I'll put a dime down on Bernie then. You never know. And putting up one dime for a chance to win 99 sounds like a reasonable risk in Nevada right now. We shall see.
South Carolina is the better focus. Primaries are less unpredictable than the caucuses. The Republican race is a referendum on Trump, as he has succeeded in making the race all about him. Unlike Hillary -- who made 2008 and 2016 all about her -- Trump knows how to work this to his advantage.
Or so it seems.
Just remember, the polls were all wrong on the Republican side of the Iowa caucus. The results fell outside the margin of error. But instead of taking the polls to task for their inaccuracy, the media painted Trump's second-place finish as a huge loss while Marco Rubio's third-place finish was a huge win. The reality was Ted Cruz won. FiveThirtyEight gave Trump a 46% to 54% chance of winning; Cruz 33% to 39%. No one is infallible.
The New Hampshire polls were better. The polls erred in undercounting the size of Trump's big win. FiveThirtyEight gave him a 69% to 75% chance of winning.
I will not predict the winner on Saturday. Instead I will predict that the media will interpret the results against the polls, rather than measuring the polls against the results. Which is amusingly backward. We should measure the polls against the actual outcome. The media's acceptance of polls as gospel stems from ignorance of math. To his credit, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight has tried to factor in the bias of polls.
But this is the world in which we live, and so the media will talk about surges that may or may not exist, and disappointments, which will be many. Half the candidates will not finish among the Top Three, and if they are smart, they will hand in their resignations on Monday.
By the way, while everyone, including me, mocks Jeb Bush for burning through a gajillion dollars and getting squat, we ignore the other Hindenburg-at-Lakehurst in the race, Marco Rubio. He racked up endorsements from the popular governor of the state, the popular senator, and just about every other endorser in South Carolina. So why is he not winning by a landslide?
But the primary is all about Trump, who now leads the Real Clear Politics Poll Average by 14.8 points. He is at 32.9 percent. All stories will be measured from that.
If he wins by less than 14.8, or scores less than 32.9 percent, the story will be that he actually lost the primary because enthusiasm for him is waning. If he meets or beats both of those arbitrary markers, well it was expected and South Carolina does not matter because Newt Gingrich won it in 2012 and did not get the nomination.
Ah, 2012. The RCP Average projected a 5-point win for Gingrich. He won by 12.5 points. The media went hysterical.
From Paul Begala:
Reactions to Newt Gingrich’s stunning and impressive victory in the South Carolina primary form a symphony. First, of course, we hear the cheers of South Carolina Republicans who have chosen their champion. From Ronald Reagan in 1980 through John McCain in 2008, the winner of this primary has always gone on to be the Republican nominee.
Then, of course, we can hear the buttons popping from Newt Gingrich’s shirt as his ego swells to Macy’s parade size. If you listen carefully, you can hear the soft sobs of Mitt Romney and his consultants, crying in their chocolate milk.
But above it all we can hear the weeping, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth of the Republican establishment as Gingrich’s victory sends them into full-blown panic. I’m not talking about mere fear, nor normal nervousness. Not even the feeling you get when the captain says, “We’ve lost power in one of our four engines.” No, this is worse. Worse even than when your doctor says, “I don’t like the looks of that shadow on the X-ray.”
This is terror. Chest-clutching, breath-sucking, soul-shaking panic. This is your teenage daughter telling you, “I think I’m in trouble.” This is a Turkish border guard pulling you into a holding room when you’ve got a baggie of coke in your pocket. This is what George H.W. Bush famously called “deep doo-doo.”Gingrich went on to win his home state of Georgia and was never heard from again.