ROYAL RUMBLE

Posted in Quick Hits on July 15th, 2015 by Ed

One of the ego-killing aspects of academia is realizing that one's skills are not necessarily highly valued in other "industries." In my case the nearest I have to a marketable skill in the Real World is a good command of polling methodology and the psychology of survey response. I know my stuff in that area. Even so, it never fails to amaze me how much I don't know. For instance, I have no real clue (and I'm not alone here) how to poll usefully a 17-way race. Rarely is that necessary in American politics. Rarely, as 2016 is demonstrating, is different from Never.

I have to be very honest here regarding the Republican nomination: I haven't the slightest idea right now who's going to win. Look at these recent numbers via PollingReport.com:

Capture

As always it is advisable to be very leery of any poll in which "Don't Know" or "Unsure" is kicking the asses of the actual candidates. That's a reminder that a lot of people haven't started paying attention to this election yet (and who can blame them, being 15 months out). More amusingly, note that 13 (!!!) of the candidates are polling less than the margin of error of +/-5.3% in this poll. That means that despite the length of this list of options, only the top four have a level of support statistically distinguishable from zero with any confidence. The handful of candidates at 1% or zero are getting a very strong "Don't waste your time and money" signal here, although I'm sure they're busy telling themselves right now that all 30% of respondents who are Unsure will go for Bobby Jindal once the race heats up. Good luck with that.

There is an old saying in football that if you have three quarterbacks, you have no quarterback. That is, if your group of QBs does not have one person good enough to stand out above the others, what you really have is three pretty lousy players. Competition can be good for the parties, but looking over this list of knaves and has-beens gives me the sense that the saying applies here as well. If you have 17 candidates, you don't have a candidate. The fact that every one of these knuckleheads can look at the field and legitimately conclude "Hey, I could win this thing!" should be terrifying the GOP right now. With Joe Biden unlikely to run (and unlikely to do well were he to ill-advisedly choose to do so) the Democratic field is shaping up to be a classic two-way race not entirely unlike the 2008 nomination contest. It doesn't guarantee a general election victory but it certainly speaks to the strength of the frontrunning candidate in the Democratic field that not every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the party is saying "Why the hell not?" and throwing his hat in the ring.