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We’ve already adjusted our model to account for a “Clinton ceiling,” and it’s looking like it may be the right projection. New polls from Quinnipiac and Public Policy Polling show Sanders closing the gap in Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri. Our model baked in a Missouri upset (we have him winning there by nearly 10 points on the assumptions late breakers go for him). The potential softening in Ohio, where PPP has Clinton 46-41 is a significant shift from our model’s 55-45 split (as, under our rule, this would translate to a 9-point Sanders win). PPP’s 48-45 split in Illinois is not too far from the 51.5-48.5 we’re projecting.
The GOP numbers are equally interesting in Ohio, showing a tied race there. If Kasich fails to win there, it’s hard to see a credible pathNew @ppppolls and @QuinnipiacPoll numbers show tight Dem race in OH, MO, IL with potential #Sanders upset. #Kasich #Trump tight. for him and Rubio to stay in (and for the GOP to block Trump).
The story of the week on the Democratic side this week was Bernie Sanders’ impressive win in Michigan, where polls had him trailing 20%. It’s probably right to question the demographic models pollsters are using for the upper-Midwest states (including Ohio and Illinois that vote March 15 – and where Clinton holds 20-point leads).
This blog isn’t going to do that. Our model is set up to assume that the candidates’ polling averages are their “floor”. In Michigan, for example, polls showed Clinton at around 58% support and Sanders at 38%. Our model split the remaining votes proportionally (i.e. Clinton got 58% of undecideds).
In the event, Clinton’s strength was oversold by around 10%, and Sanders, in effect, won all of those plus all of the undecideds. Since polls are the only data that show likely support, changing that as a baseline for the model would put us too far into guess territory. Instead, we’ve built into the model a couple of variables to re-align how undecided votes are split.
National polls have Clinton leading Sanders 51.8% to 37.6%. So what happens if all of the undecideds vote for Sanders (i.e. if he is polling 48.2%)?
Well, the race closer, and ends with a different result from our baseline projection. Clinton would end up 150 delegates short of the 2,382 delegates the Democrats need to win on the first ballot without superdelegates. Most outlets show her with around 460 superdelegates pledged, so she would likely still win the nomination, but with Sanders saying he’s in until the convention, the backroom politicking would continue until the actual nomination.
How likely is this outcome? The polls suggest Clinton is holding/gaining nationally and in most states where there is polling. Obviously, that’s not how things played out in Michigan. The key states to watch for assessing both whether the polls are overplaying Clinton’s strength and whether late deciders are breaking to Sanders are Florida, Illinois, and North Carolina, and Ohio (there just isn’t good polling in Missouri). Until then, the current polls are the best information we have.