People love to criticize political polling, and for good reasons. There are a lot of innumerate charlatans who pretend they are performing some quantitative alchemy that normals are too stupid to understand. Most of these charlatans have a set of preferred candidates, and they twist their commentary to make their candidates seem statistically inevitable when they are far from it.
Probably the biggest charlatan out there is Nate Silver, who is simply a political pundit – and a poor one at that. The guy’s entire career now exists on the epic troll colony that is Twitter, which is pretty much the only place someone can maintain a massive following despite being generally wrong. (Well, Twitter and the New York Times.)
There are better ways to follow polls. One, disregard any “national” polls and certainly disregard any polls of registered voters.
We do not have a national election for president, but a bunch of statewide races, and geography matters to how people think about politics and how they feel about their quality of life. If you want to understand outcomes in particular states, look for local polling from local colleges and newspapers. The Des Moines Register poll is a thousand times more valuable than CNN. I’m not saying these sources are universally good, but they are a lot better than national polls, which really aren’t capturing anything.
Likewise, any poll that is constructed based on registered voters is going to be distorted by the people who are registered but habitually don’t vote or all the people who remain on the rolls but aren’t legally eligible to vote. It’s about as useless a statistic as you can get.
There isn’t any statistical voodoo that a person can perform to take bad data and make them useful. They are simply constructing bad hypotheses based on bad data. And that is why they fail to read the current political environment. In fact, I think it is fair to say these folks were always this bad, but they seemed more competent when elections were only battles between establishment candidates.
With all of that as a preamble, it is really starting to look like Bernie Sanders is the strongest candidate in the Democratic primary. The Democratic primary so far has been this long process of voters “trying on” candidates all the way down the rack, only to disregard them after some detail emerges that makes them seem fundamentally unelectable. Sanders is the only candidate who has consistently remained at or near the top in polling despite the mess.
Some astute political observers are alleging that Nancy Pelosi’s only motive in setting up a stand-off with Mitch McConnell over her sham articles of impeachment was to delay the Senate trial – which will obviously dismiss the articles or acquit Trump, the entire charade was a colossal waste of everyone’s time and taxpayer dollars – and keep Bernie in Washington DC during the Iowa caucuses to pad the race for the establishment candidate, Joe Biden.
Maybe that is true, but as readers know, I am a big fan of Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity. I’m not sure how much it matters where Bernie is physically when he has a massive army of supporters going door-to-door for him. Also, Pelosi’s impeachment scam has made every American household associate Biden’s name with potential corruption. It’s hard to see how that has ever helped Biden, or how drawing it out even longer helps him. Like I said, stupidity not malice.
I also think the thing that will blow everyone’s mind this election cycle is that the political establishment might choose to get behind Bernie rather than sabotage him yet again if his nomination seems baked in. They love abusing the word “existential,” and four more years of being locked out of DC is an existential problem for their pocketbooks and spheres of influence.
At the end of the day, Bernie Sanders is running on one thing: A massive tax increase and thus massive increases in government spending. Pair that with the Democratic establishment, which only cares about one thing: collecting political rent. At some point, these two groups will get over their language barrier and realize they are a match made in heaven, Scrooges doing the backstroke through a vault of other people’s money. If you think I am wrong, remember the image of a grumpy Bernie at Clinton’s coronation party. The Clintons are everything he rails about, but he’s eventually brought in line.
Right now, you can turn on the television and find Democratic politicians and political operatives siding with Iran over the United States in the killing of someone who was explicitly labeled a terrorist by our government, including under Democratic administrations. They have been so conditioned over the past few years to like anyone who is positioned opposite Trump, no matter how batshit, that they are lifting up a murderous, vile human being. The vive la résistance crowd is cheering on a guy who outright slaughtered 1,500 protesters. At this point it is clear that there’s no limit to how low they will go. Remember, these are the same people who not too long ago were enraptured by a porn star’s attorney and considered him a viable presidential candidate.
These people have already been radicalized. If you think they are beyond embracing a self-labeled socialist (or that he is beyond embracing them), you are kidding yourself. I have zero difficulty seeing Baby Boomer liberals pulling the lever for Bernie, even though it will likely nuke their nest eggs overnight. We nearly saw that happen here in Florida in the race between moderate Republican Governor DeSantis and the corrupt, self-labeled Democratic socialist Andrew Gillum. There are a lot of retired school teachers in gated communities who have no problem with the idea of socialism and are too old to have to live with the real consequences of such a shift in governance. And unlike many millennials, they will get out the vote.
I have never thought Biden was much of a threat to Trump. If you have separated local polling from national polling all along, Biden has always seemed like he was created and being propped up by the mainstream media. Even Obama doesn’t like the guy enough to support him. He’s such a weak candidate that it’s boring to talk about all the attributes that make him a weak candidate. Regardless of his history of corruption and other serious concerns, the guy is visibly senile. There is no doubt a fraction of people who will follow him wherever he goes despite what’s coming out of his mouth. The problem with Sanders is that there are a lot of people who genuinely like what he is saying even though it is insane.
Sanders quite literally wants to end the American experiment and has gotten millions of people on board with that. That’s worth worrying about.