Who will be the Republican nominee?

The race for the Republican Presidential nomination has changed so much in the past week that it is hard to keep up. I enjoy reading Nate Silver’s NY Times blog when I have a chance. A week ago (Jan 16) he wrote a post entitled “National Polls Suggest Romney is Overwhelming Favorite for GOP Nomination, where he noted that Romney had a 19 point lead in the polls. He wrote

Just how safe is a 19-point lead at this point in the campaign? Based on historical precedent, it is enough to all but assure that Mr. Romney will be the Republican nominee.

Silver compared the average size of the lead following the New Hampshire primary across the past 20+ years of Presidential campaigns. He sorted the results according to decreasing “Size of Lead” the top candidate had in the polls. The image below is from Silver’s blog, where it suggests that Romney has this race all but wrapped up.

It looks almost impossible for Romney to blow it. I stopped following the election news until Gingrich surged ahead and the recount in Iowa led to Santorum winning the caucus.

A mere week later, it looks like Romney’s campaign is in serious trouble. Today (Jan 23), Silver wrote a post entitled “Some Signs GOP Establish Backing Romney is Tenuous.”  His forecasting model for the Florida primary on January 31 now predicts that Newt Gingrich has an 81% chance of winning. This is largely because Silver weighs “momentum” in his model, which Gingrich has in spades.

Two months ago, I blogged about how Obama will win the election next year. I was only half-serious about my prediction. Although the model seems to work, it is based on historical trends that may not sway voters today. Plus, I had no idea who the Republican nominee would be. Despite my prediction, I certainly envisioned a tight race that Obama could lose. Not so much these days.

A lot has changed in the past week (and certainly in the past two months!)

My question is, what models are useful for making predictions in the Republican race? Will the issue of “electability” ever become important to primary voters?


3 responses to “Who will be the Republican nominee?

  • Matthew Saltzman

    Electability is important to primary voters. In SC, 45% said that was the most important factor (form a CNN poll). Half of those voted for Gingrich and less than 40% voted for Romney. So it’s not that electability isn’t important, it’s a question of what voters think constitutes electability.

    One story is apparently widely held idea (among primary voters) that Obama just isn’t all that smart and will curl up in a ball when confronted by a powerful debater like Newt. Newt has tried to promote that idea by offering to spot Obama a teleprompter in their debates.

    Another is the apparently pervasive idea among conservatives that conservatism would be overwhelmingly popular if only it was presented in pure enough form.

  • Peter Esbensen

    I bet it’s hard to beat a good crowdsourcing model where people can put real money on the line: http://www.intrade.com/v4/markets/contract/?contractId=652757
    This market shows Romney dropping from over 90% probability to 61% after the last primary.

  • Laura McLay

    Thank you Matthew and Peter. Matthew: no one knows SC voters better than someone from South Carolina. Thank you for your comments here. I definitely didn’t catch this from following the news.

    Peter: great link. Thanks!

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