Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Early Presidential Primary Polls Actually Do Matter

While we and others have pointed out that it is almost a year until the first presidential primary (unless the Democrats force the issue and cause New Hampshire to hold its primary before Halloween this year), maybe the early polls do matter. Nate Cohen of The New York Times has done a study of early primary polling and come to the conclusion that candidates who do well in the early polling often get their party's nomination. And in the cases where they didn't, they usually lost out to someone else who was also polling well. That suggests that the Republicans will ultimately nominate Donald Trump or Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Sorry about that, Nikki. And Mike. And the other Mike. And all the others with delusions of grandeur.

Here is what Cohen found:

Early presidential primary polls are good predictors

The polls outlined by the green line show candidates running at 20% or more in Q1 in the year before the election. There are 13 candidates who were polling at least 20% and won the nomination (red dots) and 10 candidates who were polling at least 20% and did not get the nomination (gray dots). That means 56% of the time the 20-percenters got it. Unfortunately, Cohen didn't label all the duds. we bet the other Nate would have labeled then.

Of course, 56% is not 100%, and when two candidates are above 20%, obviously one of them won't grab the brass ring despite polling well. If we focus on candidates polling above 30% early on, only two of them failed to get the nomination.

In the modern era, only two candidates got as far as the primaries with over 20% support and lost the nomination. One was George Wallace in 1976, who was a regional candidate with little support outside the South. The other was Gary Hart in 1988, who was done in by Monkey Business.

Almost all the candidates who hit 20% this early were national figures who could easily command media attention by giving an interesting speech. They already had supporters and donors lined up and had generally already won elections for some other office. Once again, candidates in the spotlight can collapse (see: Giuliani, Rudolph William Louis) but being ahead this early is clearly a good start. (V)

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