Welcome to the latest round of “totally subjective odds” — when our analysts get together and riff on the little (but growing!) amount of data we have to handicap the presidential election. (It’s kind of a placeholder set of podcasts as we get ready to launch a political show in earnest this winter.)
In this episode, Nate Silver and Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight and special guest Katherine Miller of Buzzfeed join me to talk about where the Republican candidates stand going into Thursday night’s debates, the first of the season. We also touch on the Democratic field and assess whether this week’s buzz about Joe Biden entering the race increases the likelihood that he actually will.
Stream or download the conversation using the player above. You can also find it in the feed for our podcast What’s The Point — subscribe on iTunes here. Below, see our odds and a few choice highlights from the conversation.
On the Trump bump
Harry Enten: We’ve had this show before — we’ve seen it. In 2011, we saw these candidates rise and fall: Cain, Perry, Bachmann. And their bumps lasted a month or a month and a half. And we’re only a month into this Trump thing.
Jody Avirgan: You really think it’s analogous? No one here wants to make the case that the Trump bump is different than what happened with Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich?
Nate Silver: So far he’s on that Cain/Gingrich trajectory. But look, it’s entirely possible that he’ll hold on to 20 or 25 percent of the vote through Iowa. Pat Buchanan did, Steve Forbes did. That’s the optimist’s case for Trump. But then what happens is that the rest of the field starts to consolidate. And you can’t win with only 25 percent of the vote. Especially when the rest of your party wants to make sure you are not the GOP nominee.
But people have really short memories in politics. And this happened like six times — literally six times if you count Gingrich twice, in 2011 and 2012.
The case for Walker
Katherine Miller: I am generally a Walker optimist. He’s got some problems, but I think one thing that will come through in the debates and as the year goes on is that he has a very clear and very strong conservative record that’s different from a lot of people in the field. And public sector unions are very unpopular in the Republican Party, and he’s [taken them on] twice and won three elections.
And this is on a much smaller level — but so far they’ve put together a pretty good campaign. They actually do really good digital work. They have good ads, they are good on Snapchat, on Instagram. It seems like a very adept campaign. Those are small things, but they indicate something to me.
Harry Enten, Rubio strategist
Jody: If you were consulting for the Rubio campaign, what would be their path?
Harry: You have to hope one of a few things happens. One, the winner in Iowa might only need 20 or 25 percent. Anyone could win that. So Rubio could win there. Or he could hope that Walker doesn’t win but a Rand Paul or Ted Cruz wins, someone who doesn’t feel credible to the rest of the party. And then he could go on to New Hampshire — Rubio’s numbers there are fine.
And according to some reports, Rubio has the best organization in South Carolina. So if he can get to South Carolina, that’s pretty much right next door to Florida; it’s a state that’s right in the middle of where the party is, which is where Rubio is. So if he can get there as a credible candidate, then he’s in decent position.
Nate: To me, a Rubio path to the nomination means he’d do well in states like California where there’s a lot of delegates and a diverse electorate, relatively speaking. But I don’t know — the press likes someone who wins early on.
What happens if the Clinton campaign implodes?
Katherine: I do think if the campaign does implode — say, in the unlikely event that the Obama Justice Department prosecutes Hillary Clinton for her email — I guess that there would be a lot of pressure for a Deval Patrick or Kirsten Gillibrand —
Jody: — you think it goes to them before it goes to someone already in the race?
Katherine: — yes. It would become this situation where it excites a small group of people but ultimately wouldn’t be successful.
Nate: Harry just gave a shruggie.
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