Archive for the 'WHITE HOUSE RACE' Category


Labour’s Brexit dilemma: the right policy led by the wrong people? Plus Kasich 2020 rumours

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

Despite Labour voters support for a second referendum on EU membership, the party’s support for Brexit is probably the right policy writes Keiran Pedley. The Conservatives are vulnerable if Theresa May cannot negotiate a deal but not if Labour looks ‘pro-Brussels’.

As June the 8th rapidly approaches, many have criticised the Labour Party’s approach to Brexit. With the Prime Minister solidly in favour of a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ and the Liberal Democrats the unapologetic party of Remain, Labour has seemed lost.  Many pro-European Labour supporters have expressed exasperation that the leadership will not pursue the Blairite ‘second referendum’ policy and Labour as a whole has been criticised for having no real answer on the biggest question of the day.

On this week’s Polling Matters podcast we looked at the numbers on this issue. As part of our Polling Matters / Opinium series we repeated the question on whether there should be a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU once the terms are known. After a slight shift in opinion in March, we can see that public opinion remains (pardon the pun), solidly against – yet Labour voters are solidly for.

Q. Once we know what terms the government has negotiated, should there be a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, where voters can choose between leaving under the terms negotiated or remaining in the EU after all?

Among all Remain voters Leave voters
Dec 16 Mar 17 May 17 Dec 16 Mar 17 May 17 Dec 16 Mar 17 May 17

Should be










Should not be










Don’t know 15% 10% 11% 14% 10% 11% 10% 6%



Labour voters

Dec 16 Mar 17 May 17
Should be




Should not be




Don’t know




If, as we all expect, the Conservatives are returned to power with an increased majority in June then whoever leads the Labour Party in the future will be faced with a real dilemma. There is likely to be a clamouring for a change in Labour policy on Brexit and we should expect someone to stand for the Labour leadership on the basis that a second referendum should be ‘on the table’. It may very well be the entire basis on which a candidate for the leadership challenges Jeremy Corbyn should he choose to try and hang on. Perhaps a change of policy is a good idea. If Brexit goes badly, then Labour can differentiate from the government by being the party offering a way out of a disastrous Brexit?

I’m not so sure. There is no real evidence from the past few months to suggest that a difficult Brexit will do anything other than increase support for the government and harden anti-EU sentiment. I am far from convinced that Labour will benefit from being positioned as the ‘pro Brussels’ party during exit negotiations. There is a prevailing mood in the public to ‘get on with it’ now and I see no real electoral dividend in fighting the tide. Indeed, the numbers above show that 1 in 4 Remainers (26%) do not want to revisit the question of EU membership along with 1 in 3 Labour voters (31%). Perhaps there was a time for the ‘2nd referendum’ idea to take root but that time appears to have passed.

A far better policy for Labour now would be to support Brexit but to insist that walking away with no deal would be a disaster. To position Labour as the party that wants a positive relationship with the EU in a post Brexit world and to say clearly that a ‘no deal’ scenario would represent a failure of leadership on the part of the Prime Minister. This strategy puts the Conservative Party’s reputation for competent leadership and economic stability on the table rather than make Labour look like it is siding with the EU against Britain. Labour could say that any decision to re-join the EU would be subject to another referendum, that one would not take place during the first term of any future Labour government but that it could be on the table in the future.

If this sounds like I think the current policy is broadly right it’s because I think it is. In my view, Labour’s problem isn’t that its policy on Brexit is wrong, the problem is that this election is about ‘who negotiates that Brexit?’ and the public are quite clear that person should be Theresa May and not Jeremy Corbyn. Nevertheless, just because Britain is leaving the EU, that does not mean voters want bad relations with Europe, nor does it mean that issues around funding for schools, hospitals and social care have gone away. Labour can get back in the game. It just needs strong leadership and a sense of direction to do so.

Meanwhile in America

As American politics is dominated by the ongoing row over healthcare you may have missed the most recent episode of David Axelrod’s podcast ‘The Axe Files’. On this week’s episode, Axelrod interviews Ohio Governor John Kasich, who offers the worst ‘non-denial denial’ on the prospect of him running for President in 2020 that you are ever likely to hear. Could he run against Donald Trump in the Republic primary? Here is what he said:

On his support in the country:

“What I have found is that when I travel around on this book or when I travel around period people come to me and many of them are almost begging me to run again…”

When pressed on 2020 he goes on:

“My folks advise me because my inclination is to say ‘I’ll never run for anything again’ ok and they say ‘why do you say that John, you don’t know what the future is going to be’ and they’re right. So. I don’t know. Am I planning on for it? No. Do I have a political organisation still active? Yes. Why? Because I want to have a team of people that can help me to have an effective voice…It’s extremely difficult to maintain a voice if you don’t’ hold an office…’

Not exactly squashing it is he? More here.

John Kasich is 50/1 to be the GOP nominee in 2020 by the way. I am taking that.

Keiran Pedley is a regular contributor to and editor of the PB/Polling Matters podcast. You can listen to this week’s episode below:

Keiran tweets about politics and public opinion at @keiranpedley


This YouGov US polling says an awful lot about current US politics and its worrying

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017


My 66/1 long-shot bet for the 2020 White House race: Democratic Senator Kamala Harris from California

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Could she be the one to take down Trump?

With Trump’s inauguration taking place on Friday there’s been a flurry of betting activity on the newly elected Senator from California, Kamala Harris, for the next White House Race in 2020. This followed a lot of coverage of her part in fighting against Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions.

In November she became the second black woman and first Indian American elected to serve in the Senate. She’s a former Attorney-General for California and is the daughter of an Indian-American mother and Jamaican-American father.

As I’ve found in the past it can pleasurable and profitable backing a long-shot three to four years out and watching their progress. Occasionally you might back a winner.

My reading of the Democratic party 2020 race is that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will simply be too old to contemplate running. Massachusetts Senator, Elizabeth Warren (15/2) is currently favourite and she’s likely to play a big part in her party’s opposition to the incoming president. She was strongly tipped to run last year but didn’t. Maybe 2016 was her best chance.

Michelle Obama (8/1) is also being tipped but somehow I can’t see her taking the plunge.

For bets that won’t mature for nearly four years I like long-shots and have 53 year old Harris at 66/1 for the Presidency and 40/1 for the nomination. As I write these odds are still available and might be worth a punt.

Mike Smithson


Clinton is being urged to challenge the results in three key states

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016


Interesting report overnight suggesting that there might have been irregularities in three key states which could turn the election.

It is very hard to draw conclusions from this but where votes are cast electronically and there is no paper trail of a ballot paper then the potential for issues and possible hacking will exist. This is one reason why I prefer the British method of ballot papers.

The pressure is on all parties to ensure a smooth transition and it would be hard politically for Hillary at this stage to mount such a challenge.

Questions about the legitimacy of the outcome could, however, dog the Trump administration in the four years ahead.

Mike Smithson


If you’re expecting final WH2016 vote totals quickly don’t hold your breath. In 2012 we had to wait till January

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016


After election night in 2012 Obama was 2% ahead in the popular vote. By January 2013 it reached 3.85%

At the 2012 White House Race we had a very special reason on PB to pay close attention to the precise national popular vote numbers in the period after the election.

William Hill had offered £1,000 in free bets and the competition was to predict the winning national vote margin to two decimal points.

My naive assumption in devising it like this was that we’d have the final numbers within a couple of days and the prizes could be handed over.

Not so. The process of gathering in the data to produce a definitive competition verdict took weeks and we had the wonderful spectacle of entrants thinking they’d overshot, getting excited as the total moved up to their number and then disappointed as it went past.

In the end we had to wait until early in the New Year to get the final count. Amazingly Obama’s margin went from 2% on election night to 3.85% at the end.

I was grateful during this period for PBer Andy JS who played a huge role monitoring changing totals from across the US and maintaining a publicly available spreadsheet.

This time there was no competition but the final Hillary Clinton vote lead will be politically important.

Mike Smithson


The New Political Divide, Part III

Monday, November 14th, 2016


If the first part of this ramble was about the expanse of this divide, and the second wondered what opened it, this is prodding at how deep it runs through society.

As political analysts come out of their bunkers try and grapple with what this election really means (beyond the stark fact of President Donald J Trump). We will hear about the need to understand the flyover states, non college-educated whites. Feelings on globalisation and immigration will be used to connect two events that feel very similar without being ostensibly connected. Lines will be drawn to “the rising tide of populism” across various parts of the world, a “western spring” perhaps.

It’s that ephemeral feeling rather than the analytical nuts and bolts that is the most fascinating political (although it feels more cultural than political) development to follow. Not least because it seems to contain an insurgency against analysis itself. In 2008 it seemed that we had solved elections, the models were now so good they should come with spoiler warnings for people wanted to enjoy the suspense of a traditional election night. These results were in so many senses losers being beaten by what they didn’t understand, and winners being surprised by their victory.

Shell-shocked pollsters have thrown out the idea that Trump supporters systematically refused to talk to pollsters they identified with the establishment they opposed (and that is a problem with no easy solution). It’s now impossible to be neutral observers, there are no refs, judges, or scorekeepers anymore. Or rather they’ve found themselves swallowed up by the playing field in may cases against their will.

When political discourse devolves into “if you aren’t with us you’re against us” then everyone is a target, and the defining point of this election (and a major point in Brexit) was whom are you against. The distant dictators of the elites in media and government faced off against the fruitcakes and deplorables with neither having a great interest in understanding another point of view, let alone compromise. The opposition is now the enemy.

I suspect analysis will show a greater clustering of supporters than ever. I mean this both in the geographic sense of precincts but also culturally, as we’ve built our own echo chambers. People don’t just fear the people who vote differently they’re also mystified by them. They don’t think they know people who could think so differently to themselves and can’t work out how you could believe such things. It’s impolite to discuss politics in person so it is sectioned off to online bubbles of personal profiles of people who think alike and in that small consensus lose connection with how anyone could think otherwise. They’re staring at caricatured shadows on a cave wall, horrified by the results produced from a source they can’t comprehend.

The bonds of a society are common experiences and common values. There might be different perspectives but you’re at least looking at the same thing. It’s a common observation that we’ve seen a cultural fracturing in recent years, everything is now on-demand, accessible, and tailor-made. You don’t need to ask if it’ll play in Peoria when you’re aiming your album or tv show at a small select segment of society. When an inherently national cultural event like a presidential election squashes everyone back together again divides are converted into clashes. Familiarity may breed contempt but distance gives rise to de-legitimisation and de-humanisation. The humanity of your neighbour is firmly established in a way that unseen opposing voters you hear about cannot be.

Trump’s victory speech felt like an echo of Margaret Thatcher declaring she wanted to bring harmony to replace discord, with Trump as with Thatcher, harmony seems a long, long, way off.



The New Political Divide, Part II – trying to make sense of WH2016

Sunday, November 13th, 2016


If the new battleground is of the elites and the insurgents we need to consider where it came from, whether the seeds of it were present earlier than this run of electoral victories. The Tea Party has disappeared in name but Trump is a strong spiritual successor, while the Occupy movement shows how insurgency and elites is a dividing line that runs across rather than between left and right. In a different world (perhaps one where Democratic party grandees had as little power as Republican ones) we would’ve seen Bernie Sanders take on Trump in an unlikely insurgency showdown (and no certain winner).

If that had happened both would’ve seemed odd choices to lead revolutions. White male New Yorkers, one born a billionaire while the other spent a lifetime in politics they’d ostensibly carry the establishment hallmarks stamped firmly on them. But perhaps we’re overlooking a much more likely figure who marked the start of this shift.

The Clinton campaign was looking to revive the Obama coalition to carry her to election victory. The coalition that, when it emerged, was hailed as the demographic engine that would drive an era of Democratic victories until the Republicans transformed themselves in the wilderness. The coalition that has never really showed up when Obama himself was leading the way, not in the mid-terms and not now (Sean Trende may yet be hailed as a prophet). What we should’ve been focusing on is the ability of Obama to be a candidate of disuption, and insurgency (there’s that word again).

Obama won not on policies, but the promise of change and the idea he was a voice for the outsiders. He leveraged the force of his personality and his persona into comfortable victories for himself, but couldn’t pass those voters on. There were many voters on Tuesday who were happy with Obama’s performance but didn’t associate that satisfaction with his Secretary of State. The traditional strategy of running the lieutenant of a popular president came unstuck, Hilary Clinton proved far more popular in office than on campaign. She’s no-one’s idea of a natural campaigner to say the least.

There have been suggestions that gender bias is at play here, while the hard analysis examining it provides rather more mixed results.

Clinton was able to use the brute force of her competence to get past Bernie Sanders, and almost did so against Trump she was always swimming against the current. She thought she was speaking to an electorate with an emerging consensus in favour of Democratic policies, she found she was speaking at an electorate who wanted another cycle of revolution. Perhaps she was the ideal candidate for a different political era, or had this era come at a different time in her life she would have suited it better.

Perhaps if James Comey doesn’t write a letter she makes it all the way upstream to the White House, perhaps if she wasn’t facing Trump she’d never have been in the race at all. There is so much noise, sound, and fury in these results we should be wary and hesitant (we rarely are, but we should be) of reading too much into them. But the overriding signal is clear as if it was shouted in chorus. Something is wrong.

Which is about as big a simplification as you can get, but then there are ever only really two kinds of elections. “Things are alright” and “something must change”. Hilary Clinton fought the first and ultimately wrong one. It seems like we’re in an era of “something must change” elections (for some, for many it’s probably closer to something must change back) and it looks unlikely to break that pattern any time soon. Or perhaps this was just a presidential election swung by a picture of a penis.



Trying to make sense of Tuesday’s dramatic result

Friday, November 11th, 2016

In the first of three articles by long-time PBer Corporeal

This piece is going to have a lot more questions than answers in it.

The defining factor of any political era is not who is winning elections but how are they fought and what they are fought over. What are the battlegrounds. It’s a question you can look at in many ways. Demographic battles over a cast of proverbial characters are fought out in bellwether constituencies on touchstone issues.

In this latest election some of these are familiar, Ohio and Florida have been key bellwethers once more, while other traditional perspectives don’t fit as well as they used to. The narrative of the ‘left-behind’ is already in force, we await more detailed analysis (and no doubt there will be a race for the first blog post, the first academic paper, the first book to explain everything,) but Eric Kaufmann lays out the case against economic explanations of Trump support.

Traditional voting justifications they hardly do better. Little time was spent with the candidates or their proxies fighting it out over ideology. Hilary Clinton tried to make it about competency wih some success, the popular vote looks like a dead heat after all. But if you listened to the voters you heard Clinton voters talk about Trump’s incompetence, while Trump voters talked about Clinton’s status as a member of the elite establishment. Aloof, untouchable, arrogantly insulated from criminal prosecution, economic pain or cultural shifts that mattered to them.

In a culture increasingly obsessed with authenticity from its music to its coffee, Hilary Clinton’s campaign was dogged by secret speeches, public/private views, personal email servers, and could never escape the attacks that she had things to hide. On SNL we saw her satirised as a scripted, and robotic. The Donald was often off-message, frequently erratic, and sometimes outright offensive but never inauthentic (compare Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, and consider if  other types of candidates could get away with similar things). He was mocked as a cartoon character but in the end was more like a drunk uncle and as such was familiar, recognisable, real in a warts and all manner. Perhaps there’s a desire for more humanity and less artificial sheen in politicans (a word that’s become an insult).

There are always a range of reasons for a candidate’s support, they’re rightly called coalitions (and from recent experience we know those don’t always contain comfortable bedfellows). Some of Donald Trump’s supporters are openly sexist, some of them are blatantly racist, some have a more general sense of discomfort that the country they thought they knew looks and sounds a lot different than it did when they were growing up. Some will have been voting on traditional anti-abortion and pro-life issues. We should not be so lazy as to conflate these groups (elections are never just about the Mondeo Man). The insurgents and elites feels like the dominant narrative because it rings so very loudly in the places and people that swung against Clinton either by staying home or voting Trump.

Clinton lost because she couldn’t get a lot of Obama voters to turnout for her, and many of those that did only did so because of Trump. The main focus will be on dissecting the Trump voter when the more important point is the search for the missing Democrats.

Through the twentieth century we’ve been used to the young and the (small l) liberal  pushing against the boundaries set and policed by more conservative elements of society (and in the USA this is often the divide between coastal and landlocked states). They were the ones doing and saying ‘outrageous’ things and were marked as extreme for it. It’s a set-up that placed the apparent centre of cultural power in that (small c) conservative culture of America’s heartland. It’s a set-up that seems to have flipped in recent years, it’s become the children policing their parents. Telling them they can’t think this, shouldn’t say that, and certainly mustn’t support them because that is culturally unacceptable. It’s hard to attract the support of people who feel like you’re demonising, mocking, and condescending to people like them.

The electorate hasn’t changed much in the four years since Barack Obama won re-election, we’re just seeing a different view of it. If white non-college educated voters are acting like a minority it’s because they feel like a minority. America’s heartland feels marginalised and they’re lashing out.