Monday, April 4, 2016

Can Bernie Still Win? Pluses and Minuses?

Updating my Democratic Primary numbers over the weekend in preparation for what appears to be a big showdown in Wisconsin, I noticed something a bit... unusual.  Bernie's chances to win the election significantly changed, without winning additional primaries.  What happened?  His polling somewhat significantly improved over my last model in two key states: Wisconsin and New York.  I normally wouldn't publish anything the day before a primary, but this is interesting.  Let's take a look.


Here is a current status of delegate count as it sits now:  

Clinton still has a significant lead, and Bernie needs to win 56.5% of remaining delegates to win the "pledged delegate" nomination.  Due to the prior mentioned polling shifts, this means Bernie needs to create a logit shift of .53, or beat polls by an average of 13% in order to win.  This may seem like a huge number, but it's actually a moderate improvement over our past projects.  

Here's a look at our normal breakdown.  By the way, in order to stay "on pace" Bernie needs to win 64% of the vote tomorrow night in Wisconsin (methodology found here).

Now a quick rundown of his chances:


There are a couple of things that are currently in Bernie's Favor:
  • His polling numbers seem to be improving, so he still has a bit of momentum.
  • The most important states with remaining primaries, notably California and New Jersey have fairly sparse polling so far, so there may be more Bernie-favorable variance in those polls.


A few unfavorable points about Bernie's current position:
  • He's still far behind, and has to massively out-perform polls in order to win.
  • Though there is some history of Bernie over-performing, most of those over-performances (save for Michigan) have occurred in caucus states where things behave differently. Now for a couple of charts to demonstrate this.  First, a chart depicting polling of delegates received for Bernie, demonstrating Bernie's over-performance over polling in caucuses (straight line represents polling 1:1 with performance):
Now a distribution of Bernie-favorable polling error, showing Bernie over-performing polls massively in caucuses, slightly in primaries.

  • So there's a history of Bernie over-performing, but we know that occurs more heavily in Caucus states.  The real problem for Bernie: less than 10% of remaining delegates will be awarded through a caucus rather than a primary.


Although Bernie has seen a polling bump recently, as well as a few other positive, he still has to massively and consistently over-perform polling to win.  In addition to polling challenges, his greatest issue going forward may be 90% of delegates will be assigned through a true-primary process.  On the other hand, momentum seems to be in his favor at this point.


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