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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Candidate Profile (D): #5. Lincoln Chafee

For background to this series, click here.

Let's get this Democratic Party started! The fifth most likely Democratic nominee (who is officially running!) is . . .

#5. Lincoln Chafee, 62, former Republican Senator and Independent Governor of Rhode Island, 1999-2007; 2011-2015

Campaign Website and"Fresh Ideas For America"

PPFA Slogan--"Fresh Ideas On How To Lose Badly."

Educational Background--B.A. from Brown University (Classics)

Ideology on liberal-conservative spectrum (-10 is far left and +10 is far right. A center moderate is 0.): -4.5 (Individual rights: -7; Domestic: -4; Economic: -6; Foreign policy: -1)

Liberal Rank based on above: 3 of 5

Spin from the candidate's campaign--Lincoln Chafee has political experience that is unmatched by the other 21 candidates running for president. He's been both a U.S. Senator and a governor, meaning he has experience in Washington and executive experience running a state. Pay no attention to the fact that he was once a Republican. He was the most liberal Republican in the Senate, the last of a dead breed that traced its lineage back to another Lincoln. In fact, he was the only Republican to vote against the Iraq War, a fact that can be deployed when it comes time to do battle with Hillary Clinton. After leaving the Senate, he gradually realized the errors of the GOP's ways, and he withdrew from it to become an independent with a leftward lean. In fact, he became one of Barack Obama's biggest supporters, not just voting for him twice but also helping him get elected. In 2013, he became a Democrat, and he now wants to use his experience to bridge the divide between left and right.

Spin from opponents--He has unique political experience all right. He's the only candidate to have been an elected official of one party and is now running as a member of the other. Being an elected Independent governor in between is icing on the capricious cake. Can he make up his mind? It's no wonder he's a man without supporters. It's because he's a man without a compass.

How do the polls look?--Did I mention he was a man without supporters? He's in last place in every relevant poll. Nationally, his 0.6 is the envy only of George Pataki. In fact, it's worse than Pataki's situation if you consider that Pataki is in a 17-candidate field, while Chafee is only one among a handful. Of the last fifteen national polls, Chafee has polled at 0 in ten of them. His numbers are similar in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he clocks in at 1.0 and 0.5, respectively. You'd think his best chance would be in New Hampshire, just a two hour drive from his home state of Rhode Island, but in the last three New Hampshire polls, he's hit zero each time. Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont, has rallied nearly the entire anti-Hillary crowd there.

Perhaps The Huffington Post put it best: "Literally No One Supports Lincoln Chafee."

PPFA analysis--Oh, and he's a distant last place in fundraising, too, claiming less than a half million dollars as of July 31. That's a number that has been beaten twice over by many massive single donations to most of the top candidates' SuperPACs.

Even sadder are his favorability numbers. The most recent national Monmouth poll found that his favorable/unfavorable split among Democrats was 8/11. I don't know what's worse--that he had the only negative split in the field or that 81 percent of his new party said, "Who?" And it's not like he just entered the race; he declared his intention to run back in April, one of the earliest candidates to do so.

In sum: last in the polls, last in fundraising, and last in the hearts of his countrymen.

PPFA nomination rank--5 of 5 (Odds: 100:1) Sounds like a last place ranking to me.

PPFA general election rank--4 of 5. If he DID get nominated, I would think a moderate politician with a Republican history has a better shot at winning independents than a self-described socialist.

Then again, at least we know what a socialist stands for. Let's try this again.

PPFA general election rank--5 of 5.

See you back here for #4 in the Democratic countdown!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Democratic Ranking Starts Tomorrow!

The most common question I get asked by both my readers is, "When will you do a ranking for the Democratic candidates like the one you did for the Republicans in July?" As I said on the first of the month, my intention was to first see the Republicans through the fallout of their Fox News debate. I've now spent four post-debate entries talking about the Republican leaders, and then yesterday I even addressed the rest of the Republican field. With that behind us, we can move on to the Democrats, starting tomorrow. They've become especially topical with the latest poll out of New Hampshire that shows Bernie Sanders leading Hillary Clinton for the first time.

Just like with the GOP, I will reveal a candidate every other day. Since there are only five candidates, this list will be completed before you know it; its final post is projected for next Sunday the 23rd.

Notes about the ranking:

Vice-President Joe Biden, unless he declares between now and the end of the list, will not be included on it. If I were to include all potential Democrats that have a better shot than tomorrow's last place candidate, I'd have to create entries for Elizabeth Warren, Mark Warner, Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (since a Constitutional amendment repealing the Twenty-second is more likely than #5 getting nominated), John Kerry, Brian Schweizter, the corpse of FDR, and John Edwards. I'd rather not. So, if he declares afterward, I'll draw up a profile on him and share it, retroactively shuffling the rankings.

Each candidate will be broken down across categories similar to those of the Republican ranking. They are:

Campaign Website and Slogan--Straight from the horse's mouth

PPFA Slogan--Straight from my mouth

Educational Background--This category is new. I was too far into the last ranking when a reader asked about it, so I just put up a list of all the Republicans and their colleges in one post. With the Democratic ranking, I can go one by one. ideology on left-right political spectrum: -10 is for extremely liberal and +10 is for extremely conservative. A center moderate is 0. Numbers are earned from When necessary, this number can be unpacked into social, economic, individual liberties, and foreign policy subsets.

Conservative Rank: Each candidate will be ranked "X of 5" in order of most to least liberal based on the above statistic.

Spin from the candidate's campaign--How the candidate is selling him or herself.

Spin from opponents--What opponents might say about the candidate.

Polling data--What do the polls say?

PPFA analysis--How I like their chances.

PPFA nomination rank (with odds)--Each candidate will be ranked "X of 5" in order of most to least likely nominee.

PPFA general election rank--Each candidate will be ranked "X of 5" in order of chances to win the general assuming they win the nomination.

See you tomorrow for the start of the countdown!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Rest of the Republicans

With all the attention on the top Republicans--How did the top contenders do in the debate? Is the Trump surge over? Will Fiorina make the top ten?--the other Republicans have been largely ignored, including by me. All the focus has been on the first 11 candidates on this list:

1. Trump--22.8 
2. Bush--12.0
3. Walker--9.4
4. Rubio--6.2
4. Carson--6.2
6. Huckabee--6.0
7. Cruz--5.8
8. Paul--4.4
9. Christie--3.6
10. Kasich--3.0
11. Fiorina--2.8
12. Perry--1.6
13. Santorum--1.4
14. Jindal--1.2
15. Graham--0.6
16/17. Gilmore and Pataki--not registering

But there are six other candidates in the race for nomination! Let's take a look at the sorry state of each of their campaigns before examining their plight with a wide angle lens.

12. Rick Perry
RCP National Average: 1.6
Last ten national polls (earliest first): 1, 3, 2, 2, 3, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1
State of the campaign: The Best of the Rest? That's not a terribly inspiring campaign slogan. He had a decent undercard debate--much better than just about anything he turned in four years ago--but with Fiorina sucking up all the debate's oxygen, little remained for Perry, and he has since slowly suffocated. The post-debate Rasmussen poll had him in a five-way tie for next to last at 1 point. In the early part of the summer, he was pulling down 4s and 5s, but that support has evaporated. Look at that hideous trend over the last six polls: 3, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1. Now we hear news that he's had to stop paying staffers in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, asking them to stay on as volunteers. The Best of the Rest is in trouble.

13. Rick Santorum
RCP Average: 1.4
Last ten polls (earliest first): 1, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 1
State of the campaign: Santorum follows a similar trajectory to Perry's. Both polled better earlier in 2015, and both campaigns have seemed to peter out. Perhaps it's because America is getting sick of them after their failed 2012 runs. Santorum can't get anything going these days, even after the debate, which was a medium that helped him compete with Romney in the early weeks of 2012. His Iowa numbers have also collapsed. That's a terrible sign considering that last time around he won the state; clearly Iowa knows him as a candidate, but it is still writing him off. As spring gave way to summer, he polled at 6s and 4s there. Since then, however, he hit just 3, 0, 3 before the debate, then 2, 1, and 1 after it. Uh oh.

14. Bobby Jindal
RCP Average: 1.2
Last ten polls (earliest first): 1, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1
State of the campaign: A YouGov survey actually found he did quite well in the early debate, second only to Fiorina.
Unfortunately, that hasn't translated to any more support for the Louisiana governor. Even though we've only had one post-debate national poll, the fact that he yet again scored a "1" is not a good sign. Worst yet, his Iowa support actually took a hit. It's a state where his evangelical ultra-conservatism should be playing very well. In fact, in the last pre-debate Iowa poll, he hit 7, good enough for fourth place. In the three Iowa polls since the debate, however, it was down to 2, 1, and 2. Wrong direction.

15. Lindsey Graham
RCP Average: 10.6
Last ten polls (earliest first): 0, 1, 1, 1, 0, 0, 1, 1, 0, 1
State of the campaign: Look at that YouGov chart again. Find Graham's performance. At the time, I thought he might be putting viewers to sleep. In retrospect, that would have been better. At least he might have escaped with more neutral evaluations. He hasn't been able to improve on the binary code that is his national polling. His only saving grace for most of this campaign was strong polling in his home state of South Carolina, which holds the third contest of the Republican Primary, but he's even taken a hit there. While in winter and spring he was consistently polling double digits at the top of field, the last two polls show him at 5 and 7 and middle of the pack. In his own state! I expect him to drop out before that primary and endorse whomever he thinks is most hawkish--probably Rubio.

T16. James Gilmore
RCP Average: --
Last ten polls (earliest first): Doesn't register
State of the campaign: I'm not even going to bother. I'm still too mad at him.

T16. George Pataki
RCP Average: --
Last ten polls (earliest first): Doesn't register
State of the campaign: Nothing has changed since my write-up of Pataki as the least likely nominee of the party. He's the only pro-choice candidate in the campaign, so his chances of winning the Republican nomination are as remote as can be.


You might be wondering why these candidates stay in the race despite such an utter lack of support. There are two main reasons:

1) Did you see what Carly Fiorina was able to pull off? Before that early debate, she was polling worse than Perry, about the same as Santorum and Jindal, and just a bit better than Graham. Her RCP Average was a 1.3 before the debate. Her last eight polls read: 1, 1, 1, 0, 0, 2, 1, 2. Her situation was similar to everyone's I just listed. But then, after a knockout debate performance, she has since skyrocketed across the national, Iowa, and New Hampshire polls. In retrospect, being in that earlier, smaller debate was the best thing for her. She would have gotten less attention and airtime in the main debate. Being among the seven dwarves helped her standout, and it was also shoddier competition. Now, every candidate thinks they can be the Fiorina of a remaining undercard debate.

2) Rick Santorum four years ago. In the last poll of 2011, just over two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, he was polling at only 3 or 4 in every national poll. But by canvasing Iowa like a mad man, he became the only candidate to visit all 99 of Iowa's counties, and he came out of nowhere to fall just a few votes short of overwhelming favorite Mitt Romney. Two weeks later, it was determined that Santorum actually won the caucuses, though it was far too late for the "Iowa bump." Just like every candidate thinks they can pull off a Fiorina-like debate performance, so, too, do they think they can do what Santorum did in Iowa or New Hampshire.

These two factors give every campaign hope that even if they run a shoestring budget, free media and the possibility of a well-timed surge can make them viable candidates. As a result, we truck forward with this massive field.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

First NATIONAL Post-Debate Poll!--Five Takeaways

Rasmussen has given us our first national post-debate poll. It's worth noting that we've had three other polls since the debate: Iowa polls from PPP and Suffolk, and a New Hampshire poll from the Boston Herald working with Franklin Pierce University. But Rasmussen is the first to show us how the debate affected the opinions of Republicans across the country. And here's what they now think:

1. Donald Trump--17%
2. Marco Rubio--10%
2. Jeb Bush--10%
4. Scott Walker--9%
4. Carly Fiorina--9%
6. Ben Carson--8%
7. Ted Cruz--7%
8. John Kasich--4%
8. Chris Christie--4%
8. Rand Paul--4%
11. Mike Huckabee--3%
12. Gilmore, Perry, Graham, Santorum, Jindal--1%
17. George Pataki--0%

Your first reaction might be, "HOW IS DONALD TRUMP STILL IN FIRST PLACE?!" First, I applaud you for your measured reaction. Second, never fear. Context is here.

Rasmussen helpfully posted a chart showing the change in support from their its poll, taken from July 28 to 29, and this one, taken August 9 to 10.

Donald Trump
Marco Rubio
Jeb Bush
Scott Walker
Carly Fiorina
Ben Carson
Ted Cruz
John Kasich
Chris Christie
Rand Paul
Mike Huckabee
Jim Gilmore
Rick Perry
Lindsey Graham
Rick Santorum
Bobby Jindal
George Pataki
Not sure

With that as a reference point, here are . . .

Five Takeaways

1) Is it the beginning of the end for Trump? Every post-debate poll points to yes.
  • National poll: Rasmussen wasn't the only polling company to have Trump in the mid-20s before the debate. Of the seven national polls taken before the debate, Trump clocked in at 26 in three of them. But now, in the first national poll since the debate, he's fallen to 17.
  • Iowa: This fall of nine points nearly matches the fall of twelve I noted in Monday's Iowa post on the PPP poll, which showed Trump at 19 percent support after the last pre-debate poll had him at 31. Then, yesterday's Suffolk Iowa poll had him down a bit further to 17.
  • New Hampshire: In yesterday's New Hampshire poll, Trump clocked in at 18, a massive fall from the 32 he earned in the last New Hampshire poll before the debate.
  • In sum, nationally he fell from 26 before the debate to 17 after. In Iowa he plummeted from a poll of 31 before the debate to 19 and 17 in two polls since. And in New Hampshire, a 32 before the debate turned into an 18 after it.
These numbers come on the heels of Roger Stone, one of his top political advisers, quitting the campaign. He's also taken enormous heat over how he handled the debate, saying he got unfair questions, to say nothing of his now infamous attacks on Megyn Kelly.

Thus, although the prudent thing to do would be to wait for confirmation from more national polls, the fact that the national, Iowa, and New Hampshire polls took a tumble right after his divisive debate performance and its fallout is probably indicative of a past-its-prime Trump Campaign. Finally.

So what's his plan to smooth and perhaps reverse his descent? Policy ideas! Not yet, but soon. Talk about "Finally."

2) Rubio and Fiorina rode their debates to nice pops. According to the Rasmussen poll, Rubio doubled his national support to get to second place overall, tied with Jeb Bush. Rubio's return to the top tier is no surprise; I thought he had an excellent debate. Still, he had gone eight straight polls without so much as topping 6 in the polls, and only once in the previous 15 polls had he eclipsed 8. His return to double digits must feel good.

Fiorina popped from one percent to NINE to catch Scott Walker.  It's a nice start in her quest to get promoted to the top ten and make the next debate, but the question still remains: who will get relegated? This one poll wasn't quite enough to get her in. Here are the new Real Clear Politics averages, which include this new Rasmussen poll.

1. Trump--22.8 
2. Bush--12.0
3. Walker--9.4
4. Rubio--6.2
4. Carson--6.2
6. Huckabee--6.0
7. Cruz--5.8
8. Paul--4.4
9. Christie--3.6
10. Kasich--3.0
11. Fiorina--2.8
12. Perry--1.6
13. Santorum--1.4
14. Jindal--1.2
15. Graham--0.6
16/17. Gilmore and Pataki are not registering

We can see Fiorina has jumped up to the cusp of the top ten, but is not in the top ten itself. (We also see Rubio, in just one poll, has hopped up to fourth from his pre-debate seventh.) Since we know we'll get more national polls pretty soon, we can expect they will also reflect the Fiorina surge. A couple more polls like this one, and she'll not only make the top ten, but she'll rocket past Kasich, Christie, and Paul.

3) Bush and Walker have company. Interestingly, while both campaigns were probably sick of looking up at Donald Trump as they duked it out for second, there's a chance they'll soon call that the good old days. This poll has Rubio catching Bush and passing Walker, Fiorina catching Walker and falling just one short of Bush, Carson is just one back of Walker and two of Bush, and Cruz is two back of Walker and three of Bush. Rasmussen said its margin for error this poll was +/- 4 points. Therefore, we have six candidates in the margin of error for second place. Company for Bush and Walker, indeed.

4) More of the same for Paul, Christie, and Kasich.  Here are the last ten polls for these three candidates. Earliest first, Rasmussen last.

Paul: 4, 6, 3, 6, 6, 4, 4, 5, 5, 4
Christie: 3, 4, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 3, 4
Kasich: 3, 4, 5, 5, 3, 1, 3, 4, 3, 4

There's just nothing going in those campaigns. After Fiorina passes them, we could see a new three-way fight for the last spots in the next debate. Considering what Christie and Paul showed us at the debate, it could be a doozy.

5) But at least they're not Huckabee? I'll need to see more polls, but the Huckabee Campaign might be in panic mode. Not only did he fall to a 3-point, 11th place performance in this poll--his lowest national percentage since they started doing these polls a couple years ago--but that Suffolk poll in Iowa also hurt pretty bad. He earned a measly 2 in it. A 2! In Iowa! The bread and butter state that he won by nearly double digits in 2008. That's the lowest he's polled there in this election cycle as well. His RCP average is sufficiently strong enough that if this is a momentary blip, he'll be okay. But if it's a sign of things to come, Paul, Christie, and Kasich will soon have some company in their pending dogfight.

Monday, August 10, 2015

First Post-Debate Poll!

We have our first post-debate poll! It's only Iowa, but it's something. Before we get into its results, let's first look at the Real Clear Politics Iowa average before this poll. In parenthesis, I'll put what their most recent, pre-debate poll said (done on 7/29, from Gravis).

1. Trump--20.3 (last poll had him at 31)
2. Walker--18.7 (last poll had him at 15)
3. Bush--9.7 (10)
4. Carson--7.0 (5)
5. Huckabee--6.3 (6)
6. Cruz--5.7 (6)
7. Rubio, Jindal--4.0 (3, 7)
9. Paul--3.7 (1)
10. Kasich--3.0 (5)
11. Fiorina, Perry--2.7 (4, 2)
13. Santorum--2.0 (3)
14. Christie--1.3 (1)
15. Graham--0.7 (1)

Okay, and now the results from today's post-debate Iowa poll from Public Policy Polling.

1. Trump--19
2. Carson--12
3. Walker--12
4. Bush--11
5. Fiorina--10
6. Cruz--9
7. Huckabee, Rubio--6
9. Kasich, Paul--3
11. Jindal, Perry, Santorum--2
14. Christie--1
15-17. Gilmore, Graham, Pataki less than 1%

  • Trump has started to plummet back to Earth. From 31 to 19 is a huge fall.
  • Carson and Fiorina are the trendiest candidates, thanks to their applauded debate performances (I still can't believe Carson's was applauded). Carson was already looking solid in Iowa with his fourth place, 7-point average. His 12 this poll, however, catches Scott Walker for second place behind Trump and even outdoes Bush's 11. Coming off a 5 in the Gravis Poll, Carson has to feel really, really good. 
  • Fiorina's kiddie table dominance took her from 4 in the last poll to 10 in this one. She'll be solidly inside the Iowa top ten now, but her campaign, like the rest of us, eagerly awaits the first post-debate national poll to see if she can do the same nationally.
  • The Cruz march continues. With his 9 (following a 4 then a 6 in the last two Iowa polls), he'll pass 2008 winner Huckabee in the Iowa average to get into the its five.
  • Most disappointed? Marco Rubio. Rubio was an almost consensus winner of Thursday's debate. To only score 6 points--when he was double digits in April and May--has to hurt. His RCP average will barely climb from its lowly 4. If Iowa didn't respond to him after that debate, there's a chance he needs to more strongly consider focusing more on South Carolina and Florida. If Iowa has its heart set on Carson/Walker/Cruz, with Bush ready to spend a ton of money there to finish in the top three, he might want to redirect his funds instead of pouring them into a hopeless cause.
  • Also disappointed: Walker (it's his lowest Iowa support since January, and the last PPP poll had him at 23 in April, nearly double this August haul), Huckabee (he's no longer Iowa's favorite evangelical and is stuck at 6 or 7 in the last four polls), Kasich (the debate won over moderates but did not play well in Iowa), Jindal (he had 7 in the Gravis poll, which hinted at him finally getting traction in a state that should be perfect for him, but then this 2 put an end to that thought), and Paul (three points for a guy who once led the Iowa polls. THREE!)
  • Favorability splits. Carson dominates again at a 69/10 favorable/unfavorable for a +59. Rubio second at +51. Walker, Huckabee, and Fiorina all have net favorables in the 40s. Of the contenders, the bottom three are Trump (46/40 for +6), Christie (34/44 for -10), and Rand Paul (31/45 for -14).
Final analysis:
  • At this point, the race for Iowa looks like a four person race between Walker, Carson, Cruz, and either Huckabee or a possible Santorum/Jindal/Perry late pop that displaces Huckabee, which can't be ruled out. I'd still give the edge to Walker, but Carson and Cruz have much better momentum. Since I still think voters ultimately don't give Carson the nuclear codes, I'd say Cruz is Walker's biggest competition.
  • Bush is getting way too much company up there for his liking. If someone offered him a third place Iowa finish right now, he'd take it and run. Anything less and it'd be embarrassing for the supposed front-runner, but a third place finished probably translates to a New Hampshire victory.
  • Fiorina could well hit double digits nationally as well. Watch your back, Chris Christie. I think you're about to fall out of the top ten. (Now if we can just get a national poll already!)
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