Affairs
Nov19 Newton Defies Gravity
Nov10 Perry Stumbles Badly in Debate
Nov09 Anti-Union Bill Repealed in Ohio
Nov09 Republicans May Take over Virginia State Senate
Nov09 An Egg is Not a Person in Mississippi
Nov06 Romney's Choice
Oct22 Cain First, Romney Real Winner in NV Straw Poll
Oct12 Mitt the Inevitable?
Oct06 Steve Jobs and Politics
Oct06 Palin Will Not Run for President
Sep30 Senate Races 2012

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