September 16, 2015

The Hillary Death Spiral?

Nate Silver, politics aside has an almost uniquely keen insight into polling numbers, and a good record of political prognostication.  So when he says that despite all of the advantages stacked in Hillary Clinton's favor, she's in a poll-deflating feedback loop, you have to take notice.

Silver observes:
It’s the candidates who play the long game, and play by the establishment’s rules, who usually win presidential nominations. Political parties have lots of ways to influence the race in favor of these candidates, from how they appoint superdelegates to how they schedule debates. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on advertising, meanwhile, and the bulk usually favors establishment candidates. And voters have a lot of time to make their decisions and can amend them as they go along — an insurgent candidate who wins Iowa or New Hampshire won’t necessarily have staying power if they’ve failed to build a broad coalition of support.
But there's what he calls short term, temporary feedback loops. Situations and/or headlines that feed upon themselves.
The short run can be crazy. Feedback loops can produce self-reinforcing (but usually temporary) booms and busts of support. For instance, a candidate who has some initial spark of success, such as by doing well in a debate, can receive more favorable media coverage. That, in turn, can beget more success as voters jump on the bandwagon and his poll numbers go up further.

Candidates can just as easily get caught — or entrap themselves — in self-reinforcing cycles of negative media attention and declining poll numbers. Hillary Clinton looks like she’s stuck in one of these ruts right now.
Nate Silver seems to be implying it's temporary and by extension perhaps, so is Donald Trump's success. In fact he outright says so and basically explains to Clinton how to have it happen:
So then: Clinton is toast? Probably not. In the assessment of betting markets, she’s still a reasonably heavy favorite for the Democratic nomination. That’s my assessment too. There are a number of ways the spiral of negative stories could end:

New news stories could disrupt the cycle.
  • Biden could opt out of the race and possibly also endorse Clinton.
  • The trickle of new revelations on the email story could stop — as it largely did from April through June.
  • Clinton could lift her poll numbers, perhaps temporarily, with an aggressive advertising spend.
  • Clinton could hit some bedrock of support — her most loyal voters — beyond which her poll numbers wouldn’t decline much further.
  • Clinton could fall far enough that the “Clinton comeback” story becomes more compelling to the media than the “Clinton in disarray” story, as happened late in the 2008 Democratic primary campaign.
Thanks Nate.  Way to insert your politics into the otherwise insightful analysis.  I'm not saying the bullet points are wrong, but at least one just seems to scream "warning to Hillary".
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