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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


In the first installment of What Have We Learned So Far, I teased the prospect of what has been learned so far in the Democratic Primary.

Elections are a numbers game. The first thing that comes to mind is the result. Hillary Clinton eeked out a 0.2% win. Whether you win by 20 or 0.2, a win is a win. Remember in 2000, George W. Bush won Florida by 537 votes – less than 0.01% - thus giving him the state’s electoral votes and the presidency.

But elections are also about WHO those numbers are, specifically WHO shows up to vote. For starters, about 140,000 people participated in the Iowa Democratic caucuses. This was down from the historic 2008 caucus when over 250,000 participated and gave Barack Obama a victory which provided a key jumping point for his candidacy. As Obama stated in Game Change, “If I win Iowa, I could win the whole thing.”

According to the entrance poll conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, the numbers tell a story that should provide a narrative for both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns.

First, women made up a majority of caucus goers at 57% of attendees, and they supported Clinton 53-42.

The age demographic is broken into four groups: 17-29, 30-44, 45-64, and 65 and over. Sanders did extremely well in the 17-29 demographic claiming nearly 85% and defeated Clinton in the 30-44 demographic, 58-37. The 45-64 demographic made up between a third and two-fifths of voters and went for Clinton 58-35. Interesting the 17-29 and 30-44 age brackets combined matched the 45-64 demographic and after doing some math, it went for Sanders 71-26. This plays into the narrative that Sanders is polling well among those younger and even in my age demographic.

The older and sex demographics also tell a story too. Older women voters probably recognize the significance of the election that if Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, she would become the first woman nominated by one of the two major political parties. If she wins in November, then… well, look at how many women presidents we have had.

Nearly 80% of those that participated in the caucus identified with the Democratic Party, and they went for Clinton 56-39 while the remaining fifth were independent or another party sided with Sanders by nearly 70%. It should be noted that while Sanders is one of two independents currently serving in Congress (the other Angus King of Maine) he does caucus with the Democrats.

The numbers that are the most telling to me are the following:

This is going to be a trend in future elections. In the lead up to the 2012 elections, I remember coming across that a majority of voters had already made up their mind who they are voting for. In August 2012, 6% said that there was a good chance they would change their minds about the November election. Compare to 10% were undecided and 25% said they would change their mind at the same point in 2008.

Former Clinton adviser Paul Begala went one step further and factored out the undecided that resided in the reliably red and blue states, and said the election comes down to 4% in six states.

As Bergala put it: “Four percent of the presidential vote in Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado is 916,643 people. That’s it. The American president will be selected by fewer than half the number of people who paid to get into a Houston Astros home game last year.”

In the entrance poll, 59% of voters had made up their mind outside of the last month prior to the Iowa Democratic caucus and Clinton came away with their support, 54-42, while 18% decided to support in the last month and those caucus-goers supported Sanders 57-41. Only 7% made up their minds on caucus day and broke for Clinton 45-42.

The Affordable Care Act – or “ObamaCare” as it is commonly referred to as – is President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. Various Republican candidates have vowed to repeal every single word of it should anyone of them be elected president as well as regular ObamaCare repeal votes that take place in Congress that are nothing more than symbolic and a waste of everyone’s time.

Some in the Democratic Party are critical of this legislation too. Not that it was a “terrible, job killing” piece of legislation; it is that some felt it was not progressive enough. Senator Sanders proposes a single payer or Medicare-for-all type health care system similar to what western Europe and Canada have in place for their citizens. Mrs. Clinton proposes keeping the law in place as well as improving upon ObamaCare to tackle its shortcomings as well as finding a way to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.

This became a point of contention in the lead-up to the Iowa Caucuses

A quarter of those in the caucuses each said that only Clinton or only Sanders was more trusted to handle health care while barely a half, 47%, believe that both candidates are trusted to handle health care with Clinton beating Sanders 49-44.

There were narratives after the caucuses that the Clinton campaign is experiencing a repeat of what happened in 2008. Clinton led most of the polling in the lead-up to the Iowa Caucuses 8 years earlier similar to what happened in Iowa recently. It should also be noted that there was a viable third option in 2008, former North Carolina Senator & 2004 vice-presidential candidate John Edwards, unlike in this Democratic nominating cycle. In many caucus meetings former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley failed to meet the threshold requirement, and his supporters had to be re-allocated to either Clinton or Sanders camps. While plenty of many O’Malley supporters went to Sanders, it was not enough to put him over the top for the win.

And that was the same with the polling too. Sanders started as far as 40 points behind Clinton in Iowa and was able to come within mere fractions of a point from defeating Clinton.

And this is where the last figure, race and ethnicity, plays. 91% of Democratic caucus goers where white vs. 9% were non-white and was probably why Clinton was able to squeak out a victory. A narrow victory, but a victory. Those voters broke for Clinton 58-34.

Sanders is practically a mortal lock to win New Hampshire; the only thing in question is the margin of victory. Currently the FiveThirtyEight New Hampshire Democratic Primary projection gives him a greater than 99% chance of winning. Their odds for Clinton winning is a kind way of saying “she has a chance IF several unlikely scenarios break her way.”

What happens to Sanders’ support when the voters become more diverse, less white than those that participated in Iowa and New Hampshire? Again, citing FiveThirtyEight, Clinton leads in their aggregate polling of Nevada and is currently at a greater than a 90% chance of winning the South Carolina Democratic Primary.

One thing is for certain the campaign for the Democratic nomination will not be boring.

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