Statement on Today’s Observer Headline

My new Observer column which appears today has a headline that I did not write and never would have written. I have asked for the headline to be changed or for the column to be pulled in its entirety. This request has been denied.

To be clear, my editor is completely within his rights to deny my request, just as he was to write the headline or to make any other edits he saw fit to the article. I do not dispute his prerogatives. But it is my name on the article, and the headline is so at odds with anything I would ever say that I thought an explanation was required.

I apologize to my many friends who I know will be offended by the headline, and I want you to know that I had no part in it.

I will not be posting a link to this column on any of my social media vehicles or on my website.

Congressional Race Ratings Mostly Move Toward GOP (Sept. 25, 2016)

I am making changes to five race ratings this week, two in the House and three in the Senate. Four of these changes benefit the Republican Party.

In the House, the race in Maine 2 moves from Lean D, favoring Emily Cain, to Likely R, favoring incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin. Polling by the Portland Press-Herald not only shows Poliquin with a healthy lead in this rural district, but also shows Donald Trump leading big there. It doesn’t look like this is shaping up as a good year for Democrats in northern Maine.

Also in the House, the race in New Hampshire 1 moves from Lean D to Likely D, as former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter has a big polling lead on embattled GOP Rep. Frank Guinta in their fourth race against each other.

The change in Maine 2 now adjusts Democrats’ expected House gains to +12.

On the Senate side, the Nevada Senate race moves from Lean D, favoring Catherine Cortez-Masto, to lean R, favoring Rep. Joe Heck. Heck has opened up a bit of a lead, and with Trump doing well in Nevada, it doesn’t look like the top of the ticket is going to be the kind of liability originally expected here.

Also, the race in Arizona moves from Lean R to Likely R as Sen. John McCain has opened up a sizable lead on Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. The same is true in Florida, as Sen. Marco Rubio now has a clear lead on Rep. Patrick Murphy.

The change in the Nevada Senate race now adjusts the current projection to 50-50 in the U.S. Senate, reflecting a Democratic net gain of four seats.

For the full chart, click here.

Bernie Comes Through

I have been very critical of Bernie Sanders throughout this election season, but I’ll give it to him. He did everything I could have hoped for tonight. His full-throated endorsement of Hillary Clinton and his point-by-point recitation of how she will come through on issues dear to progressives were pitch perfect. Anybody on Team Sanders who doesn’t come around after this speech is simply unreachable.

Sanders was smart to acknowledge briefly his differences with Clinton; his supporters wouldn’t have bought it if he didn’t, and clearly, some didn’t buy it anyway, judging by some of the reactions from his supporters. But he spent far more time detailing the similarities. He did a very good job tonight. Now it will be up to him to follow through and keep making the case to the supporters he did so much to alienate from the party in the first place.

Nevada: Some Good News For Both Hillary and Bernie

Hillary Clinton’s projected victory in Nevada today is huge for her. With a very favorable calendar coming up, she now has the opportunity to string together a number of important victories and get out to a big delegate lead over Bernie Sanders.
 
But I don’t think today’s result was all bad news for Sanders, either. If the current numbers hold up, it looks like he’s going to end up within about five percentage points of Clinton, which means he probably had to do relatively well among Latinos/Latinas. He started out way behind with Latinos/Latinas nationally, so if he is making inroads there, that could end up being huge in states like California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, among others. If he continues to make up ground among Latinos/Latinas, he may be in a position where he could remain competitive even if Clinton does put together a string of victories over the next few weeks.

Analysis: South Carolina GOP Primary, Nevada Democratic Caucus

Polling of tomorrow’s South Carolina GOP primary gives Donald Trump a clear lead, so it looks very likely that he will win the Palmetto State. The key question is margin: does he win big, or does he underperform (or even overperform)?

The more interesting race on the Republican side is for second place. The last couple of polls show Marco Rubio overtaking Ted Cruz for second place. This is probably going to be close, but with the recent endorsement of Rubio by Gov. Nikki Haley, I think he does slip past Cruz to take second. Rubio likely will be assisted by the continuing fade of Jeb Bush and the fact that John Kasich appears unable to build on his second-place finish in New Hampshire.

If the South Carolina Republican primary plays out as expected, then it will put Rubio back in front of the establishment pack and probably mark the moment when the Bush and Kasich campaigns begin seriously reassessing the point of staying in the race. Both are polling in the low-double digits to high-single digits, and their prospects continued viability will not look hopeful if, as expected, they end up in a battle for fourth place, far behind the top three finishers. Whoever finishes the lowest between these two may hang around long enough to roll the dice at next Tuesday’s Republican caucuses in Nevada, but the loser (especially if it’s Kasich, who doesn’t have Bush’s financial wherewithal) is probably out shortly thereafter. Whoever performs better in this two-man race likely hangs in, just in case Rubio falters again, but the fifth-place finisher is all but certainly going to be out of the race in a matter of days.

Ben Carson, of course, has no chance to be the nominee; at this point and going forward, he can only hurt other candidates. If he places ahead of Bush and/or Kasich tomorrow, it might well do enough damage to whomever he defeats as to end either or both campaigns right away. More importantly, he now remains the only impediment to Cruz in the evangelical lane. Carson has raised a shocking amount of money, so he may stay in regardless of his performance tomorrow, but if he does, it benefits Trump and Rubio.

My predictions, based on the recent polls and trends:

  1. Trump
  2. Rubio
  3. Cruz
  4. Bush
  5. Kasich
  6. Carson

In the Nevada Democratic caucuses, there has been very little reliable polling, and polling tends to be off for the Nevada caucuses at any rate. I expect Hillary Clinton to win a narrow victory over Bernie Sanders, but honestly, this is an educated guess. There just isn’t much data there. If Sanders has gained significant ground among Latinos, he could certainly prevail. There’s just no reliable way to tell yet.

Forecasting New Hampshire

Last week in Iowa, even vaunted pollster Ann Selzer got it wrong, missing Ted Cruz’s win over Donald Trump, and nearly getting hung with an L in the Democratic caucuses as well. It just goes to show that polling remains an unreliable guide.

This is the key lesson I take from Iowa as I look ahead to New Hampshire tomorrow. Yes, all polling shows Trump way ahead on the GOP side, and Bernie Sanders way ahead on the Democratic side. Both are clearly likely to win, but that isn’t going to be the key story.

On the Democratic side, the key question is the final margin. Hillary Clinton has unquestionably been cutting into Sanders’s lead. I suspect the final margin will probably hover right around 10 points–a good, solid win for Sanders, but compared to his huge polling margins, a win that might feel a bit like a loss.

On the GOP side, the key question is who places second and third. If it’s Trump, Rubio, Cruz, in any order, that’s significant, because that’s probably the end for everyone else. But after Marco Rubio’s disastrous debate performance on Saturday, the door is now open for John Kasich to run strongly. Kasich probably doesn’t have the persona or the raw ability to make a real run, but the longer he, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie can delay Rubio’s consolidation of the vaunted GOP establishment, the better it is for Trump and Cruz.

Given the fact that the most interesting action is on the GOP side, I expect the bulk of independents and moderates to vote in the Republican primary. That probably benefits Sanders, who will benefit from a more liberal Democratic electorate, and also Kasich.

Therefore, I expect Sanders to defeat Clinton by about 10 percentage points, and Trump to win a closer-than-expected victory over Kasich, followed by Cruz and Rubio. I expect Bush, Christie, Carson, Fiorina and Gilmore to fill out the field, in that order.