With just hours left until Campaign 2016 finally leaves the Incessant Talking Heads status and goes to the voters, there is one data point that is as clear today as it was 10 months ago -- Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who is qualified and prepared to be president. As president Obama said recently,"I know Hillary really well, and she is a good, smart, tough person who cares deeply about this country, and she has been in the public eye for a long time..." plus she is "wicked smart."
The media, well-meaning and not, appear desperate to fill the 24/7 air waves and have taken to mostly interviewing each other. Best to watch Downtown Abbey re-runs and ignore the noise. Hillary will be the Democratic candidate for president, at least by mid-March, and if not a few weeks thereafter.
Let's break it down.
First, Nate Silver, the brilliant American statistician who has created mathematical systems for predicting everything from sports performance to political races, gives Hillary somewhere between a 63 percent and 76 percent chance of winning in Iowa (February 1) over Senator Bernie Sanders and former Governor Martin O'Malley. Silver collects dozens of polls, and weighs them depending on track records, methodological standards, sample sizes, and other factors. One can usually find a poll to say what we want to believe, but having correctly predicted 49 of 50 states in the 2008 campaign, and 50 of 50 states in 2012, I'll go with Nate.
Second, while Sanders has been looking to energize young people and first-time caucus-attendees, as in Barack Obama circa 2008, this strategy has failed more than it has succeeded, just ask Howard Dean (2004) and Bill Bradley (2000). These groups are difficult to impossible to turn out in any state.
In addition, in a caucus such as Iowa, as opposed to a primary election, not all geography is created equal.
Similar to how the electoral college decides extra votes for Democrats are worth less in Vermont than in Ohio, extra supporters in many of the Sanders' precincts are worth less than if they were in a battleground precinct
We know that Bernie is blazing a trail in university towns. According to a Des Moines Register poll, more than a quarter of Sanders' supporters are from three of Iowa's 99 counties, where these universities are located. But even with all of that support from students, these votes only garner a small fraction of the 1401 that are in contention statewide. Similar to the electoral college, precincts are weighted in Iowa and not all are created equal.
Leaving Iowa on February 2, the candidates will descend on the Clinton Comeback state, New Hampshire.
The New Hampshire primary on February 9, 2016, according to Mr. Silver, finds the Senator from Vermont with a 72 percent chance of winning in the Granite State. But New Hampshire has long been known as the "graveyard for pollsters". In fact, exit polls
from 2008 showed 48 percent of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters said they chose their candidate in the final week before voting. That includes 17 percent who said they decided on the day of the primary, 21 percent who said they made up their minds in the final 3 days, and 10 percent who said they settled on their candidate in final week.
Having been in the Granite State in 2008, canvassing for Hillary, I can heartily say the New Hampshire primary is completely unpredictable. It was not uncommon to have doors slammed in our faces and personal insults hurled at us. On one icy morning, I slid into a trailer and the owner answered the door. "She's a b@%^! you're a b*@^%, now get away from my trailer!" he yelled.
The day before the election, some of us foot soldiers dragged into the Café Espresso in Portsmouth to at least have a few words with our candidate. When Hillary appeared, the café lit up. She was perfectly poised and brilliant, and then, Hillary was asked that straight-to-the-heart question: "How do you do it? " "It's not easy," she said, as her voice cracked and tears welled up. "I've had so many opportunities from this country. I just do not want us to fall back."
Hillary went on to explain, in very emotional terms, why despite Hillary-bashing as a national pastime, she wakes up each day, travels the country, and hopes that her ideas and her passion are being heard. As Hillary spoke, many of us recalled, from our own personal experiences, this double standard. The managing partner who told me that I did not need a summer job at his firm, I needed a husband. Or the time that I had finally achieved a senior position in a firm, and my wonderful female associate was advised by a male colleague there was no future in working for a woman, as he had more influence in the firm, and started rubbing her neck. (In 2014, when I settled my hefty gender and age discrimination case, I told Hillary that the morning in the diner had inspired me throughout my ten-year lawsuit. She joked that I ultimately did better than she after the diner event.)
Despite the predictions of pundits and polls, Hillary had a rousing victory in New Hampshire 2008.
In 2016, after Iowa and New Hampshire, the candidates will go on to two fairly predictable primaries, and then Super Tuesday. Most recent polls in Nevada (February 20) show Clinton leading by at least 19 percent, Nate Silver predicts her with a 90%+ chance to win in South Carolina (February 27), and most polling shows similar strength all the way through Super Tuesday,
Why will we see such a radical change in favor of Hillary, post Iowa and New Hampshire? Senator Sanders is from a state that is 95 percent white and Clinton has big leads with Hispanic and African American voters. In national polls, Democratic primary voters over 50 years old favor Mrs. Clinton at 71 percent to 22 percent. Moderate and conservative primary voters also prefer the former First Lady, 64 percent to 24 percent. She leads by a margin of 69 percent to 27 percent among nonwhite primary voters. Hillary even trumps Mr. Sanders among self-described liberals, by a small, 11-point margin.
Sanders has been creative, albeit very odd, in his attempts to attract African American voters, as Hillary has received the support of numerous black elected officials. The flamboyant professor Cornel West praised Sanders for being someone "vanilla" who understands the plight of the "chocolate" people. And rapper Killer Mike, who does events in support of Bernie, compared Sanders plans to that of Jesus Christ.
Beginning on February 1, voices of the American voters will be taking the air waves back. I believe their votes will support the best qualified candidate, who will just happen to be America's first woman president.