Who will win the Democratic Party nomination for the US presidential election? (update)

The betting market is currently 97/3 in favor of HRC[1]. It’s more bullish on HRC than the GJ consensus[2] but less so than my own forecast. So what gives?

Not sure. HRC is currently favored 95/5 in California and is expected to take away about two-thirds of the delegates there[3][4]. These numbers have been pretty steady for more than a month. Nationally (for all that’s worth), HRC is running about 10 points ahead of Bernie – and has been since mid-February[5]. HRC is still about 8% ahead of the pace she needs to maintain in order to get a majority of the delegates, while Bernie is about 8% behind that pace. Moreover, HRC has never been below that pace, and Bernie has never been above it[6].

So what could go wrong? Lemme see:

(a) HRC dies or has to pull out of the race because of health (grizzly but possible nonetheless).
(b) A scandal pulls down HRC or threatens the viability of her campaign.
(c) Bernie defies all logic and manages to win more delegates than HRC.
(d) The super delegates defy all logic and go with Bernie.
(e) Something else I haven’t thought of.

As a 68-year-old American woman, HRC has a 0.013261 probability of dying within 12 months[7]. The fact that she’s white and wealthy drive the probability down. The mortality rate among black women of about this age is about 33% higher than among white women[8], and average life expectancy for Americans with her level of wealth is about 10% than Americans with the median level of income[9]. So let’s just call the likelihood that HRC will die before the convention 1%/4, since it’s only 3 months away. We can double that to 0.005 as, intuitively, the probability that she would suffer a serious but not (immediately) fatal illness during that time is about the same.

What about a scandal? Last time I thought (somewhat) carefully about this, I decided that there was abut a 2% chance that HRC would be indicted by the DoJ before the election. @Kaizen has pointed to a recent piece from CNN in which we are told, “The investigation is still ongoing, but so far investigators haven’t found evidence to prove that Clinton willfully violated the law the U.S. officials say”[10]. That doesn’t quite put the kibosh on this possibility, but leaves me fairly confident that something around 2% is correct. Even if HRC were to be indicted, she wouldn’t go down without a fight. I’d guess that there’s about a 50/50 chance she’d hold until she had the nomination in hand, especially if she already has a majority of the pledged delegates when (and if!) the scandal breaks. Of course, this isn’t the only possible source of scandal. But it’s pretty unlikely that a politician whose been under intense scrutiny for 25 years would be vulnerable to some new scandal out of the blue. And even if R operatives have a trick up their sleeves, they’re likely to wait until the general to use it.

Bernie currently as 1,417 pledged delegates. That is an incredible accomplishment for anyone, and especially for someone without much experience on the national stage (Senatorial back-benching doesn’t count) and for someone who is pretty far from the Democratic median voter of the last few decades. But he needs 2,026 pledged delegates to win a majority before the convention; i.e., he needs 609 of the remaining 913 pledged delegates. That’s a little less than 67%. Bernie has received 67% or more of the available delegates in 8 of 44 primary contests: Vermont, Kansas, Democrats Abroad, Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington. Bernie doesn’t have to win 67%-or-more in *each* of these remaining 13 primaries, since he might get (for example) get much more in some states to pick up on some of the slack in the others. That’s a good thing because (on a natural way of thinking about this) his odds of that are something approaching (8/44)^13 = 1/23,729,300,000! But certainly the odds of this happening are very, very low – especially given the above mentioned 19-to-1 odds for HRC in the biggest source of pledged delegates, CA. So…Bernie’s odds here aren’t 0, but they can’t be higher than 1%. Call it half a percentage point to be safe.

As for (d), nope[11].

And I can’t speak to (e) since I don’t yet know what it might be. Suggestions?

Anyway, the math looks like this 0.5%+1%+0.5%+0%+I-don’t-know = 2%. I’ll call this 2% until someone gives me a good reason to hike it up on the basis of something I haven’t thought of. So, yeah, I was a little too bullish about HRC, and I’m fixing that.

BTW, it’s worth point out that both (a) and (b) apply to Bernie as well. Bernie’s chances of dying in the next 12 months are 0.033997, though a bit lower because he too is a wealthy and white[12]. So 1% is not a *crazy* number to put on the possibility that he won’t make it to the convention – heaven forfend. Could he be stung by a scandal? Sure. He hasn’t received that much scrutiny, by the standards of 2016. The odds are surely not 0. But this is all parenthetical.

[1] http://predictwise.com/politics/2016-president-democratic-nomination

[2] https://www.gjopen.com/questions/118-who-will-win-the-democratic-party-nomination-for-the-us-presidential-election

[3] http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/election-2016/primary-forecast/california-democratic/

[4] http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2016-california-democratic-presidential-primary

[5] http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2016-national-democratic-primary

[6] http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/election-2016/delegate-targets/

[7] https://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/table4c6.html – I know I’ve used this table before, but I just can’t help myself.

[8] http://www.math.hawaii.edu/~ramsey/Life.html

[9] http://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/alfresco/publication-pdfs/2000178-How-are-Income-and-Wealth-Linked-to-Health-and-Longevity.pdf

[10] http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/05/politics/fbi-interviews-huma-abedin-clinton-aide/index.html

[11] http://www.vox.com/2016/5/6/11597550/superdelegates-bernie-sanders-clinton

[12] https://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/table4c6.html


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