The first Presidential debate of the 2016 election is tonight, so it is time to make my predictions:
* There is at least a 95% chance that the next President of the United States will be (from left to right politically), with relative percentage chance of winning approximately as shown:
Bernie Sanders (D) (20%) - liberal Democrat (elected as a Socialist to at large Vermont House seat starting in 1990 election followed by U.S. Senate in 2006 election for a total of 26 years in Congress when his current term ends) focus on economic needs of less affluent, currently Senator from Vermont elected with broad bipartisan majorities. Very ethical, not owned by special interests, ubiquitous and savvy social media presence among liberals, articulate master of the sound bite, and generally a decent guy. May be perceived as too "soft" to run the nation including the military. The Democrat party base is broadly supportive of his policies once you get over the "Socialist" label (which he has consistently owned since at least his college days), and may play well to lower income moderates, but he is the anathema of conservatives on most issues. Known for his consistency on policy issues relative to most candidates.
Hillary Clinton (D) (40%) - center leaning Democrat, currently Senator from New York, formerly U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama Administration, First Lady of Bill Clinton, and high powered partner in Little Rock, Arkansas law firm. Many Democrats would like to vote for a woman for President, even if they don't love her somewhat unreliable Democratic party voting record leaving her weak positives in her own party. But, she benefits from the fear that Sanders would be viewed by national audiences as too liberal. She is not the most likable person as politicians go with strong negatives with non-Democrats in particular that mostly reflect her personality and perceived personal flaws rather than her policies and long standing GOP efforts to create controversy around her, which could hurt with independent voters who decide based upon perceived personality rather than policy. The latest controversies for her involve e-mail disclosures, a security breach at a Libyan embassy which it isn't obvious she could have foreseen or prevented, and fund raising for a family international affairs oriented non-profit that has received big donations for foreign countries. She has struggled to articulate a clear message setting forth her agenda, as opposed to responding to events as they unfold. Conventional wisdom is that her policies would be similar to those of Bill Clinton's administration often summed up as "triangulation" between right wing and left wing political movements.
Mike Huckabee (R) (2%) - conservative leaning populist (social conservative, but more supportive of economic needs of the poor and criminal justice reform than many GOP candidates due to some commitment to social justice themes in New Testament) former Governor of Arkansas, Evangelical Christian minister and former 2008 Presidential candidate. Despite his previous run for President, he has less national name recognition and suffers from the "what have you done for me lately" problem of anyone who has been out of office for a while. The weakest of the viable candidates. His relatively moderation strengthens his position with independents, and for a white Southern Republican he is less overtly racist and xenophobic than most.
Jeb Bush (R) (22%) - middle of Republican base politically (which is still quite conservative in these days of realignment in the South), he is fluent in Spanish, the former Governor of Florida (a swing state), and had a career in finance greased by family connections before joining the political dynasty of which he is a part. He is less stupid than his brother, President and former Governor of Texas George W. Bush, and is about on a par with his father President George H.W. Bush. But, while a relatively nice guy as Republican politicians go, he is prone to saying stupid things that unintentionally excite controversy. In the top three in national, New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina polls. Well funded from PAC donors. While he is not the front runner in current national polls, he is the man to beat in the race for the GOP Presidential nomination. He met his Mexican born wife while studying abroad in Mexico while he was in high school, and he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1995. He spent time in international banking in Latin America.
Donald Trump (R or I) (6%) - Trump could run as an independent if his partisan run fails although he would be unlikely to be successfully elected by that route - a moderate Republican (former Democrat) multi-billionaire from New York City to immigrant parents, who has never held elective office or run a political campaign. He is very pro-rich in his economic policies and positioned as the voice of the xenophobic and racist wing of the party due to recent public comments, a loud mouthed rube who is a well known celebrity from his business ventures (many of which went bankrupt), get rich quick books and television reality show hosting. Moderates inclined to support Trump can reassure themselves that his conservative statements while he is chasing the nomination are not in line with more moderate and liberal political views that he has expressed in the past. His is in first place in the national polls, in the top three in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina, and has an effectively unlimited ability to self-fund. He is not loved by the GOP establishment who see him as a fickle loose cannon who is not committed to the party. Even if Trump flames out in the primary and caucus process, he has squeezed a lot of second and third tier GOP candidates out of the viable running in the meantime.
Scott Walker (R) (9%) - mild mannered but hard assed very conservative Republican Governor of Wisconsin since the 2010 election (a fairly "purple" Midwestern state), who is known for anti-union, anti-public employee stance, less prone to unintentional foot in mouth moments. Controversy over his anti-union and other hard line conservative policy stances that he has successfully implemented has recently earned him national recognition. Reasonably well funded and the strongest very conservative candidate in the race. Polls well nationally among Republican voters and in early primary campaign states. He spent ten years as a state legislator and eight as a county commissioner in Wisconsin before running for Governor and hails from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Walker is a "surfer" in this campaign, paddling around in the water and waiting for a conservative wave of public opinion that he can ride to victory because he isn't influential enough and doesn't have enough money to create one himself. No other strongly conservative candidate in the running is polling anywhere near Walker or raising significantly more money than he has raised. Walker is a college dropout from a little known college who spent more time in student government than on his studies as evidenced by his mediocre GPA.
* All of the candidates are white and late middle aged to young senior citizen and running at this stage for a nomination of one of the two major political parties. None have stronger ties to the Western U.S. than Scott Walker who grew up there and moved to the Midwest where he lived as an adult. Bernie Sanders is Jewish and the rest of the viable candidates were raised as Protestant Christians, although Jeb Bush converted to Roman Catholicism, which is his wife's religion.
* None of the GOP leading candidates have experience in federal public offices of any kind.
* None of the leading GOP candidates have any military service. Only Jeb Bush, as a foreign language speaker with an undergraduate major in Latin American studies, an immigrant wife and international banking experience, can claim any expertise in foreign policy and that is purely non-military. In contrast, the Democratic candidates gained foreign policy and military policy experience while serving in Congress, and in Hillary Clinton's case, while serving as U.S. Secretary of State during which she organized an international campaign of airstrikes in support of pro-democracy forces in Libya. Lack of expertise may help explain the domestic economic policy focus of the GOP primary so far.
* There is no point in even trying to learn anything about the other 12 GOP candidates who have no realistic chance of success. The strongest of them, Marco Rubio, is a Latino mirror of Jeb Bush who polls less strongly across the board, has less of a national reputation and no political dynasty, raises less money and isn't that different on policy issues or in likely general and primary election base, either demographically or geographically. Jeb Bush will probably pick up the lion's share of Rubio.'s supporters when Rubio drops out of the race.
* A crash in support for one of these candidates in favor of their same party competitors by the end of February, is more likely than a surge in support for someone not on the list at this point that brings that candidate into the viable candidacy odds of prevailing.
* In the Democratic primary, Clinton has about a 65% chance of winning the nomination and Sanders has about a 34% chance. The odds of anyone else winning the Democratic primary is about 1%. The most likely scenario in which that would happen would be the premature death of Hillary Clinton very early in primary season or before the first primary.
* In the Republican primary, Jeb Bush is most likely to win (55%), followed by Scott Walker (23%), followed by Donald Trump (14%), followed by Mike Huckabee (5%) (with percentage chance of winning shown). The combined odds of any of the other 12 GOP Presidential candidates winning the Republican primary is about 2% (Rubio is the front runner of the also rans, but not decisively enough to give him a 1% chance of winning the nomination). The odds of someone not currently in the GOP race winning the Republican race is about 1%.
* The Democratic primary will probably be resolved by late March or sometime in April in 2016.
* The Republican primary will still have at least three serious candidates left at the end of May 2016, and won't be resolved to a near certain outcome until June or July, 2016.
* There is a roughly 1% chance that whoever becomes the major party nominee and wins the election, that a Vice Presidential candidate not on this list will end up being President.
* All other possibilities combined for the next President of the United States have a less than 0.5% probability. This includes third party candidates other than Donald Trump (if he drops out of the GOP primary but runs anyway), and succession to someone other than the person nominated as President or as Vice-President, due to two post-nomination, pre-inauguration deaths, and the possibility of a coup or significantly postponed election.
* There is roughly a 37% chance of a Clinton v. Bush race in 2016, which is the most likely possibility. There is a roughly 18% chance of a Sanders v. Bush race in 2016. There is roughly a 17% chance of a Clinton v. Walker race in 2016. There is roughly an 8% chance of a Sanders v. Walker race in 2016. There is a roughly 8 out of 9 chance that there will be one of these four possible general election line ups in the 2016 Presidential election.
* In a Clinton v. Bush race, the odds of Clinton winning are about 60%.
* In a Sanders v. Bush race, the odds of Sanders winning are about 55%.
* In a Clinton v. Walker race, the odds of Clinton winning are about 65%.
* In a Sanders v. Walker race, the odds of Sanders winning are about 60%.
* In a Clinton v. Trump race, the odds of Clinton winning are about 50%.
* In a Sanders v. Trump race, the odds of Sanders winning are about 55%.
* In a Clinton v. Huckabee race, the odds of Clinton winning are about 60%.
* In a Sanders v. Huckabee race, the odds of Sanders winning are about 60%.
* In a three way race involving Clinton (D) v. Walker (R) or Bush (R) v. Trump (I), the odds of Clinton winning are about 75%
* In a three way race involving Sanders (D) v. Walker (R) or Bush (R) v. Trump (I), the odds of Sanders winning are about 70%.
* The overall odds of a Democrat winning the Presidential election are about 60%.
* If Bernie Sanders wins the election, the odds that the Democrats will also control the U.S. House and U.S. Senate is about 65%. If Clinton wins the election, the odds that the Democrats will also control the U.S. House and U.S. Senate is about 55%.
* If a Republican wins the election, the odds that Republicans will also control the U.S. House and U.S. Senate is about 65% for a candidate other than Scott Walker and about 70% for Scott Walker.
* The odds of a Democrat winning the Presidency and controlling majorities in both houses of Congress is about 35%. The odds of a Republican winning the Presidency and controlling majorities in both houses of Congress is about 26%. Thus, there is a roughly 61% chance of a new President having a window during which he or she controls both Congress and the Presidency, which is particularly important now that the filibuster in the U.S. Senate has been weakened.
* The odds of a Democrat winning the Presidency but not controlling majorities in both houses of Congress is about 24%. The odds of a Republican winning the Presidency but not controlling majorities in both houses of Congress is about 15%. Thus, the probability of divided government from the outset after the 2016 election is about 39% and rises after the 2018 midterm elections which tend to go against the party of the incumbent President.
* There is roughly at 8% chance of a race too close to call on election night. This is more likely if Sanders is the Democratic nominee and is more likely if Scott Walker is not the GOP nominee. If it is a close race, there is probably at least a 25% chance that Colorado will be one of the make or break states that is still in play on election night.
* I am not making state by state general election predictions at this point, although the general election favorites in each state are pretty obvious for at least 35 or so states.
* State by state primary/caucus results are too close to call, but will be dominated by the front runners listed above.
* The least predictable outcome is the name of the Vice Presidential nominee, which I will not attempt to predict. This will most likely be a Presidential candidate of the same party who does not win the nomination, but the odds of someone chosen from that group are only about 55%. The odds that a Vice Presidential candidate will be announced before the national convention is about 55% in each of the respective major parties.
All percentages in this post are rounded to the nearest percentage point so as not to convey an impression of spurious accuracy, at the cost that some totals may not add up to 100% due to rounding errors.
* These predictions are my best effort at hard headed, as accurate as possible, actual probabilities and are not consciously colored by my preferences. My first preference is for Bernie Sanders, and my second is for Hillary Clinton. There is no primary, caucus or general election where I will have to go further down my preference list to vote for a candidate who is on the ballot. A Clinton-Sanders ticket would be preferable to lots of other choices that Clinton could make for a VP and would heal any wounds from the primary process if she won.
* The field is effectively closed right now, fifteen months before the election, a year before the major party national conventions ratify the major party nominees, and six months before a single vote is cast in a primary or partisan caucus. There are four Democrats and sixteen Republicans running at this point, of which two Democrats and about four of the Republicans have viable candidacies. The leading candidate in each party belongs to a political dynasty that has previously held the Presidency.
Seriously, if I read the paper every day and log into CNN now and then and use Facebook now and then and I don't even know that two of the purported Democratic candidates, Martin O'Malley and Jim Webb (a U.S. Senator from Virginia who served only one term and then didn't run again who was previously a soldier) are running, and don't even know who Martin O'Malley is period (he's a former Maryland Governor), you are not a serious candidate. You have to know how to run a high profile national campaign that generates lots of name recognition outside your home area in order to credibly run for president.
* The cut of the pool of potential Presidential candidates is steeper now than at any other point in the process. We've gone from millions of people who are legally qualified to run, and scores of potentially viable candidates, to eighteen people of whom only about six have a fighting chance. Realistically, if there were some major change in circumstances it would be possible for someone new to enter the ring for another four months or so, but that would have to be a come from behind, late started effort.
* After a brief sojourn into the unlimited possibility zone, we are once again back in "choice of evils" land, and the "choice of evils" impulse will only get stronger as the respective Democratic and Republican party fields narrow.
* While the Democratic field is small, it fairly reflects pretty much the entire range of political opinion, if not personal style and experience, found in the Democratic party these days. Sanders satisfies labor, social liberals and economic liberals including the non-Christian left, and is probably a closer fit on the issues to at least 70% of Democrats in elected office. There is not a non-white candidate in the Democratic party nomination this time around, although the fact that the Democrats are just concluding a two term Presidency by an African-American man who is the child of an immigrant father appeases those diversity concerns for a singular office where one the current Democratic candidates is a woman, and both candidates are right on the issues compared to their Republican opponents. The face that both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were raised by single parents also provides some assurances to minority voters that the Democratic party isn't too insulated from their world of experience.
* The full GOP field has been attributed to a combination of a strong Democratic opponent, a lack of an incumbent or clear king maker on the Republican side, the wide range of discontents of Republicans looking for change, and the need for plausible candidates in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House to hold the seats they have in Congress for a would be Republican candidate that has prevented a "clear the decks" U.S. Senator from intimidating other Republicans from running (as well as to a lack of Congressional level accomplishment). Particularly notable is how weak the pool of libertarian leaning GOP candidates, led by Rand Paul is doing in the polls of likely GOP voters and fund raising for what is a fairly substantial wing of the Republican party. Many of the member of the current 16 candidate field will probably be gone before the first votes are cast in the GOP nomination race.
* Less than a year from today, there will be one Democratic nominee and one Republican nominee, and there is an outside chance that an independent will run, and either the Democratic nominee or the Republican nominee will win in the general election fifteen months from now. In general, Presidential races, while having higher public participation than any other political race in the county, do not offer all that many choices to voters when you get right down to it.
* All six leading candidates are so far running predominantly on economic issues, rather than social issues or foreign policy.
* The literature supports the conclusion that the details of how campaigns are waged prior to a Presidential election is usually pretty unimportant to the final result that is produced, after controlling for the status quo parties in political control, the state of the economy, and campaign fundraising success prior to the commencement of the primaries in February. Vice Presidential picks are also largely irrelevant to the outcome. But, 9-11, Great Depression, or World War class historical developments can be game changing. The literature also suggests that it is much harder to win an election when running for a party nomination from the party's ideological extremes.
* No one has ever been elected President without previously serving as President, Vice President, U.S. Senator, cabinet member, state governor, or as top general in the armed forces. Thus, there is no direct precedent for a successful Trump candidacy straight to the Presidency, although there have been credible campaigns (such as the third-party campaign of Ross Perot, seats of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, and the Governorship of California) that have been won by celebrities or first ladies without prior political experience, and there is no logical reason that this year couldn't change that precedent.
* The case that Clinton is more likely to win an election than Sanders isn't obviously correct given recent polling, although my estimates reflect conventional wisdom on the subject.
OFF TOPIC: Windows 10 has updated once already in a decent sized update, even though it is brand shiny and new. Not sure what to make of that. No problems with Windows 10 so far (and it is at least better than my old Windows 8).