FiveThirtyEight launches their predictions for the primaries/caucuses

The predictions are available here, and there’s an explanation of the methodology here. Nate Silver is a damn good statistician, and I’ll be following his blog pretty closely for the next year or so.

You can quote me on this; Gingrich is not going to win the Republican nomination.

So far he’s saying Gingrich is most likely to win Iowa (38% chance,) Romney likely to win New Hampshire (61% chance,) and that Gingrich is likely to win South Carolina and Florida, but it’s too early to put a probability on either of those potential victories.
I don’t see a prediction for the overall Republican nominee yet - is that there?

On what data are you making this prediction?

No. It’s simply too early to call. I expect that the picture will be a lot clearer after Iowa and New Hampshire.

I have great admiration for Nate Silver, but this link would be meaningless even if Silver claimed it have meaning which he doesn’t. Romney hasn’t been campaigning seriously in Iowa because it’s a stronghold of Christian conservatives who were never going to vote for him. That he’s temporarily losing to the latest not-Romney isn’t news.

And of course it’s not too early to call. Romney will be the nominee. The only people who haven’t been saying this are journalists who are forced to be “neutral” and so concentrate on the horse race and fervent supporters of the not-Romneys. Supporters of Ginginch can and should be taken as seriously as supporters of Palin, Santorum, Bachmann, Perry, Paul, and Cain.

It’s also worth noting that based on the fact that Florida is jumping ahead of the GOP’s “approved” schedule, the primary here will award exactly 0 delegates at the convention. The delegates will be set at a later meeting in March. From an electoral standpoint, Florida is worth bupkus.

I know the caucus/primary season well from the Dem side. The Republicans may be more finicky.

If Gingrich wins Iowa and Romney wins NH by a lot, then it’s almost as if we’ve hit the reset button. Or rather, not gotten as far as the pundits would like.

There are rumors afloat about an effort to bring in Jeb Bush. Neil is apparently unavailable. More’s the pity.

That’s what they always say. What they always **do **is backtrack at the convention.

Not really. Since everybody is already expecting Romney to lose Iowa to the conservative alternative and win New Hampshire by a lot - and has for the last year, it means only that the campaign is proceeding exactly on course. The pundits are in it for the horse race. If they had to write for a year that the entirety of 2011 is meaningless they’d be fired or commit suicide.

Even Nate Silver has a post discounting the predictive value of the Iowa caucuses.

Post this over in the “elephant in the room” thread, if you would please.

With respect to New Hampshire, that is.

Iowa and New Hampshire, taken together, have great predictive power in a negative way. From 1976 to the present, with one exception that more or less reinforces the rule, nobody has won a major-party nomination without winning one of those two states.

The exception was 1992 on the Democratic side, when everybody skipped Iowa due to the presence of a favorite-son candidate. Bill Clinton finished second to Paul Tsongas in NH and ultimately won the nomination.

In the present race, I would contend that Iowa has the following predictive power:

  1. If Romney somehow wins Iowa (not impossible, given the weakness of the field), it’s game over. In particular, if Gingrich can’t win Iowa or NH, he isn’t going to rally big in SC or FL.

  2. If Gingrich or Perry wins Iowa, the Iowa winner is the surviving non-Romney; the others might as well pack it in. It’s a two-man race.

  3. If Bachmann or Ron Paul wins Iowa, the search for an anti-Romney continues, but too late in the game for anyone to get traction. Romney wins by default.

And (turning the meaning of your phrase around) that is precisely why Gingrich should be taken seriously: precisely because anybody who supported the (now) also-rans you listed probably and arguably switched their preference to Newt, not Mitt (whose base of support never seems to rise above 25%).

Don’t forget that a caucus is not necessarily a “plurality vote wins” situation. Anyone who doesn’t carry 15% in a particular local caucus gets zero. If the poll numbers are the same statewide (which, of course, they are not, and even if they were, this doesn’t stop, say, Bachmann supporters from changing to Romney and Gingrich when first told she doesn’t have the 15% necessary), then it’s 26% for Paul, 21% for Romney, and 53% To Be Decided.

Thats not true. They get half the normal number of delegates, not zero.

Okay. Now what?


Right. And they didn’t backtrack on this in 2008.

The Democrats have the “zero delegates if you go early” rule (as made famous in Michigan, when Clinton’s campaign “promised” to take the eventual compromise decision to the floor of the convention).
The Republicans use the “half of your normal number” rule.

Of course, what invariably happens is, once the nominee is established and it is obvious that giving the early states their full delegate allocation will not affect the result, they do backtrack.

The delegate penalties are meaningless. Its been over 35 years since anyone had to do delegate counts at the convention. Today they are showpieces. I don’t care if FL, SC, NH, and Iowa got zero delegates, the wins in those states is what propels a candidate to the top and ends up virtually sweeping everything else.

Until that dynamic changes, the states will keep trying to jump each other.

Wow. Gingrich has really cratered in Iowa, dropping from 27 to 13 in one week. 538 is giving him only an 8% chance of winning so it looks like he joins Perry and Cain as another pretender who has crashed and burned. I thought that there would have to be a conservative from somehwhere who would somehow deliver a stiff challenge to Romney but it’s looking like a cakewalk for him. It says something about the conservative movement that the best they can produce in a wide-open primary is Perry, Cain and Gingrich.

I wonder what caused the drop. Bachmann fell because she is a dingbat talking about $2/gallon gas among other things. Perry fell because of his hideous debate performances. Cain got caught sticking his penis where it didn’t belong.

But, Newt? Nothing mind blowing came out. Newt has been the same old Newt since 1994. I don’t see what happened there.