William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Iowa Caucus Open Discussion. Update: Text Fixed, Those Coin Tosses Discussed

That tweet was my prediction early yesterday, which I made partly relying on polls but more on the size of the crowds those two men garnered. About those polls, these:

Nobody’s perfect (if anybody out there is making boasts, make sure to provide proof of your pre-caucus predictions, complete with proof they were pre-caucus). Here are the final(ish) totals as of 11:58 PM EST, with record turnouts:

R (votes): Cruz 50,528, Trump 44,327, Rubio 42,124;

D (delegates): Clinton 663, Sanders 660.

(I’ll update these with the final finals in the late morning. Update: Something was wrong with an anchor tag which somehow hid all the text below it. It is now fixed.)

Yet my prediction of the eventual nominee remains as it was a month ago: Trump wins. I’m also guessing he—and even if it isn’t he but another Republican—takes whoever is the eventual Democrat nominee. Will that be Hillary?

There’s an increasing frequency of official and semi-official rumors over her email scandal, with many saying she’ll be indicted. Doing that requires the approval of President Obama, and therein lies the mystery. Now if Hillary takes the nomination and wins the presidency, then Obama is out as de facto party leader, and Billary is in. Similarly, if Hillary takes the nomination but loses the presidency, then it’s a fight who is the leader, Billary or Obama.

But if Hillary loses the nomination, and Sanders takes it, then because it’s obvious to all that Sanders won’t have a chance in the general election, whoever the Republican nominee, then Mr Obama’s position as party leader is solid for at least four years, if not eight.

It all comes down to Mr Obama’s ego. If it triumphs, as it usually has, then the only question is timing. If he allows an early Clinton indictment, she may find a way to wriggle out of it before November. But if he waits until summer to pull the trigger, then she’s old fish.

Part of the calculation revolves around what Trump will do if he wins, or what Obama thinks Trump will do, or what he thinks whoever the nominee will do. Many pundits put Trump as cousin to the Antichrist, and they may well be right when they say the good ol’ USA will soon be engulfed in flames of glory. But I’m guessing Trump (or Cruz or Rubio) will learn to play Washington standard politics, and relatively soon at that. Besides, if, say, Trump (or another, which is less likely) does begin to enforce border laws, how does this hurt Mr Obama? Answer: it only helps him.

Your ideas, picks?

Update: Coin toss broke 6 Clinton-Sanders deadlocks in Iowa — and Hillary won each time.

Can such a thing happen? Of course. See “What Is A Game Of Chance?” and “The Four Errors in Mann et al’s ‘The Likelihood of Recent Record Warmth'”, which as an apropos discussion.

Gist: no way to tell just by looking at the numbers if this was a typical Clinton fix or the real deal. It looks, though, that if the tosses would have gone the other way, Sanders would have won, and I would have got at least half of my prediction right (if I counted right). As I said in those linked articles, there’s no way short of extreme physical measurement to be able to predict the result of coin tosses.

Unless you’re dealing with a magician…or a Clinton? Of course, it doesn’t appear that Hillary cheated, given the facts, I mean. But it sure sounds good that she might have. That is, it’s one more item in her long, long list. Which is to say, even if she didn’t cheat, which would have been difficult, many will think or suspect she did. These coin tosses helped her in the short term, but could do some decent harm long term.

27 Comments

  1. “Doing that requires the approval of President Obama, and therein lies the mystery.”

    It sounds as if some emails from him were in the mix That will complicate things.

  2. The RNC has enough dirt on Trump and his associates to destroy him anytime they want to (and they will want to if he gets anywhere close to the nomination).
    Since the 3rd debate the nomination has come down to Cruz or Kasich or an outsider (not currently running)… I’ll still bet on the outsider (given the way Repub. primaries are set up & run).

  3. Hillary winning six coin tosses only means she did not win because people voted for her. That may or may not matter to her, but it bears repeating frequently, lest people forget it was a tie with an old, white socialist on the Democrat side.

    As for the results of Iowa, anybody remember Rick Santorum?

  4. The closest to calling I can claim is this:
    About two weeks ago during a phone call a friend of mine said that Trump was certain to win because he was so far ahead in the polls. I said we couldn’t be sure he was certain to win and explained my reasoning:
    (a) people lie to pollsters.
    (b) Trump was sufficiently unusual that we can’t gauge how much they lie to pollsters in the case of Trump.
    (c) Generally, it was impossible to gauge how anything anyone said or did with respect to Trump would correlate to actual voting.
    (No– I didn’t rely on more general poll issues. Trump is rather unique as candidates go and that was my main thought.)

    That said: this is pretty poor evidence for my predictive ability. After all: I’m telling you what I said in a exactly one not-recorded phone call. The friend could confirm this– but I’m not dragging her into this. I also didn’t actually predict he would not win. I only said I thought we didn’t have much useful evidence under the special set of circumstances.

    I’m still not sure what is going to happen. Even two weeks ago my view was that the results in NH and Iowa would help us assess whether people saying they were going to vote for Trump were really going to vote for him when it came down to brass tacks. But I could only make a conditional prediction based on results of both outcomes. If he doesn’t do well in NH, my prediction is his support will crater. The supporters I’ve seen do tend to include a sizable number who ‘like to back a winner’ and they will decamp if he appears to be “not a winner” or even “a loser” as in someone who actually lost.

    Also: I suspect Trump may not really, actually want to win. I don’t think he intended to win when he entered the race. If it stops being fun, the wind will go out of his sail. This is a complete guess.

  5. It is possible for a person of sufficient skill to control the results of his own coin toss. Hence the usual policy of “calling it in the air.” However, there is a distinct preference among people in the US for calling “heads.”

    The question then becomes, can we tell how many of the coin tossers were Clinton supporters? Far more difficult, can we tell how many of them would have such an occult skill? And finally, would they also have the insight to guess how the toss would be called?

  6. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 2, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Nobody “won” Iowa. They won delegates to the national conventions of their respective parties. Clinton secured one delegate more than Saunders; Cruz secured one delegate more than Trump (and Rubio). (Yet the former was described in the media as “razor-thin” and the latter as “soundly defeated.” Go figure.)

    These affairs are, strictly speaking, Party affairs, in which Party members get together (in various ways) to choose who they will put up as a candidate. Nobody “wins” until the Convention. They are not preliminary rounds in the general election.

    — signed, Former Precinct Committeeman, District Captain, and House District Leader.

  7. Ye Olde,
    The “razor thin” description may be used because some Dem precincts in Iowa literally decided which side got the delegates by coin toss:
    http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/elections/presidential/caucus/2016/02/02/sometimes-iowa-democrats-award-caucus-delegates-coin-flip/79680342/

    “As a result of the coin toss, Clinton was awarded an additional delegate, meaning she took five of the precinct’s eight, while Sanders received three.”

  8. By the way: it seems 5 precints decided at least one delegate by coin toss. (I suspect each decided exactly 1, but I didn’t actually see the number.) Hilary won all five tosses. Had she lost all 5, she’s have 5 fewer and Sanders 5 more– so Sander’s count would have exceeded hers by 9.

    The actual voting was razor thin. Hilary has rather had remarkable luck coin tosses and got an extra delegate. It does seem she edged out Sanders in popular vote too.

  9. Now it will be interesting to see if Cruz and Rubio cooperatively tag-team against Trump or if they cling to beating each other up and forfeit their immediate gains. These two together

    Hillary learned early how to play those cattle futures…

  10. It all comes down to Mr Obama’s ego. “If it triumphs”…

    I’m confused shouldn’t the word be “TRUMPS”

    I THINK I heard this on one of those rightwing religious “End of Days” conspiracy programs that Oh Bama will be the next UN Secretary General and in their words become the de facto ruler of the world.

  11. Briggs,

    If we are allowed to amend our predictions, my new one is an election between Biden and Trump, with Biden winning. The email indictment is on hold to keep candidate Biden from gaffing his way through the early primaries. But Biden is coming!

  12. Trump and not Hillary although she will have to be replaced half way through for reasons already described above.
    Trump will attract voters from both sides and others who don’t normally vote.
    Trump will win because he has broader appeal and he is straight talking on important matters.
    …Hhello Lucia, I wondered where you were.

  13. A pox on all pollsters and prognosticaters. An Iowa caucus win, as others have pointed out, means zilch. Last night’s results show only that Trump has a dedicated fan club, but less than 30% of the electorate. He is not invincible and will not be the Republican nominee, God willing.

  14. Iowa Republicans are now firmly on the far right wing. Once again, they have not predicted the eventual nominee.

    JMJ

  15. JMJ: It is not the intent of the Iowa primary to “predict the eventual nominee”. That’s why there are primaries in all 50 states and a general election. Your comment makes no sense.

  16. I was going to say “a magician, a Clinton, or Persi Diaconis” and then realized the first and last were redundant.

    Still, was he spotted in Iowa lately?

  17. Lucky at cattle futures, lucky at coin tosses…and unlucky in love (‘cept for that coat-tail thingy—maybe).

  18. JMJ, Iowa Republicans are so firmly on the far right wing that 60% of them voted for an hispanic or black candidate; so firmly on the far right wing they became the first state to ever select an hispanic candidate for president for either party; meanwhile, the ever so progressive Iowa Democrats voted equally for two very white, very senior citizens–neither one is likely to be the nominee either.

  19. If Cruz is an eligible presidential candidate being born in Canada, of an American mother, what was the birther’s cause against Obama?

    The problem for Cruz is that the parents requirement was established by congress. It gave citizenship to people that were not covered by the constitution.

  20. SteveE,

    Cruz Hispanic????

    He has nothing Hispanic but his father. He doesn’t even speaks Spanish.

  21. Kirkland,

    Trump had the most vote for him than any other republican ever had in Iowa except for Cruz.

  22. He has nothing Hispanic but his father.

    Sylvain, That’s what makes him hispanic. That’s how it works

  23. It’s still not like someone who is embodying the Hispanic culture. You could just as well say that they vchose the first Canadian for the US presidential primaries.

    By the way you can keep him.

  24. Sylvain, by your (lack of) logic the only thing african-american about Obama is his father. Since he was raised by his white grandmother he doesn’t embody african-american culture. You could just as well say they chose the first Hawaiian for president.

    You do know that this blog is about statistics, logic, ontology, epistemology, etc?

  25. Steve E,

    Actually, Obama, according to people like you is a secret Arab Muslim born in Kenya.

    Cruz rejects anything Hispanic about himself. I never even heard him talked of being Hispanic. His mother is also white. That makes him like Obama a mixed race.

    I’ve had several girl student born in China but adopted here. They might look Chinese but they act white.

  26. “…according to people like you…

    Careful there Sylvain, you don’t know anything about me; your statement could be considered racisssssss if I happened to come from the right/wrong background. Fortunately for you I’m white, but your comment is still offensive. Please don’t put words in my mouth. I have never made any such statement about President Obama.

  27. Steve,

    Please don’t feed the troll. Sylvain has long since gone off deep on the comments here.

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