Sam Wang Was Right!
Does Trump’s ceiling matter?: "Ross Douthat... says Trump is doomed because he will hit a ceiling of support around 30%...(Jan 7, 2016):
...But even if that ceiling holds, it might not matter.... The Republican Party has adopted a set of rules in which... if a candidate gets below some threshold of the statewide vote, he/she gets no delegates.... 20% threshold: Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont. 10-15% threshold: New Hampshire, Alaska, Arkansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma.... Trump is the only candidate who is consistently above threshold. To get above threshold, other candidates have to claw their way over one another....
With the field divided as it currently is, a candidate at 35-40% popular support can easily get over 50% of the statewide delegates in these first 15 states.... These rules... reward candidates who can get a reasonable level of support, even if that is not a majority. Starting a few weeks after Super Tuesday, GOP primaries will start to use winner-take-all rule.... So, if you want to say that Trump is doomed, it would be best not to hang the argument on a ceiling of support that is below 50%...
Under GOP rules, 30% before Iowa/New Hampshire implies a delegate majority: Simulating the “proportional” rules: "A 30% level of support in current polls could reasonably be expected to yield 50% of delegates...(January 13, 2016):
...between now and Super Tuesday.... If the field were to remain divided, Donald Trump is currently on track to get the Presidential nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.... The key word is ‘divided.’ As far as I can tell, the most likely alternative to this situation is if after New Hampshire, the Republican field narrows to three candidates. However, that will not happen if Cruz, Rubio, and even one other semi-serious candidate stays in. For example, Kasich and Bush may be motivated to stay in until March 15th, the date of the Ohio and Florida primaries.
Thoughts on Faulty Priors: "Donald Trump is the strongest GOP Presidential front-runner since George W. Bush...(January 22, 2016):
...Nothing’s happened to change that.
In this week’s news, Sarah Palin endorsed Trump.... Belatedly, The Upshot and Nate Silver are coming around, which is quite a change. This leads me to a question I have been pondering: what can we learn when quantitative punditry goes off track? At its best, ‘data punditry’ can help us see past the noise of individual perspectives... separate concrete evidence from our biases. But the problem is that we still have to have some prior framework.... Silver and The Upshot weighed in at a time when polls were not very predictive. They did the natural thing: examine other indicators. Now Silver is finally catching up to the polling data, and The Upshot is starting to reflect Trump’s dominance.
What if our biases are so strong that we are unable to recognize a major phenomenon even as it stares us in the face?... This year, the major phenomenon is the durability of Trump in a highly divided field. Last year, analysts faced a conflict: (1) polls were starting to point strongly toward Trump as more than a flash in the pan, yet (2) traditional markers of a strong candidate (‘The Party Decides’, fund-raising) pointed toward someone else. And mentally committing to ‘The Party Decides’ made it hard to accept concrete evidence of public opinion.... What can one learn from failures when they happen?
Let me step back and just offer a few thoughts dating back to 2004, when I first got into this game. At that time, a state-poll-based snapshot of Kerry v. Bush gave a helpful picture of the campaign’s ups and downs. Electorally speaking, things went right down to the wire, a tough situation for making predictions.... 2008, was a fairly easy year... room to drill into the details of pollster reliability, that kind of thing. For some people, it was nerd heaven. The same was true for 2012.
In 2016, things may not be so favorable for the data nerds. Most predictions are predicated on the idea that past history can be extrapolated to predict the future.... Models are only as good as the likelihood that the trends will continue... can’t capture ‘black swan’ events that upend the whole playing field....
Since the 1980′s, the normal condition has been that the Democratic and Republican parties have been stable... as they drifted apart.... 1994 was a big turning point because it ushered in Gingrich-style polarization.... Limbaugh begat Gingrich, Gingrich begat Palin, Palin begat Trump. Now here we are, with the most authoritarian one-eighth of the population calling the shots for one of the two major political parties.... Data punditry isn’t equal to the task of capturing this year’s weird events...
May I just sign off until summer?: "In the two major parties, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are in very strong positions...(January 27, 2016):
...At >40% levels of support, 6 out of 6 Republican front-runners have gone on to win the nomination, and 6 out of 7 Democratic front-runners. The exception was 2008, when Hillary Clinton was at 42% but was eventually overtaken by Barack Obama. As of today she’s 9 points stronger, at 51%. So at this point, the most likely November matchup, by far, is Clinton v. Trump. Seeing as how the academic term is about to start, I wonder if I could please be excused for a few months. Needless to say, if anything changes I would come back.