Monday, April 15, 2019

Presidential Candidates' Rankings and Experience

Democratic 2020 Presidential Primary:
Candidates, Rankings and Experience
April 15, 2019

This site is intended to be an entertaining conversation starter for those who enjoy and follow politics and have maintained enough civility to continue to speak about such matters with friends and family.

I have not endorsed any candidate, and am not now working in any candidate's campaign. (If and when that changes I will post a notice to that effect.)

Moreover, this blog post does not engage in the foolishness of forecasting -- especially this early in the campaign. Plenty of "unknown unknowns" will be encountered along the road to November 3, 2020, any one of which can change the outcome during a single news cycle.

This is simply one approach to the question, "Where are we now?"

The Ranking
As of today (April 15) reports there are 227 Democratic Party candidates, 84 Republicans, 24 Libertarians and 14 from the Green Party.

We will be reporting on the top three or four Democrats, as measured by four criteria: popularity with voters, money raised, number of donors, and weighted endorsements.

My judgment as to the top four at this time, considering all four criteria, are: Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke and Cory Booker (pictured below in that order; first three from Wikimedia, no Wikimedia of Booker so used selfie he took). Here's how they rank:

Popularity (from Real Clear Politics): Sanders, 21.7%; O'Rourke, 8.3%; Harris, 7.8%, Booker, 3.7%. (Biden, at 31.2%, is excluded from this ranking because he has not yet entered the race.) Rolling Stone, presumably also measuring popularity, changes rankings each week. This week they are consistent with Real Clear Politics' findings. Currently, Rolling Stone's rankings for this and last week were: Sanders (1, 1), Harris (2, 2), O'Rourke (4, 3), Booker (7, 6).

Money Raised (in total dollars and dollars per day; from PBS Newshour): Sanders ($18.2M; $444,000/day); Harris ($12M; $171,000/day); O'Rourke ($9.4M; $520,000/day); Booker ($5M; $84,745/day). Note the consistency in the Money Raised ranking and the Popularity ranking.

Number of Donors (from New York Times, Feb. 9, 2019): Given that the first primary is "the money primary" (discussed in Commentary, below) the total donated to each candidate is a relevant measure of their strength for a variety of reasons, including popularity. But because it can be so significantly affected by the receipt, or rejection, of PAC money and other large contributions it can be deceiving. (And because candidates can solicit and count their $1.00 and $5.00 contributions, their "average" (i.e., mean) contribution can also be deceiving.)

Therefore, the number of donors is data worth considering. (Bear in mind, these numbers are significantly affected by how long the candidate has been in the race, and change daily if not hourly, but the calculation on any given day provides some useful information. The following ranking was reported by the Times on Feb. 9 of this year.) Our current four candidates (Sanders, O'Rourke, Harris, Booker) are ranked 1, 2, 5, 8. Sanders, 1.2 million; O'Rourke, 743,000; Harris, 239,000; Booker, 56,000. (Those ranked 3, 4, 6, 7 are Elizabeth Warren (343,000), Kirsten Gillibrand (272,000), Sherrod Brown (114,000), and Jeff Merkley (105,000).

Endorsements (from 538's points allocation system, from one to ten based on prestige/influence of the endorser): Booker (57), Harris (55), Sanders (21), O'Rourke (14).

In terms of the concerns I've expressed regarding attacks on our democracy (Columns of Democracy), the Popularity ranking (Sanders, (O'Rourke, Harris, or Harris, O'Rourke), Booker), though both imperfect and clearly premature, comes the closest to "the people's choice." Money Raised, which produced the same ranking, and Number of Donors, which produced a similar ranking, are similar measures -- in this instance not just of the donor's marginal preference of one candidate over others, but of enough commitment to part with their money. (This is especially-to-only true if the candidate has refused PAC money and is relying on small contributions. To the extent money is coming from the 1%, PACs, and corporate bundling of checks we have a preliminary primary that Larry Lessig has called "the money primary," from which the surviving candidates are picked by the major donors who usually expect something in return. Voters are then left with choices from among only those candidates who have been cleared and "nominated" by America's most wealthy to run in the second primary.)

Endorsements raise separate, but related issues to those raised by "the money primary" -- as Bernie Sanders discovered in 2016. As the 538 site explains, "Party elites use endorsements to influence not only voters but also each other, hoping to get other powerful party members to rally behind the candidate they think would be most acceptable." In other words, just as there is "the money primary" there is also the "Democratic Party elites primary." Just as the major donors tend to have their own reasons for favoring one candidate over another, so do the Democratic Party elites.

Note that Booker and Kobuchar, who rank number one and three respectively with endorsements, rank 5 and 6 in fundraising, 7 and 8 in popularity, and 8 and 10 in number of donors.

So far this blog has focused on candidates. There is another factor that should be relevant to voters, but is often overlooked. That is: if your candidate were to win the general election, and become president, which of their past experiences and skills give you some confidence they will be able to not only win election as president but be able to function with competence as president? That is the subject of an additional section of this blog post that will be added later.

Am I interested in "the issues," the new (and old) ideas being put forth by the candidates? You bet I am. I love to learn about new public policy ideas, research and write about them, and think up new ones of my own. I've spent much of my life doing just that.

Candidate Andrew Yang has a "platform" (scroll down his "policies" page) that looks like it has about 100 such proposals. I'll probably look through all of them at some point.

There will be something connected to this blog post about policy if this post becomes an ongoing project.

I care about a candidate's intelligence, their curiosity, their creativity. But more than their creative ideas, what I want to know is their understanding of the processes that can transform those ideas into a reality that has a positive impact on people's lives.

As I have put the question to every presidential candidate I have talked to during the past 40 years or so, "Why are coal miners going to be safer in the mines with you in the White House?" along with similar questions. In other words, "I like your proposals, but how are you going to make them happen when they will be so strongly opposed by the major donors to the House and Senate members whom you'll have to persuade to vote for them?"

It's relatively easy to come up with new ideas, even very popular new ideas -- especially if you have a research team to write them for you, you test them with polling and focus groups before you reveal what they are, and you're able to follow the advice to "be sincere, even if you don't mean it." What's far from easy is having a Lyndon Johnson's knowledge of what it takes to translate those ideas into legislation that one can get through the House and Senate and still win reelection. Get your candidate to talk about that.

Meanwhile, I'll inform myself regarding what the candidates are proposing. It may reveal something about their background, values, process and focus. I just won't, ultimately, end up endorsing anyone based on their stump speeches alone.

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Sam Osborne said...

I too am interested in the nomination of a candidate that not only has vision enough to see what needs to be done but also has the capacity to get done what needs doing. Thus in response to your question, "Why are coal miners going to be safer in the mines with you in the White House," I favor a candidate who intends to get miners up and above ground into good jobs at good wages that better serves our land and humanity by moving beyond the production of power via the incineration of more fossil fuels.

Thomas E. Simon said...

This is an excellent blog - masterful, thank you for inviting my comment.

I do not see any reference to Pete Buttigieg, who is emerging as an extraordinarily viable candidate. I was surprised at his military experience, that he be a Harvard grad and Rhodes scholar, speaks 7 languages... He is handsome, young and sublimely charismatic because of his obvious intelligence and command of facts.

We now are no longer a country for old men ;-) Let the young people decide their future.

Tom Slockett said...

Excellent informative, interesting, and entertaining essay. Why am I not surprised? I encourage you to make it an ongoing effort, as you suggested it might.