Friday, November 06, 2015

Election 2016: Peak Trump?

I like to look at two different kinds of data during election seasons. One of those will be the polls, obviously. This far out, the polls aren't always going to tell you anything tremendously useful, but they do get a sense of what the people who are paying attention are thinking. The other thing I like to look at are the prediction markets. These two sources tend to converge as the event draws closer. But this far out, it sometimes looks as if they were describing two entirely different contests.

Like now, for instance. Looking at the polls, it's all about Trump versus Carson. But Vegas loves them some Rubio. The intriguing question here is, why? (More on that later.)

The other question -- and I think this one has an important bearing on what kind of primary we're looking at -- is ... well, where is Rick Santorum?

Remember, the GOP's usual modus operandi amounts to "It's His Turn." A shocking number of Republican nominees were the runner-up the last time around. Let's look at all of the races in the last seventy years or so, and see what the trend tells us:

1952: Eisenhower (Taft)
1956: Eisenhower (inc.)
1960: Nixon (VP)
1964: Goldwater (Rockefeller)
1968: Nixon (Reagan)
1972: Nixon (inc.)
1976: Ford (inc.)
1980: Reagan (Bush the Elder)
1984: Reagan (inc.)
1988: Bush the Elder (Dole)
1992: Bush the Elder (inc.)
1996: Dole (Buchanan)
2000: Bush the Younger (McCain)
2004: Bush the Younger (inc.)
2008: McCain (Romney)
2012: Romney (Santorum)

Re-elections don't count, so we can discount 1956, 1972, 1976, 1984, 1992, and 2004. Nixon in 1968 is sort of unusual, but Nixon could claim a form of seniority in having been both a Republican VP and nominee. Excepting those, we have a fairly strong string of the prior runner-up taking the top spot in the next available election. Reagan in 1980 was the runner-up in both 1968 and 1976. Bush in 1988 was the runner-up in 1980, as well as the VP of a still-fairly-popular President. Dole was the runner-up in 1988, as was McCain in 2000 and Romney in 2008.

And Santorum? According to Pollster, he's sitting at 0.5%. Which means that the existence of Santorum supporters cannot be proven by any known statistical science.

This is going to be like 1964 or 2000: a year where they GOP throws "It's His Turn" onto the dust-heap, and does something else. What we don't know yet is whether 2016 will be more like 1964, or more like 2000. In 1964, there was an ideological struggle within the Republican party. in 2000, they'd been out of the White House long enough to want a winner, ideology be damned. Or, maybe, 2016 ends up being a little bit of both. The Goldwater-Reagan era of conservatism is over. This may be the year we find out what will take its place.

The Republicans

The interesting thing about this chart from Pollster is that it appears that Trump has hit at least a temporary ceiling. I'm actually surprised that he appears to be truly serious about seeking the nomination. I'd pegged this for a vanity project. It may still be a vanity project. And for a while, his poll numbers skyrocketed with no end in sight. For now, at least, it appears he's hit a hard ceiling of support. Time will tell if this is a fluke, or if it's for real. But when we turn to the betting markets, such as PredictIt, we see another story emerge:

Rubio: 0.49
Trump: 0.24
Cruz: 0.23
Bush: 0.17
Kaisch: 0.12
Carson: 0.11
Christie: 0.08
Fiorina: 0.07
Paul: 0.06

Yes, the Vegas bookies do love them some Rubio. And his polls don't totally stink -- he's in third behind Trump and Carson. He's well-positioned to heat up once the real voting starts in January. January is always when the vaporware candidates fold up like cheap suits. But Rubio strikes me as kind of an empty suit. I'm going to have to take a closer look at this in the coming weeks to months, because clearly they're seeing something in him that I don't.

The Democrats

Well, this isn't particularly interesting. You can look at the PredictIt numbers if you care to, but they're giving nearly four-to-one odds in Clinton's favor. Either the bosses have made the tactical decision to clear the decks for Secretary Clinton, or it's just that everyone is scared spitless of the Clinton machine. "It's Her Turn" seems to be in full effect, though; and it doesn't particularly matter why. If you're a Democrat, get used to the idea that Clinton will be your nominee. She's just about going to have to deliberately try to lose the nomination to fail to get it. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is still achievable for her ... just not especially likely.

Voting begins in 87 days. Remember, vote early, and vote often!