Political Prediction Guru Nate Silver Says Bernie Sanders Could Win Iowa and New Hampshire

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Political prediction guru Nate Silver believes Bernie Sanders is capable of winning back to back victories over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to hold contests in the 2016 presidential race. Silver has earned a reputation for being the nation’s best political prognosticator, especially after his data-based model correctly predicted the presidential outcome in every state in the 2012 election.

Now, in a piece written on his blog site “FiveThirtyEight”, Silver argues that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has a good chance of winning Iowa and New Hampshire over Hillary Clinton. Sanders is widely regarded as an underdog in the race, so if he were to defeat Clinton in both states, it would send political shock waves reverberating across the country.

Silver does caution, however, that a Sanders victory in the two early contests would not necessarily portend doom for Hillary Clinton, and that she could recover from those defeats to win the nomination anyway. In fact, Silver argues that New Hampshire and Iowa’s Democratic electorates are so demographically different than the rest of the country, that Clinton could theoretically lose Iowa and New Hampshire, but still carry every other state (except Sanders home state of Vermont).

Silver’s argument essentially boils down to this: Sanders runs strongest with white liberal Democratic primary and caucus voters, and no state aside from Vermont has a higher proportion of white liberal Democratic voters than either New Hampshire or Iowa. Using data from 2008 (a bit dated since it is from seven years ago, but the most recent comprehensive data available), Silver calculates that roughly 59 percent of Vermont Democratic primary voters, 54 percent of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters, and 50 percent of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers were white liberals in 2008.  Massachusetts was the only other state where half of the Democratic primary electorate was comprised of white liberals.

Silver argues that Sanders will run strong in those states, because opinion polls have shown that to be Sanders’ base, while he has not polled as well with moderates or with minority voters. At the other end of the spectrum, many Southern states have very few white liberal Democratic voters. Just 15 percent of Louisiana’s Democratic electorate consists of white liberal voters for example. White moderate and conservative Democrats, plus African-Americans and other minorities, make up 85 percent of Louisiana’s Democratic voters.

Notably, the delegate rich states of Texas and California, also have relatively low percentages of white liberals in their Democratic electorates, making them potentially strong states for Hillary Clinton, and possible trouble spots for Bernie Sanders.

Silver is probably correct both in arguing that Sanders could win Iowa and New Hampshire and in declaring that even if he does, Hillary Clinton would still be favored to win the Democratic nomination. Silver’s analysis does seem however to imply that Clinton’s support with minority voters would not diminish even if she lost both Iowa and New Hampshire.

That sort of static model assumption seems to overlook the prospects that Sanders’ support with minority voters, and moderate voters for that matter, might improve if he pulled off improbable victories in the first two states. Often early wins create momentum and polling bumps. For example, prior to Barack Obama’s stunning victory in Iowa in 2008, polls found that African-American voters in South Carolina and other states preferred Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama. That dynamic changed once Obama scored his big Iowa win, and he eventually went on to carry South Carolina and several other states on the strength of black voters.

This isn’t to imply that minority voters or moderates would necessarily abandon Clinton if she lost two early primary contests, but voter behavior in the early primary season is volatile enough so that it is possible. As it stands now, Sanders’ white liberal base may have enough strength to carry the Vermont Senator to two upset wins to start out the Democratic primary calendar. If that happens, it may not sink Hillary Clinton, but it would certainly signal that the Democratic race will not end quickly.

20 Replies to “Political Prediction Guru Nate Silver Says Bernie Sanders Could Win Iowa and New Hampshire”

  1. Wait and see.

    I have to admit- the biggest selling point for me on Ms. Clinton is: The fact that the already lily-white Republicans who go even paler over the notion of a “President” Hillary Clinton.

  2. Bernie beat Nate to the punch, predicting in Joe Namath fashion that he ( Bernie ) would win both Iowa and New Hampshire, secure the Democratic nomination, and win the presidency.

    This is not hubris or arrogance, and it is not ego with Bernie ..or anti-Hillary.

  3. I’m black and i’m for Hillary all the way. face it, all the things Bernie Sanders wants to do would never pass a Republican Controlled house and senate. He’s been part of congress for a while now and only had 1 major bill passed. I find it funny he’s running as a democrat when he didn’t want to be one in congress.

  4. which is why the millennials who only 20% voted last time, need to get off their tweets, and into the streets. if all dems showed up at the polls, in contested districts, the gop would lose almost all of them, incl. the deepest red of districts. unless we have more voter suppression and gerrymandering by gop, then we wont have the majority. that’s why the gop spends so much to suppress people of color, and poor from voting. they know if everyone shows up, its good night gop/tp…

  5. Tonya… I respect your take, but consider this: A President Sanders brings in a Democratic / liberal Congress. Coat-tail effect. Hillary won’t do this. Unlikely, anyway.
    Check out ALL of the legislation that Bernie has put forth. Compare it to Hillary’s record.

    Then, take this test at http://www.isidewith.com that is completely blind. Answer as fully and comprehensively as you have time.
    Then get back to me or the rest of us as to who YOU should side with.

  6. Hey Lisa, that’s great ! I’m at 94% Bernie too. HRC – 82 % …so I’m NOT a Hillary hater.

    BTW – at politicalcompass.org I’m 98% w/ Noam Chomsky and 100% w/ Carl Sagan.
    That’s good enough for me.

  7. Who says we have to re-elect a republican congress? There are tons of seats up for grabs, if Bernie is the best choice, why not also vote for candidates who will work with him? Bernie is a once in a generation kind of candidate who truly represents us working stiffs and is for the good of the country, always has been since his teens. There’s nothing phony about him, like there is Shillary or anyone on the GOP side. We can’t let this opportunity to elect a leader who represents a change from the last 35 years of pro-corporate, supply-side, trickle-down economics. WE NEED BERNIE SANDERS TO BE PRESIDENT. Another corporate tool like anyone named bush or Clinton would only extend the disaster of oligarchy, perhaps permanently. They are making us a third-world country.

  8. You can be for Hillary if you think she will be any better. The Republican congress is going to delay legislation that they don’t agree with no matter who is president. We know that now. I rather we have a president that is genuinely & passionately on my side. History tells me that Bernie is the person. Not flip floppy, wrong about many topics until she changes her mind Mrs. Clinton. I am a black voter as well and think many others will FEEL THE BERN as time gies by. Especially when debates start.

  9. Bernie is far and away the best candidate running. He will in fact win NH and Iowa and go on to win the nomination. Bernie is focusing on early states. It will take time to build his name recognition around the country. He is doing better than Obama was at this point.

    Bernie is an extraordinary politician and a majority of the American people agree with his policies. I am looking forward to working with President Bernie Sanders to get those policies enacted. #THINKBIG #TogetherWeWin #Bernie2016 #iamademocraticsocialist

  10. Tonya, I am just curious why you would pick Hilary over Bernie? From my viewpoint the things he wants to accomplish are better for the country. No one can do it without the people’s support and he is working toward a grassroots movement that can continue even after he wins the presidency. What he works for now is what he has been working towards for over thirty years. He does not change according to polls. Implementation of his policies would be a huge improvement for minorities and the middle class. What is your argument for supporting Hilary?

  11. Reality check:

    Yesterday in IOWA Hillary 63, Bernie 20 among 1000 likely caucus goers.

    Aside from one skewed Quinnipiac poll she is soaring out of reach – nationally and in every state. As it has been since May.

    “Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton leads her closest competitor, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, by more than 3-to-1 advantage in a KBUR-AM and Monmouth College Midwest Matters poll of 1,000 likely Democratic caucusgoers.

    Clinton has the support of 63 percent of Democrats in Iowa compared with 20 percent for Sanders. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is at 5 percent.


  12. Another reality check. “KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine. Jeb Bush and his allies announced on Thursday that they had amassed over $114 million in campaign cash over the last six months for his presidential bid, dwarfing the combined fund-raising of other GOP contenders.”

    As I asked months ago: how is Bernie going to mount a 50 state campaign with $15 million dollars? (senate campaign level)

    Hillary- 45 million + pacs 24 million + sequestered donor big ticket money in DNC soon for her exclusive use. Well over 70 mil in 2 1/2 mo and a proven winner. 18 million votes in 50 states accomplished.

    Get real.

    One person can capture a 3rd Dem White House win for the first time in 70 years.
    And that ain’t Bernie Sanders, with his Howard Dean 2003 coalition.

    Koch – 2 Billion vs an independent who cannot change parties because Vt has no party registry and who will have trouble even getting on a ballot in closed states.

    Please. Reality.

  13. One thing that folks forget is that the when dems win the WH are ALSO congressional elections…When dems show up to vote for the president they ALSO vote for the dems running for congress…It’s the MIDTERMS that we have to be more diligent about…

  14. Hillary’s automatic voter registration wipes out one of
    the Greedy One Percenters’ favorite ploys. Beyond his
    starry-eyed believers, Bernie’s biggest supporter may
    very well be the NRA. I just wanna see the repug’s
    chosen turkey lose to a girl.

  15. Nate Silver is wrong, especially as he apparently used statistics from 7 years ago.

    GOP is losing members like a cat sheds fur.

    My mom & 30 other folks we know….never again.

  16. Um, did that poll ask any women voters? Just checking…and Quin’s been wrong before, too (cough 2014 cough cough). Nate needs to update his data.

    And how many electoral votes do Iowa and New Hampshire have?

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