Coming up this week for the Dems: Was Michigan a fluke? Can we even tell from such majorly different states as Ohio, Ill. and Florida? Each one of these states has a set of demographics that makes it very difficult to call. Any wobbles in the polling could be due to a variety of factors.
Keep in mind that what I am looking at has much less to do with ultimate winner as with the state of polling and whether candidates are significantly over or under performing their polls. We are now in primaries using exit polling, so responses are considered more reliable than to entrance polling in caucus states.
Polling numbers here are from the most recent NBC/Wall St. J. polling, which is pretty much in synch with what RCP has been showing for the last few days. (MO was from the Kansas City, MO local paper).
Polling reflects the conventional wisdom that this is Hillary country and has her leading Bernie by 2-1. Unless someone does some fresh polling showing significant last minute Sanders momentum, I would consider a Hillary victory by less than 5 points to be a dramatic polling problem. For factors I will explain below, I am less surprised if Hillary overperforms her polls by 5%-10%, but if she wins by margins similar to elsewhere in the South, it will be a major polling failure the other way.
Factors that work for Hillary in Florida. The African American community in Florida includes both a rural and urban mix similar to that in other southern states that have voted, such as Georgia. Not only is the African American political establishment generally familiar with Hillary, and Hillary understands campaigning in the South -- but the Florida African American electorate (like the white electorate outside the most urban areas) is generally conservative.
Additionally, the Florida Hispanic community is heavily dominated by Cubans, and by refugees from political violence in Nicaragua and Latin America in the 1980s. This group is fanatically anti-Communist and are hawks on foreign policy. Both these factors favor Clinton. To the extent Sanders is gaining support in the Latino community generally, it is likely to be significantly weaker in Florida because of his dovish foreign policy.
On the plus side for Sanders, the third generation Cubans have been increasingly chafing under what they see as the conservative politics of their Grandparents. They also view free trade as a form of economic imperialism that has denied developing countries access to lifesaving medicines and encouraged toxic waste/e-waste dumping. The FTAA protests in Miami in the 00s created a solid network of younger progressives (Age 35 or lower). If Sanders supporters can leverage that, they may surprise folks with their strong turn out.
One would expect Sanders to do better in a state with a significant Jewish population. But this is not the case. To the contrary, the contingent of the Jewish community that went Republican has been frantically working itself into a delusional frenzy that Sanders is somehow not like everyone's Jewish grandfather from Brooklyn. This includes rumors about how Sanders is somehow not strong on Israel (which is highly amusing for those of us plugged into the progressive community and have been listening to the anti-Semetic dog-whistling among progressives on this for months, including the rumor that Sanders has dual Israeli citizenship).
In any event, Sanders' Jewish identity is a null factor with Florida's Jewish population. Older Jews will still overwhelmingly favor Hillary if they favor a Democrat. Younger Jews will overwhelmingly favor Sanders if they favor a Democrat. But these factors are based on the usual age divide and not on identity.
So that leaves Sanders with a progressive, younger base primarily located in urban communities, and whatever remains of the old Dixiecrat rural community that prefers him to Trump. This is only enough to carry the state if Sanders is doing much better with younger, urban Hispanics and younger African Americans, and if they turn out in higher numbers than anticipated. if that happens, then we can pretty much throw likely voter models in the garbage for the 2016 campaign.
By contrast, Illinois is a state where Hillary should be polling much better than she is. But this has a lot to do with Illinois (particularly Chicago) politics.
Right now, Hillary is up 51% to 45% -- which makes IL very much in play. In theory, Hillary should enjoy a big advantage s the official candidate of the Democratic Establishment and as the candidate perceived as more likely to follow Obama's policies. (Obama, obviously, is a Favorite Son of the Chicago community.)
Hillary's slim margin of victory has more to do with internal Chicago Democratic politics. Specifically -- many people *hate* Rahm Emanuel. In 2015, Emanuel faced an unexpected backlash against his policies from Jesus Chuy, a progressive Democrat and County Commissioner. Rahm backtracked in the runnoff, ate humble pie, promised to do better in listening to the community, and won 55% to 45%.
So things were looking back on track for Rahm until the video of Chicago police killing Laquan McDonald finally came out. Emanuel had staunchly supported the Chicago police and done his best to keep the video from surfacing. Protesters swarmed the streets demanding Emanuel's resignation. For a lot of the #BLM movement in Chicago, Emanuel became the poster child of corrupt local government shielding police from accountability for the brutalities committed on the African American community. In the midst of this controversy, Hillary weighed in supporting Emanuel to stay in office as mayor. Emanuel, in turn, has endorsed Clinton. Sanders has spent the last several days hammering this point and linking Clinton and Emanuel and the failure of the Democratic establishment to address the needs of the poor and minority communities generally.
Those who live in NY will tell you there is NYC and then there is everywhere else in NY State, and the politics of each is totally different. The same is true in IL. There is Chicago, and then there is the rest of IL. Most of the rest of the IL electorate resembles Michigan and Minnesota, enough so that you would expect Bernie to do fairly well. The remaining Democrats are mostly New Deal holdovers, with union connections (members or immediate families were members) and a deep suspicion of free trade. Chicago is the center of the Democratic Machine. If the Democratic Machine is functioning in good form, it can deliver for Hillary. If the Latino community and a sufficient portion of the African American community defect, then Sanders is likely to carry the state.
If either candidate wins by more than 10%, it will be a major shocker on polling. but the implications are likely to be much more about Chicago local politics than about national trends.
Of the three major states up for Dems on Tuesday, Ohio is the state most like Michigan, and therefore most interesting to watch from a polling perspective.
The Democratic Party in Ohio centers in urban centers with a strong African American core, such as Cleveland. Recently, however, Ohio has seen an influx of Latinos and some revival from the general uptick in manufacturing during the Obama administration, as well as a modest revival in the steel industry. Cleveland, like Detroit and Chicago, has seen recent protests by Black Lives Matter over police brutality.
It is not at all clear a strong BLM movement corresponds with success for either candidate. BLM has been scrupulously neutral and refused to endorse any party or presidential candidate (wise move). The network of young, Internet savvy activists would, at first glance, seem natural allies for Sanders. But this is generally offset by several factors, ranging from (a) the "Bernie Bros" phenomena to (b) strong support among the older, traditional civil rights leadership, who are much better organized.
Without a polarizing figure such as Rahm Emanuel, it is unclear that the younger African American community involved in BLM will vote for Sanders rather than Clinton (or at all).
Nevertheless, Clinton's immediate polling lead over Sanders 58-38%, feels rather high given the much lower lead in Missouri (coming up next on our list). I would not be surprised to this slip to a 10 point. a mere 5 points would, again, be a sign of significant problems in the likely voter models. By contrast, if Clinton's 20 point polling advantage des hold up in Ohio, I would expect her to outperform her current 7 point lead in MO.
According to the St. Louis Dispatch, fully 13% of Missouri Dems remain undecided. Since late-breakers have been generally moving to Bernie in the election, this seems good for Sanders.
Additionally, it is completely unclear how Fergeson and racial politics play out in the MO primary. No one seems to be doing any significant polling on this, or on the relationship between BLM and voting behavior at all. This leads me to the following question:
HOW IS IT POSSIBLE FOR POLLSTERS SERIOUSLY INTERESTED IN THE VOTE OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY TO FAIL T STUDY ANY CORRELATION BETWEEN CANDIDATE SUPPORT AND THE MOST SIGNIFICANT POPULAR PROTEST MOVEMENT IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS COMMUNITY IN YEARS?
OK, setting that aside. MO has a more conservative Democratic community overall than other Midwestern swing states. That would seem to play more to Hillary. But the white electorate has a strong populist streak, which plays to Bernie. Hence the interesting division in the polls. As I noted above, if Sanders outperforms significantly in OH, then I expect him to outperform in MO. By contrast, if the polling in OH is right about Hillary's advantage (or if Hillary outperforms) I expect to see a similar pro-Hillary dynamic in MO.
So it will be interesting Tuesday night one way or the other. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to know if we are still dealing with a systemic problem in the polling models or not. Too many unique factors in the key states.