What Our Forecast Says About The Nevada Caucuses At The District Level

For the first time this cycle, a state that isn’t more than 85 percent white will weigh in on who should be the Democratic nominee for president. There are significant demographic differences among Nevada’s four congressional districts, too, which could mean different candidates will win different districts — unlike in Iowa and New Hampshire where the district-level picture didn’t vary much. This is important because 23 of the 36 pledged delegates at stake in Nevada today are actually awarded based on the winner of each congressional district, not who wins statewide.

Our primary model takes this into account, calculating the average forecasted pledged delegates for each candidate in each district. And while we forecast that Sen. Bernie Sanders will win the state so handily that he also carries all four congressional districts, some of the lower-polling candidates are still likely to do better in some corners of the state than in others.

Nevada’s 1st Congressional District, which covers the heart of Las Vegas, is the least white district in Nevada — which also makes it the most racially diverse district to vote in the primary thus far. A plurality (45 percent) of the population here is Latino, while 31 percent are white and 11 percent are black. Given Sanders’s and former Vice President Joe Biden’s strength with Latino voters and black voters, our forecast thinks they will do the best here: Sanders gets 2.7 of the 1st District’s five total delegates in our average model run, while Biden nabs 1.0.

In addition, the 1st District has the lowest median income in the state, and few residents here have a college degree. That probably hurts candidates such as former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, whose bases include college-educated white voters. We are forecasting all three to get fewer than one delegate in the 1st District.

However, Warren isn’t letting this district go without a fight — she has opened three field offices in the district, tied with Sanders for the most. And while philanthropist Tom Steyer technically has zero field offices in the 1st District, that doesn’t mean his field operation doesn’t have easy access to the area. His 3rd and 4th district field offices are just a few blocks away from the border with the 1st.

The 2nd Congressional District is the only one not to include a portion of metro Las Vegas; it covers the northern half of the state, most notably the Reno area, and it is the most rural district in Nevada. But before you picture a vast desert, consider that it is still about as dense as the most urban congressional districts in Iowa and New Hampshire.

In 2016, this was the only district in Nevada that Sanders carried, which he did by about 9 points. Our model anticipates that he will dominate here again in 2020, winning an average of 3.0 of its six delegates. But we’re also expecting Buttigieg to earn 1.4 delegates here, making it his best district. Buttigieg did well in rural counties in Iowa, and he appears to be courting them in Nevada too. Buttigieg has opened four field offices in the 2nd — his most of any district — and is the only candidate with an office in Fallon, a city of 8,500 on U.S. Route 50.

The 2nd, however, might be Biden’s worst district. He only wins, on average, 0.5 delegates in our forecast. This could be due to the fact that this is the whitest district in Nevada (although there is still a substantial Latino population). Perhaps to offset this, Biden also appears to be putting in a disproportionate amount of effort in the 2nd District: There are two Biden field offices here, while every other district has only one.

The 3rd Congressional District, worth six pledged delegates, covers the southern tip of Nevada, including southern Las Vegas and the booming suburb of Henderson. In this fairly working-class state, the 3rd District qualifies as Nevada’s most affluent and college-educated. That’s good news for the likes of Buttigieg, whom we expect to perform better here than in most other districts, with 1.2 delegates on average. (He and Sanders are the only candidates with more than one field office here.)

Despite voting for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by 5 points in 2016, this year the 3rd District is expected to be Sanders’s best district, awarding him 3.1 delegates. No other candidate — including Biden — averages more than one delegate here in our forecast.

Finally, the 4th Congressional District stretches from North Las Vegas to several rural counties upstate. In 2016, this was Clinton’s best district — she defeated Sanders here by more than 17 points. The fact that the 4th District has Nevada’s highest share of black voters, with whom Clinton excelled in 2016, may have contributed to that. And this year, although black voters have warmed to Sanders recently in national polls, most are still behind Biden, helping to explain why our forecast thinks this will be Biden’s best district: He gets 1.1 of the 4th District’s six delegates on average. Once again, Sanders is on track to receive the most delegates from the district, at 3.1.

However, Buttigieg has opened the most field offices of any candidate in the 4th District — three, including one in Pahrump in rural Nye County, where he is the only candidate with a presence. But while he may do well at the district’s rural caucus sites, the bulk of the Democratic vote has historically come from urban Clark County, explaining why he only gets an average of 0.8 delegates here in our forecast.

Got all that? There will be a quiz — it’s called the FiveThirtyEight live blog of the Nevada caucuses, coming to your computer screen this afternoon.

Election Update: Bloomberg’s Super Tuesday Gamble May Be Paying Off

It’s been a good 24 hours for Michael Bloomberg. Early this morning, on the brink of the deadline to do so, the former New York City mayor qualified for Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate thanks to a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll that gave him 19 percent of the national primary vote. He’s up to 16.3 percent in our national polling average — essentially tying him with former Vice President Joe Biden for the first time. However, he’s still 9 points behind front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders, and — by Bloomberg’s own design — it will be a couple weeks before we know how much actual voter support Bloomberg has.

That’s because Bloomberg has decided not to contest the first four states on the primary calendar (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina), instead focusing his massive financial resources on the 15 states and territories1 that vote on Super Tuesday. Since he declared he was running in November, Bloomberg has built out a number of impressive field organizations and has aired millions of dollars’ worth of TV ads — and on Monday, we got a handful of state polls that suggest that investment may pay off. To wit:

  • Monmouth University, one of the best pollsters in the biz, found Bloomberg in a virtual tie for first place in Virginia. He and Sanders each received 22 percent support, while Biden grabbed 18 percent. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg got 11 percent, Sen. Amy Klobuchar got 9 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren got 5 percent.
  • The excellent SurveyUSA produced very similar results in a poll of next-door North Carolina for WRAL News. Bloomberg and Sanders netted 22 percent each, Biden received 20 percent, Buttigieg got 11 percent, Warren got 8 percent and Klobuchar got 5 percent. That said, SurveyUSA has some small house effects to consider, so our model interprets this more like a poll that showed Sanders and Bloomberg at 21 percent and Biden at 17 percent.
  • Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates also released an Oklahoma poll that gave Bloomberg 20 percent of the vote among likely Democratic primary voters, followed by Sanders at 14 percent, Biden at 12 percent, Buttigieg at 11 percent, Warren at 8 percent and Klobuchar at 6 percent. However, the sample size was only 172 likely voters, which is smaller than we like to see; accordingly, the margin for error is very high.

But Bloomberg may not want to let his Super Tuesday expectations get too high. We also got polls of two Super Tuesday states in which he was not doing so hot:

  • SocialSphere polled Maine on behalf of Colby College and put Bloomberg at only 14 percent support; Sanders led with 25 percent, followed by Buttigieg at 16 percent. Meanwhile, Biden got 12 percent support, Warren 9 percent and Klobuchar 4 percent. When adjusting this poll for house effects, however, Sanders has a slightly smaller lead: 22 percent to 17 percent over Buttigieg.
  • Finally, Braun Research (polling on behalf of Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS) unsurprisingly found that Sanders has a huge lead in his home state of Vermont. He nabs 51 percent of the vote, followed by Buttigieg at 13 percent, Warren at 9 percent … and only then comes Bloomberg at 7 percent. Biden got 5 percent, and Klobuchar 4 percent.

It’s probably not a huge deal that Bloomberg trails in the two New England states; they are worth only 40 pledged delegates, compared with 246 for the three other states. But it shows that he may not run the table on Super Tuesday, and that other candidates — namely, Sanders, who also held a share of first place in the Virginia and North Carolina polls — may do even better.

That’s a big part of why our primary model still thinks that Sanders and even Biden are likelier than Bloomberg to win the most pledged delegates. While we are forecasting Bloomberg to receive a hefty 812 pledged delegates, on average, after every state and territory has voted, his chances of winning a majority of pledged delegates are just 1 in 12 (8 percent). Sanders has a 2 in 5 (40 percent) chance of doing so, while Biden is clinging to a 1 in 10 (10 percent) chance. And as has been looming for a while, there is still a 2 in 5 (38 percent) chance that no one gets a majority of pledged delegates, which could lead to a contested convention.

Election Update: Biden Hasn’t Exactly Collapsed Since New Hampshire

Three days after the New Hampshire primary, we are finally getting some polls that reflect the new state of the race — including a poll in Nevada, the next state in the voting sequence, for the first time in a full month! And overall, they’re not showing that any candidate has grabbed a ton of momentum out of Iowa or New Hampshire. That’s probably good news for former Vice President Joe Biden, whose firewall in Southern states appears weakened but still standing. But mostly it’s a recipe for a long, drawn-out nominating contest. In fact, our national primary forecast currently says that the single most likely outcome of the primary season is that no candidate gets a majority of pledged delegates.

Let’s start with that Nevada poll, which was conducted Feb. 11-13 (which means some interviews were probably conducted before the results from New Hampshire were known) by WPA Intelligence for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and AARP Nevada. It showed Sen. Bernie Sanders with 25 percent, Biden with 18 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 13 percent, businessman Tom Steyer with 11 percent, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 10 percent and Sen. Amy Klobuchar with 10 percent.

Although Biden has topped most Nevada polls we have, this poll didn’t affect the toplines in our Nevada forecast too much because it was right around where it expected the race to have settled post-New Hampshire. Our model currently gives Sanders a 2 in 3 (64 percent) chance of winning the Nevada caucuses, while Biden is given a 1 in 6 (16 percent) chance. Buttigieg (1 in 10, or 10 percent) and Warren (1 in 15, or 7 percent) are also outside shots to win the state.

On Friday, we also got our first South Carolina poll in more than a week, courtesy of East Carolina University. The Feb. 12-13 survey gave Biden 28 percent, Sanders 20 percent, Steyer 14 percent, Buttigieg 8 percent and Klobuchar and Warren 7 percent each. (Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got 6 percent in the poll, but he is not on the ballot in South Carolina.) Compared with ECU’s previous South Carolina poll, which was conducted shortly before the Iowa caucuses, Biden fell 9 percentage points, and Steyer fell 5 points. Sanders rose 6 points, Klobuchar rose 5 points and Buttigieg rose 4 points.

Ever since he finished fourth in Iowa, Biden has no longer been the favorite in South Carolina, according to our model. Sanders currently has a 1 in 2 (47 percent) chance of winning South Carolina, while Biden has a 2 in 5 (37 percent) shot. However, part of the reason our model has Sanders as the favorite is that it thinks Biden could drop out before South Carolina even votes. In the scenarios where Biden is still in the race come Feb. 29, though, he is probably still favored in the Palmetto State.

The ECU poll in particular offered both good news and bad news for Biden: On one hand, he’s still leading in an important state after two disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. And according to the poll’s crosstabs, Biden also still has a strong lead (16 points over Sanders) among African American voters, a crucial voting bloc that has sided with the eventual nominee in every Democratic primary since 1992. But on the other hand, the poll shows that Biden has dropped a meaningful amount in South Carolina since late January — and it wouldn’t take much more of a drop to put Sanders in the lead in our polling average (there are still two weeks until South Carolina votes, remember).

We also got a poll of Georgia, which will vote on March 24. That survey put Biden in the lead with 32 percent, followed by Sanders and Bloomberg at 14 percent each. Landmark Communications and WSB-TV’s last Georgia poll was from September of last year, but the numbers didn’t change all that much, although Biden was down 9 points, while Sanders was up 6. (Bloomberg wasn’t tested in September, since he only became a candidate in November.) The state is demographically similar to South Carolina (for instance, the Democratic primary electorate in both states in 2016 was majority African American), so Biden’s durability in Georgia was another good sign for him, even though he did fall nearly 10 points.

Finally, a St. Pete Polls survey of Florida, conducted Feb. 12-13, put Bloomberg at 27 percent, Biden at 26 percent, Buttigieg at 11 percent, Sanders at 10 percent and Klobuchar at 9 percent. However, St. Pete has historically featured unusually high numbers for Bloomberg and fairly low numbers for Sanders, relative to other pollsters. Adjusted for these house effects, our model interprets this poll as saying Biden has 25 percent support, Bloomberg has 21 percent, Sanders has 13 percent, Buttigieg has 10 percent and Klobuchar has 7 percent.

This was still a bad poll for Biden, who lost 15 points since St. Pete’s previous survey in late January, and a good one for Bloomberg, who gained 10 points. But it also wasn’t a great one for Sanders or Buttigieg. It showed virtually no change for Sanders, and Buttigieg ticked up by a middling 5 points. Biden surely would have preferred not to have lost so much ground, but it’s definitely a silver lining for him that the new Democratic front-runner (Sanders) did not surpass him.

Taken together, these four state polls show Biden trending in the wrong direction, but paradoxically they are actually good news for his overall chances of winning a majority of pledged delegates, which have ticked up from 1 in 9 (11 percent) on Thursday afternoon to 1 in 8 (13 percent) now. That’s because the four polls also show that states like South Carolina are still very much open for the taking and that Sanders, Biden’s main competition for the nomination, is not riding a huge wave of momentum. As a consequence, Sanders’s chances of winning a majority of pledged delegates have dipped slightly from 2 in 5 (39 percent) to 1 in 3 (38 percent). And there’s now a 2 in 5 (37 percent) chance that no one will achieve a pledged-delegate majority, which could lead to a contested convention.

Election Update: The First Polls Since New Hampshire Show No Big Bounces

Three days after the New Hampshire primary, we are finally getting some polls that reflect the new state of the race — including a poll in Nevada, the next state in the voting sequence, for the first time in a full month! And overall, they’re not showing that any candidate has grabbed a ton of momentum out of Iowa or New Hampshire. That’s probably good news for former Vice President Joe Biden, whose firewall in Southern states appears weakened but still standing. But mostly it’s a recipe for a long, drawn-out nominating contest. In fact, our national primary forecast currently says that the single most likely outcome of the primary season is that no candidate gets a majority of pledged delegates.

Let’s start with that Nevada poll, which was conducted Feb. 11-13 (which means some interviews were probably conducted before the results from New Hampshire were known) by WPA Intelligence for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and AARP Nevada. It showed Sen. Bernie Sanders with 25 percent, Biden with 18 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 13 percent, businessman Tom Steyer with 11 percent, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 10 percent and Sen. Amy Klobuchar with 10 percent.

Although Biden has topped most Nevada polls we have, this poll didn’t affect the toplines in our Nevada forecast too much because it was right around where it expected the race to have settled post-New Hampshire. Our model currently gives Sanders a 2 in 3 (64 percent) chance of winning the Nevada caucuses, while Biden is given a 1 in 6 (16 percent) chance. Buttigieg (1 in 10, or 10 percent) and Warren (1 in 15, or 7 percent) are also outside shots to win the state.

On Friday, we also got our first South Carolina poll in more than a week, courtesy of East Carolina University. The Feb. 12-13 survey gave Biden 28 percent, Sanders 20 percent, Steyer 14 percent, Buttigieg 8 percent and Klobuchar and Warren 7 percent each. (Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got 6 percent in the poll, but he is not on the ballot in South Carolina.) Compared with ECU’s previous South Carolina poll, which was conducted shortly before the Iowa caucuses, Biden fell 9 percentage points, and Steyer fell 5 points. Sanders rose 6 points, Klobuchar rose 5 points and Buttigieg rose 4 points.

Ever since he finished fourth in Iowa, Biden has no longer been the favorite in South Carolina, according to our model. Sanders currently has a 1 in 2 (47 percent) chance of winning South Carolina, while Biden has a 2 in 5 (37 percent) shot. However, part of the reason our model has Sanders as the favorite is that it thinks Biden could drop out before South Carolina even votes. In the scenarios where Biden is still in the race come Feb. 29, though, he is probably still favored in the Palmetto State.

The ECU poll in particular offered both good news and bad news for Biden: On one hand, he’s still leading in an important state after two disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. And according to the poll’s crosstabs, Biden also still has a strong lead (16 points over Sanders) among African American voters, a crucial voting bloc that has sided with the eventual nominee in every Democratic primary since 1992. But on the other hand, the poll shows that Biden has dropped a meaningful amount in South Carolina since late January — and it wouldn’t take much more of a drop to put Sanders in the lead in our polling average (there are still two weeks until South Carolina votes, remember).

We also got a poll of Georgia, which will vote on March 24. That survey put Biden in the lead with 32 percent, followed by Sanders and Bloomberg at 14 percent each. Landmark Communications and WSB-TV’s last Georgia poll was from September of last year, but the numbers didn’t change all that much, although Biden was down 9 points, while Sanders was up 6. (Bloomberg wasn’t tested in September, since he only became a candidate in November.) The state is demographically similar to South Carolina (for instance, the Democratic primary electorate in both states in 2016 was majority African American), so Biden’s durability in Georgia was another good sign for him, even though he did fall nearly 10 points.

Finally, a St. Pete Polls survey of Florida, conducted Feb. 12-13, put Bloomberg at 27 percent, Biden at 26 percent, Buttigieg at 11 percent, Sanders at 10 percent and Klobuchar at 9 percent. However, St. Pete has historically featured unusually high numbers for Bloomberg and fairly low numbers for Sanders, relative to other pollsters. Adjusted for these house effects, our model interprets this poll as saying Biden has 25 percent support, Bloomberg has 21 percent, Sanders has 13 percent, Buttigieg has 10 percent and Klobuchar has 7 percent.

This was still a bad poll for Biden, who lost 15 points since St. Pete’s previous survey in late January, and a good one for Bloomberg, who gained 10 points. But it also wasn’t a great one for Sanders or Buttigieg. It showed virtually no change for Sanders, and Buttigieg ticked up by a middling 5 points. Biden surely would have preferred not to have lost so much ground, but it’s definitely a silver lining for him that the new Democratic front-runner (Sanders) did not surpass him.

Taken together, these four state polls show Biden trending in the wrong direction, but paradoxically they are actually good news for his overall chances of winning a majority of pledged delegates, which have ticked up from 1 in 9 (11 percent) on Thursday afternoon to 1 in 8 (13 percent) now. That’s because the four polls also show that states like South Carolina are still very much open for the taking and that Sanders, Biden’s main competition for the nomination, is not riding a huge wave of momentum. As a consequence, Sanders’s chances of winning a majority of pledged delegates have dipped slightly from 2 in 5 (39 percent) to 1 in 3 (36 percent). And there’s now a 2 in 5 (37 percent) chance that no one will achieve a pledged-delegate majority, which could lead to a contested convention.

Election Update: There’s A New Face In Our Forecast. (It’s Bloomberg.)

As of Friday, you’ll see a shiny new face in our Democratic primary forecast: former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. We’re now featuring Bloomberg more prominently in our forecast interactive and in our polling averages; he joins four other candidates (Sen. Bernie Sanders; former Vice President Joe Biden; former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren) who get their own color in the forecast (in Bloomberg’s case, gold). Bloomberg has always been in the underlying calculations and the detailed output behind the model,1 but he was lumped in with “all others” on many of the charts, making him hard to find.

Bloomberg is a tricky candidate to forecast, given that his strategy of essentially skipping the first four states but then spending enormous amounts of money on the race is fairly unprecedented. Although Bloomberg is at only 11 percent in national polls right now — below the 15 percent threshold required to pick up delegates in states and congressional districts — he’s getting close enough to the threshold that the model actually has him picking up a decent number of delegates in its average simulation.

On the other hand, the model thinks it’s quite unlikely that Bloomberg can get a majority of delegates because he’s getting off to a late start. It’s not that skipping out on Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina is itself all that costly; those states have relatively few delegates. Rather, it’s that Bloomberg is unlikely to have a huge surge before Super Tuesday.

Here’s why that matters. Bloomberg could certainly do reasonably well on Super Tuesday and get a surge in later states. But at that point, 38 percent of delegates will already have been chosen. Say Bloomberg wins 30 percent of the delegates on Super Tuesday; that would certainly get him some attention, probably make him a real contender, and perhaps knock other moderate candidates out of the race. Bloomberg, however, would need to get 64 percent of the delegates in all the states beyond Super Tuesday to earn a majority of pledged delegates, which is an awfully high bar to clear.

Bloomberg getting a plurality of pledged delegates, on the other hand, is more likely. (There’s a 1 in 40 chance of that, or about 3 percent, according to our model — as compared to a roughly 1 in 100 chance he gets a majority.) More likely still is that Bloomberg appears to be the strongest candidate at the end of the process, even though he doesn’t necessarily have a plurality. There’s a 5 percent chance that Bloomberg will be leading in national polls at the end of the race, our model estimates.2 Being able to point to indicators like that could be helpful to Bloomberg in the not-at-all-unlikely event of a contested convention.

These distinctions matter because – it seems like I can’t emphasize this enough, as I see people misquoting our forecast all the time — we are not actually forecasting the identity of the nominee. Rather, we are forecasting the chance of each candidate getting a majority of pledged delegates (or a plurality) after the Virgin Islands casts the final votes of the primary season on June 6. Bloomberg could easily become the nominee at a contested convention — and a contested convention is a reasonably likely possibility — but our model does not try to predict how a contested convention would turn out.

We’ve also made two subtle changes that should slightly help the model’s handling of Bloomberg, although they make little difference to the top line forecast.3 First, in the state-by-state regression analysis that we conduct to help forecast states with little polling, we are no longer using Bloomberg’s Iowa results as an input for him. In the regressions, the model doesn’t use a candidate’s performance from states in which they weren’t on the ballot. Iowa technically didn’t have a ballot, however. (Indeed, Bloomberg won a very small number of votes there.) But since he never set foot in the state after launching his campaign (his last visit there was in December 2018) nor made any other effort to compete there, the regression will ignore his performance in Iowa.

The other small change is in how we calculate what we call the “fundamentals,” which are a combination of indicators based on a candidate’s fundraising, endorsements and level of experience in elected office. (See Step 3 in our methodology guide for more about this.) We find that candidates who are strong in these areas tend to see their polling improve on average, and candidates who are weak tend to see their polling get worse. However, their effects are quite subtle and plenty of candidates defy the trends (see also: President Trump). The model now randomizes how much weight it puts on these categories in each simulation, instead of always treating them as equally important. Likewise, it randomizes the amount of weight it puts on the three categories of fundraising we track (small-donor contributions, all individual contributions, and all contributions from any source including self-funding). Thus, in some simulations, the model treats Bloomberg’s enormous spending as a relatively important factor in the race, and in other simulations, it gives it very little weight. This reflects the fact that the evidence is quite mixed on how self-financed candidates do as compared with candidates who raise money from individual donors.

There’s certainly a lot to think about here, so I may do some longer stories about Bloomberg after New Hampshire. But we’ll leave it there for now. Suffice it to say that I think there’s sometimes a lack of rigor when analyzing Bloomberg’s chances. The more you try to run through specific, realistic scenarios for exactly how Bloomberg wins the race — which is what our model is doing in trying to simulate all the possibilities — the harder you’ll find it is for him to get a majority of pledged delegates. It isn’t necessarily so hard to conceive of him accumulating a lot of delegates and winning the race via a delegate plurality or at a contested convention, however, and the model is more agnostic about those possibilities.

Election Update: What The First Few Post-Iowa Polls Say

Our 2020 primary model looks at the race sequentially: When a primary or caucus is complete, the model will try to anticipate whose support will rise or fall based on the result. Even before the mess in Iowa, though, where both Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders have claimed victory, we advised readers to interpret these projections provisionally — the model estimates how a contest will affect each candidate’s chances but will update those estimates once new polls come out.

So how are the model’s post-Iowa estimates looking now that we’ve gotten a few new polls since Iowa? Pretty good, actually. Let’s run through the latest surveys and what they mean.

Most of the new polls we’ve gotten have come in New Hampshire, which votes on Tuesday. There, Buttigieg has gotten a bit of a bounce; the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor’s chances of winning the Granite State are up to 1 in 5, from about 1 in 8 before Iowa. A new Monmouth University survey of New Hampshire conducted Feb. 3-5 found Sanders leading with 24 percent and Buttigieg in second with 20 percent. Two tracking polls in New Hampshire from Emerson College and Boston Globe/Suffolk University out Wednesday also found Buttigieg in second to Sanders.

Those polls also seemed to confirm the bad news for Biden, as his fourth-place showing in Iowa has really hurt his standing in our forecast. The two tracking polls in New Hampshire both put him at 12 percent, well behind Sanders and Buttigieg.3 Meanwhile, a series of national polls from Morning Consult measuring preferences each day between Feb. 3 and Feb. 5, showed Biden’s standing in falling from 29 percent to 24 percent. This was largely in line with what the model anticipated4 but still hardly qualifies as great news for him.

How representative New Hampshire will be for the race overall is still an open question — it just happens to be where we have the freshest data. Perhaps the Morning Consult polls suggest that Biden’s post-Iowa support will be more durable nationally, and in more diverse states, than in a mostly white state like New Hampshire. Or maybe more national polling will show a more drastic decline.

Buttigieg has the reverse problem (or opportunity): The New Hampshire polls show him gaining ground after his Iowa performance, but his chances of winning a majority of pledged delegates overall haven’t improved much. Morning Consult’s polling showed him gaining ground, from 7 percent to 12 percent. But 12 percent isn’t good for much. A YouGov poll released Wednesday had him at just 9 percent — not much changed from previous YouGov surveys. Buttigieg will need to expand his coalition, including to non-white voters, to stand much of a chance in contests beyond Iowa and New Hampshire.

***

So let’s get back to the model. Our forecast now gives Sanders about a 1 in 2 chance of winning a majority of pledged delegates. The second likeliest outcome (1 in 4 chance) is that no candidate wins a majority. After that, the next-strongest candidate is former Vice President Joe Biden, who has roughly a 1 in 5 shot (20 percent). No other candidate is currently above 5 percent, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana (5 percent and 3 percent, respectively).

But much of the movement in the model over the past 24 hours — including further gains for Sanders — has actually come from inputting the shifting results from Iowa, which have been trickling in from the state Democratic Party. For instance, when we restarted the model on Wednesday with partial Iowa results, Sanders’s chances of winning a delegate majority rose from 31 percent to 39 percent. Biden’s chances fell from 43 percent to 19 percent. And Warren’s and Buttigieg’s chances went up, from 5 percent to 9 percent and 4 percent to 6 percent, respectively.

Then another vote update in the wee hours of Thursday morning moved Sanders into a near-tie with Buttigieg for the Iowa lead in state delegate equivalents (Sanders already led the first and final preference vote counts). In turn, our model gave Sanders more of an Iowa bounce (and Buttigieg less of one), raising Sanders from a roughly 2 in 5 chance to about a 1 in 2 shot of winning a majority of pledged delegates.

Truth be told, we still don’t have that much post-Iowa polling, so the forecast could definitely shift in the coming days if fresh surveys show more gains or losses for these leading candidates. For now, though, the Iowa results have made Sanders the front-runner to win the Democratic nomination, and the new polls we have generally agree. Though maybe the true headline coming out of Iowa is simply how wide-open and uncertain the race is: No single candidate has better than a 50 percent shot to win a pledged-delegate majority, and there’s a 1 in 4 chance that we get through all the primaries and caucuses without anyone getting there.

Election Update: A New Batch Of Iowa Polls Still Shows A Tight Race Between Sanders And Biden

The Iowa caucuses are now just five days away, so pollsters are busy trying to give us their final looks at where the candidates are heading into Iowa. But for those of you hoping for a clearer picture of where things stand, I’m afraid there’s no such luck.

Three new Iowa polls dropped today pointing to a still very close race between Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden (though former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren shouldn’t be written off). And topline numbers in our primary forecast show that Biden is still in the lead with roughly a 1 in 2 (45 percent) shot at winning a majority of pledged delegates, while Sanders has about a 3 in 10 (29 percent) chance of doing so.1 Buttigieg and Warren each have about a 1 in 20 (5 percent) shot.

Compared to yesterday’s election update, these figures represent a 4-point improvement for Biden and a 2-point decrease for Sanders. A fair bit of this has to do with fixing a bug in the model’s code — the model was giving candidates extra credit for wins in their home states and regions when it was supposed to be deducting credit instead (editor-in-chief Nate Silver has an explanation here). But it’s also because Biden led in two of the three new Iowa surveys whereas Sanders led in both Iowa polls we talked about yesterday.

In our Iowa forecast, Sanders still leads slightly (37 percent versus Biden’s 35 percent). This is unchanged from yesterday and is probably better thought of as a tie. Buttigieg and Warren’s chances haven’t really shifted in the last 24 hours. Although Sen. Amy Klobuchar did tick up a little today thanks to some double-digit showings in today’s batch of polls, though she remains a decided underdog with only a 3 percent shot at winning Iowa. On balance, though, the newest Iowa surveys held some good news for Biden compared to some other recent surveys where Sanders did better, though the Vermont senator did still manage to make gains in two of today’s polls:

  • First, Monmouth University found Biden in the lead with 23 percent, followed by Sanders at 21 percent, Buttigieg at 16 percent, Warren at 15 percent and Klobuchar at 10 percent. And even though Biden was the poll’s leader, he was actually down a point from where he was in Monmouth’s last Iowa poll from early January. Buttigieg also fell a point, while Warren’s numbers were unchanged. Sanders, on the other hand, ticked up three points from 18 percent to 21 percent, and Klobuchar two points (though both gains were within the poll’s margin of error).
  • Next, Morningside College made their 2020 debut this week with an Iowa poll that found Biden very slightly ahead of the field with 19 percent. (Buttigieg came in second at 18 percent.) Meanwhile, Sanders and Warren were tied with 15 percent support while Klobuchar had 12 percent.
  • Finally, contrary to what Monmouth and Morningside found, Iowa State University/Civiqs’s new poll found Sanders leading the field by 5 percentage points with 24 percent support. Warren came next at 19 percent, followed by Buttigieg at 17 percent, Biden at 15 percent and Klobuchar at 11 percent. But keep in mind that Iowa State/Civiqs has found strong numbers for Buttigieg and Warren in the past, so once we account for house effects, the model treats their results as 15 and 14 percent, respectively. At the same time, this pollster has generally had Biden polling worse than other pollsters, so his number bumps up to 18 percent. There’s less of a known house effect for Sanders, though, so our model keeps his support at 24 percent, up 3 points from the pollster’s December survey. (Buttigieg fell 7 points from December and Klobuchar gained 7 points. Biden and Warren’s numbers were roughly the same.)

Of course, we’re not just interested in the topline results in these polls either. We’re also keeping an eye on questions regarding Iowa voters’ second-choice preferences, as voters No. 2 could be important on caucus night because voters have to shift support to a new candidate if their initial choice doesn’t meet a certain level of support at their caucus site (usually 15 percent).

So if there’s one reason not to write Warren off, it’s that she was the top second-choice pick in both the Monmouth (19 percent) and Iowa State/Civiqs (16 percent) polls. In other words, if she can remain viable at most caucus sites, she could still benefit when some voters have to realign. At the same time, though, Monmouth found that if the field was limited only to the top-four candidates, Biden would lead with 29 percent, followed by Sanders at 25 percent, Buttigieg at 20 percent, Warren at 19 percent, so it’s unclear just how much room Warren has to gain as a popular second-choice pick.

One other thing to keep in mind that is going on under the hood with these polls is that pollsters are trying to gauge who is actually going to show up and caucus, a process that’s much, much more involved than simply casting a ballot like in a primary. University of Delaware political scientist David Redlawsk recently pointed out that some Iowa polls have small but meaningful differences in the age makeup of their likely caucus-goers, which may play some role in who’s doing better in a given poll. For example, the Iowa State/Civiqs poll found Sanders leading among 18-to-34 year olds with 33 percent while Biden got just 1 percent! But that survey estimated that 47 percent of likely caucus-goers will be under 50 years old, a boon for Sanders’s topline number, whereas the 2016 entrance poll found that just 42 percent of caucus-goers were under the age of 50. Of course, it’s difficult to say who is right when it comes to trying to figure out who is going to show up on Monday — will more young people caucus in 2020 than in 2016? The answer is we won’t really know until caucus night, but it’s just another thing to consider when looking at the topline numbers in these polls.

And while Wednesday was an Iowa-heavy polling day, there was one new national poll from The Economist/YouGov that found the race between Biden and Sanders tightening. In their survey, Biden led Sanders by just 2 points, 26 percent to 24 percent, with Warren in third at 20 percent. This was a strong poll for Sanders, who was at 18 percent in last week’s Economist/YouGov national survey and 28 percent for Biden. There isn’t a sizable house effect for either Biden or Sanders, though Warren tends to do well in Economist/YouGov surveys.

Bottom line: The clock is ticking for Democrats in Iowa. Candidates don’t have much time left to make last-minute appeals and undecided voters can’t vacillate between candidates for much longer either. As recent polls and our forecast show, it’s shaping up to be a very competitive and potentially unpredictable contest — quite possibly the most competitive Iowa caucuses ever.