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When I was asked, Who do you think is most likely to win the Democratic nomination?, this is how I responded . . .

A reporter emailed me:

Question on deadline: As of now, who do you think is most likely to win the Democratic nomination: Sanders, Buttigieg or one of the others?

I responded: My response is that primaries are hard to predict.

Just to be clear: I’m not denying the possibility of useful predictive modeling, I’m just saying it’s not easy, and I haven’t done the work, either to do the prediction myself or to evaluate any predictions I’ve seen, hence my noncommittal response.

12 Comments

  1. Zad says:

    Request from that reporter reminds me of that famous quote by Ronnie Coleman,

    “Everybody wants to predict the future, but nobody wants to fit no predictive-ass models.”

  2. Terry says:

    Predicting the future is hard. How about at least understanding the past?

    Any ideas about why the primaries have gone the way they have? Why did those particular candidates get eliminated early? Why did the current front runners make it this far? What are the issues that will decide things from here?

    I am struck by how little understanding there seems to be of these questions, indeed, how little consideration there has been of these considerations. Maybe I’m just not paying attention, but I have only seen horse-race reporting, focusing on debate one-liners, and discussions of financing. To give just one example, how has age factored in? Bernie, Biden, and Trump are all seriously old people. How is this affecting things?

    • Martha (Smith) says:

      Understanding the past is not easy, either. People can make up theories and give supporting evidence for them — but are they ignoring evidence that doesn’t support their theory? Is the evidence in one direction stronger than in the other? Or more credible? Is there evidence that has not yet become known?

      • Terry says:

        I agree that dishonest post hoc ad hocerry is rampant.

        What I was hoping to see is some attempt to link what voters care about to why they voted as they did. I see a lot of polling about which candidates voters “like” (horse racery), but not much about why.

        At first I thought the contest was eliminating the most extreme candidates and So Biden was on the rise. But now Biden is tanking and Bernie is rising. Why? And now Buttigieg is rising. Why?

        Is identity politics driving a lot of this? I see some commentary about that, especially in support of Biden, but then why is Biden tanking now?

        • jim says:

          IMO the major battles among the dems right now are within each wing of the party, as each wing tries to find the candidate that it thinks can pull the entire party with h/her agenda.

          The main contenders on the left are Bernie and Warren, but Bernie seems to have pulled some major supporters into his camp, including many leading women, which I think is a bad sign for Warren. I think Bernie is going to be the winner on the left. Warren’s candidacy is almost done.

          The center is a lot more crowded, but I think Buttigieg is emerging out of the scrum as other candidacies fail. Despite all the talk about Biden I really don’t think he’s ever been a serious contender for the nomination. He’s got so much baggage he should be wearing a sky cap. Yang I think is just too much of an outsider with ideas that are too far from the mainstream; and Klobuchar isn’t failing but isn’t making any headway either. so that leaves Buttigieg, who’s been working his butt off apparently, and apparently has some ability to inspire people.

          So the big left/center battle within the party is really just getting going and it will take a few more primaries for the winners to emerge.

          • Terry says:

            That makes sense. Might even be true. Things make more sense if you break things into two contests.

            • jim says:

              Terry says: “Might even be true”

              Ha!:) Like all political analysis, mine was developed with a detailed analysis of events on the ground as perceived from 17 Bing headlines, two internet news articles and four blog posts viewed in my office in Seattle. 100% guaranteed to be have an outside chance of being possible. :)

  3. Alex says:

    My predictive model is that you got this email in the last day or so, otherwise the reporter would have listed Biden.

  4. Anon says:

    > Just to be clear: I’m not denying the possibility of useful predictive modeling, I’m just saying it’s not easy, and I haven’t done the work, either to do the prediction myself or to evaluate any predictions I’ve seen, hence my noncommittal response.

    You do seem to say that if someone’s predictions at this stage give someone a very large chance to win (say 3/4), then the model that produced them can’t be trusted because if that number was a ‘true’ probability, it would mean the primaries aren’t that hard to predict.

  5. joshua pritikin says:

    Prediction is made even more difficult by the inclination of the DNC to disregard voters and nominate whoever they want.

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