This is a the beginning of a Presidential campaign without precedent in my life. The Democrats are offering a person being investigated by the FBI for national security violations, an avowed Socialist and a person contemplating his third or fourth run for the White House. On the other hand, the GOP has three candidates who have never held elective office currently being supported by over 50% of Republican primary voters, a son and brother of former Presidents, two Cuban-American Senators, and a covey of guys with great resumes unable to register in most polls (two of whom have won the Iowa caucus).
In one week, we have the last of the likely “cattle call” Republican debates, the CNBC debate in Boulder focusing on foreign policy. The next sponsors (Fox Business/Wall Street Journal & CNN) haven’t released any details on their debate’s format, length and criteria for participation. I suspect both debate sponsors desire a smaller number of participants (like 5 or 6) but are hoping people drop out so they don’t have to make the tough decision to set a realistic criteria of viability.
The Top-tier candidates are Trump (26.2% Real Clear Politics poll average) & Carson (21.2%). These campaigns are starting to flex some muscles. Like traditional poll leaders who avoid or minimize debates, they issued a joint letter threatening not to participate unless the debate was 2 hours long including commercials (leaving effectively 90 minutes for debate). Frankly, it is too early to go into a prevent defense. These candidates are hot. Hot batters don’t ask for shorter games. Point: It looks like Trump and Carson are starting to think they might actually get the nomination.
Bottom Tier candidates . The first choice and second choice level of support for Kasich, Santorum, Graham, Gilmore, Jindal & Pataki does not add up to the first choice of those in the mid-tier. Additionally, none of them have a combination of 1st & 2nd choice above 5%. Unless something big happens soon for Paul, Christie & Huckabee (collective support is 10%), there is no compelling reason for them either to remain in the race. Point: Taking up space is not an accomplishment.
Mid-tier candidates. Bush (1st & 2nd Choice 18%, $10mm Cash on Hand), Cruz (12%, $13mm), Fiorina (10%, $5.5mm) & Rubio (18%, $11mm) have both the money and a base of support to build upon and attempt to attract support from others. Point: Do not panic. Slippage by Trump & Carson plus the support by those who drop off can change someone’s fortunes.
What has happened since August 7th (right before the Fox debate).
- Carson: Up 15.4% (Up 9.7% in Iowa & 6.5% in New Hampshire
- Fiorina: Up 4.6% (up 10% in Iowa & 10% in New Hampshire)
- Rubio: Up 3.5% (up 4.3% in Iowa & 4.8% in New Hampshire)
- Cruz: Up 2.9% (up 2.6% in Iowa & 4% in New Hampshire)
- Trump: Up 1.9% (up 2% in Iowa & 2% in New Hampshire)
- Bush: Down 5.5% (down 4.5% in Iowa & 2% in New Hampshire)
- Bottom Tier candidates: Down 9.5%
- Walker & Perry: Down 12.5%
Point: 27% of support has been in play (from bottom-tier candidates, Bush, Walker & Perry. 60% of it went to Carson. If momentum means anything at this stage, only one guy has it.
Current Head-to-Head General Election Matchups (Biden beats all GOP candidates, Sanders loses to all but Trump) :
- Carson-Clinton: Carson by 4.8%
- Bush-Clinton: Bush by 1.6%
- Fiorina-Clinton: Fiorina by 1.0%
- Rubio-Clinton: Clinton by 1.3%
- Trump-Clinton: Clinton by 2.5%.
- Cruz-Clinton: Clinton by 7.7%
Point: This is just a baseline to watch as the campaign progresses and probably increases the odds Biden stays out.
Trump & Carson: Trump is loud and brash but has been more measured and thoughtful lately. Carson is quiet, calm and thoughtful but has been more visceral lately. Neither have records so will we demand greater detail from them or will we just allow them to give us platitudes and bromides? As candidates drop out, will they gain additional support or have they hit their respective peaks?
Bush & Rubio: Is there room for two big fishes from Florida? You are now essentially tied. Who will blink first?
Cruz & Fiorina: Is your only hope Trump & Carson fade? Who has the better strategy- Cruz playing nice with Trump or Fiorina taking the fight to the Manhattan mogul? In either case, neither of you have earned any free media since the last debate. Out of sight, out of mind.
Paul, Christie & Huckabee: Time and money is running short. The upcoming CNBC debate is likely your last realistic opportunity for your campaigns running on fumes. Is there even enough fuel to light a spark or are your campaigns dead and you just don’t know it?
Kasich: Whether you are prepared to admit it or not, you are in the bottom tier with Santorum, Graham, Gilmore, Jindal, & Pataki. Whatever path to the nomination when you saw when you announced is likely covered from a mudslide from your answer on the Iran nuclear deal. Scott Walker went back to Wisconsin. Time for you to go back to Ohio.
Actual Betting odds (betfair.com) on winners of the GOP nomination:
- Rubio: 3.5/1 (29%)
- Bush: 4.2/1 (24%)
- Trump: 7.2/1 (14%)
- Carson: 12/1 (8%)
- Cruz: 16/1 (6%)
- Fiorina: 18.5/1 (5%)
- Christie 25/1 (4%)
- Huckabee: 32/1 (3%)
- Kasich: 34/1 (3%)
- Other/Rest of the Field: 50/1 (2%)
- Paul: 80/1 (1%)
Point: It is my observation betters are better at predicting the future than people who write and read blogs. That said, if I was going with the “smart money,” I like Rubio’s odds better than Bush’s. If I were going to bet on a long-shot, I’d go with Fiorina.
Two other parting comments:
- I think Trump’s ultimate and best play is broker at the convention. Because Trump has seemed to settle in at 25% support (and appears to have the lowest ceiling based on his Net Favorable/Unfavorable, winning is less likely in a small field. However, until the field winnows, he is going to win delegates.
- I think Carson’s best play is to endorse someone with the expectation to be Vice-President. Carson has the highest Favorable and Net Favorable/Unfavorable in the field. There is probably nobody who could change the dynamic more than Carson. Plus, it would allay any potential concerns whether his prior experience is sufficient to be President of the United States.