Pre-Iowa Predictions

State of the Mugwumps

When Trump first announced he was running for President I realized I was in trouble. I was caught in a cycle of shame that started every morning by erasing my internet browser’s history and ended every night alone in bed with the lights off and the volume on my computer turned way down, watching videos of him saying crazy things to a crowd of crazy people. It was all I thought about at work. I no longer found normal candidates entertaining, perfectly good candidates that any average guy should be totally happy with and attracted to.

Trump challenged John McCain’s military record, he promised to ban entire races and religious groups, and he blamed Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle in response to her calling out his sexism. All of this led to even greater plaudits by a sliver of the population being ever more whipped into a white geriatric froth. It wasn’t until mid-September that I realized he wasn’t going away, and that was a dark moment in my life.

Is Trump’s support real? There are three camps:

The simplest answer is “Yes.” The GOP has been using the rural south and west to win elections for half a century and the base is tired of playing second fiddle. They’re ripping power away from the northeastern Republican elites and nominating whom they want for a change, a soulless businessman from New York that lives in a gold-plated Manhattan apartment.

An alternative explanation is “Yes, but they aren’t people who vote.” Polls suggest Trump has the support of about 30% of Republicans, who make up about 30% of the electorate, for a total 10% of the country, which is about the same number of people who think the moon landings were faked.Venn

The final answer is “Yes, and much more than polls suggest.” The basic argument is that because Trump and his supporters are openly mocked by the Blame Stream Media and closet-communist academics, people lie about not liking what Trump is saying. Polls, under this scenario, would be underestimating his strength in what is effectively an inverse Bradley effect. This may also explain why Trump does so much better in online polls than over the phone or in-person interviews.

Iowa will of course be the first test of these theories, where Trump faces a head-to-head battle with Ted Cruz. You know the Republican establishment hates Ted Cruz when Bob Dole, George W. Bush, and the Governor of Iowa (Republican Terry Branstad) are openly rooting for Trump to beat him.

And who thought that Hillary Clinton would be in a serious fight with a socialist in Iowa, let alone New Hampshire? The pre-primary environment appears more hostile to mutual understanding and measured principles than anytime since the Progressive Era.


Likelihood of NominationThe Mugwumps aren’t much concerned with Sanders or Trump. The overwhelming consensus is that Bernie Sanders is not Barack Obama and Donald Trump is not Ronald Reagan. Despite the anti-establishment rhetoric, Ted Cruz going as far as referring to his senate colleagues (and himself?) as the Washington Cartel, the Republican Party generally falls in line with the Party leaders, who will in the end pick the nominee from a voter picked list of final candidates. This favors well for Marco Rubio and, to a lesser extent at this point, Jeb Bush, who collectively the Mugwumps give a 57% chance of procuring the nomination.

But what if neither Rubio or Bush can win enough states to legitimately (or at least with the pretense of legitimacy) get the nomination at the convention? We see two possibilities: The Party learns to live with Cruz (31%) / Trump (3%) or the Republican National Committee engineers a brokered convention using arcane parliamentary tricks (circa 1912) to re-nominate Mitt Romney (8%). Admittedly, they may need to unearth Elihu Root to pull off the latter.

On the Democratic side, despite Bernie’s predictable rise in Iowa and New Hampshire polls, Hillary Clinton is closer to the nomination than a year ago. Maybe if Joe Biden was around to split the stalwart vote Bernie would have a chance, but it’s increasingly unlikely he will capture a majority of national democratic support, even if he wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, which is also unlikely. Of course, all of this assumes a Clinton collapse due to scandal is unlikely. We’re not saying a Clinton scandal is unlikely, they will come in considerable number, but that Clinton will, as Clintons do, survive them only to come back stronger than before.

2016 Pre-Iowa General Election Model

Without knowing the party nominees, the health of the economy 9 months from now, or even the major issues of the campaign, can we accurately predict the outcome of the 2016 November election? No, but let’s try anyway. The Mugwumps predict a map not dissimilar to 2012, where the Democratic Party holds the interior lines and the added advantage of the GOP having to play defense in Appalachia with a Clinton on the ticket.

2016 MapIntegrating these individual state probabilities into a stochastic Electoral College model yields an 85% predicted chance of the Democratic Party retaining control of the White House for another four years. The most likely outcome is a Democratic Electoral Vote (EV) total of 297, notably winning the swing states Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada, while losing ground from 2012 by losing Florida and Iowa. The old adage that the road to the White House for Republicans requires Ohio appears to be the case, and a Democratic win there seems sufficient to keep the White House blue. However, Ohio is not enough for the GOP. The most likely Republican victory is a narrow one that goes through Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Iowa, which on the surface does seem doable.

2016 ModelOne might think, and would be wrong, that the White House predictably swings to the opposition party after two terms of single party control. In fact that can and does happen, but requires either an economic downturn or the opposition party to shift its ideology to, ideally, novel and, at minimum, more centrist positions. Opposition populism and extremism almost always fail, with the notable exceptions of Jefferson and Jackson, and their elections marked radical changes to the party system. Does the GOP appear poised to make novel and centrist legislative proposals? Maybe, and certainly Rubio has potential, but probably NObama.

Regardless of your party identity or political ideology (unless that happens to be anarchy), we should all hope for a landslide winner. There’s only a 1.02% chance of a 269-269 tie, in which case every close state would be recounted and the House of Representatives would caucus by state delegations to pick the next President. Then the Senate would name the Vice President, presided over by Joe Biden. Maybe. Or maybe they would wait for the new congress to be sworn into office. The Supreme Court would definitely have to get involved. The fact is the rules are vague and everyone who agreed to them has been dead for almost 200 years.


This analysis assumes the likelihood of a major third party candidate, such as Trump or Bloomberg, to be very small. If either entered the race outside the two party system, it would dramatically alter the map and model.


The Mugwumps were polled on the likelihood of each state or district (DC and the congressional districts of Nebraska and Maine) going Democratic or Republican in November. A ten thousand iteration stochastic model was generated based on these individual state outcomes and EV appropriation. If a state or district was predicted to be won with >90% probability it was called Solid, between 90% and 75% was called Leaning, and <75% by either party was called Toss Up.

A previous version of this article stated that the the 12th Amendment gives the power of picking the President and Vice President to the newly-elected congress, rather than the lame-duck congress, where there is no majority winner of the Electoral College.  Precedence states that the lame-duck congress can act immediately.

Half of Republicans have no impression of Rick Santorum

Manmouth Poll Dec14In a recent Manmouth University poll, Republican voters were asked whom they would prefer to see as the Republican nominee without being given a list of names. As you can see, Mitt Romney is currently tied for the lead with “No one.”

What’s incredible here, other than the fact that “Undecided”, “No one”, and someone who’s not running make up the top three, is that Rick Santorum only gets 1% support. 20% of Republican primary voters (~ 4 million people) made their way to the polling booth to vote for Santorum less than two years ago. He won 11 states! Santorum, who already acts like he has a chip on his shoulder over everything, has got to be madder than a Baptist at a jazz concert. This compared to 48% support for Clinton among Democratic voters, who also finished second in the last competitive primary.

If you dive into the numbers it only gets worse for Santorum. 28% view him favorably and a whopping 51% have “no opinion” whatsoever. These are worse numbers than those for Ben Carson, a guy who has never won a statewide office and has only done a handful of TV interviews. One would have thought Santorum would be the guy to beat, since there’s a long tradition of Republicans rallying behind the “next in line.” In fact, since the second world war the GOP was been quite predictable as to whom they will eventually nominate at the convention. I put together a little flowchart that predicts the outcomes of those 17 races, and includes the candidates it predicts to be strong in 2016.

GOP nominationThe line of succession argument favors blood over performance and ideology and predicts Jeb Bush as the 2016 nominee. But it also highlights the potential of Rick Santorum, whom many primary voters have already supported, and Rand Paul, who will have strong libertarian pull with a Democrat in the White House. But should Rick Santorum really be counted as one of the top three contenders if he can’t even muster an opinion from half of Republicans? Luckily for him the race starts with Iowa, a state with many religious conservatives and one he carried in 2012. However, this time he’ll need to run a national campaign, and given the last thing Santorum wants the GOP electorate to do is Google his name, it’s going to be an uphill fight for the supposed next in line.

John Ellis “Jeb” Bush

Republican Bio

JebThe other Governor and son of Herbert Walker that was supposed to be President in the first place. Jeb (John Ellis Bush) Bush, which is like saying JFK Kennedy, is not loved by the conservative base of the Republican Party. Erick Erickson, who sounds like an uninspiring villain on the Cartoon Network and whose views represent the collective id of the Tea Party, summed it up by likening Jeb to a dying breed of Republican that might as well look to the Democratic Party for shelter: “Frankly, the idea of his candidacy is just a security blanket for the Linuses of the party who feel their control slipping away.” The major hurdle between Jeb and the nomination is his moderate conservatism. He believes in a role for government, that it should sometimes have active domestic policy, and that it should attempt to improve the lives of its people when the free market is unable or unwilling to do so, which is not what his rivals for the GOP nomination will sound like. The nucleation sites for these intra-GOP disagreements will be the common core and immigration reform, issues on which Jeb holds more progressive positions than his party. .

We’re gonna party like it’s 199…

State of the Mugwumps

CandidatesActually any year in the 90s. And the last two years in the 80s. And the first eight years of the 2000s. That’s because the Mugwumps are predicting a Bush v Clinton 2016 Presidential election, the political families that ran the executive branch of the federal government for eighteen years and occupied the Governor’s mansions of Arkansas, Florida, and Texas for more than a quarter century. A lot can change in eighteen years and so can people. Just look at Barbara Bush when she entered the White House in 1989 versus today. .