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Assessing Marco Rubio: A surge or just a bubble

February 6th, 2016

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David Herdson on why he’s yet to be convinced

Ted Cruz can feel a little hard done by. It was he, after all, who won the Iowa caucus, beating Donald Trump, the reports of the pollsters, and indeed everyone else. Normally, that would be enough to fire him into the media spotlight as the man with the momentum. Not this time. The ‘momentum’ badge has instead been awarded to Florida senator, Marco Rubio.

Although he finished only third in Iowa, he’s made good headway in the polls since the caucus result, leading Cruz for second place in the five New Hampshire surveys conducted at least in part since Tuesday, as well breaking back into the twenties in one national poll for the first time since November. The question is whether that’s a ‘push’ reaction away from two not very appealing leading candidates with voters alighting on Rubio as the nearest convenient alternative, or a ‘pull’ effect where voters are genuinely attracted to what he stands for.

My instinct is that it’s the former. If voters were keen on him for his own merits then he would have been polling much more strongly before now. In a sense, he got lucky by being in the right place at the right time: he was the leading alternative conservative candidate to Cruz when Trump went negative to good effect against the Texan. In another, simply being in that right place takes skill: a lot of other candidates spent a lot of money to far less effect.

That matters but it’s not decisive. What is clear is that the public are willing now to give him a hearing. Even if he did back into the spotlight, he now has the chance to make the most of it. By the same token, he will now likely be the focus of relentless attacks from his fellow candidates well beyond what he’s experienced so far.

Indeed, that’s already happening. Bush, Kasich and Christie, all of whom need good results in the granite state to kick-start their campaigns, are all competing with him (as well as each other) for the mainstream vote – not that Rubio is particularly mainstream but he’s more so than Cruz or Trump are and if the establishment candidates can’t find traction their support has to go somewhere. Likewise, Cruz is competing with him for the conservative vote and providing he can avoid getting too drawn into a row with Carson over his campaign’s Iowa tactics, should also be gunning for Rubio, probably over immigration. They have their best opportunity tonight, in the last debate before the primary.

How well will he stand up? Former candidate, now Rubio-backer and Senate colleague Rick Santorum didn’t exactly help when asked to state Rubio’s top Senate accomplishments couldn’t name any.

    This is an extremely difficult race to call. Rubio has undoubtedly moved forward since Monday but is that poll rise a still-ongoing trend, a one-off step change or a bubble ready to burst?

He still trails Trump in the NH polls and if the Donald does win on Tuesday then Rubio’s record of a third and a second won’t look too hot against Cruz and Trump with a state a piece, another likely Trump win (in that scenario) in South Carolina and a Cruz-friendly Super Tuesday; Nevada would then be Rubio’s last best hope. On the other hand, if he wins in New Hampshire then he really does take the momentum with him, probably all the way to the White House. What’s clear about 2016 is that no potential president has broad popular appeal; the least worst will win. Rubio has the potential to be everyone’s second favourite, picking up transfers as Christie, Kasich, Bush, Fiorina and Carson drop out. He also has the potential to be everyone’s second favourite and so miss out in New Hampshire as people vote for their first preference.

All of which is to say that whoever takes New Hampshire for the GOP is strongly odds-on to take the nomination with it. I just wish I could see who is going to take New Hampshire.

David Herdson




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The left could be preparing for Corbyn to stand down & be replaced by McDonnell

February 5th, 2016

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Might be a good bet

Just had a small bet at 18/1 on Betfair on the shadow chancellor, John. McDonnell, being Corbyn’s successor.

This follows speculation this afternoon started by Ken Livingston that McDonnell might be the one to take over when Corbyn goes.

What’s odd is that the former London Mayor should be talking in these terms at all barely five months after Corbyn was elected.

There have been suggestions that Corbyn has found aspects of the job, particularly what could be seen as intrusions into his family life, difficult to cope with.

It’s known that Ken is very close to Corbyn and I wonder whether there’s something behind this being raised now. Certainly the shadow chancellor is regarded as very much a tougher egg who wouldn’t shy away from some of the difficult confrontations that leadership sometimes entails.

One thing’s for sure – now the left is in control of the party they are not going to give you up power easily.

Alistair Meeks suggested betting on McDonnell here in October when he was 50/1.

Mike Smithson





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CON loses 2 of the 3 local by-elections it was defending overnight

February 5th, 2016

Bottisham (Con defence) on East Cambridgeshire
Result: Conservative 421 (44% -8%), Liberal Democrat 403 (42% +10%), Labour 99 (10% -6%), UKIP 43 (4%, no candidate in 2015)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 18 (2%) on a swing of 9% from Conservative to Liberal Democrat

Measham South (Lab defence) on North West Leicestershire
Result: Labour 257 (43% -12%), Conservative 202 (34% -11%), UKIP 141 (24%, no candidate in 2015)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 55 (9%) on a swing of 0.5% from Labour to Conservative

Hexham West (Con defence) on Northumberland
Result: Non Party Independent 501 (37%, no candidate in 2013), Conservative 454 (33% -15%), Labour 200 (15% unchanged), Independent 125 (9%, no candidate in 2013), Green Party 89 (7%, no candidate in 2013)
Non Party Independent GAIN from Conservative with a majoruty of 47 (4%) on a notional swing of 26% from Conservative to Non Party Independent

Oswestry South (Con defence) on Shropshire
Result: Green Party 518 (48% +16%), Conservative 367 (34% -12%), Labour 95 (9%, no candidate in 2015), Liberal Democrat 91 (8% +2%)
Green GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 151 (14%) on a swing of 14% from Conservative to Green



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YouGov has LEAVE lead up to 9% in survey taken immediately after this week’s key referendum talks

February 5th, 2016

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On Betfair REMAIN drops a notch to a 66.7% chance

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So far in the referendum campaign members of the YouGov have been tending to be more in favour of BREXIT than those most other online firms and certainly there’s a massive gap between YouGov and the EURef phone polls.

However the events of this week and the coverage they’ve been getting have not been good for Cameron’s position on the vote that is reported to be being planned for June 23rd.

The YouGov polling took place in the immediate aftermath and later surveys will indicate whether the impact has been sustained.

The betting reaction has been relatively muted as seen in the latest Betfair data.

I’ve yet to place a referendum bet.

Mike Smithson





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Tonight’s local by-election line-up: 3 CON defences and a LAB one

February 4th, 2016

Bottisham (Con defence) on East Cambridgeshire
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 36, Liberal Democrats 2, Independent 1 (Conservative majority of 33)
Result of ward at last election (2015) : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,100, 1,002 (52%)
Liberal Democrats 678, 634 (32%)
Labour 347, 339 (16%)
Candidates duly nominated: Steven Aronson (Lib Dem), Daniel Divine (UKIP), Steven O’Dell (Lab), Alan Sharp (Con)

East Cambridgeshire is the essence of what has been happening to the Liberal Democrats since 2003 (their high water mark in local elections). At those elections, the Liberal Democrats polled 27% in the national projected vote share (tying with their performances in 1994 and 1987) and in those local elections they won 3,577 seats and controlled or had a hand in controlling 53 councils (including East Cambridgeshire where they had 18 councillors to the Conservatives 15 and the Independents 6), however just four years later and it was all reversed. Although the Liberal Democrat share in the national projected vote only fell by 3%, the Conservative share rose by 5% and that 4% swing was enough to cause the Conservatives to gain overall control in East Cambridgeshire and then the rot really started. A 3% swing from Lib Dem to Con saw the Conservative majority on the council increase to 11 and another 2% swing in 2015 saw the majority rocket up to 33 (on a swing of 5% overall since 2003). Since the general election though, the Liberal Democrats have started to recover some of their lustre but I think a 10% swing since May is asking just a little too much.

Measham South (Lab defence) on North West Leicestershire
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 25, Labour 10, Independents 2, Liberal Democrat 1 (Conservative majority of 12)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Labour 654 (55%), Conservative 533 (45%)
Candidates duly nominated: Annette Bridges (Con), Martin Green (UKIP), Sean Sheahan (Lab)

North West Leicestershire has always been a right royal battleground. Labour had a majority of 2 in 2003, which became a Conservative majority of 16 in 2007, then a Conservative majority of 4 in 2011 and then a majority of 12 in 2015, so when you have a seat that only requires a 5% swing for the Conservatives to gain it, you can imagine just how much chomping at the bit is going on in a constituency that has been swinging away from Labour almost since it went Labour in 1997. However, there is a complication this time around and that is UKIP. They will clearly poll very well (as they do in wards they did not contest last time) but who will their presence hurt the most? If it’s the Conservatives then Labour are home and dry, if it’s Labour then that gain becomes all the more likely.

Hexham West (Con defence) on Northumberland
Result of council at last election (2013): Labour 32, Conservatives 21, Liberal Democrats 11, Independents 3 (No Overall Majority, Labour short by 2)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Conservative 848 (48%), Liberal Democrat 540 (31%), Labour 261 (15%), United Kingdom Independence Party 105 (6%)
Candidates duly nominated: Tom Gillanders (Con), Derek Kennedy (Non Party Independent), Anne Pickering (Ind), Nuala Rose (Lab), Lee Williscroft-Ferris (Green)

Oswestry South (Con defence) on Shropshire
Result of council at last election (2013): Conservatives 48, Liberal Democrats 12, Labour 9, Independent 1, Independent Community and Health Concern / National Health Action 1 (Conservative majority of 22)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Conservative 488 (46%), Green Party 337 (32%), United Kingdom Independence Party 175 (16%), Liberal Democrat 62 (6%)
Candidates duly nominated: Carl Hopley (Lab), Duncan Kerr (Green), Christopher Schofield (Con), Amanda Woof (Lib Dem)

Both Northumberland and Shropshire have a lot in common. They are very councils with very large land areas (Shropshire has a land area of 3,487 square kilometres and Northumberland 5,013 square kilometres), both had at one point Liberal Democrats in a position of power (in 2008 the Liberal Democrats were the largest party on Northumberland and in 2005, the Liberal Democrats were the offical opposition on Shropshire) and both councils have a claim to be “a town and not much else” (with Morpeth being the county town in Northumberland and Shrewsbury being the county town in Shropshire), so with so many similarities it is amazing how divergent the two councils are nowadays, with Labour in minority control in Northumberland and the Conservatives in majority control of Shropshire and with the Liberal Democrats in oppsition to the Conservatives in Hexham West and the Greens in opposition to the Conservatives in Oswestry South. We’ve only had one Green gain since the general election in Dorset, so could we have a second tonight or could we have undoubted evidence of a Lib Dem fightback with three Lib Dems gains from three Lib Dem candidates?



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You’ve read the blogs, listened to the podcasts – now watch the PB/Polling Matters TV Show

February 4th, 2016

The PB/Polling Matters Podcast continues. The TV show is available as audio download



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Those who actually vote are getting older and this has big political implications

February 4th, 2016

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New report warns that policies will be even more geared to the oldies

The chart above is from the Intergenerational Fairness Foundation (IF) a think tank researches fairness between generations. It believes “that, while increasing longevity is welcome, government policy must be fair to all generations – old, young or those to come.”

As a result of medical advances and having healthier lifestyles we are living longer. This combined with a far lower participation level in the political process amongst the younger age groups is driving the trend towards the average age of those who actually vote going up.

Developments such as individual voter registration are exacerbating the age balance movement and, inevitably, policies become geared to voters rather than those groups who are less likely to participate.

This is all good news for the Tories. Indeed one of the reasons for the GE2015 polling fail was that the very old age segments were not featured strongly enough.

Buzzfeed which has an interesting report on the issue notes:

“The report, released on Thursday, said young voters had already suffered the “systematic removal of their welfare protections” – such as housing benefit, unemployment benefits and maintenance grants – to fund £5 billion of “universal benefits” for the old.

To counter Britain’s changing age profile, older people must be encouraged to vote in the long-term interests of their children and grandchildren, it said.”

This is not a new issue but it is not one that is going to go away.

Mike Smithson





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What’ll be critical in the next week or so is whether this week’s EURef developments will be reflected in the polling

February 3rd, 2016