Showing posts with label expectations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label expectations. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Of Course Rick Santorum Won Iowa...

...but Mitt Romney did, too.

Both were able to beat the medium term expectations that had developed around their campaigns relative to the Iowa caucuses.1 Part of the story coming out of the Hawkeye state was the closeness of the top two, and while that is a fun footnote -- or will be in the history books -- to the caucuses, the main stories from FHQ's perspective were that Santorum was able to become the top not-Romney in the state and that Romney, despite the underlying demographics of caucusgoers, was able to finish in the top tier. Santorum exceeded expectations and Romney -- even in the worst case scenario -- either met, by being in the top tier, or exceeded expectations.

Whether the two flip flop their positions in the Iowa GOP-certified results this week will do little to change the dynamic that has developed in this race: Romney is the frontrunner and Santorum's name is on more lips and in more minds post-Iowa than they would have been if he had finished behind Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry on the night of January 3. Going back and trying to rewrite the story based on the shifting of less than 100 votes or so in the margin will have very little effect on what's going on now. Rick Santorum would still face the same sort of questions Mike Huckabee faced four years ago (Specifically, can insta-organization compete with the well-oiled machine of a well-financed frontrunner?), and Mitt Romney would still have -- at the very worst -- met expectations in the first two states while his rivals, with the exceptions of Paul in both Iowa and New Hampshire and Santorum in Iowa, underperformed.

This would have been a fun question -- the type Public Policy Polling likes to throw into their surveys from time to time -- to include in a South Carolina or Florida poll. My strong hunch is that it would make very little difference in vote choice in either the Palmetto or Sunshine state.2 The only time that this might have mattered was in the early morning hours of January 4. Good luck constructing that counterfactual. If anyone is able to, please let me know. I want to check out your time machine.

"Stop the inevitability narrative in its tracks"? Eh, probably not. It may be a speed bump, but more like one of those varmints Mitt Romney once hunted than an elk or moose in the headlights.

1 By medium term I mean something akin to a rolling average of expectations over time; something that is not susceptible to an outlier survey's snapshot of the race.

2 Granted, I think it would be difficult to determine whether that was actually part of a voter's decision-making calculus anyway. ...but that's a whole different can of worms from the political science/public opinion literature.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Past Performance in Presidential Primaries as a Benchmark in Future Contests

Fair or not (and FHQ leans to the latter), Mitt Romney's vote total/percentage last week in Iowa being so close to the former Massachusetts governor's total/percentage from the caucuses in 2008 has set off at least some expectations-setting chatter about the now-versus-then in other states. FHQ has followed the presidential primary process for a long time and I don't know that I have ever seen this particular metric pop up in the past. The reality is that we just simply don't have that many viable but ultimately failing candidates from one cycle coming back to be viable candidates in the immediately subsequent cycle (emphasis on viable and immediately).

The best corollaries we have in the post-reform era on the Republican side are Ronald Reagan (1976 and 1980), George H. W. Bush (1980 and 1988), Bob Dole (1988 and 1996) and John McCain (2000 and 2008).1  And right off the bat, one gets into all the "yeah, buts". In Reagan's case, the race was a two person battle between the would-be 40th president and the sitting, but unelected president, Gerald Ford. That two person contest is tough to equate with the multi-candidate race in 1980. For the remaining examples, there is a lag that encompasses three total presidential election cycles instead of two back-to-back. In other words, the comparisons are being made with eight years, not four, in between the two points of observation.

To FHQ, these sorts of benchmarks are very tricky because of how many caveats can be involved. Are they more trouble than they are worth? Let's have a look at the early states with similar positions on the calendar from one comparison point to another for Republican candidates, 1976-2012:

Past Primary Performance by State (Early) in Republican Races (1976-2012)
% of vote (point #1)% of vote (point #2)Won State
(point #1)
Won State
(point #2)
(point #1)
(point #2)
Dem. Race?
(point #1)
Dem. Race?
(point #2)
Open Primary?
New Hampshire4850----
New Hampshire2338--
South Carolina1549--
New Hampshire2926------
South Dakota5545----
South Carolina2145----
New Hampshire4837
South Carolina4233--
New Hampshire32??

South Carolina15??



Now, everyone will probably get the most out of the first few columns with the vote percentages and win rates. But I'm hard-pressed not to include other relevant considerations here like whether or not the race was a multi-candidate race, which party had nomination races and whether or not the state had an open/semi-open/semi-closed primary allowing particularly independents to vote. Again, if there are multiple candidates, then there are more candidates vying for a piece of the pie. The result is typically, but not always, a smaller share of the vote for the winner (and other participants). That Reagan's percentage of the vote in New Hampshire went up between 1976 and 1980 despite the race having gone from two candidates in the former to multiple candidates in the latter is noteworthy, for example. That the former president went down in Iowa under similar circumstances is more understandable.

Additionally, the combination of if the Democratic Party simultaneously held a contested nomination race and if any given state allowed independents to vote in the primary matters. If, in one cycle Democrats were involved and peeled votes away from the Republican contest in an open state, but were not in the next contest of comparison, it could have an impact across races/cycles. There are not all that many examples of this occurring as the Democratic Party has had so many contested nomination races in an otherwise Republican era of presidencies. 1996 offers our best hope, and Dole's   numbers went up in South Carolina from a Democratic-contested year like 1988 to one where the Republicans were the only game in town in 1996. FHQ is skeptical just how much of an impact the presence of Democrats in 1988 and their absence in 1996 had on that. [Overall, this is a factor that is likely to play a larger role -- hypothetically -- in New Hampshire if it was to play a role at all. There's no evidence of that above.]

As for whether a candidate improved or declined from cycle to the next in the early states, it is a coin flip in the 14 state cases above. In seven cases, the candidate improved and in the remaining seven cases the candidate lost ground from one cycle to the next. And not even a tiebreaker works if one wants to throw Romney's Iowa performances into the mix. Romney essentially tied his vote percentage from 2008 last week in Iowa. Five of the cases saw an improvement from one cycle to the next lead to a victory for a candidate. But in four other cases, candidates lost ground and either won or still won across the sequential comparison points.

But the question remains: Is this a good metric for setting expectations much less examining performance for a repeat candidate across cycles? The record is mixed, but if ever there was a candidate/cycle combination where it would work, it would be Romney in 2012. But FHQ just isn't sold on whether even that would be effective. So, while we will hear at least some discussion about Mitt Romney's share of the vote -- particularly in New Hampshire tomorrow -- in 2008 (32%) as a means of setting the expectations for the former Massachusetts governor in 2012, it may be flawed simply because independents will flock to the Republican contest while the Democratic primary remains idle.

Fair or not, when you are the frontrunner and basically playing a home game all comparison points will be examined.

...and FHQ is fine with that so long as caveats are added.

1 Incidentally, along with Romney (2008 and 2012) that is all of the competitive Republican nomination races in the time since the McGovern-Fraser reforms.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Expectations and the 2012 Republican Presidential Nomination

Coming off of the Value Voters Summit 2012 straw poll this past weekend, FHQ has been considering expectations. Expectations are an interesting thing. I often talk to my students (relieved ones, I might add) about having set the bar so low prior to or immediately after taking an exam, that anything C or better is seen as having been successful. [Mind you, I'm not encouraging them to do this; only acknowledging that it takes place.] If you follow college football at all, we saw this play out in the time leading up to and during the University of Florida's game against Tennessee this past weekend. Vegas oddsmakers thought the Volunteers to be a 30 point underdog to the number one Gators. And the talk all week was not about who would win the game, but how much Florida would win by. In other words, expectations were high for Florida and low for Tennessee. That the Volunteers kept it close, ultimately losing by ten points, exceeded the expectations that even the most devout Volunteer fan had going in to the match up. It also had the sports punditry questioning the strength of Florida's team and the odds that the Gators will repeat this year as national champions.

Well, politics is no stranger to the expectations game either. With overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress and Barack Obama in the White House, the sky was the limit for Democrats to get something done on a wide range of issues affecting the United States. However, things have gone anything other than smoothly since the beginning of the year for the Democratic Party and the president. It hasn't been all bad, but those numbers in Congress certainly inflated the expectations at the outset. And the party's inability to pass legislation on health care among other things has fed some of the frustration that is being felt primarily among independent voters. [Check out how the gap on the generic congressional ballot for 2010 has closed since last year's election.]

Expectations also play an outsized role in the presidential nomination process. And though this past weekend's straw poll was anything but representative of the Republican Party as a whole or the state of things over two years down the road, it is hard not to look at the results and think about them in terms of the expectations for each of the nine candidates included on the Value Voters' ballots.

Now let's look at those straw poll results again with expectations in mind. Here are FHQ's grades for each candidates relative to their expectations heading into the vote:
Mike Huckabee 28.48% (exceeded expectations)
Mitt Romney 12.40% (failed to meet expectations)
Tim Pawlenty 12.23% (exceeded expectations)
Sarah Palin 12.06% (failed to meet expectations)
Mike Pence 11.89% (exceeded expectations)
Newt Gingrich 6.70% (failed to meet expectations)
Bobby Jindal 4.69% (met expectations)
Rick Santorum 2.51% (met expectations)
Ron Paul 2.18% (failed to meet expectations)
Now some explanation. I think it is probably wise to draw a distinction among the exceeds expectations crowd. Certainly, Mike Huckabee's win -- the margin especially -- exceeded expectations, but given his background and his performance in last year's Republican primaries (not to mention the 2007 Value Voters straw poll where he placed a close second), it wasn't necessarily unforeseen. FHQ, then, would add the caveat here that Mike Huckabee slightly exceeded expectations whereas Tim Pawlenty and Mike Pence greatly exceeded the expectations that met each heading into the vote.

We often talk about bang for your buck in our posts on the 2012 candidates' usage of Twitter (see especially the Follower Ratio) and that applies here as well. The idea in the context of Twitter is that the more you use the service, the more followers you should have. What we could call the Expectations Ratio is comparable. Tim Pawlenty is running for president. Earlier this year, the Minnesota governor announced he would not seek a third term in 2010 and became vice chair of the Republican Governors Association after Mark Sanford's resignation as chair elevated Haley Barbour to the position and opened up the vice chair's spot. Pawlenty's travel schedule surrounding the RGA vice chair position affords him the opportunity to travel the country and get this name, face and ideas out there among the influential elites within the Republican Party. He has also spoken out more against the Obama administration and taken on a more visible presence in the media.

Contrast that with Mike Pence. Sure, the Indiana congressman's name has been quietly whispered in Republican circles as a 2012 possibility, but he hasn't been able to parlay that into any greater a voice than he had before.

But Pawlenty is very obviously working toward the nomination whereas Pence, though he may be quietly doing so, is not. Who got more bang for their buck? Both were in the pack that essentially tied for second place, but Pawlenty is the one who is publicly working to catch up to Huckabee and Palin and Romney in this invisible primary. Pence, on the other hand, though talked about as a possibility (and that certainly counts), just showed up and delivered a speech at the summit. Indiana's 8th district representative seemed to have gotten more for what he's put into it. However, given his current platform, Pawlenty may be able to utilize his showing the straw poll more effectively.

...but I'll have more on Pawlenty in a post later today.

Let's have a look now at the candidates who failed to meet expectations.

Mitt Romney was hurt by the fact that he won the straw poll in 2007, and failed to match that in 2009. Plus, the fact that the former Massachusetts governor is viewed, at least from a policy perspective (His background in business matches well with the current calls from the right for more fiscal conservatism.), as the frontrunner for the 2012 nomination, also made that 16 point margin between himself and Mike Huckabee seem that much wider. [The two basically tied atop the 2007 straw poll.]

Given that this was a group with which she was thought to be in good standing, Sarah Palin also failed to meet expectations. Now, Palin was working at a disadvantage here and her grade should be tempered by that fact. Unlike many of the others on the ballot, Palin was not in attendance, and as such, did not deliver a speech. In fact, there is a nice line of demarcation between the candidates who attended and those who did not. And it should perhaps not come as a surprise that four of the five candidates who were on the ballot and did not attend also ended up on the bottom in the results. The exception? Sarah Palin. That the former Alaska governor managed a second place finish when all the others not in attendance couldn't break the 7% mark in the straw poll, says something. Yet, given her position as the party's former vice presidential nominee and how she has done in some of the early polling (tightly clustered with Romney and Huckabee in the early primary polling for 2012), her showing amongst a group thought to be among her strongest supporters (though some of the early polling seems to refute that notion) places a certain amount of drag on her showing here relative to the expectations.

Finally, Newt Gingrich, for such a large and influential voice in the party, just simply failed to meet expectations. Yes, the former Speaker of the House has consistently polled behind the Huckabee/Palin/Romney troika, but he has also managed to outpace the "everyone else" category. That was not the case in this straw poll. The former Georgia congressman came in below a couple of heretofore "everyone else" candidates in Pawlenty and Pence.

Do the results hurt Romney or Palin or Gingrich? No, not as much as they help someone like Tim Pawlenty get mentioned in the same breath as that threesome or Mike Huckabee in relation to the 2012 Republican nomination.

*For more on the role of expectations in various aspects of the presidential nomination process please see Haynes, Gurian and Nichols (1997) and Haynes, Flowers and Gurian (2002).

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