Thursday, January 31, 2008

Super Tuesday: Some Political Analysis

This is very off topic for this blog, but I am sorry--I am a political junky and the Presidential race is just too fascinating to ignore this year. For what its worth, here is my analysis of the state of the Presidential race as we come close to Super Tuesday.

Before I separately analyze the Republ;ican and Democratic races, it is important tio emphasize the importance of Super Tuesday. Over 40% of the Delegates at the two conventions will be selected that day. And, unlike in previous years, the states in play are all over the country.

Republican Race

My prediction is that after Super Tuesday, John McCain will not have enough delgates to win the nomination, but his lead will be nearly insurmountable. The battle may well continue, but in the end I think McCain will get the nomination. (I happen to think that McCain is the best Republican choice for the country, but this may be bad news for Arizona Democrats.)

Why do I think so? First, it is important to understand how delegates are chosen in Republican races. These are largely winner-take all primaries. Thus, even a razor thin win by McCain will result in an overwhelming victory in terms of delgates.

Second, McCain is now winning all the national polls and the trends are in his favor. Given that Super Tuesday is very close to a national primary, this suggests that McCain will do very well next Tuesday. Here is the summary of polling complied by pollster.com:



Second, while the state-by-state polling has been thin, the polls that have been done show McCain doing very well in the largest delegate rich states (indeed, in most states) and again, the trend is in his favor. Here is a pollster.com chart summarizing the state polls. The darker the cirle, the more recent the poll:



In sum, we have every indication that McCain will win a large share of the delegates, giving him a huge delegate lead after Tuesday.

Democratic Race

My prediction is that Clinton will come out of Super Tuesday with a delegate lead, but the lead will not be significant enough to end the race. The post-Super Tuesday primaries will decide the Democratic race. Who will ultimately prevail? I think this would be a wild guess at this point. The polling trends seem to show that Obama has the momentum both nationally and in many states, but the Clinton Campaign does very, very well in the kind of state by state battle that will follow Super Tuesday.

As a starting point, it is important to understand that the Democratic delegate selection is based on a complex proportional formula that is based on both statewide numbers and congressional district results. There is no winner take all in these races. As such, Obama could still win a significant number of delegates in each state even if he comes in second. And because the delegates are allocated by congressional district, he could come out with more delegates than Clinton even in states that Clinton wins. Indeed, this happened in Nevada (and in 1992, Bill Clinton won more delegates in Arizona even though he lost the vote statewide). Finally, 20% of the delegates are not chosen by the primaries at all--rather, they are so-called Super Delegates--party officials, Governors, Senators, etc. Obama has done remarkably well holding his own with these delegates.

So, here are some poll numbers. First, national polling shows that Clinton has the lead, but that the race is tightening and that Obama has the momentum according to the pollster.com summary chart:



The Gallup poll released today shows this as well:



The Rasmussen polling is consistent with the Gallup poll now. Interestingly, the tracking poll from last night was the first night that Edwards was not included on the Rasmussen poll and it had the race as a dead-heat.

The State polling is, again, quite thin, but again shows Clinton leading most (but not all states), but with Obama gaining in several states:



In short, it appears that Clinton wil have the better night on Super Tuesday, but there may be a surprise surge by Obama. And regardless of the outcome of Super Tuesday, the battle will continue over the course of several more weeks.

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