Thursday, October 1, 2015

Who's on the Bubble for CNBC GOP Debate

The short answer is that likely all 10 left from the last main debate will be together again and there will only be 2 more polls that determine this. The longer explanation follows.

Bob Jordan (@bobjordanapp) wrote on Sep 29:

Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director and host of Meet the Press, has expressed a willingness to shorten the stage after 11 candidates plodded through a three-hour marathon debate on CNN two weeks ago.

Todd has a lead role in establishing debate rules for CNBC, an NBC affiliate.

“Let’s just say the goal is to create a threshold that candidates have to meet to qualify for the stage rather than committing to putting 10 candidates on the stage. And I don’t think we should commit to more than 10-candidate debates,’’ Todd said in an interview on ESPN radio. “You have to be viable. So now we’re in debate three it’s time to show viability and only the viable ones survive.”

A day later, the CNBC published its debate qualifier rules: 

To qualify for the primetime debate, candidates must average 2.5 percent on the national polls from NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN, and Bloomberg — released between September 17 and October 21.

Because of basic math six candidates (Trump, Carson, Fiorina, Bush, Rubio and Cruz) already have a high enough average that they could get 0’s on the next 5 polls and still qualify.

But that brings up another question. How many more polls will there be? 

By looking up the frequency of national polls by these organizations, it is virtually certain that neither Bloomberg, ABC nor CBS will do another national poll before October 21. ABC finished their 2nd poll this year on Sep 10 (their previous poll ended Jul 19), CBS finished their 2nd poll on Sep 13 (their previous poll ended Aug 2) and Bloomberg finished their 2nd poll on Sep 21 (their previous poll ended Aug 2). NBC, as parent company of CNBC “might” be tempted to rush out a poll just 3 weeks after their last poll on Sep 24 (their polls always end on Thursdays and they average a poll once every 7 weeks), but doing one so quickly might seem to be less objective-minded, and raise credibility issues to make such a radical departure from their previous pattern of polling every 6 to 8 weeks.

That leaves just CNN and Fox, who have been averaging polls every 5 and 4 weeks respectively. Fox’s last poll ended Sep 22, and is the chief sponsor of the GOP, so it seems very likely they will release another poll on or just before the deadline. 

CNN likes to end polls on Sundays and Oct 18 is the last Sunday before the deadline. It means slightly rushing a new poll since their last one ending on Sep 19, but it seems likely they will do one.

So most likely situation is that there are only TWO MORE polls.

What does this mean for the remaining candidates? Of the candidates at the last "kiddie table" debate, the highest polling averages (using the CNBC criteria), at just 0.5%, belong to Santorum and Jindal. They would have to average a whopping 6.5% to get to the debate. Neither has ever polled that high on ANY national poll this year.

This leaves 4 candidates currently averaging between 2.75 and 4%. Two of them (Kasich and Christie) could get goose eggs on the next two polls and still qualify for the debate. Huckabee just needs to get a 1% on just one of the next two polls to qualify.

Seem like a lock. But is it?

While it is a highly likely Huckabee will bottom out before reaching 0% on Oct 21, but since both the CNN and Fox polls are likely to come out just before the Oct 21 deadline and they only report 0 or 1% (not 0.5%), it isn’t unreasonable to see zeros. 

But there is one sign of hope for Huckabee. CNN’s last poll had Huckabee at 6% (vs. 3.2% on their trendline at the time). Perhaps something about their polling method gives Huckabee a bump. So maybe that means CNN will be down to 3% near the Oct 21 deadline meaning Huckabee would make the cut even if NBC also came out and gave him a 0.

That leaves one candidate, Rand Paul. 

If there are one or two polls before the deadline, as long as the new results average 2%, he is in. Looking at the forecasted trends above based on all national polls, he should get by with 3%. 

What about house affects? The last time Fox and CNN polled about Rand Paul he got 2 and 4% respectively, about 10% higher than the 2.7% average he was trending on for all polls. So he seems like he will just get in. 

It gets a little more dicey if NBC also does a poll because with three polls he needs to get a total of 7 points so there is not much room to spare on the forecast. 

If something important and negative gets a lot of coverage in the next month (the trial involving his father, sister and campaign strategist comes to mind), that might be enough to drop .5 % in one poll, which rounds to 1% and he just misses the cut.

Does CNN's polling methods save Mike Huckabee? Will Rand Paul avoid negative, poll depressing news? We'll know in a few weeks.

- JW

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