Showing posts with label polling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label polling. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

A mid-week Invisible Primary Roundup

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • Idaho Republicans voted over the weekend to hold caucuses next year contingent on there not being a March presidential primary in the Gem state. And there appears to be no momentum to bring the state legislature back for a special session to fix that. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
  • General election match ups were polled -- the first in the series (so there is no direct comparison) -- and President Biden was comfortably ahead of both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis by the same 49-40 margin. Trump and DeSantis both ran further behind Trump's 2020 vote share in the Granite state (45 percent) than Biden did his (53 percent). Yes, it is one poll in one state 16 months before the next general election, the participants in which have not been identified yet. But that difference does not exactly suggest that Biden will be penalized in New Hampshire for the 2024 calendar shake up on the Democratic side. That is something to continue to eye (but probably in 2024).
  • Speaking of delegate allocation, neither Kennedy nor Williamson are close to qualifying for delegates in New Hampshire mired in the single digits in this survey. It does not speak to a groundswell of support for a Biden alternative (in a state where the president may not be on the primary ballot).

There are by no means no perils in Democrats changing the early state lineup on the 2024 presidential primary calendar, but this piece overstates just how "messy" things are. Folks, let the process play out. There is no date for the Iowa Democratic mail-in preference vote. If it comes in noncompliant, then one can cross the "mess" bridge. And seriously, Iowa Democrats are playing the game differently than their counterparts in New Hampshire. 

And New Hampshire? Well, that may end up being a mess and it may not. Perhaps Democrats in the Granite state will go the way of a (compliant) party-run process in the end. No, that is maybe not likely, but that possibility does exist and goes unmentioned in that piece. It is not just the DNC who can budge in this process. New Hampshire Democrats could defuse the situation as well.

Over at Tusk, Seth Market has a peek inside the news coverage of the Republican nomination race. And it is kind of revealing.

Ad spending has topped $70 million in the Republican presidential race. Who is spending where? Trump is on cable, DeSantis is focused on Iowa and South Carolina -- Never Back Down has this ad running during the nightly news on the regular in the Palmetto state in recent days -- and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum is throwing a lot at New Hampshire. 

From around the invisible primary...
  • In the endorsement primary, another raft of state legislative endorsements came the way of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. 19 legislators, including the House Majority Leader Josh Bell threw their support behind DeSantis. So did Supreme Court Justice Phil Berger, Jr. 
  • South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem does not appear inclined to join the growing field of contenders for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, noting that "right now" there is no path for someone other than Trump. [This really cannot be considered winnowing. Although Noem's name was mentioned in those assessing possible candidate for 2024, she never really did the sorts of things that prospective candidates do.]


Thursday, April 27, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Trump's Inevitability?

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

The invisible primary buzzword of the last 24 hours or so (if not longer) has been inevitability. As in, the impression is forming that Trump is looking like the inevitable Republican presidential nominee in 2024. It pops up in The Washington Post. And there it is in Politico as well. If one is in Trump World's orbit, then that is likely the impression they want. 

The slow yet methodical drip, drip, drip of endorsements over the course of the last few weeks may have been engineered to serve as a symbol of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's flagging support, but during the same span of time, his poll numbers began to dip and the former president's rise. It has been a well-played move by the 45th president's team before DeSantis even formally enters the race. And with no one else even threatening to break into double digit support as the invisible primary marches on, that certainly buoys the notion of Trump as inevitable. 

But is he? 

The first thing to note here is that there just is not a long and deep history of losing presidents coming back to run again. Not in the post-reform era anyway. And honestly, that trend stretches back much further into the 20th century than that. But FHQ raises that fact to suggest that as far as inevitability goes, a former president, in the abstract, would be well-positioned (if not best-positioned) to be granted inevitability status. And that has been the case for Trump. That has not changed. 

What has changed is that the attacks on DeSantis have put the governor on the defensive and he has not exactly answered the call (yet). Those attacks have worked. Additionally, Trump has been indicted. And those charges against the former president in court in Manhattan have done what threats to Trump did during his presidency (and post-presidency): they have rallied Republican support (in the near term).  

So, as long as endorsements keep coming in for Trump and his poll numbers continue to rise, there will be fuel to stoke the fires of inevitability chatter. And that may be enough. That perception may be enough stunt the growth of and effectively end any challenge to Trump for the nomination even before one vote is cast. That is definitely what Team Trump wants. But it is still relatively early -- even if it can get late early in the invisible primary -- and best-positioned though Trump may be at this time, the one thing the former president continues to invite is uncertainty. 

We may be getting a clearer picture of how a former president may do if he or she were to run for renomination for the first time in quite some time, but Trump is unique because of all the baggage he brings. He is polarizing for starters, but he also has additional potential criminal charges looming over him. He may be or become inevitable, but that uncertainty will continue to animate support for alternatives in the Republican nomination process. Voters and donors will look around now and into the future, and possible candidates will in the near term entertain if not act on their ambitions to challenge the former president. 

And those two forces -- inevitability and uncertainty -- will continue to collide over the next month or two as the field of candidates solidifies. Both bear watching.

Number of the day: 62. FHQ is often quick to dismiss polls at this stage of the invisible primary. That does not mean I do not look at them. It means I do not put too much stock into them at this point. Still, sometimes those surveys catch my eye. Take the recent Emerson poll of the Republican primary race and the Fox News poll of the Democratic presidential field. In the former, Trump is at 62 percent. And in the latter, Biden sits at 62 percent. Those numbers from individual polls do not necessarily mean anything, but folks will talk about those two 62s very differently. Trump's 62 suggests, well, inevitability while Biden's 62, some would argue, shows weakness. 

Nevertheless, he persisted. Trump may be inevitable, but there has not been any reporting to suggest that DeSantis is second-guessing a bid for the Republican nomination. In fact, with the Florida legislature set to wrap up its work early next month, that sets up the governor in the Sunshine state to throw his hat in the ring in the not-too-distant future. NBC is reporting that DeSantis will waste little time and announce an exploratory committee soon after the legislature adjourns. 

Additionally, The Guardian discusses the staff assembling in Tallahassee for an actual (not super PAC-run shadow) DeSantis campaign.

Over at FHQ Plus...
  • Those presidential primaries or primary moves in Hawaii, Missouri and Ohio? Well, the week has not been kind to any of the efforts across that trio of states. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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On this date... 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter (D) and President Gerald Ford (R) won their respective primaries in Pennsylvania. North Dakota Democrats caucused and Pennsylvania Governor Milton Schapp (D) withdrew from the Democratic presidential nomination race. 1992, Republicans in Utah held caucuses. 2004, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry (D) took the Pennsylvania primary. 2016, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), trailing Donald Trump in the delegate count for the Republican nomination, named former candidate Carly Fiorina his running mate on a short-lived ticket that did not fundamentally alter the race heading into the Indiana primary the following week.


Friday, April 7, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- The Long-Haul Strategy of Team DeSantis

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

Henry Gomez and Matt Dixon over at NBC had a nice look at the emerging delegate strategy of the budding DeSantis campaign. A few reactions...
  1. Before I even clicked on the link, my first thought was, "Yeah, Jeff Roe was brought onto the staff at the super PAC and Ken Cuccinelli is running the show over there. This will be a delegate strategy story." It was. Both were involved in the Cruz delegate operation in 2016. Put a pin in that.
  2. Folks linking to this piece keep interpreting it as a "skipping" story. As in, this DeSantis strategy entails skipping Iowa, New Hampshire and the other early states. I did not read it that way. This strikes me as a strategy not unlike that of the former president's. It is a strategy built on the notion that the 2024 Republican presidential nomination race could go on for a while next year. Donald Trump is well-positioned to go the distance. And Ron DeSantis is demonstrating that he at least potentially has the resources, financial and otherwise, to do the same. This behavior is less about skipping those early states than thinking about the full primary calendar. Look, a lot of the 2016 Republican candidates traveled widely in 2015, and not just to the earliest states. There was this whole discussion about whether the SEC primary was working. Working, that is, in the sense that the collective movement of southern states to Super Tuesday would draw candidate attention to the region. Visits occurred to the South and elsewhere, but none of them skipped Iowa, New Hampshire or any of the other early states. Well, some of the candidates did. They skipped the later early states after withdrawing. DeSantis may pepper other states with visits, but keep an eye on him and others as Iowa and New Hampshire approach. They will not be skipping either. 
  3. The most interesting part of the article was this peek into the thinking from inside Team DeSantis. “One thing that we have looked at is that Trump can be beat on the delegate portion of all this. He has never been good at that.” That is straight out of the Cruz playbook from 2016. And it made sense in 2016. In 2023-24? Eh, maybe. Maybe not. This can be filed into that category of "Where is Trump this cycle? Closer to 2015 or 2019?" Trump will have for 2024 some institutional advantages within the party at the state level that he did not have in 2015. He definitely had that in 2019 and worked that to his advantage in the 2020 delegate game. Those connections still exist. But are they as strong? That is the question. And that matters for who fills the delegate slots that are allocated to candidates based on the results of primaries and caucuses across the country. Will those folks selected to fill those allocated slots be as firmly in Trump's corner or can other campaigns potentially exploit the divorce between the allocation and selection processes in the Republican nomination in the way that Cruz did in 2016? RNC rules may make that more difficult for challengers to Trump in 2024. This is the story. Focus on that.

Anything you can do, I can do better. DeSantis scored a congressional endorsement this week and the Trump campaign then conveniently rolled out an endorsement from a member of Congress from right in DeSantis' backyard. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) threw his support behind Donald Trump.

Yeah, those head-to-head Republican primary poll results keep popping up. This time it was a one-on-one between Trump and DeSantis in Iowa (with parallel numbers for a wider race as well). On the one hand, these head-to-heads are make believe. They capture a race that does not exist and very likely will not exist when voting commences in 2024. There will be more candidates in the race, at least initially, than merely Trump and DeSantis. But the supposed value added is to demonstrate that Trump is more vulnerable in a one-on-one race. That is another hypothesis that finds its roots in 2016 and may or may not have been true then anymore than it is now. 

The assumption nestled in all of this, of course, is that DeSantis has the best shot to take down Trump (but can only do so if the others get out of the way). But that is only a partial test. It only gets part of the way toward an answer because it only consistently tests one alternative against Trump. How do the other candidates do head-to-head with Trump? Better or worse than in a multi-candidate race? Clearly, the retort here is likely to be that other candidates are not tested against Trump because they are in single digits in the multi-candidate polls. Fair, but why trust the multi-candidate polls in that case and not for measuring how DeSantis is doing against Trump? 

The head-to-heads only offer spin opportunities for the campaigns. They certainly do not tell us much about how voters and the field will react once votes are actually cast in a multi-candidate race in the early states next year and voters in subsequent states begin to process that information. That picture will develop and change.

Over at FHQ Plus...
  • Thursday was a busy day for presidential primary bill movement across the country. There were a variety of changes in Idaho, Maryland and Missouri.
If you haven't checked out FHQ Plus yet, then what are you waiting for? Subscribe below.

On this date... 1984, former Vice President Walter Mondale won the Wisconsin Democratic caucuses, days after Gary Hart claimed victory in the beauty contest primary. [The caucuses were used to allocate delegates.] 1988, Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) withdrew from the Democratic nomination race, just a few weeks after his lone win in his home state primary. 1992, Bill Clinton took the Wisconsin primary, and President George H.W. Bush swept primaries in Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. 
[As a fun aside, a representative from the Kansas secretary of state's office recently testifying before a committee about the presidential primary bill in the Sunflower state noted that the state held a rare presidential primary in 1992. That was a function of a request, he said, from Bob Dole to ensure that delegates went to the president and not potentially Pat Buchanan in a caucus.] 2015, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) entered the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden won the delayed and then not delayed Wisconsin primary.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Tim Scott Staffs Up

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

The essential Caitlyn Byrd at the Charleston Post and Courier has the latest on the moves a Tim Scott-aligned super PAC has made in the staff primary. Opportunity Matters Fund Action has brought on both Matt Moore and Mark Knoop, a pair with deep ties in the Palmetto state. Moore, the one-time South Carolina Republican Party chair is a big get for Scott in a cycle in which South Carolina operatives have some tough choices to make with two home-state candidates in the running at the presidential level. Knoop was most recently a part of current Governor Henry McMaster's (R-SC) reelection effort in 2022.

Both hires say something about Scott's positioning in a Republican presidential nomination race. Yes, there is the Scott against (former governor) Nikki Haley angle, and these hires definitely say something about that battle within the state. However, that both operatives have South Carolina ties does raise some questions. First, is the field of Republican candidates so deep that Scott is left to choose from among those campaign hands closest at hand in South Carolina? Second, what do the hires suggest about the strategy of a Scott campaign? It is likely South Carolina or bust to start for Scott at the very least, so putting some to a lot of eggs in that basket is almost essential. And South Carolina is a big piece in the early calendar. Unlike the other three states, Palmetto state Republicans do not allocate their delegates in a proportional manner. They use a hybrid system that is likely to give the winner of the primary a pretty healthy net delegate advantage coming out of the most delegate-rich state on the early calendar. 

But these hires probably say more about strategy than they do about any "dregs" Scott has been left to sift through to staff a presidential campaign. Moore and Knoop are not dregs. 

Donald Trump has been able to raise more than $7 million since the Manhattan indictment came down late last week, but the former president is not the only candidate (or likely candidate) with ample resources in the money primary. Never Back Down, the super PAC backing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has raked in north of $30 million in a little less than a month. Money is not everything, but these are staggering sums that give both men a leg up on the competition for the Republican nomination. And that is what the press releases about these totals are intended to signal to every other candidate: Think twice about getting in. Resistance is futile. Despite the signals, those who are running or considering a run, do not seem to have been deterred. Not yet, at least. 

A few polling quick hits (maybe against my better judgment):
  • A new St. Anselm's poll of the Republican primary race in New Hampshire had Trump leading DeSantis, 42 percent to 29 percent. Governor Chris Sununu (R-NH), who is also considering a bid, was the only other candidate in double digits at 14 percent. That would be enough to get Sununu in the delegate count -- New Hampshire Republicans use the 10 percent qualifying threshold called for in state law -- but is hardly the kind of support that a home-state candidate would like to tout. It certainly is not the kind of support that would keep other candidates away from New Hampshire over the next nine plus months. Sununu, at this point, is no Tom Harkin and Iowa 1992. 
  • Gov. DeSantis Holds Slight Lead Over Donald Trump Among Florida Voters. Without even looking at the numbers, Florida is set to hold a presidential primary on March 19. Two weeks after Super Tuesday. Likely two months after New Hampshire. Those events, not to mention the remainder of the invisible primary, will have A LOT to say about the situation in the Sunshine state in 2024. But sure, one Florida candidate has a small advantage over another Florida candidate in one poll eleven and a half months before a contest that is on few voters' radars. 
  • Trump has ‘commanding lead’ over DeSantis in Massachusetts Republican primary poll conducted after indictment. I mean, see above, but with one caveat: Trump can be two things at once. Yes, the former president more than doubles the support DeSantis received in that survey. But he also falls short of majority support. It is the latter that will have much more to say about "commanding" leads next year. Majority support triggers winner-take-all allocations in a lot of states in the Republican process. Massachusetts included (as of this writing). 

Over at FHQ Plus...
  • If Democrats in the Kansas House were unified like their co-partisans in the state Senate, then the Sunflower state would likely be headed for a state-run presidential primary for 2024. Instead, they split (with most in the Democratic House leadership against), and the bill to bring back the primary died.
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On this date... 1972, George McGovern (D-SD) won the Wisconsin primary and former New York Mayor John Lindsay withdrew from the Democratic presidential race. 1988, George H.W. Bush won the Colorado Republican caucuses. 2000, both Al Gore and George W. Bush swept the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin primaries (in nomination races each had already clinched). 2011, President Barack Obama announced he was seeking the Democratic nomination and running for reelection. [No, Biden still have not done likewise.]

See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Think, for just a sec, about those early presidential primary polls

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

FHQ has not weighed in on the polling that continues to be conducted on the 2024 Republican presidential nomination race. Honestly, it takes me three and a half years to get over crunching poll numbers for electoral college projections to want to dig into polling in any in-depth way anyway. But also, it is too early to divine much of anything from the polling that has been coming out in recent days. 

However, polling on that race is coming out frequently and regularly enough. Natalie Jackson offers some sage advice on those surveys over at National Journal:
I know better than to hope for widespread sanity in reporting on the horse race, but I’m still going to put out the plea. Please think critically about the numbers and arguments presented, whether you’re a reporter being fed numbers by a partisan pollster that is shopping them around or you’re a reader consuming what that reporter wrote up. There’s a reason some media outlets won’t report on private partisan polls: They’re usually being distributed for a specific purpose to drive a narrative that benefits their candidate. It’s manipulative, not informative.
It is not quite "ignore those polls!" in the Bernsteinian sense, but instead it is "wait a tick and think some about those polls before incorporating them in any way into one's thinking about the 2024 Republican race." Too true. If you have not already started, always read Natalie.

And as an aside, she is absolutely right about any two-way polls (something FHQ obliquely hinted at in the staff primary section of Monday's Invisible Primary: Visible). Those should not get anything other than a collective eyeroll from everyone. There is no two-way race!

Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is headed to the Super Tuesday state of Utah next month to keynote the Republican state convention in the Beehive state. And it appears that there is already evidence of some structural support for a DeSantis bid in the state. No, it is not necessarily coming from the state party -- although the keynote in front of the convention does not say nothing -- but instead, the interest is coming from the county party level. Taking a page out of Seth Masket's book, the Deseret News spoke with county Republican chairs in 22 of the 29 counties in Utah. Two-thirds of the chairs contacted indicated they were willing to support DeSantis while just fewer than half named Trump.

The former president struggled in Utah during the 2016 primaries when the state party conducted caucuses, losing bigly to Ted Cruz. But the state has subsequently switched to a primary and the signal of institutional support for DeSantis may or may not translate as easily -- even from the county level -- in that setting as opposed to caucuses. Utah is a sleeper contest to watch on Super Tuesday (...depending, of course, on how the early contests go, not to mention the remainder of the invisible primary).

The effort to establish a presidential primary in Kansas is a Republican-driven one, but it looks like the Democratic Party in the Sunflower state is supportive of the change (even if it is only for the 2024 cycle):
"The Kansas Democratic Party has expressed tentative support for a state-run primary. Newly-elected chair Jeanna Repass said it’s extremely expensive for the party to essentially conduct its own statewide election. She said if the party holds a caucus using a mail-in ballot, the printing and postage would cost upwards of $800,000. 
“'Initially, we view this favorably because of the undue financial burden this puts on the individual state parties to run a presidential primary,' Repass said."
And it is not just about the cost savings to the state party. The national party has had rules in place the last two cycles that have nudged state Democratic parties to use state-run primary options where available to increase participation in the nomination process. Already in 2023, state parties in Alaska and North Dakota -- traditional caucus states with no state-run primary option -- have signaled that they will once again opt for party-run primaries rather than lower turnout caucuses for 2024. Kansas Democrats did the same in 2020. So it was an open question when the presidential primary bill was introduced whether Sunflower state Democrats would jump at the state-run option. 

That question appears to have been answered. 

On this date... 1988, Vice President George H.W. Bush ran away with the Connecticut primary, and on the Democratic side, Michael Dukakis took the primary in the Nutmeg state. Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-MO) withdrew from the Democratic nomination race after having previously won three contests including the Iowa caucuses. 2016, Governor Scott Walker (R) endorsed Ted Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination, part of a late establishment push against a possible Donald Trump nomination.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Washington Post Poll: 2012 GOP Primary Race

From The Washington Post:

Q: If the 2012 Republican presidential primary or caucus in your state were being held today, for whom would you vote?

[Click to Enlarge]

Yes, Sarah Palin is leading here, but the real news -- to FHQ anyway -- is that half of the survey respondents in this case either chose no one/other, wouldn't vote or had no opinion one way or the other about the 2012 Republican nomination. That is an awfully high number compared to other similar polls conducted during 2009. Granted, the question was slightly different than some of the other surveys we have seen on this subject as well. In other instances, names were provided, but respondents in the Washington Post were asked not to recognize names but to recall them. In that regard, it isn't terribly surprising that Palin -- someone with the most name recognition currently -- led the list. That neither Huckabee nor Romney fared any better than they did -- 10% and 9% respectively -- was also surprising. [And no, FHQ does not attribute Huckabee's pardon trouble for any of this since the story broke after the poll.]

And no one candidate cleared the 20% barrier either.

Poll: Washington Post
Margin of Error: +/- 4%, +/-5%
Sample: 485 Republicans and 319 Republican-leaning independents (nationwide)
Conducted: November 19-23, 2009

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Palin's Poll Numbers Look a Lot Like Quayle's

From Brendan Nyhan posting at Pollster:

[Click to Enlarge]

Once perceptions are formed, they are difficult to break. And we all know how Quayle 2000 turned out. He didn't make it to Iowa. Will Palin?

Incidentally, Jonathan Bernstein over at A Plain Blog About Politics has an interesting take on how Palin fits into the 2012 field; like an issue candidate (a la Kucinich or Paul) but with a much bigger following. I aptly, in my opinion, draws a parallel between her and Jesse Jackson's run in 1984. It's an good read; check it out.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

The Week Ahead

First, FHQ should apologize. I got called out of town on Friday and that kept me away from the computer for most of the weekend. What that means is that we'll likely have a busy start to the week. What's on tap?
  • A belated look at some of Rick Davis' comments on the McCain campaign's strategy down the stretch in 2008.
  • A look (with graphics) at the Rasmussen 2012 GOP primary poll released on Friday and the odd(-ish) head-to-heads among the various prospective Republican candidates for president.
  • I think the GOP primary poll was a signal that Rasmussen will also put out a series of 2012 presidential general election trial heats.
  • And that comes at a good time because Public Policy Polling will likely have their monthly trial heats out some time this week. Remember, they have substituted Tim Pawlenty in for Jeb Bush this month (who replace Newt Gingrich a month ago).
  • And finally, we'll continue to see a likely flood of polling from New Jersey and Virginia this week. With only two weeks to go, polling activity is going to be heavy. PPP will have their Virginia results out tomorrow some time.

Recent Posts:
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Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Week Ahead

The big news this week, at least for regular readers, is that FHQ is hitching up its wagons and moving this week. I have no idea how big a damper this is going to put on the flow of posts around here, but I can speculate that it will probably be down at least somewhat until the new FHQ HQ is up and running. So bear with me.

That said, you can probably expect a few things:

And I'm sure there will be some surprises along the way as well.

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Oops! A 2012 GOP Primary Poll FHQ Missed and Another Rant on the Over-Interpretation of These Polls

Presidential Primary Reform Week: The National Association of Secretaries of State's New President

Friday, July 24, 2009

Oops! A 2012 GOP Primary Poll FHQ Missed and Another Rant on the Over-Interpretation of These Polls

Home renovations like the ones FHQ did in mid-May can put a damper on your 2012 poll-watching in a heartbeat. And apparently my blogger-turned-handyman days caused me to miss one of the 2012 GOP primary poll conducted by FOX [pdf] during that period.

Excuses, excuses.

Anyway a hearty thank you to GOP12 via CQ PollTracker via GOP12 for the belated heads up. For the record, here are the particulars:

Huckabee: 20%
Romney: 18%
Gingrich: 14%
Palin: 13%
Giuliani: 12%
Sanford: 4%
Bush: 3%
Jindal: 3%

Margin of Error: +/- 3 points (+/- 6 points among Republicans)
Sample: 900 registered voters (274 Republicans)
Conducted: May 12-13, 2009

I'll skip the analysis and leave it at this: This is the only primary poll thus far that does not have Palin clustered at the top with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee; well above everyone else. [And yes, how quaint. Mark Sanford was included -- pre-Argentina.]

Sadly, with Giuliani and Sanford now tacked onto the list of candidates, the key took up too much room and the color scheme Google Docs provided was repetitive and confusing. In sum, that was not really a workable order. The key is now gone from the figure and the names are added nearby the lines or points they correspond to. Most of the color issues were moot once I withheld the "other" line. It matched nearly identically the color given to Jindal's data. The other change is that I've added in the element of time. Everyday is accounted for in the series now so that it doesn't appear as if each poll is equidistant from the next.

Here's the trend updated through today:

[Click to Enlarge]

[If you find anything about the above graph confusing still, please let me know in the comments section.]


Before I close, I did want to mention one other issue with this FOX poll and the poll ABC and the Washington Post released this morning. In each case, we are talking about a 2012 primary question that is based on the responses of less than 300 Republicans (and/or Republican-leaning independents) nationally. When the goal is 1000, less than 300 respondents has the effect of REALLY ramping up the margin of error. In the process, the representativeness of the poll is made all the more questionable for something that is already well in advance of primary season (or even the competitive tail end of the invisible primary for that matter). As I've said recently, I like seeing these numbers and I enjoy seeing the trends, but these things absolutely have to be taken with a grain of salt. And occasionally I like to fold in some discussion of fundraising or organization, but I try to avoid claims like these at all costs. To assert that Huckabee leads this race or that it is beneficial for Romney to "draft" behind Huckabee is patently ridiculous. Given the margins in the polls conducted so far, Romney and Huckabee are tied (with Sarah Palin). Now, it could be that the perception that Huckabee is ahead is helpful to Romney in that "everyone else" is gunning for the former Arkansas governor and not Romney, but still. Let's just watch these numbers come in and not over-interpret them.


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ABC/WaPo Poll: 2012 GOP Primary--Huckabee Back on Top, but...

ABC News and Washington Post have a new poll out that the blogosphere is jumping on to trumpet the decline of Sarah Palin's favorability. Yeah, FHQ won't be jumping on that bandwagon, but we will discuss the 2012 Republican primary question that was nestled deep in the results. [For the record, the Palin numbers reflect opinion of her among folks of all partisan stripes. The Republican ones are the only ones that really matter at the moment.] Yes, the usual cast of characters are represented,* but I like the fact that the names of prospective GOP candidates whose names were volunteered (not on the list of candidates named) were included in the results as well. Among that group -- which included Charlie Crist, Bobby Jindal, John Thune and other -- Jindal did the best, pulling in about 2% among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Both Crist and Thune garnered less than a percentage point each.

Here are the results:

Huckabee: 26%
Romney: 21%
Palin: 19%
Gingrich: 10%
Pawlenty: 4%
Bush: 3%
Jindal: 2%
Barbour: 1%
Thune: less than 1%
Crist: less than 0.5%

Margin of error: +/- 3.5 points
Sample: 1001 adults
approx. 292 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents
Conducted: July 15-18, 2009

[Click to Enlarge]

First of all, this figure is getting a touch messy with the inclusion of Thune and Crist. Even still, the same pattern we've seen in these polls reemerges here: the Huckabee/Palin/Romney trio continue to be clustered relatively close together, outpacing all other possible candidates. [And it should be noted that that pattern surfaces with just 292 GOP/GOP-leaning respondents nationally. So take this poll with an extra grain of salt -- this question at least. The margin of error among that portion of the sample is likely pretty high.] It just so happens that the former Arkansas governor is getting another turn at the top.

I wouldn't read too much into Huckabee's showing (or anyone else for that matter), but I will take the opportunity to say that if last year's delegate runner-up for the GOP nomination is serious about a repeat bid in 2012, he is going to have to get a move on. From a polling perspective, he's fine, but financially he's quickly falling off the pace being set by his leading counterparts' political action committees. Both Romney's Free and Strong America PAC and Palin's SarahPAC are doing quite well in the first half of 2009. Huckabee, on the other hand, has yet to report any numbers for his Huck PAC, and that fact in conjunction with the news that the PAC is undergoing some restructuring, is a troubling start.

Again, this is all extremely early. As John McCain demonstrated during the 2008 cycle, campaign restructuring and dire financial straits aren't necessarily dealbreakers. However, 2012 won't be 2008 for the Republicans. They are facing an incumbent Democrat in the White House and will likely be looking for someone who has some gravitas among the elites within the party and an ability to raise funds and lots of them. Romney meets both those criteria the best at the moment. Palin lacks the internal party connections and Huckabee trails on both fronts.

The main question now is whether 2012 will be like 1996 or 2000 for the Republican Party. Will they have a fairly active primary campaign like in 1996 or will most of the party quickly coalesce around a candidate as in 2000? Part of the problem of assessing that question is that we have reached something of a crossroads on the divisive primaries/parties question. The pre-2008 thinking was that the quicker you line up behind someone (thus avoiding drawn-out divisiveness), the better your chances are in the general election. Post-2008, though, the thinking is slightly different. Can a drawn-out, yet not personally divisive nomination battle actually help a parties nominee from an organizational standpoint? Obama's narrow electoral college wins in Indiana and North Carolina are often cited as evidence that the primary campaign organization helped in the general election.

My (two and a half years in advance) guess is that the GOP may pay some lip service to the organizational idea, but will ultimately make a quick decision on the 2012 nomination. And I should note that I've been talking about this as if the party has complete control over this. They don't. Conditions have a large say in the matter. Democratic primary and caucus voters were evenly divided in 2008, but Republican voters may not follow suit in 2012. That potential is there (Palin grassroots vs. Romney establishment, for example), but, as I said, I think it is more likely that a consensus forms around one candidate. If the GOP elite signal in a way similar to 2000 with Bush, that they are solidly behind one candidate, then it will be difficult for anyone to disrupt the inevitability story.

All that from a poll of 292 Republicans and independents leaning Republican? Yeah, I know.

*The list of candidates included Haley Barbour, Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Join FHQ for Presidential Primary Reform Week This Week

Democratic Change Commission and Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee meetings notwithstanding, there has been enough news about the parties' methods of nominating presidential candidates recently to warrant an entire week devoted to the process, and perhaps more importantly, the process of reform. Each day this coming week, then, FHQ will discuss one reform proposal specifically or some relevant news about the process that really has not seen the light of day yet. We'll start tomorrow off with an interesting new proposal I caught wind of late Friday and progress from there.

Also coming this week:

1) Tomorrow starts the week off with a bang and no, not just because of the announced series of posts above. [I've got better things to do than worry about that sort of thing.] Public Policy Polling will be releasing their July numbers for the 2012 general election trial heats (Obama v. Gingrich/Huckabee/Palin/Romney) on Monday. Be on the lookout for an update of our 2012 graphs and additional analysis soon thereafter.

2) Also, on Tuesday or more likely on Wednesday, PPP will have some numbers out of Louisiana. There's likely to be an Obama/Jindal head-to-head poll in there, but I may be guilty of having misinterpreted the intent of that poll in an earlier post. The line from the PPP blog read, " Bobby Jindal more popular in his home state than Tim Pawlenty?" Now, that seems like there is going to be a head-to-head between Pawlenty and Jindal in Louisiana, but was likely a reference to Pawlenty's position in an earlier survey the company did in Minnesota. If your hopes skyrocketed because of my post, I apologize. [But it does read that way. It should have been written, " Bobby Jindal more popular in his home state than Tim Pawlenty was in his?"]

3) There may also be a vote on the Sotomayor nomination sometime this week. Thus far, FHQ has remained quiet on this issue. That's mainly because the vote in the Senate is what I've been waiting for. Only that is likely to shift candidates' electoral fortunes in the future. If that hasn't been hammered to death by the blogosphere, then I may have something to say about a select few races (depending upon how the vote goes).

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Friday, July 17, 2009

What's Wrong with 2012 Polls?

There has been an entertaining discussion on the utility of polling going on this week between Conor Clarke over The Atlantic and John Sides (among others) at The Monkey Cage. Clarke got the ball rolling in the Idea of the Day special section of The Atlantic's site by questioning the usefulness of polls -- mainly the overabundance of them and the effect that has on democratic governance and government. Sides, in a rejoinder to Clarke's response to his rebuttal, counters by arguing polling's positives are based on the accountability, evidence and representativeness they provide. I'm not going to rehash the arguments here (but do urge you to go check the discussion out), but I did want to take issue with Sides on one of his closing remarks.
"Lest I sound like a cheerleader: some polls bug me, much as they must bug Clarke. I hate the vastly premature 2012 presidential trial heats, for example."
First, I should say that I obviously come down on Sides', uh, side of the argument, but this hits a little close to home considering the ramped up 2012 gazing on FHQ of late (see here, here, here and here). Also, before I get in to this, I think that it is instructive to make a distinction between the trial heats and the GOP primary polling for 2012. I find the latter to be of greater use simply because of the position the Republican Party finds itself in in the aftermath of last November's elections: out of the White House, out of power in both chambers of Congress and leaderless.

On that last point is where the primary polling is of particular import; it is gauging how Republicans perceive the field of candidates/leaders to be shaping up. Now, it may be that at this point in the cycle what we are seeing in the cross-tabs is being driven by nothing more than name recognition, but that is providing us with a baseline for comparison as this race fully formalizes over the next couple of years. Stated differently, it is providing us with some evidence of a basic ordering of candidates. We could rely on pundits to tell us that it is all Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee or we could poll it to find some evidence of this (Of course, the logical question that emerges here is whether the polling is influencing the pundit-speak or vice versa.). For a party that is leaderless on the national level, the 2012 nomination question is more than a mere proxy.

But what about these trial heats? I've tried to caution FHQ readers about the limitations of these polls. First of all, with the exception of the University of Texas poll last week, all of the national and statewide polls asking the "if the 2012 presidential election were held today" question have been conducted by Public Policy Polling. That, in addition to the relatively small sample sizes (only above 700 respondents) for their national polls, is a hit for these polls on the representativeness score. And I'll grant Sides that. This may not be the most representative series of polls and as a result may not be the best evidence of the true state of something (the 2012 GOP nomination) that may not be a race yet.*

Here's the kicker, though: You'd expect these trial heat numbers to track with either Obama's approval or favorability ratings. But they don't; not across the board at least. Let's look at those PPP trends (Obama v. Gingrich/Huckabee/Palin/Romney) on the national level versus the data on the president's approval and favorability:

Now, there's been a steady decline in both the approval and favorability trends since they peaked for Obama in December and January respectively. But that's not the trend we see across the Public Policy Polling surveys. Obama opened with good leads over all four prospective Republican candidates, widened those leads in May and came back a bit in June.

What's the deal with May? Why is it that those numbers go against the grain of what we might otherwise expect? It may be something as simple as sample size. The May poll was the only survey in which PPP had a national sample size approaching the 1000 (+/-) respondent mark that is standard. The others hover in the 600-700 range. Again, representativeness takes a hit in those circumstances. The interesting question from this is whether PPP's other numbers outside of May are over- or understating Obama's or the Republicans' positions relative to each other. If all the samples were 1000 respondents in size would we have witnessed a steady decay was we see in the national favorability and approval numbers for the president? That's really the question here.

So have I made the case for the 2012 polls here? No, I don't think so. There are some problems with these polls -- sample size and the fact that only one organization is doing the general election trial heats. But what this does provide is some context and that was one of Sides' underlying points in this discussion; that the interpretations of these polls be more than, "Here are the numbers" and that the folks consuming them do so with an eye to detail.

The thing about polling is that a snowball effect can build rather quickly. Once you start asking a question like "If the 2012 elections were held today who would you vote for?" all that does is trigger increased polling to find if there was any validity to the original results. And on and on it goes. Is it too early in the 2012 presidential cycle to begin asking this question? Maybe. McCain campaign (circa 2000) strategist, Mike Murphy just yesterday tweeted this: "New polling out on GOP '12 race. I say ignore it and heed the Milt Gwirtzman Rule; nothing matters till first contest." That dovetails with John Sides' statement and I partially agree with both of them.

But if the prospective candidates are seemingly acting as if they are running (There's no doubt in my mind that the not-so-behind-the-scenes campaigning and positioning that is currently going on is the opening salvo in the 2012 invisible primary.), then wouldn't it behoove us to have some data to back that up? If the candidates are active and fundraising (even if through their PACs), wouldn't make sense to have the other piece of the puzzle that is so often looked at in these candidate/nominee emergence models (Mayer, for example). And wouldn't that have at least some effect on the piece of the puzzle Cohen, et al. brought to the table in The Party Decides (endorsements)?

Perhaps. But it could also be that I just like the polls.

...even if they're too early and meaningless.

*Though, the actions of Huckabee, Palin, Pawlenty and Romney make it appear as if each is at least angling for a national run. Huckabee is making seemingly beneficial endorsements in Iowa (Chuck Grassley, Bob Vander Plaats) and Florida (Marco Rubio). Both are early states given the 2008 calendar (2012 is subject to change) and those endorsements are solid given that each would help among conservatives in primaries or caucuses closed to independents and Democrats. Palin's actions have been difficult to explain, but there seems to be some national ambition in there. Romney is building the organizational infrastructure necessary to be successful in 2012 given his fundraising and strategic disbursements to candidates and leaders within the party. And Pawlenty's decision not to seek a third term seems to have at least been somewhat politically driven. Again, there appears to be some upward ambition there.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Romney Leads 2012 GOP Race (...and in more than just the Gallup Poll)

FHQ has been in the habit of calling Mitt Romney the frontrunner for the 2012 Republican nomination despite polls conducted earlier in the year that have shown him trailing Mike Huckabee and/or Sarah Palin. That trend has also held in hypothetical general election match ups against President Obama. July, though, has been good to Mitt Romney. Perhaps it is due to poll respondents just coming around to the idea of Romney as a likable (and likable may not be the proper word) 2012 candidate or because all the commotion among other GOP prospects for 2012 (see Ensign, John and Sanford, Mark). That probably isn't an either/or proposition. Respondents likely look on Romney more favorably now simply because of what is going on among the other possibilities. Comparatively, the former Massachusetts governor looks quite good.

And though the favorable/unfavorable differential for Romney still trails both Palin and Huckabee among Republicans, the next-in-line guy for the GOP leads the pack in Gallup's look forward to the race for the Party of Lincoln's nomination. Here are the particulars:

And I'm assuming that the remaining 15% either did not have an opinion or named other candidates (who received 1% or less).

These results dovetail nicely with the similar Rasmussen results from last week. Romney leads but is clustered with Palin and Huckabee ahead of Newt Gingrich and well ahead of other prospective challengers with less name recognition (at this point). And though those top three have taken turns in the top spot, they have, as a group, consistently hovered above everyone else with only Gingrich coming close. Here's how the trend looks across the limited polling conducted thus far in 2009:

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But polling isn't really the full story. It never is. The Cohen, et al. (2008) book I've referenced several times in this space would have us look at fundraising totals and endorsements as well. As we're still in 2009, information on the latter is going to be hard to come by, so let's focus on the fundraising aspect, but more generally the financial activity of the top three's political action committees. With disclosure reports due to the Federal Elections Commission recently, a host of up-to-date data have been made public. Just this morning Chris Cillizza at The Fix examined not only how much Romney's Free and Strong America PAC had raised during the first five months of the year (the most recently filed report for Romney only covers January-May 2009), but also to whom the PAC was contributing. Here's Cillizza:
"Romney Fundraising Soars: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney proved he is light years in front of his 2012 rivals in the fundraising game by collecting more than $1.6 million through his Free and Strong America PAC in the first six months of 2009, and spreading donations out to a variety of candidates and causes in critical states. Romney donated the maximum $6,800 to New Jersey Republican gubernatorial nominee and made a series of $5,000 donations to Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli who are running for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in Virginia this fall. Romney also directed contributions to key 2012 states; he donated $5,000 to South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and used his affiliated state PAC to give $10,000 to the New Hampshire Republican Party and $1,000 to Jeb Bradley, a former congressman who won a New Hampshire state Senate special election earlier this year. A dozen Republican members of the House received $1,000 contributions from Free and Strong America including Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas). Romney ended June with $842,000 in the bank. The depth of Romney's fundraising coupled with the strategic smarts with which he doled the money out is evidence that he has never really stopped running for president following his primary loss to John McCain in 2008."
The formula, then, is not unlike Barack Obama's following the 2004 elections: raise money for and get involved in high profile races and strategically contribute to candidates in crucial (presidential) electoral locations. As the numbers indicate, Mitt Romney has had more of an opportunity to do this than the other two candidates he has been lumped in with in the early going of the 2012 cycle. Romney's Free and Strong America PAC has pulled in $1.6 million to Palin's SarahPAC's $733,000 to Huckabee's Huck PAC's $0 (Follow the links to the PAC's pages at OpenSecrets or the FEC.). [Note that the scales on the vertical axis in the figures below are different. Romney's bars may come in under where Huckabee's and Palin's are, but there's a more than 3:1 difference in those scales.]

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I actually saw Romney's financial numbers this morning before the Gallup poll and it got me thinking about the state of Huckabee's operation as well. Ed Kilgore, in tearing down what he called the Next-In-Line Myth, stated (I'm paraphrasing here) that if the measure of that status is the number of delegates won in a previous nomination cycle, then Huckabee has as much right to the next-in-line label as Romney. And that statement was in the back of my mind when I looked up Huckabee's (lack of a) haul during the first half of the year. What separates Romney from Huckabee and Palin is not polling (not at this point at least), but the money war and organization. In both regards, Romney has a pretty good head start over is competitors, making Cillizza's last statement above instructive.

The take home message here is that Romney is leading where it counts now -- fundraising -- and is angling for a solidification of the second part of the Cohen, et al. puzzle: endorsements. The former presidential candidate's ability to raise money allows him the relative luxury of contributing to the campaigns and PACs of leaders within the party and GOP candidates in close races for reelection. That sort of giving comes in handy when the invisible primary nears completion and endorsements are at a premium with Iowa and New Hampshire around the corner.

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