Saturday, January 11, 2020

That Poll-Asked Look, Con't

It's time to start taking a serious look at the February primary and caucus contests, and it's still mostly a four-way contest in Iowa at this point, with Bernie on top at 20% and Biden, Buttigieg and Warren all within five.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders leads the Democratic field three weeks ahead of Caucus Day in Iowa — narrowly overtaking his closest competitors, who remain locked in a tight contest just behind him.

A new Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows 20% of likely Democratic caucusgoers name Sanders as their first choice for president.

After a surge of enthusiasm that pushed Pete Buttigieg to the top of the field in November, the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor has faded, falling 9 percentage points to land behind both Sanders and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Warren is at 17%; Buttigieg, 16%; and former Vice President Joe Biden, 15%.

“There’s no denying that this is a good poll for Bernie Sanders. He leads, but it’s not an uncontested lead,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll. “He’s got a firmer grip on his supporters than the rest of his compatriots.”

The poll of 701 likely Democratic caucusgoers was conducted Jan. 2-8 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders and Warren have remained clustered atop the Register’s Iowa Poll throughout the 2020 campaign cycle, though no one has definitively pulled away from the pack. Instead, each of the top four has now led the Iowa Poll at some point this cycle as the field continues to shift.

The percentage of those who say their mind is made up about which candidate to support on caucus night has risen to 40% — up 10 percentage points from November. But that leaves 45% who say they could still be persuaded to support someone else and another 13% who have not picked a favorite candidate yet.

Iowa is looking like anyone's game at this point, and as Nate Silver points out, Biden is the favorite but not a runaway one...yet.

Joe Biden is the most likely person to win a majority of pledged Democratic delegates, according to the FiveThirtyEight primary model, which we launched on Thursday morning. This is our first-ever full-fledged model of the primaries and we’re pretty excited about it — to read more about how the model works, see here.

But saying the former vice president is the front-runner doesn’t really tell the whole story. He may be the most likely nominee, but he’s still a slight underdog relative to the field, with a 40 percent chance of winning a majority of pledged delegates1 by the time of the last scheduled Democratic contest — the Virgin Islands caucus on June 6. If one lowers the threshold to a plurality of delegates, rather than a majority, then Biden’s chances are almost 50-50, but not quite — he has a 45 percent chance of a delegate plurality, per our forecast.

I want to emphasize that there’s still a lot of room for another candidate to surge because nobody has voted yet, the primaries are a complex process, and frankly here at FiveThirtyEight, we’re a little self-conscious about how people interpret — or sometimes misinterpret — our probabilistic forecasts. The Democratic primary still features 14 candidates, and while most of them have little to no shot, there are still several fairly realistic possibilities.

So while Biden’s in a reasonably strong and perhaps even slightly underrated position, it’s slightly more likely than not that Biden won’t be the nominee. Sen. Bernie Sanders has the next-best shot, with a 22 percent chance at a majority, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 12 percent and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 10 percent. There’s also a 14 percent chance — about 1 in 7 — that no one will win a majority of pledged delegates by June 6, which could lead to a contested convention.

The model works by simulating the nomination race thousands of times, accounting for the bounces that candidates may receive by winning or losing states, along with other contingencies — such as candidates dropping out and polls moving in response to debates and news events. Like all of our models, it’s empirically driven, built using data from the 15 competitive nomination races since 1980.2

Since the primaries themselves are fairly complex process, the model is fairly complex also — which we mean as a warning as much as a brag. Models with more complexity are easier to screw up and can be more sensitive to initial assumptions — so we’d encourage you to read more about how our model works.

As an illustration of how one race can affect the following ones in our model, here are each of the leading candidates’ chances of winning a plurality or majority of delegates conditional on winning or losing Iowa.

So if Biden does win Iowa, his odds go up from about 40% to about 80%. 

Whoever wins Iowa is the favorite, period.

We'll see if that holds up.  Most primary years like this it does.

But that was before Trump came along.

The Drums Of War, Con't

Iran's government is now admitting that the Ukrainian passenger jet that was destroyed earlier this week was in fact shot down "unintentionally" by the Iranian military.

Iran said on Saturday it had mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian plane killing all 176 people aboard and voiced its deep regret, after initially denying it brought down the aircraft in the tense aftermath of Iranian missile strikes on U.S. targets in Iraq
Wednesday’s crash heightened international pressure on Iran after months of friction with the United States and tit-for-tat military attacks. Tensions in the Middle East intensified last week after a U.S. drone strike killed an Iranian general in Iraq, prompting Tehran to fire at U.S. targets on Wednesday. 
Canada, which had 57 citizens on board, and the United States had said they believed an Iranian missile brought down the aircraft although they said it was probably an accident. Canada’s foreign minister had told Iran “the world is watching.” 
Ukraine had been more cautious in apportioning blame, but said it had agreed with Canada to push for an objective investigation. 
“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote on Twitter. “My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families.” 
Many of the victims were Iranian with dual nationality.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter that “human error at time of crisis caused by U.S. adventurism led to disaster,” citing an initial armed forces investigation into the crash of the Boeing 737-800. 
An Iranian military statement, which was the first to indicate Iran’s U-turn, said the plane had flown close to a sensitive military site belonging to the elite Revolutionary Guards.

Iran is blaming Trump for this, and there's still a number of things that the investigation could turn up, but frankly if you're in a position where you actually have less credibility internationally on a subject than the Trump regime, you have royally screwed up and absolutely deserve the consequences.

The fact of the matter is that 176 people are dead in a 100% preventable tragedy.  Iran's response of "well we wouldn't be firing missiles at planes if Trump hasn't killed our long-time Head of Dirty Deeds" is actually more repugnant than Trump's move a week ago to blow the guy up along with several Iraqi militia leaders.  Let's not for a moment here pretend that the Iranian government has been all sunshine and lollipops since '79.

So what's Trump's next move?  Who knows at this point?  Could be nothing, could be massive multiple simultaneous strikes on Iranian assets around the Middle East.

All I know is the sane adults are nowhere near being in charge right now.

Deportation Nation, Con't

With the third anniversary of Trump's Muslim ban coming up, and the Roberts Court having cleared Trump to ban people from specific countries for whatever reason he likes, the White House is planning on adding several more countries to the list later this month.

The White House is considering dramatically expanding its much-litigated travel ban to additional countries amid a renewed election-year focus on immigration by President Donald Trump, according to six people familiar with the deliberations.

A document outlining the plans — timed to coincide with the third anniversary of Trump’s January 2017 executive order — has been circulating the White House. But the countries that would be affected are blacked out, according to two of the people, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the measure has yet to be finalized.

It’s unclear exactly how many countries would be included in the expansion, but two of the people said that seven countries — a majority of them Muslim — would be added to the list. The most recent iteration of the ban includes restrictions on five majority-Muslim nations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as Venezuela and North Korea.

A different person said the expansion could focus on several countries that were included when Trump announced the first iteration of the ban but later removed amid rounds of contentious litigation. Iraq, Sudan and Chad, for instance, had originally been affected by the order, which the Supreme Court upheld in a 5-4 vote after the administration released a watered-down version intended to withstand legal scrutiny.

Trump later criticized his Justice Department for the changes.

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the effort, which several of the people said was timed for release in conjunction with the third anniversary o f Trump’s first travel ban. That order sparked an uproar when it was announced on Jan. 27, 2017, with massive protests across the nation and chaos at airports where passengers were detained.

Iraq of course is the big one, and it's no coincidence that this story is out as Iraq threatens to send US troops backing.  My guess is that if Iraq allows US troops to stay, then Iraq won't be added to the list.  It's extortion, of course, but it's the only thing the man in the White House understands.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE won't be on that list of course.  They're the" good ones".
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