The devil is in the details Old Adage
The magic number for today is 383. That’s right, 18 days from today, we will be an even 365 days from election day 2020. Sweet Jeebus, doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? It also symbolically marks the third anniversary of the night our greatest fears came true. Looking back on it, I guess it’s a good thing that we were so busy obsessing about the boogie man under the bed that we didn’t realize that the actual boogie man in the closet was so much worse, or we’d have suffered a national nervous breakdown.
But the one year countdown clock to the 2020 election that will start in 18 days will also mark another symbolic landmark. It means that we will be almost exactly three months from the Iowa caucuses, the official start of the 2020 primary election season, with the New Hampshire primary to follow a week later. Finally! No more of this lame, “Remember, it’s early yet“from every talking head on cable who couldn’t think of anything useful to say.
But, like waking up in the morning looking out the window, and actually seeing the leaves falling from the trees outside, this changing of the political season will change the way we look at the upcoming winter, and it sure as hell is going to change the things that we’re looking at to forecast the political weather ahead.
Up until now, almost all of the information we’ve been looking at and working with has been based on national polls. This is only natural, since polls are expensive to effect and produce, most benchmark polls and major university poli-sci departments poll nationally on a scheduled basis. But if the standard wisdom is that the national popular vote doesn’t elect a president, the same goes double for primary elections, which feature a much smaller, more intense base, and where only one side is voting. As such, national primary polls are simply snapshots of national mood in a moment, with no useful information on what really matters. But that is about to change.
As the candidates begin to stop introducing themselves to the country, and begin actually making their pitches to the voters in the early primary states that will help to determine their fate, the way that they are covered will change too. Starting next month, along with the usual national polls that you’re used to seeing, you’ll begin to see more and more frequent polls dealing specifically with the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Nevada actually comes between New Hampshire and South Carolina on the voting calendar, but living here in Vegas, I’ll be the first to tell you that Nevada is incredibly and notoriously difficult to poll, so there won’t be as many of those.
And those are the polls that you should be paying the most attention to. They’re sure as hell the ones that I’m going to be paying the most attention to, and writing about the most. Because they’re state specific, they give you the best feel of what the actual voting mood is on the ground in those states, and that’s exactly what the candidates are going to be looking at, because they will have to win these states one at a time.
Here’s a perfect example for you. In most national polls, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren have opened up enough space to lead the pack, with Bernie Sanders in third place, outside of the margin of error. Nobody else in the field is even within sniffing distance of double digits in the polls. But in a reputable poll of Iowa Democratic primary voters released last week, the results were intriguing. They showed Biden and Warren tied at 22%, with Sanders only one point behind at 21%. Good news for the Bernster. But! The poll shows that Mayor Pete Buttigieg has very quietly snuck up out of nowhere into fourth place, with a healthy 14%. Nobody else is within sniffing distance of double digits. This is intriguing especially since South Bend, Indiana is close enough to southeastern Iowa for Mayor Pete to possibly benefit from friendly local Indiana coverage that gets absorbed into Iowa by osmosis. But the fact is that the state specific poll shows that there may be a wild card in the deck in Iowa.
The other reason I’ll be fixating on the state by state polls is simply because they’re so damn much fun to follow. Unlike national polls, which, after the first flush of activity surrounding new arrivals to the race, tend to settle down to very small incremental changes in the numbers, except for specific incidents, such as debates, state polls are likely to see more frequent and significant number swings. This comes partially from the mechanics of running a campaign in a state. From the time a candidate announces, the first thing the smart ones do is to try to start “staffing up” in the early primary states, hiring people on the ground to work the state full time, on a daily basis, to spread the gospel of the candidate. This allows a candidate like Buttigieg, if he hired and spent wisely, to lag in national polls, and yet “come out of nowhere” in states like Iowa as his surrogates shine.
So there you have it. Those of you who are eagerly awaiting the ouster of The Great Pumpkin, be of good cheer. The gears of the machinery of electoral politics are grinding along, and it’s about to get a whole lot more fun and interesting to follow the Democratic primary race. God knows I’ll be watching, and taxing your patience with my every observation. Keep punching, and keep the faith.
To know the future, look to the past. before the insanity of the 2020 election, relive the insanity of the 2016 GOP primary campaign, and the general election, to see how we got to where we are. Copies of President Evil, and the sequel, President Evil II, A Clodwork Orange are available as e-books on Amazon, at the links above. Catch up before the upcoming release of the third book in the trilogy, President Evil III: All The Presidents Fen