Political SEO: Common Mistakes Campaigns Make On Facebook

This post is largely a repost from New Media Campaigns.  Its spot on and I couldn’t say it better.  Some additional recommendations I’ve made for political candidates and their campaigns are included in:

Political SEO and Articles Politically Tagged the main article I have on this is Political SEO: SEO Tips For Political Campaign Websites

William Henry Harrison is the imagery I wanted you to consider when thinking about your social media and mistakes that could be made. As President of the United States he wasted no time in his inaugural address to deliver in detail his long plans for the country.  Speaking uncovered in torrential rains history blame’s his death on the blunder of talking so long in a downpour.  The end of a politician due to his messaging is the image I give you.

messaging kills politician

messaging kills politician

Top Mistakes Made In Social Media By Candidates

1. Not promoting it

The first tip is super-straightforward, but it is so important yet so often overlooked that it is worth mentioning first.  Once you create a Facebook page it needs to be promoted for voters and supporters to ever find it. Add a link to the page wherever you can online, including the campaign website, Twitter account, and Youtube video descriptions. Additionally, promote the page offline in places like on direct mail, campaign literature, TV ads, and in a candidate’s stump speeches.

Targeting Facebook ads to voters and potential supporters can also be tremendously cost-effective, so use some of the money budgeted for online ads (you are, right?) to promote the page.

2. Setting up a personal profile for a campaign

This is very basic, but I still see many campaigns get this wrong. Campaigns should be using a page, not a personal profile for a candidate.

3. Having both a personal profile and a page for a candidate

Facebook Profile and Page

Facebook Profile and Page

It’s the year 2012 and most people are on Facebook, including many candidates. Additionally, many candidates have been on Facebook for years now and accumulated quite a few friends. So the question often pops up on what should be done with a personal profile while a campaign is going on. It’s best to simply hide the personal one through the duration of the campaign so voters don’t get confused trying to decide which place to connect.

4. Profile Blunders

Many voters will be introduced to you for the very first time on social media. In many cases, they’ll be going to your profile as a starting point to learn more about you. Be sure you’re not making any of these basic errors:

  • Incomplete Profile: Fill everything out! If there is a description field, be sure to use it. If there’s space for your website, use it. If there’s space for any information, use it! Not only is it important to take advantage of the real estate these social networks give you, but incomplete profiles may sometimes leave the impression that you’re lazy, sloppy, or incompetent.
  • Missing Networks: All campaigns, most especially small ones, need to be extremely judicious with their resources. If you’re going to use a social network, you must commit to it. Failing to do so will leave a very poor impression. However, I strongly encourage you to at least register the same user name on every single social network possible. You don’t have to use it, but it will prevent squatters, trolls, and opponents from making mischief with them.
  • Wrong Image Sizes: Using images can be complicated. Most social networks now have both a profile picture and a banner image. These are both very different sizes and aspect ratios. It’s important to use an image with the proper aspect ratio in each circumstance. Most profile images are square, so attempting to use a logo or picture that’s very wide or very tall will not look right.

5. Neglecting to set up a vanity Facebook url (and as soon as possible)

Facebook Username

Facebook Username

As soon as a page hits a certain level of “likes” (currently 25), a personalized url can be set up for the page that makes it much easier to remember. For instance, the default url for your page will look something like: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bob-Smithford/143854752232314.

A personalized Facebook url allows it to be a much simpler: http://www.facebook.com/bobsmithford.

Also, while this isn’t always possible, ideally this should be the same as your domain and usernames for every social network you are on. For example, take the Obama campaign: the domain name is barackobama.com, the Facebook url is facebook.com/barackobama, the Twitter username is @barackobama,  and the Youtube username is BarackObama. Keeping a name the same across platforms makes it much easier for supporters to find the pages.

6. Promoting a page on print and TV with just an icon instead of a url

On the web you can simply click an icon and it will take you to the website — but you can’t do this with a postcard or TV ad, so including a url is import so supporters can find a candidate’s Facebook page.



In the same way that you wouldn’t add an icon of a website and tell people to go there without mentioning the url, don’t only add a Facebook icon and expect people to find it on their own. Use the personalized url set up for your page and include that on any print or video pieces the campaign puts out.



7. Never looking at Facebook Insights

Facebook demographics

Facebook demographics

I’ve often found campaigns don’t realize the wealth of information they have access to through the Insights tab on a for the Facebook page. There a wide range of data that can provide insights things like:

  • the demographic makeup of those who “like” a page
  • the best times for posting and the most interacted with type of posts
  • the number of people reached through a post
  • number of interactions with a post
  • how many times a Facebook page has been viewed

8. Not setting up a custom landing tab

Facebook allows a tab other than the wall to be designated as the first tab visitors will see that visit a Facebook page and are not yet fans.  Facebook also gives us the ability to customize a tab specifically how we want it. By combining these two options, campaigns have a great opportunity to convert interested voters into supporters and supporters into donors, volunteers, and more. By default, visitors are shown the wall of a page.

As an example, take a look at how Mitt Romney’s landing tab is currently set up. While there is more to it than is probably necessary, it includes valuable elements like an email signup, donation call to action, and more information for voters on why Romney should be President.

Another example is the signup shown on Elizabeth Warren’s Facebook page:

9. Auto-posting tweets to Facebook

Facebook and Twitter may both be social networks, but both are different from each other in how best to use them. Many campaigns are tempted to autopost tweets from a campaign Twitter account to a Facebook page (or vice versa), but doing doing so removes the ability to customize messaging for the platform.

There many reasons not to do this, but here are a few:

  • Facebook allows more characters than Twitter, so it makes sense to take advantage of that and use when necessary
  • Facebook gives users the ability to attach links, videos, and picture with a status update. This is lost when autoposting
  • It looks lazy to voters
  • There’s a good chance a campaign will not notice and consequently not respond to any comments people may leave on the Facebook update
  • It’s much more likely that you will inadvertently barrage users with too many status updates because Twitter is set up for more frequent updates than Facebook

10. Using the Facebook page to dump press releases and official statements

Keep the press releases and official statements to the reporters and customize your message with a more personal feel for people on Facebook. Press releases are boring, so resist the urge to directly post these to a page. If you do, don’t expect fans to actually want to read what is posted. Instead post pictures, videos, and shorter messages that people will actually look at.

Compare North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue’s Facebook page to Florida Governor Rick Scott’s Facebook page. Which do you find more interesting?

Perdue FB

Perdue FB

Scott FB

Scott FB

11. Adding the position sought to the candidate’s Facebook page title

This is something I know other people disagree with, but I strongly believe that the title for a Facebook page should only be the candidate’s name and nothing more. For example, use “Frank Miller” instead of “Frank Miller for Springfield City Council” because once Frank Miller gets elected, he will want to keep using the Facebook page but the “for Springfield City Council” will no longer be correct. Alternatively, if Frank loses and runs for mayor in two years, the previous page will no longer be able to be used and the campaign will have to start from scratch again.

Facebook doesn’t allow changing a page title if there are over 100 likes, and it’s an awful feeling when you realize the page you worked hard to build to hundreds or thousands of fans is no longer able to be used because the title is incorrect. Keep it simple and stick with solely the candidate’s name — in the long run you will be glad.

12. Twitter Chats, a.k.a. The Online “Kick Me” Sign

Don’t. Ever. Just say no to Twitter chats. You are absolutely falling for the online version of someone hanging a “Kick Me” sign on your back. It invites all of the opponents and trolls on to your timeline and hands them a golden opportunity to counter your arguments and cast you in a negative light.

If you’re not familiar with the term “Twitter chat,” they’re a public, online conversation that uses Twitter hashtags to ask questions and solicit answers. Users can search for the Twitter tag and see all of the comments from any Twitter user who wishes to jump into the conversation.

While this example is a company and not a political candidate, a recent Twitter chat hosted by women’s clothing apparel-maker Lane Bryant illustrates some of the dangers

13. Flaming Out

If you decide to engage on a social media channel, make sure you understand the time commitment and then stick to it An abandoned social media account forces people to wonder why. Did you suspend your campaign? Did your social media coordinator quit? Are you running out of money? Did you plan poorly? Whether or not they’re the case, you don’t want any of those questions even crossing a voter’s mind.

14. Be Sociable

The word “social” in social media is really important. Think about it for a second. It’s a term we use so frequently, it’s easy to stop thinking about the meaning of the words. The whole point is to be social and communicate with the public.

The first rule of being sociable is responsiveness. Rightly or wrongly, people expect fast responses on social media. If you’re a candidate for local office, you will likely have voters asking you questions directly on social media. Be sure to answer them all and answer them as quickly as possible.

And if you’re going to be a political candidate using social media, be prepared for negative comments. It comes with the territory. But when we say “be prepared,” we mean be prepared to respond, not to censor. It’s natural to feel like you need to keep your account positive, but if word gets around that you’re deleting negative comments, you’re going to be perceived as thin-skinned and/or a weak leader. If possible, try to assemble a rapid response team of friends, family, and volunteers to respond positively to negative comments.

Keeping these 14 rules of political campaigns and social media will help you whether you’re running for dog catcher or president.  Remember just like we’re taught to dress for the job you want, you should campaign for the office you want.

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Political SEO: Common Mistakes Campaigns Make On Facebook

The First Democratic Debate In Five Charts

Thursday night was the conclusion of the first Democratic primary debate, and, like everybody else, we’re trying to make sense of what we watched. Some candidates had breakout moments while others were pushed to the sidelines. But did these moments really make a difference to viewers?

In an attempt to answer this question, we are trying to sum up the first debate in five charts, including: our poll with Morning Consult, which is tracking the same group of voters’ feelings about the candidates and how they change after the debates; a look at which candidates gained the most followers on Twitter; and of course, how much each of the candidates spoke, including whether they mentioned President Trump.

Who overperformed?

Going into the debates, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris both had favorability ratings of more than 50 percent among likely Democratic voters. And after their respective debates, they came out even stronger — respondents who watched the debates gave them the two highest average ratings on performance, according to our poll with Morning Consult.

The debates were also big for some lesser-known candidates, such as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. He went into the debates with a favorability rating just under 30 percent, and respondents rated his debate performance highly, which suggests that it’s more than just his existing fans who thought he did well (as you can see in the chart below). Sen. Cory Booker also had a strong debate performance. But the two candidates currently leading in the polls, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, both underperformed.

Who’s gaining followers?

After the first night of the debates, Castro was the one to watch — at least on Twitter. He had gained more than 50,000 followers by Thursday afternoon.

But following Thursday night’s debate, Harris gained nearly 60,000 new followers — the most new followers acquired by any of the Democratic candidates between the day of their debate and the following afternoon. This might not come as a surprise, as Harris had a particularly powerful moment when she called out Biden for his remarks about working with segregationist senators and his opposition to school integration via busing in the 1970s, saying the issue affected her personally.

“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.”

Who gained the most Twitter followers?

Change in Twitter followers from the afternoon before each candidate debated to the afternoon after their debate night

No. of Twitter followers
Debate Night Candidate Before debate Increase
2 Harris 2,729,541 59,588
1 Castro 220,987 54,886
2 Buttigieg 1,160,106 40,209
2 Yang 404,329 39,363
2 Williamson 2,621,444 31,246
1 Warren 2,673,496 30,240
1 Gabbard 381,316 19,278
1 Booker 4,258,986 10,676
2 Sanders 9,341,166 7,299
1 Klobuchar 706,774 5,480
1 Inslee 65,487 4,366
2 Gillibrand 1,427,945 3,785
2 Biden 3,607,252 3,751
1 De Blasio 157,535 2,666
1 Delaney 22,467 2,483
1 O’Rourke 1,432,328 2,426
2 Swalwell 93,960 2,098
1 Ryan 22,365 1,460
2 Hickenlooper 146,734 1,312
2 Bennet 23,459 1,145

Who held the floor?

Of course, in order for any of these candidates to impress viewers or gain followers, they needed to get their message out. As you can see in the table below, Harris and Booker were among the candidates with the highest number of words spoken on either night. But just holding the floor wasn’t enough. Biden, for instance, spoke more words than any other candidate, but according to results from our poll with Morning Consult, he lost supporters, dropping from nearly 42 percent before the first night of the debate to 32 percent after his appearance on Thursday.

Who spoke the most?

Number of words spoken by candidates participating in either night of the first Democratic debate

Debate Night Candidate Words spoken
2 Joe Biden 2475
1 Cory Booker 2181
2 Kamala Harris 2147
2 Pete Buttigieg 2072
1 Beto O’Rourke 1932
2 Bernie Sanders 1676
1 Elizabeth Warren 1637
1 Amy Klobuchar 1614
1 Julián Castro 1588
2 Michael Bennet 1462
2 Kirsten Gillibrand 1421
1 Tim Ryan 1383
1 Tulsi Gabbard 1243
1 John Delaney 1060
2 Marianne Williamson 983
2 Eric Swalwell 966
2 John Hickenlooper 951
1 Bill de Blasio 881
1 Jay Inslee 875
2 Andrew Yang 594

Excludes words spoken in Spanish

Source: Debate Transcript via ABC News

So we also compared the number of words candidates spoke to their polling averages (using all 23 polls that the Democratic National Committee sanctioned for candidates to use in qualifying for the debate). And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the number of words spoken by each of the candidates roughly correlated with their polling averages over both nights, with the correlation being somewhat stronger during the second debate.

But there were notable outliers, like Booker and Harris, who both spoke more than their polling averages might have predicted. Sanders and Warren were also outliers, in that they spoke less than their standing in the polls might have suggested. And then, of course, there’s Andrew Yang, who spoke the least out of all the candidates even though he was in the middle of the pack in polling average.

Avoid Trump, or invoke him?

One of the most obvious differences between the two nights of debates was how many times the candidates mentioned — or didn’t mention — Trump’s name. The candidates on stage Thursday mentioned the president a total of 34 times, while the candidates on Wednesday mentioned him just 20 times. Notably, Sen. Elizabeth Warren did not use his name a single time on the first night, making her the only one of the five polling front-runners not to mention Trump explicitly.

But on the second night, Trump and his administration’s policies took center stage. For example, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has positioned herself as the most anti-Trump candidate, mentioned the president eight times (the most of any candidate on either night), at one point saying he has “torn apart the moral fabric of who we are.”

Which candidates talked about Trump?

How often President Trump’s name was mentioned by candidates participating in either night of the first Democratic debate

Debate Night Candidate Trump Mentions
2 Kirsten Gillibrand 8
2 Bernie Sanders 6
2 Marianne Williamson 6
1 Amy Klobuchar 5
2 Joe Biden 4
2 Kamala Harris 4
2 Andrew Yang 4
1 Jay Inslee 4
1 Cory Booker 3
1 Beto O’Rourke 3
2 Michael Bennet 2
1 Tulsi Gabbard 2
1 Julián Castro 2
1 Tim Ryan 1
2 John Hickenlooper 0
2 Pete Buttigieg 0
2 Eric Swalwell 0
1 Bill de Blasio 0
1 John Delaney 0
1 Elizabeth Warren 0

Source: Debate Transcript via ABC News

Where Does This Summer’s NBA Free-Agent Class Rank?

NBA fans (and general managers) have had the summer of 2019 circled on their calendars for a very long time. With names like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving available via free agency — plus the inevitable Anthony Davis trade having already gone down earlier in the month — the sheer amount of star power potentially swapping teams this offseason could reshape the league for years to come.

But is this the most star-studded free-agent summer in recent memory?

It depends on how we look at things.

To calculate the value of every player in each free-agent class since 2010 — the year LeBron James’s “Decision” kicked off our current era of free-agency mania1 — I’m combining three widely used metrics (Value Over Replacement Player, Win Shares and Estimated Wins Added) into a consensus measure of Wins Created, all scaled to an 82-game season. In terms of total Wins Created over the previous three seasons, this year’s top free agents are Durant (39.9), Butler (37.8) and Irving (34.0), who contribute to a three-year total of 1,354.5 Wins Created across all of the 2019 free agents.

Who are the most productive free agents of the summer?

Top 2019 NBA free agents, ranked by Wins Created* over the previous three seasons

Wins Created
Rk Player Age Old Team 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 Total
1 Kevin Durant 31 GS 14.0 12.9 12.9 39.9
2 Jimmy Butler 30 PHI 17.8 11.0 9.1 37.8
3 Kyrie Irving 27 BOS 9.9 11.4 12.7 34.0
4 Kemba Walker 29 CHA 11.4 10.9 11.3 33.7
5 Kawhi Leonard 28 TOR 17.0 1.2 11.0 29.1
6 DeAndre Jordan 31 NY 12.0 8.9 7.8 28.7
7 Al Horford 33 BOS 8.2 9.8 9.4 27.4
8 Nikola Vucevic 29 ORL 6.0 6.0 14.7 26.7
9 Marc Gasol 35 TOR 10.9 6.7 8.5 26.2
10 DeMarcus Cousins 29 GS 13.8 8.4 3.1 25.3
11 Thaddeus Young 31 IND 5.9 7.0 8.7 21.6
12 Tobias Harris 27 PHI 7.4 7.1 7.2 21.6
13 Brook Lopez 31 MIL 7.2 4.2 7.8 19.2
14 Julius Randle 25 NO 4.6 6.6 6.9 18.0
15 Paul Millsap 34 DEN 8.4 2.8 6.4 17.7
16 Enes Kanter 27 POR 3.9 7.7 5.8 17.4
17 Darren Collison 32 IND 3.0 7.3 6.4 16.8
18 Trevor Ariza 34 WAS 7.1 5.7 3.6 16.4
19 Ricky Rubio 29 UTA 6.3 6.3 3.5 16.1
20 Danny Green 32 TOR 4.8 3.9 7.2 15.8

* Based on a blend of Value Over Replacement Player, Win Shares and Estimated Wins Added. Age as of Feb. 1, 2020.

Source: Basketball-Reference.com, Spotrac

Among free-agent classes since 2010, only the 2015 group — which contained James (who re-signed with the Cavaliers after initially rejoining them the previous summer), Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan (whose free-agency saga that year is worthy of its own post), Paul Millsap, Tim Duncan, Kevin Love and Leonard — ranked higher than 2019 by that metric:2

Which free-agent class had the most total production?

Best free agency classes since 2010, based on the total Wins Created* by free-agent players in the preceding three seasons

Summer Best players (by 3-year Wins Created) Overall Total WC
2015 L. James • M. Gasol • D. Jordan 1365.1
2019 K. Durant • J. Butler • K. Irving 1354.5
2013 C. Paul • D. Howard • P. Millsap 1232.1
2017 S. Curry • K. Lowry • K. Durant 1200.6
2010 L. James • D. Wade • D. Nowitzki 1187.1
2012 T. Duncan • D. Williams • G. Wallace 1181.7
2016 L. James • K. Durant • N. Batum 1169.8
2014 L. James • C. Anthony • K. Lowry 1048.0
2018 L. James • K. Durant • C. Paul 1037.7
2011 T. Duncan • N. Hilario • R. Allen 887.8

* Based on a blend of Value Over Replacement Player, Win Shares and Estimated Wins Added.

Source: Basketball-Reference.com

The 2019 class’s ranking is also hampered by Leonard’s nearly season-long absence in 2017-18, when the then-Spurs forward generated just 1.2 wins in nine games. Had Leonard played to his average over the preceding three seasons and created 14.8 wins that year, his three-year total would have been 42.7 — tops in the class, and good enough to boost 2019 to No. 1 on our class rankings over 2015. (But then again, how much else about the league would be different today if Leonard hadn’t suffered that quad injury — the management of which led to a rift with San Antonio, a trade to Toronto and ultimately an NBA championship?)

The summer of 2019 also rises up the ranks to No. 1 if we include Davis as a de facto free agent. (Yes, he went to the Lakers via trade, but Davis’s departure from New Orleans was all but assured, and he was often listed among the offseason’s biggest prizes.) When Davis’s three-year value is included among the rest of the free agents, 2019 pulls ahead of 2015 with a total haul of 1396.4 Wins Created by available players over the previous three seasons.

But strictly in terms of top free-agent talent, this year’s class isn’t quite on the same level as other years. Durant’s 39.9 Wins Created over the previous three years ranks third-lowest among leaders for the 10 years we looked at, ahead of only the 2011 and 2012 free-agent groups (both headlined by Duncan). It’s a far cry from James hitting the 2010 market with a class-high 81.8 Wins Created for the last three seasons under his belt. If we look only at the totals of the Top 10 players available, the 2010 class ranks No. 1, thanks to a ridiculously stacked set of Hall of Famers that included James, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen.

Though this year’s crop has plenty of big names, none of them are coming off performances quite as prodigious as James and Wade had in the years leading up to 2010. (Among the top five, Kemba Walker, at No. 4, comes closest to matching his counterpart from that year, Pierce; Walker generated 33.7 wins over the past three seasons, while Pierce had 33.8 from 2008 through 2010.) But the 2019 free-agent class makes up for its perhaps surprising lack of production at the top with sheer depth:

The next tier of free agents — aka the Khris Middletons and Brook Lopezes of the world — might not contain the sexiest names, but it does offer better-than-usual options to teams who strike out on the biggest free agents. And that’s also true even further down the rankings: An unusual number of players up for free agency this summer (101, to be exact) produced at least five wins over the preceding three seasons, compared with an average of 76 players per season in the nine years leading up to 2019.

Of course, the next handful of championships will still probably hinge on the destinations of Durant, Leonard, Butler and the rest of the biggest names on the list. But if this summer’s free-agent class does end up going down among the best of the decade, it should be just as much on the strength of its lesser stars as its top-line players.

Yes, Democrats Are Paying Plenty Of Attention To The 2020 Election

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll of the week

Political junkies might think the whole country is devotedly following the 2020 presidential campaign (FiveThirtyEight certainly is). But remember, the election is still more than a year away. So it’s definitely fair to ask just how many people are already tuning in.

And with this in mind, a new survey from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that just 35 percent of Democrats1 said they were paying “a good deal” or “a lot” of attention to the campaign so far. Or in other words, only about one-third of Democrats are seriously following the goings-on of the campaign.

But one-third seemed a bit low to me, given that other pollsters have found that Democrats care a lot about picking a candidate they think can defeat President Trump this year, so I took a look at what other pollsters have found this cycle. I found that Quinnipiac University has asked a version of this question three times so far in 2019, finding each time that Democrats are paying quite a bit of attention to the race. For example, 74 percent said they were either paying “a lot” or “some” attention in the most recent survey.2

Democrats aren’t sleeping on 2020

Amount of attention Democratic respondents are paying to the 2020 campaign, according to three 2019 Quinnipiac surveys

Dates None at all Not much Some A lot
June 6-10 8% 18% 29% 45%
May 16-20 4 19 34 44
April 26-30 3 12 27 58

* Don’t know/not applicable not shown.

Source: Quinnipiac University


So what’s going on here? Well, it’s probably not that there’s a huge discrepancy in the number of Democrats paying attention to the election, but rather just a difference in how AP-NORC and Quinnipiac have asked this question. AP-NORC gave respondents five choices: “a lot,”, “a good deal,” “some,” “not much,” “no attention so far,” whereas Quinnipiac only offered four choices, not giving respondents the “a good deal” option.3 This means that in the AP-NORC survey, “some” is used as a middle-of-the-road response, whereas “some” is one of the Quinnipiac poll’s more attentive options. This means these polls aren’t directly comparable, but if you were to add the “some” response in AP-NORC’s survey to those who said they were paying “a lot” or “a good deal” of attention, you’d get 71 percent of Democrats in the AP-NORC poll who say they are following the race at least to “some” degree, which is roughly in line with what Quinnipiac has found.

And if we go back to previous cycles, the numbers from Quinnipiac actually suggest that Democrats are paying just as much attention as they normally would, or even more than usual. A CBS News/New York Times poll from early August 2015 that gave respondents options similar to Quinnipiac found that 72 percent of Democrats were paying either “a lot” or “some” attention. In other words, a poll that came out in August 2015 found Democrats to be just as attentive as a June 2019 survey. Plus, if you compare the people who said they were paying “a lot” of attention in both surveys, you’ll see that only 28 percent said that in the 2015 poll, compared to 45 percent in the Quinnipiac poll. And if we rewind eight more years to a late June 2007 survey from CBS News/New York Times, 71 percent of Democrats said they were paying “a lot” or “some” attention to the race, which is analogous to what Quinnipiac found in its June survey, with, once again, the share saying they were paying “a lot” of attention to the race (20 percent) much lower than what Quinnipiac has found in its 2019 polls.

So don’t read too much into that one AP-NORC survey. It turns out that Democrats may be paying as much attention as usual (or even more).

Other polling bites

  • A new report from the Pew Research Center shows a huge partisan gap over Americans’ attitudes toward capitalism and socialism. Republicans had sharply positive views of capitalism, with 78 percent holding a positive view and just 20 percent holding a negative one. But Democrats held mixed views: 55 percent had a positive impression while 44 percent had a negative one. Conversely, socialism was thoroughly disliked by Republicans, with only 15 percent holding a positive view and 84 percent holding a negative one. But Democrats were much more positive. Sixty-five percent had a positive impression and 33 percent had a negative one.4
  • New polling from Democratic pollster Global Strategy Group suggests that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might make a better target for Democratic candidates in 12 battleground states than President Trump. The survey, sponsored by campaign finance reform group End Citizens United, found Democrats ahead 48 percent to 45 percent on the generic ballot in those swing states. The pollster tested three different messages using McConnell, Trump and Republicans in Congress as foils to see how they changed voting intention. The language about McConnell produced the largest Democratic gain in the margin on the generic ballot — nine percentage points — while the language about Republicans in Congress and Trump increased the Democratic edge by six and three points, respectively.
  • According to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted just before the first Democratic debates, health care was the topic Democrats5 wanted to hear about most — 87 percent said it was very important for the candidates to talk about it. Other issues that were top priorities included: issues affecting women (80 percent), climate change (73 percent), gun policy (72 percent) and income inequality (70 percent).
  • Speaking of the debates, a number of candidates spoke in Spanish at different points, and YouGov recently found that 42 percent of Americans thought candidates are “pandering” when doing this versus 31 percent who believed they are being “respectful.” Among Democrats, 46 percent felt it was respectful compared to 32 percent who said it was pandering. Hispanic Americans also were more likely to view it as respectful (37 percent) than pandering (27 percent).
  • Young voters were an important part of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign in 2016, and new polling from College Pulse found that Democratic college students6 are more supportive of the Vermont senator than other candidates. The group’s latest data showed Sanders with 26 percent, Elizabeth Warren at 20 percent, Biden at 17 percent and Pete Buttigieg at 10 percent. However, this represents continued improvement for Warren, who was in the single digits in April, while Sanders has slid from the low 30s to where he is now.
  • A new report from the Public Religion Research Institute found that only a relatively small share of Americans support refusing services to various minority groups for religious reasons, but that the share has increased in the past five years. Among the key findings was that 30 percent of Americans support business owners refusing service to LGBTQ individuals if it violates their religious beliefs. In 2014, only 16 percent of Americans supported this position.
  • Last week, President Trump decided to hold off on ordering a military strike against Iran, which had shot down a U.S. surveillance drone. A new HarrisX poll found that 26 percent of Americans support taking military action against Iran while 39 percent oppose such a move. Another 34 percent said they were not sure.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 42.3 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 52.7 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -10.4 points). At this time last week, 42.5 percent approved and 53.1 percent disapproved (for a net approval rating of -10.6 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 41.2 percent and a disapproval rating of 54.0 percent, for a net approval rating of -12.8 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 5.8 percentage points (46.1 percent to 40.3 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 6.2 points (46.0 percent to 39.8 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 5.0 points (45.4 percent to 40.4 percent).

Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.


Kirsten Gillibrand Is 2020’s Misfit

More women are running for president than ever. But there’s no one way to do it. This is the second article in a series exploring the way that the female candidates in the 2020 race are navigating questions of identity, sexism and public critique.

As a child, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand recalls being mesmerized by the jiggly arms of middle-aged women stuffing envelopes with political mailers. This is part of her stump speech — a thing you start to notice about Gillibrand is that she seems quite alive to the physicality of being a woman in the world. She talks about the haircuts she got that law firm bosses praised instead of her work, and the indignity of being underestimated by her first political opponent as “just another pretty face” (perhaps not coincidentally, also a humblebrag). In her 2014 book, she mentions her weight — and other people mentioning her weight — well over a dozen times.

Gillibrand might have thought that 2018’s “year of the woman” fervor would sweep along her presidential campaign. Her most high-profile political battles have been about the injustices — large and small — facing women. If voters know her, it’s likely for her fight with the Pentagon on military sexual assault (her reform bill was defeated in 2014) or for when she became “the senator from the state of #MeToo” when she was the first — though not the last — Democratic senator to call for Al Franken to resign.

Behind the crusading work for women is a pragmatic political career. Since her start in politics as an upstate New York congresswoman, Gillibrand evolved her position on guns and immigration. On the trail, Gillibrand talks a lot about how electable she is given the fact that she won 18 Trump-voting counties in her 2018 Senate campaign. But being electable in your home state in 2018 doesn’t necessarily mean you’re electable in a 2020 presidential primary. Gillibrand is currently polling at a dismal 0.5 percent average in polls. Something hasn’t clicked. It might be that Gillibrand’s attempt to mix her activist instincts with a moderate’s pragmatism is too odd a pairing for today’s Democratic Party.


New Hampshire’s highway medians were carpeted with purple lupine and clots of daisies when I caught Gillibrand on a swing through the state in mid-June. Six months into her campaign, she was still playing small venues like The Franklin Studio coffee shop in Franklin, New Hampshire. (Down the street was Granite State Hedgehogs, a purveyor of actual, factual hedgehogs.)

Mike and Pat Kane, retirees from northern Massachusetts, sat in the back of a small room filled with tchotchkes, waiting for Gillibrand to arrive. They hadn’t picked a candidate yet but were intrigued enough by Gillibrand to have made the drive from out of state. Pat described the couple as “socially liberal and fiscally conservative. “We’re not interested in the warriors,” Mike said, meaning Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

While she’s tried hard to make a splash in the overly crowded field, Gillibrand is still introducing herself to voters (her name recognition is in the middle of the pack among 2020 contenders). Gillibrand’s stump speech is heavy on biography, with quick homages to her politicking grandmother and her turkey-shooting mother before a mention of how foolish her 2008 congressional opponent was to launch attack ads on the pregnant mother of a toddler. (Later, Gillibrand told me that her strategy is to overcome media storylines by burrowing into the hearts and minds of as many early state voters as possible: “I have a chance to win them over regardless of what’s going on in the national narrative, so I can break through.”)

There isn’t really a mention of the #MeToo movement in Gillibrand’s stump speech, though she does cite Hillary Clinton’s “women’s rights are human rights” speech as the inspiration for the start of her political career. It’s a fraught reference masquerading as a banal one. In 2017, Gillibrand said Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency because of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. That, along with some of Gillibrand’s other outspoken statements during the height of the #MeToo movement, has in many ways backfired for her politically. Her Clinton comments raised the ire of both Clinton allies and party donors. One prominent Clinton adviser called Gillibrand a “hypocrite” for taking the “Clintons’ money, endorsements and seat,” a reference to the fact that Gillibrand was appointed to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat in 2009 when she became secretary of state for President Obama.

Many traditional large-dollar donors in the party reacted adversely to Gillibrand’s Franken comments, and in an April campaign memo, her team acknowledged that her fundraising “was adversely impacted by certain establishment donors — and many online — who continue to punish Kirsten for standing up for her values and for women.” Gillibrand has continued to struggle with donations and only recently met the 65,000 individual donor threshold for the first debate. Inexperienced candidates Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson both met the metric before Gillibrand.

Gillibrand’s “Brave Wins” slogan seems to reference her trailblazing on issues and her ability to weather harsh criticism (and to take on Trump). But in a primary that has increasingly become about “big idea” reimaginings of American institutions — the health care system, the Electoral College, consumer finance protections, college tuition and debt — she has gotten somewhat lost in the 24-person shuffle. While Gillibrand introduced a paid family leave act this year, it’s not one of the marquee issues of the primary campaign. Her most high-profile work is centered on concerns perceived as affecting women most — sexual harassment, sexual assault — but it’s fellow Democratic contender Sen. Kamala Harris who has most recently grabbed headlines for a plan that would place the burden of equal pay on companies rather than on under-compensated individuals (typically women). In some ways, the progressive drift of the party on issues of identity and gender leaves Gillibrand as part of a progressive pack rather than a leader on gender equality issues. Where Democratic candidates make the most splash seems to be on issues of the economy, often on capitalism itself. Gillibrand has adopted many of the new progressive ideas, but she hasn’t trailblazed on them.

Perhaps that’s why she’s tacking back to a posture of moderation. The bills that Gillibrand mentioned in New Hampshire aren’t necessarily flashy ones, but they have a specific audience in mind. “In the last Congress, I passed 18 bills with a Republican House, Senate and President signing them into law. Those are common-sense bills, like rural broadband, money for made-in-America manufacturing, money for small businesses — things that can actually make a difference in places like Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania,” she said.

Gillibrand had just finished her second event of the day at a bar in Plymouth and we sat across from each other at a high-top table. Earlier she had called herself “the most electable candidate” in the field and I asked Gillibrand whether she worried if the political environment had changed such that a liberal woman from New York is seen as too culturally far afield from swing voters in the Midwest. “Not at all. I think I’m perfect for those voters, in fact, because I’ve been representing those rural places in this climate for the past 10 years.”

When she represented her upstate congressional district 10 years ago, Gillibrand had an “A” rating from the NRA and was against protections for sanctuary cities. She quickly changed those positions to jibe with her downstate constituents, a move that got her plenty of critique as disingenuous. That rapid evolution is part of what makes her 2020 campaign trail mix of progressivism and professed moderate appeal so interesting — it’s high-risk moderation, given that Gillibrand has already been labeled pliable to the whims of the electorate at any given moment.

“I honestly think that Sen. Gillibrand is closer to Kirsten Gillibrand the human being than the congresswoman was,David Paterson, the former governor of New York who appointed Gillibrand to her Senate seat told me. Her mistake, Paterson said, had been that she didn’t manage the ideological transition well in public. “You supervise your own evolution,” he said of politicians.

I was in New Hampshire on one of the last days of motorcycle week. Fairly or not, Trump has become associated with the biker community, at times hinting that they might serve as enforcers of a kind (for what and because of what is never clear). Heading to Gillibrand’s Plymouth bar event, I passed a “Live Free and Dine” sign and a gaggle of bikers. The roads were lousy with Harleys, too, which made the appearance of a white Audi with a Pod Save America “Friend of the Pod” bumper sticker on the road from Franklin to Plymouth all the more striking. Gillibrand’s proposed coalition is, if you are to believe her, Trump sympathizers and Democratic establishment liberals. Given the cultural and political divisions of America in 2019, it’s hard to imagine the two groups crossing into Gillibrand’s lane, whatever that lane is. As the senator might say with a pepped-up grin, “It’s so early.” She’s still hoping for her moment.

From ABC News:
Gillibrand visits GA after speaking out against abortion bans

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What We’re Watching For In The First Democratic Debates

Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s weekly politics chat. The transcript below has been lightly edited.

sarahf (Sarah Frostenson, politics editor): The first Democratic primary debates are finally here. And with two back-to-back nights, featuring 10 candidates each, it’ll be a challenge for many candidates to make an impression, especially those hovering around 1 percent in the polls.

For reference, here’s Wednesday’s lineup: Bill de Blasio, Tim Ryan, Julián Castro, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee and John Delaney.

And Thursday’s: Marianne Williamson, John Hickenlooper, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet and Eric Swalwell.

So let’s talk about the goals we think candidates have for each debate and what we see as the stakes, starting with Wednesday’s lineup.

Sound good?

nrakich (Nathaniel Rakich, elections analyst): Sounds great. I can’t believe it’s debate season already — we were watching 2018 election returns come in just seven months ago!

sarahf: Haha. But watching a debate is such a different experience than watching election results trickle in. So, what are you all looking for on night one?

clare.malone (Clare Malone, senior political writer): Power ties.

That’s it.

Nothing else.

Listen, I’ll say it up front and then engage more deeply: Presidential debates are not real debates. They are chances for candidates to slot in their talking points. They are pseudo-events — PR opportunities manufactured by parties and news organizations to provide turning points and tension during a long slog. They are only meaningful because we decide to give them meaning. (I will repeat this when we have to cover political conventions.)

But I guess that said, I’m curious to see what the people at the dregs of the polls are going to do with their time and if any of them are impressive. I think for someone like Gillibrand who’s polling poorly but has been in politics for a long time, the debates are a real moment.

nrakich: True, but I will say debates can be meaningful precisely because they are PR opportunities. For many of these candidates, it will be by far the most exposure their talking points have gotten yet.

And maybe, say, Eric Swalwell has really good talking points, and the nation realizes that and he jumps to 7 percent in next week’s polls.

Debates may be theater, but they can also have an impact.

That said, we probably shouldn’t expect the entire landscape of the race to change.

clare.malone: I don’t say my debate piece to be glib. I just think we need to be cognizant of who and what are shaping the presidential election right now.

I’m also curious to see how many people actually tune in. That says a lot.

nrakich: Agreed, and I wonder how this week’s debates will rate. The highest-rated Democratic debate of 2016 had 15.3 million viewers; the highest-rated Republican debate had 24 million.

Republicans drew more eyeballs than Democrats in 2016

Ratings, in millions of viewers, for the 2016 Democratic and Republican prime-time primary debates

Debate Democrats Republicans
1st 15.3m
2nd 8.5
3rd 7.8
4th 10.2
5th 4.5
6th 8.0
7th 5.5
8th 6.0
9th 5.6

Democrats had only nine primary debates in the 2016 cycle.

Sources: News Reports

geoffrey.skelley (Geoffrey Skelley, elections analyst): I’m with Clare that it’s going to be interesting to see how the potential also-ran candidates try to have a moment (or moments). There are 20 candidates, 10 in each debate, but most of them are polling below 5 percent if you average all the polls the Democratic National Committee considered for debate qualification.

The second debate features more heavyweight candidates

Combined polling averages of the candidates in each of the first two 2019 Democratic debates

June 26 debate No. of Polls Avg June 27 debate No. of Polls Avg
Warren 23 8.7% Biden 23 29.9%
O’Rourke 23 5.1 Sanders 23 18.3
Booker 23 2.6 Harris 23 7.6
Klobuchar 23 2.0 Buttigieg 23 5.8
Castro 22 0.9 Yang 21 1.0
Ryan 16 0.6 Gillibrand 23 0.5
Gabbard 23 0.5 Hickenlooper 23 0.4
Inslee 22 0.4 Bennet 16 0.3
De Blasio 15 0.4 Williamson 19 0.2
Delaney 23 0.2 Swalwell 18 0.2
Total support 21.4 Total support 64.0
Average support 2.1 Average support 6.4

Candidate averages based on 23 qualifying polls sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee for determining debate qualification that have been conducted since the start of 2019. Total support does not add up to 100 percent due to undecided respondents, support for candidates who didn’t end up running for president and support for candidates who didn’t qualify.

Source: Polls

sarahf: What do we make of the argument that the first night is Elizabeth Warren’s to lose? Too much of a simplification?

nrakich: Well, as the table above shows, and as Geoffrey and I wrote earlier, Warren is the only top-tier candidate in Wednesday’s debate. That could work to her advantage.

But on the other hand, it’s dangerous to have high expectations like that!

Other candidates in that debate may be skilled debaters as well — in particular, I’m thinking Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker.

clare.malone: I think night one is likely to be friendlier. Warren is going to be targeted, I’d guess, in the same way that Sanders and Biden will be, but maybe won’t be quite as under fire.

geoffrey.skelley: Given the fact it’s the first debate, I lean toward the camp that thinks Warren might benefit from being the lone star on stage. As the polling leader, she’ll likely get the most time and questions, which I think will let her policy mojo shine.

And because it’s the first debate, it’ll still get eyeballs even though a lot of big hitters go Thursday.

natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): Wow I just got warped into this chat!

And I just wanna start off by saying that I think the tone so far is verging on the side of underestimating the impact of the debates. It’s not that they’re that important, but that everything else isn’t that important.

sarahf: That’s fair, Nate. FiveThirtyEight contributor Julia Azari wrote a piece earlier this week on what we know about primary debates, and I thought it was interesting that she found that studies generally show that primary debates actually have a better chance of changing voters’ minds than general election debates. And that’s because voters can’t rely on their party identification as much when selecting which candidate to support.

natesilver: But in terms of the first night, I think the idea that it’s “Candidate X’s night to lose” is generally a dangerous position for that candidate to be in because it means expectations are set fairly high.

I also think Warren may be someone who does better with repeated, prolonged exposure. So she could be good in say a four-person debate, but I’m not as sure about a 10-person debate.

With that said, I think the media is still generally bullish on the “Warren emerges as Biden’s main rival” angle.

clare.malone: “Repeated prolonged exposure” sounds oddly gruesome, Nate.

nrakich: The New York Times had a whole article about Elizabeth Warren’s academic debate career.

That’s definitely expectations-raising.

geoffrey.skelley: I get the expectations danger — it’s a huge part of the primary process. But I wonder if it’ll be a wash because the only candidate who really has a target on his/her back is Biden.

sarahf: Why do you think that, Geoff?

geoffrey.skelley: Well, the media is going to look for storylines, of course, but Warren probably isn’t in much danger of having other candidates on stage attacking her. After all, she’s been more in the driver’s seat on policy issues.

nrakich: I think it depends on who is doing the attacking. Someone like Tim Ryan might attack Biden because he thinks Biden is in his “lane.” But Bernie Sanders might go after Warren, perceiving that he is losing support to her.

geoffrey.skelley: Right, but Warren won’t be on the stage with Sanders or Biden.

So in terms of optics, I think the fact she’s undoubtedly the one star on that stage might help her.

nrakich: I don’t think a candidate has to be on stage for candidates to attack them.

For example, I think a certain 45th president is going to be on the receiving end of more attacks than all of the Democratic candidates put together.

sarahf: Yeah, I’m with Rakich. And I think it might even be a good strategy for Warren to pit herself against the other Democratic front-runners, even if they aren’t on the stage.

natesilver: So if you’re, like, Klobuchar or Booker, what are your goals in the debate?

clare.malone: I think someone like Klobuchar needs to introduce herself on some level.

nrakich: 1. Have a viral moment or a killer line that will be replayed on cable news/can be leveraged for fundraising. 2. Chip away at the candidates who are ahead of you in your “lane.” That’s probably Biden for both of them.

clare.malone: Booker might be likely to use some of his anti-Biden momentum from the last week or so.

sarahf: Right, he’s already seen an uptick in cable news clips.

natesilver: But don’t Clare and Rakich’s arguments contradict one another?

nrakich: I wouldn’t say so, Nate. Often, the best introduction can be a defining moment.

clare.malone: Which part of Rakich’s thing?

natesilver: Like, re-introducing yourself and trying for a killer one-liner seem like different objectives.

geoffrey.skelley: The one danger in attacking is that you can’t know how it’s going to affect things, if it does at all. This is especially true in a super-crowded field. For instance, what if Booker comes off looking bad for going “too far” in attacking Biden, and somehow Klobuchar benefits because of how she handled herself?

natesilver: But by going on the attack don’t you cheapen yourself to some degree?

When you want to project seriousness and steadiness?

clare.malone: Killer lines don’t have to be flip.

That seems like YOUR projection 🙂

I think someone like Buttigieg could engineer that whole “I’m no fisherman, but I know bait when I see it” and could turn it into a moment where he shows how he’s above the fray.

That is, killer line (in the eye of the beholder) + delivered seriously.

natesilver: But I mean if you’re Harris or Buttigieg, I think you wanna be above the fray, especially if Bernie and Biden go after one another.

I also think Harris and Buttigieg are in a considerably more secure position than, say, Klobuchar.

clare.malone: For sure, Klobuchar and Gillibrand I put in the same category of needing to have a big night.

sarahf: So, that’s something I want to probe a bit more. It seems as if we’re all operating under the assumption that these first debates could shake up the polling in the race, right? So I guess my question is when do we think this will happen?

And is there a possibility that things might not change that much until later in the cycle?

geoffrey.skelley: I would think the early debates have the potential to have a bigger effect than the later debates because people aren’t yet familiar with many of the candidates.

nrakich: I think things definitely have the potential to change within a week or two.

I think we’ll need a couple of days to see how the debate is playing out on cable news — what’s getting replayed, etc.

Then we’ll need a week — or a little less — for that to start reverberating in polls.

natesilver: I mostly disagree. I think the effects will tend to be strongest in the first 24-48 hours, which, yeah, could take a few days for us to detect.

But I think it happens pretty fast.

clare.malone: Everything Nate says in this chat sounds like he’s dealing with a deadly virus.

sarahf: But do you think we could be overestimating folks’ interest in the debates? What was it that AP-NORC poll found this week, that only 35 percent of Democrats are really paying attention to the race so far? I mean, clearly, that’s not us … but I guess I’m torn on whether these debates will really move the dial much. (Also reader, stay tuned — we’re going to be tracking some of these questions in real-time with a new poll from Morning Consult!)

natesilver: Well, if only 35 percent of Democrats are paying a lot of attention to the campaign, how many of them will actually vote in the primaries?

clare.malone: How many, Nate?

natesilver: There were about 30 million votes in 2016, which is a lot but not that many.

By comparison, there are somewhere on the order of roughly 160 million registered voters.

Of whom let’s say 70 million are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents in states with open primaries.

So 35 percent of 70 million is about 25 million, which is not far from 2016 primary turnout!

geoffrey.skelley: This is all just a complicated way of saying a lot people don’t really tune into politics until the general election.

If they do at all.

sarahf: I don’t know, 25 million was probably more than I was expecting.

nrakich: But remember that more people than usual are saying they are interested in the 2020 election.

Sixty-nine percent of voters said in an April/May NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that they were very interested in the 2020 election, which is almost as many as said that in October of 2012 or 2016!

natesilver: I’m just saying I think people are learning the wrong lesson from the “daily controversy of the week didn’t move the numbers” stories.

The debates tend to generate a LOT more polling movement than the daily controversies.

clare.malone: But does that movement last?

Or is it a proverbial “bump”? Like a bump from a convention or when you hop in the race?

natesilver: It’s often a bump.

But everything can be a bump.

clare.malone: 🤰


nrakich: But the thing about a bump is that your horse-race numbers might fall back to earth, but people don’t un-remember you.

And boosting your name recognition is half the battle.

Look at Pete Buttigieg — his polling numbers have fallen down a bit, but he still has pretty high name recognition and favorability ratings.

natesilver: I’m most curious about the candidates who have good favorables but not that much first-place support, like Harris and Booker in particular.

sarahf: This story compared candidates’ net favorability (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating) in May to the first of the year, but I think there’s still a lot of room for these candidates to become better known and improve their favorability ratings. Even someone like Buttigieg, who has seen tremendous growth in name recognition since he entered the race, has the potential to be better known and better liked. After all, only about 60 percent of Democrats have an opinion of him.

Major 2020 Candidates change in the polls and name recognition

nrakich: Well, I would be cautious about going too far there, Sarah — those last 40 percent are probably the hardest people to get the attention of.

And I’d guess the Democrats who will tune into the debates this week are probably disproportionately from the 60 percent of Democrats who have heard of him.

sarahf: That’s fair, but I think if he has a good debate performance, he could still get closer to, say, Harris’s or Warren’s lower bound.

And as to my meta-debate question: What impact do we think, if any, the moderators are going to have on shaping the debate?

natesilver: How they divide time between all 10 candidates and the 3-4 candidates in the middle of the stage each night will be important.

If I were a moderator then TBH I’d be like “fuck these candidates polling at zero percent” and focus on the ones with more plausible shots at the nomination.

I think that serves the audience better.

But that’s why I’d never be asked to be a moderator.

clare.malone: That’s why you’re not a moderator.


natesilver: Haha.

clare.malone: And in some ways, they’re playing within the strictures that the DNC has laid out.

nrakich: We’ve had this debate in previous Slack chats, Nate. I think, especially for these early debates, the moderator really has a responsibility to give equal time to everyone.

If they haven’t made their case after being given fair time in the first few debates, then I think it is fair for the media to start #winnowing.

geoffrey.skelley: I don’t know. I’m pretty skeptical of the notion John Delaney deserves equal time with, say, Warren. But he should get a shot to answer some questions, of course.

natesilver: Nah, fuck those people. They already get way too much media attention I think.

And it’s to the point where they’re sort of exploiting the media’s goodwill in certain ways.

nrakich: John Delaney was mentioned in 0.3 percent of cable news clips last week! Warren was mentioned in 15.5 percent.

natesilver: Which is 0.2 percent more than he should be in probably.

I feel differently about the ones who actually have credentials, like Inslee or Klobuchar or Booker.

clare.malone: That feels like a shot at Marianne Williamson.

natesilver: But if you’re just some random backbench U.S. rep. or mayor, you’d better earn your media attention.

geoffrey.skelley: I mean, the Democrats did set up rules that ended up keeping out a twice-elected U.S. governor and let in a spiritual adviser to Oprah.

But everyone knew the rules, so that’s also on Steve Bullock, too.

clare.malone: It’s definitely on Bullock!

I don’t begrudge Williamson for being popular amongst a certain set of voters.

sarahf: Yeah, I thought Williamson had some engaging, thoughtful answers in that New York Times video series where they interviewed all the candidates.

And she was way more dynamic than Yang.

Sorry, but I’m not sorry.

nrakich: She’s charismatic, I will give her that. (It’s hard not to be when you’re a motivational speaker by trade.)

natesilver: She’s not actually popular, though.

It doesn’t take much to hit one percent in three polls and get 65,000 people to donate to you in a country of 330 million people.

clare.malone: Well, to be fair, a lot of the candidates are not that popular.

sarahf: That’s true. But it does seem as if operatives in the Democratic Party would be upset with a Williamson nomination (as they would be with Sanders or Tulsi Gabbard).

Gabbard or Williamson draw a lot of opposition

Share of respondents who said they would not consider supporting a candidate in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary

Activists Oppose
candidate april 2019 june
Gabbard 59%
Sanders 50
Yang 35
De Blasio
Delaney 38
Hickenlooper 29
O’Rourke 29
Bennet 26
Biden 41
Klobuchar 29
Gillibrand 26
Buttigieg 26
Inslee 21
Warren 18
Castro 15
Booker 6
Harris 3

Respondents were asked about the 23 commonly mentioned candidates listed above, but they were also provided space to write in candidates not listed.


But OK, I don’t think we’ve actually talked about what we’re expecting in night two specifically.

… Is it clarity on Biden’s policy positions?

natesilver: No, I think it’s whether Biden and Bernie look old and stale up there and whether that means that something clicks in voters’ heads just from seeing a number of younger, credible alternatives to them.

nrakich: Yeah, I think the biggest difference-maker could be whether Biden shows his age.

The Joe Biden that most people remember is from the 2008 or 2012 campaign trail.

He hasn’t debated since that vice presidential debate against Paul Ryan seven years ago.

He’s 76 now. And we know that Americans are hesitant about electing a president who’s over 70.

sarahf: OK, fine, Biden is old. But so is Trump. And I think the moderators will at least push him a little on the issues as he hasn’t made his views on many policies known.

geoffrey.skelley: And the other candidates.

clare.malone: Definitely, the other candidates.

natesilver: Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh I’m not sure that isn’t at least halfway a media trope rather than a reality about Biden.

Other than Warren, a lot of the candidates have fairly vague policy positions.

nrakich: Agreed, Nate.

natesilver: And Biden has provided detail on some issues like climate and immigration.

nrakich: He’s also surprisingly liberal on issues like the minimum wage (he wants to raise it to $15 an hour). I think the media narrative around Biden’s policy positions is a little out of step with reality and shaped more by decades-old controversies.

clare.malone: What are you arguing?

That moderators won’t push him?

That’s slightly beside the point. I think other candidates will likely go after him.

Bernie, for instance, comes to mind.

nrakich: I just don’t see what Bernie has to gain from going after Biden? On the other hand, that assumes he is a rational strategic actor …

natesilver: Oh, see, I don’t see what Bernie has to lose from going after Biden.

I think Bernie has to be like “I’m the best overall contrast with Biden.” Right now, I think he’s done too much playing to his niche and not enough to the broader electorate.

It’s a tough balance to strike.

But Sanders has been on a downward trajectory in the polls, and I don’t think he’s someone who should be too risk-averse.

clare.malone: But … do you think he’s going to try to broaden?

geoffrey.skelley: Not especially.

clare.malone: That doesn’t seem too Sanders-y.

natesilver: I think he’s been getting bad advice by not trying to broaden more.

geoffrey.skelley: But Sanders’s strategy is predicated on winning with a plurality in a fragmented, crowded field.

natesilver: In which case I guess you have to take out Biden.

And sorta win ugly.

But, like, I think his strategy has been mistaken from the get-go.

Maybe it’s too late to change it now, though.

nrakich: I guess he does have lots of practice going after “establishment Democrats” from his 2016 debates with Hillary Clinton.

Maybe that is his comfort zone.

geoffrey.skelley: Right. I guess the approach Sanders takes at the debates might give us insight into whether he’s considering an alternate path to win the nomination.

natesilver: I think Sanders maybe doesn’t realize that running as the anti-establishment candidate might have been a good strategy to finish a respectable second place to Hillary Clinton given the unique circumstances of 2016, and that it’s probably a pretty bad strategy otherwise for winning presidential nominations.

clare.malone: I think he wants to run his way, though.

natesilver: Well, good for him but I think he’s quite unlikely to win the nomination that way.

clare.malone: Fair, Nate, but I think we have to consider what might be driving his logic. Which means I think we have to concede that Sanders sees himself as an ideological purist, or a totally alternate choice.

sarahf: OK, last question. Two back-to-back nights of debates complicates the viewing experience — the candidates are split, some lower-tier candidates maybe shouldn’t even be on the stage, and other candidates didn’t even make the cut. But, setting that aside, what are the big takeaways you’re looking for?

geoffrey.skelley: I feel like one of the lower-tier candidates is going to have a viral moment of sorts, so who is that? They’re actively trying to do this, by the way.

nrakich: Took the words right out of my mouth, Geoffrey.

natesilver: AnDrEw YaNg.

sarahf: mArIaNnE wILlIaMsOn.

Woo, fun lettering.

nrakich: What does the fun lettering thing mean? Are you being serious, but in a winking way? Or are you mocking the thing you are writing?

natesilver: It’s a troll font.

nrakich: Right, which kind of troll?

natesilver: With good trolling you’re never sure what type of trolling it is.

sarahf: To be clear, I’m just trolling Nate.

SEO Vs PPC: Backlink Project Increases Traffic 1200%

This is the power of backlinks at their best. A recent client complained that they have never ranked on page one of Google for their brand name product. After a thorough review of the site and it’s off page factors I listed out the issues the site faced and what would correct the site’s performance.

Diagnosing SEO Problem

Its important to perform an SEO Audit of a site to determine what needs to change.

  1. Backlinks: Hardly any domains linked to the site using the brand name as the anchor text. This was the greatest issue the site faced in ranking.
  2. On-Page SEO: Rather than using <h1><h2> header tags the site utilized CSS styled <div> tags. These visually looked the same to a visitor but that failed to provide the direction that the header tags would to a search engine bot.
  3. Technical SEO: The site load time was 20 seconds. A single auto starting video on the homepage accounted for 18.5 seconds of this load time. After removing it in a test page the site loaded in 1.5 seconds.  A site needs to load in a 3 second load time, 5 seconds is acceptable but also the limit.
  4. PPC Vs. SEO Landing Page: The site was laid out as a single page web site with nearly 10,000 words…all possible related content was on the single landing page which was likely well suited for PPC but not SEO. Google couldn’t easily return a specific page that had a lot of content on a specific keyword.

Ultimate SEO made suggestions that were ignored largely on the second, third and fourth points, often people stay fixed to their status quo. Ultimate SEO had control over the most important SEO factor which was the site’s backlinks at least and I went to work.

Backlinks And Referring Domains

increasing backlinks

increasing backlinks

After placing backlinks 15/15 new domains I had linked to the site we’re registered and added to the site’s formula. Traffic responded better than I expected…

organic seo traffic

organic seo traffic

Increasing Organic SEO Traffic

The site’s organic traffic had been previously in the single digits, now at 1,600 a month later I could claim a 1235% increase in organic traffic. The site had never received this much organic traffic. It had been largely fueled by an increase in keywords of over 600%. This is an example of how a domain’s authority and trust can be raised through backlinks to improve keyword adoption across the domain.

SEO Vs. PPC Traffic

The client had other similar site’s that I hadn’t focused on that saw updates to the onpage tags and discussion on the technical SEO challenges. These sites saw no real change in organic traffic during the same period.

The client had used PPC campaigns to promote the sites with their desired keywords and the costs associated with this neared a hundred thousand a month. The new organic SEO traffic is valued by SEMrush.com at nearly $7,000 a month. The beauty of this SEO position swing is that it’s going to be there for months to come under the right care and conditions. Where PPC is a one time boom to traffic.

User behavior is also generally more forgiving than paid traffic. Those who find your site via searching generally provide lower bounce percentages which in turn further improve your search position. So believe me when I say, backlinks make or break your ability to rank any content.  PPC is a great solution for short term needs and gains but the ROI is with SEO.

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SEO Vs PPC: Backlink Project Increases Traffic 1200%

Can We Just Let One Season End Before Predicting The Next?

In the last couple of weeks, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Milwaukee Bucks both earned themselves a dubious honor. Each was crowned a champion … of next season’s betting odds. (Congrats! That and $2.45 will get you a large10 coffee at Starbucks.) According to data provided to FiveThirtyEight by the betting sites SportsBetting.ag and BetOnline.ag, Tampa Bay was installed as 8-to-1 favorites to win the 2020 Stanley Cup within hours of the St. Louis Blues winning the 2019 Stanley Cup, while the Bucks were made 9-to-2 favorites for next year’s NBA title before the confetti even settled on the Toronto Raptors’ 2019 victory.

It’s all part of a movement toward increased focus on next year’s potential winners, practically before the current champs can even be entered into the record books. “The day-after, next-year title odds have certainly become a big deal in our industry,” said Scott Cooley, a spokesman for the two oddsmakers above. “We started doing them with the online books maybe six to seven years ago, and Vegas has caught on over the last couple of years.”

The media has hopped on the trend as well in recent years. ESPN reported on the 2020 NBA favorite picks in the betting markets roughly 17 hours after the Raptors’ Game 6 win over the Golden State Warriors ended,11 and often the reports will come even sooner after the championship than that. Speculation about the next champ can practically bump the current champ out of the news cycle.

Those two kinds of teams — current champs and speculative future champs — overlap surprisingly infrequently, depending on the sport. In the data we analyzed, which covers the four major men’s pro leagues going back to either 2009 (for the NBA, MLB and NFL) or 2010 (NHL), the just-crowned champion was installed as the following season’s favorite 17 times in 45 chances (38 percent). Six of the 12 defending NBA champs since 2009 were in that category, which makes sense for a sport in which previous postseason success plays a disproportionate role in the championship hunt. By comparison, the defending Super Bowl winner was instantly named the next NFL favorite just three times in 11 chances over the same span, a number that includes the current Patriots, who are fresh off a win in Super Bowl LIII.

The Pats are perennial next-day picks, gaining that distinction seven times in the 11 NFL seasons we looked at, including 2019. (That’s sort of what happens when you maintain the top dynasty in the history of football, if not all of pro sports.) But even the Patriots have failed to convert those next-day titles into real ones with some regularity: They won as favorites in 2016 and 2018, but lost in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2017. That’s not too surprising — if we look at the history of next-day favorites, they lose far more often than they win (because even the favorite is typically an underdog against the field):

How often have next-day favorites won?

Eventual championship status for teams named next-day favorites according to the betting markets

Season Team Won? Team Won?
2020 Lightning ? Bucks ?
2019 Lightning Warriors
2018 Penguins Warriors ✔
2017 Penguins ✔ Warriors ✔
2016 Blackhawks Cavaliers ✔
2015 Blackhawks ✔ Heat
2014 Penguins Heat
2013 Penguins Heat ✔
2012 Canucks Heat ✔
2011 Blackhawks Heat
2010 Red Wings Lakers ✔
2009 Celtics
Season Team Won? Team Won?
2019 Patriots ? Astros, Red Sox ?
2018 Patriots ✔ Astros
2017 Patriots Cubs
2016 Panthers, Patriots*, Seahawks ✔ Cubs ✔
2015 Seahawks Dodgers, Nationals
2014 Seahawks Dodgers
2013 49ers, Broncos Tigers
2012 Patriots Phillies
2011 Patriots Phillies
2010 Colts Yankees
2009 Patriots Yankees ✔

* The Patriots were NFL co-favorites in 2016 and won the Super Bowl.


A new champion doesn’t always get very much respect from the oddsmakers in the immediate wake of its victory. The Raptors, for instance, opened the 2020 championship betting at fourth in the NBA (8-to-1 odds), while the Blues started 2020 in a tie for fifth in the NHL (12-to-1 odds) right after hoisting the Cup. Most of the time, however, the champs stay pretty close to the top of the sport. Only five of the 45 new champs we looked at fell out of the top five for their league when looking ahead to the following season: The 2008 Philadelphia Phillies (sixth looking ahead to 2009), the 2015 Denver Broncos (seventh for 2016), the 2018 Washington Capitals (eighth for 2019), the 2011 New York Giants (eighth for 2012) and the 2012 Baltimore Ravens (13th for 2013).

Number of champions in the NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL with a certain ranking in the next-day betting odds for the following season, since 2009

Rank Count
1st 17
2nd 12
3rd 5
4th 2
5th 4
6th 1
7th 1
8th 2
9th 0
10th 0
11th 0
12th 0
13th 1


This summer was actually an unusual moment in that regard, between the NBA and NHL. It was the first time in our data where both leagues’ champions opened in fourth place or worse in the next season’s odds at the same time. This is perhaps because both the Raptors and Blues were first-time champions in their respective sports, and each was a relative surprise champion as well (the Blues began the season as the 19th-ranked betting choice, 40-to-1 to win it all, while the Raptors were ninth with 60-to-1 title odds).

This isn’t the first time the books have shown an affinity for a team — like, say, the Lightning — whose previous season didn’t end in glorious fashion. But that doesn’t happen very often. Granting that some sports’ playoff structures don’t feature rounds of equivalent size before their playoff quarterfinals,12 Tampa Bay joined the 2012 Pittsburgh Penguins and 2010 Miami Heat as the only teams in our sample to exit in the first round of the NBA or NHL playoffs and then immediately become championship favorites the day after the playoffs ended. (And that Heat team comes with a special disclaimer we’ll talk about later.)

Number of next-day betting odds favorites in the NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL that finished the previous playoffs a given number of rounds from the championship, since 2009

Rounds From Championship Count
0 16
1 12
2 9
3 6
4 3


More than half of the freshly minted next-day favorites in our sample had either just won (35 percent) or lost (26 percent) in their sport’s championship round. So it’s pretty unusual to see a team such as the Lightning flame out in the playoffs and then immediately be named favorites for the following season. Then again, Tampa Bay had been named next-day favorites going into the 2018-19 season as well (after losing a tough seven-game conference final to the eventual-champ Capitals), then proceeded to rattle off one of the most dominant regular seasons in hockey history before falling flat in one of the game’s most epic playoff disappointments. The 2019 NHL playoffs were a chaotic mess anyway — the eventual champs fired their coach midseason and were playoff longshots for most of the regular season — so it might have been the perfect mix of factors to elevate a team back to favorite status despite a postseason flop.

These next-day odds can change pretty quickly anyway. Although the Bucks were technically 2020 favorites in the moments after Toronto won it all, the Los Angeles Lakers usurped that distinction just a day later, being installed as 7-to-2 favorites after trading for former Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis. It was a pretty remarkable leap to the top of the heap, given that LeBron James and LA didn’t even make the playoffs the previous season. (None of the next-day favorites we’ve been looking at in this data set could say that.)

But that’s nothing compared with the summer of 2010, when the oddsmakers avoided officially releasing the next-day NBA odds altogether. We included their first batch of odds in the calculation above — hence the Heat’s jump to No. 1 for 2011 — but those numbers were actually released after free agency had begun. Although the 2010 season ended on June 17, odds for 2011 weren’t posted until July 9 because of the uncertainty around LeBron’s free-agency “Decision.” Considering that this summer may rival 2010 in terms of the amount of NBA talent on the move, it’s not impossible that the 2020 favorite in the NBA betting markets will shift again in the next few weeks.

The era of immediate speculation does nothing to help temper the expectations placed on teams who are “supposed” to win. For example, the Los Angeles Dodgers — who haven’t won a World Series since 1988 — have been named next-day favorites twice in the past six seasons (in 2014 and 2015) and have never ranked lower than third place in the next-day odds over that span. With each passing instance of an on-paper championship (and no real one), a team’s disappointment comes even more into focus.

But the trend of impatiently looking ahead to next season doesn’t seem like it will let up anytime soon. As the lines begin to blur between one season’s end and the next one’s beginning — particularly given the way fans consume sports now and how the media covers it — there’s too much interest in far-off futures odds for anyone to ignore them. So that means we’re in store for plenty more speculative champions being crowned, even if the actual ones aren’t finished celebrating yet.

How Will Biden’s Latest Comments Affect His Standing In The Democratic Primary?

Joe Biden’s popularity with black voters is a huge factor in the 2020 Democratic primary. In most state and national polls that show results by race, Biden has big leads over his Democratic rivals among African-American voters. He leads more narrowly, and sometimes trails, among white Democrats. His strong black support creates the potential for Biden to survive an early loss in Iowa and/or New Hampshire by dominating the contests in the South, which tend to have large black electorates.1

So with black voters so vital to his candidacy, this week’s controversy around Biden seems really important at first glance. This wasn’t a single gaffe by the ex-vice president, but really four. In remarks at a fundraiser on Tuesday night, Biden emphasized his ability to work across the aisle by referring to his relationships with James Eastland, a Democratic senator from Mississippi from 1943-1978, and Heman Talmadge, a Democratic senator from Georgia who served from 1957-1981. Both men were strong opponents of desegregation. Making it worse, Biden specifically noted that Eastland had referred to him as “son,” but not “boy” — a cringeworthy comment by Biden because white Americans in that era often called black adults “boy” to demean them. When Sen. Cory Booker said that the vice president should apologize for the “boy” and Eastland comments, Biden responded by saying it was Booker who should apologize, with Biden essentially describing himself as the aggrieved person in this dispute, not Booker, one of only three African-American members of the Senate. Finally, the Democratic front-runner invoked a phrase often used by older white people after making problematic racial comments, “there’s not a racist bone in my body.”

Nothing Biden said this week is likely to be featured in a class on how to discuss racial issues well. But we should be careful not to assume Biden’s inartful comments will hurt the front-runner, particularly with black voters. And If this episode does erode Biden’s support, it’s likely to be with a broad range of Democrats, not just black voters.

To start, black voters aren’t only the Democrats who might find Biden’s comments particularly problematic. As FiveThirtyEight has written before, the intense coverage since 2014 of police shootings of African-Americans and the rise of Black Lives Matter have resulted in a sharp rise in the percentage of white Democrats who believe blacks suffer from both past and current racial discrimination, according to polls.

Here’s Democrats overall on racism:

And Democrats by race on equal rights:

Those charts are a little out of date, but recent data shows a similar dynamic. A Pew Research Center survey conducted earlier this year found that 80 percent of white Democrats feel that the legacy of slavery still affects African-Americans, just shy of the 87 percent of black Democrats who hold that view.2 According to Pew, a higher percentage of white Democrats (78 percent) than black Democrats (71 percent) said that being white helps a person get ahead in America today.

What kind of white Democrats might be the most bothered by Biden’s comments? In the Pew data, the white Americans most likely to say that blacks face particular disadvantages are those who are have college degrees and are under age 30. Remember that polls of Democratic primary voters generally show Biden with big leads among older, less-educated and more moderate Democrats, while younger, more liberal and more educated Democrats are more divided on his candidacy. So one potential outcome is these comments reinforce that dynamic — this is another reason for younger and more liberal Democrats across racial lines to oppose Biden, but his older and more moderate supporters aren’t as annoyed by them. (Biden’s base has essentially shrugged off controversies about how he has touched women in the past.) My bottom line: Don’t assume this controversy cuts along purely black-white lines.

But if these comments could hurt Biden will all Democrats, they could alternatively not really damage him much at all — even among black voters. Poll after poll has found that Biden has very, very high approval ratings among black voters. For example, a survey conducted last month on behalf of the Black Economic Alliance found that 76 percent of black Democrats are either enthusiastic or comfortable with Biden’s candidacy, compared to just 16 percent who are uncomfortable or have some reservations. This was the best favorable/unfavorable of any of the candidates that respondents were asked about. And according to data from Morning Consult, which is conducting weekly polls of the 2020 race with large sample sizes — giving us more resolution on results for subgroups — older black voters really, really like Biden: He is getting more than 55 percent of the Democratic primary vote among blacks age 45 and over, compared to 34 percent among blacks under age 45.

So I’m skeptical that this controversy will substantially erode that support, particularly among older black voters who have such positive feelings about Biden. In the early stages of this race, he has already weathered another issue that involves race: his treatment of Anita Hill during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas in 1991, when Biden was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I’m not predicting that Biden, in a much different primary race, wins black voters by Clinton-level margins. But the idea that black voters will swing wildly away from a candidate because a gaffe or controversy involves race just isn’t borne out by history or the data. In 2016, Hillary Clinton faced a lot of flak over a 1994 anti-crime bill that many Democratic activists now argue was overly punitive, specifically toward African-Americans, since her husband was the person who signed it into law. But she still overwhelmingly won the black vote in the Democratic primary. Biden was heavily involved in that bill — but so far, that has not dented his support with black voters. And amid this week’s controversy, several members of the Congressional Black Caucus publicly defended Biden.

In fact, Biden’s comments might reinforce one thing some black voters like about him: Biden might be relatable to people with some racist views, making Biden more electable than, say, a black candidate. It’s hard to get at these dynamics in formal polls. But in interviews I’ve done (and other reporters have found this as well), black voters often express the view that the U.S. elections in 2008 and 2012 were somewhat of an anomaly (that Americans would elect a black president). For them, 2016 was a return to normal (Americans elected a president who had expressed some anti-black sentiments). One of the challenges for Harris’s campaign in particular has been that many African-Americans voters, having watched the hatred of Obama from some Republicans and then Trump’s victory, believe that America is too racist and sexist to elect a black female president.

In short, black voters care about “electability” too — and that is likely benefitting Biden, at least at this stage of the campaign. Lots of polls have found a majority of Democrats are prioritizing beating Trump over issues and policy. That includes black voters. The firm Avalanche Strategy, in data provided to FiveThirtyEight, found that about a quarter of black voters would prefer a different 2020 candidate than the one that they currently favor if they could wave a “magic wand” and just make the person president without him or her having to win the primary or the general election. That share is about the same for Latino and non-Hispanic white voters.

It’s hard to predict what will happen to Biden’s standing in the wake of this week’s news. But I think it’s increasingly clear that the way we think about racial controversies (with the implication that minorities are particularly triggered by them) and the black vote (assuming it is fairly monolithic) are off. Biden’s positive mentions of his work with segregationist senators may have annoyed nonblack Democrats as much or more than black ones. And the biggest question is not whether it pulls all black people from Biden — the younger ones are already kind of ambivalent about him — but whether it breaks his bond with older black people.