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Commentary By Geoffrey Skelley

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July 21, 2016

What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Bounce by Geoffrey Skelley

The convention bounce is a long-established pattern in presidential election cycles. Much has been written about it, so we won’t rehash it too much. The main point is that conventions almost always generate an increase in a nominee’s polling numbers during and after his or her convention, but often times the bounce is short-lived. Still, some of that jump in the polls can be maintained; in this environment, a poll bounce will probably signal increased party unity. This is what is important for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: The former needs to get his support among Republicans up to and beyond 90% in the polls (he’s currently in the 80%-85% range) and the latter needs Sanders supporters, many of whom self-identify as independents, to more firmly back her (most surveys have shown a sizable chunk of Sanders voters still outside Clinton’s camp).

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July 7, 2016

Venus vs. Mars: A Record-Setting Gender Gap? By Geoffrey Skelley

With four months to go in the 2016 general election campaign, national polls suggest that it’s quite possible that the Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump clash may well set a new record for partisan differences between the sexes.

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June 21, 2016

A Tale of Two Elections: Clinton’s 2016 Primary Performance Versus 2008 By Geoffrey Skelley

One striking aspect of the Democratic primary race was the stark role-reversal in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 performance compared with her narrow loss to Barack Obama in 2008’s Democratic nomination battle. Whereas she ran against Obama in 2008, she positioned herself as his successor at every turn during her race against insurgent Bernie Sanders in 2016. It’s very easy to see the effect of this in a county-level map of the change in her performance from eight years ago to this cycle, as shown by the coloring in Map 1 below (a choropleth map). (We recommend clicking on the map for a much larger version.)

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February 18, 2016

Republicans 2016: From South Carolina to the Ides of March By Geoffrey Skelley

After months and months of endless fascination with Iowa and New Hampshire, the bulk of the primary season will be contested over just the course of a single month. Between Feb. 20 and March 5, a whopping 37 states and territories will hold at least one party’s nominating contest, many both. In order to prepare our readers for this flood of primaries and caucuses, we wanted to take a look at each one and try to assess what their electorates are like and what history tells us about whom they might be inclined to support. This week, we sketch out the Republican calendar from Feb. 20 through March 15. Next week, we’ll tackle the Democrats.

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January 21, 2016

The Modern History of the Republican Presidential Primary, 1976-2012 By Geoffrey Skelley

The presidential nomination process has a history of being fuzzy. For much of the nation’s political existence, starting in the 1830s, national party conventions selected nominees for the highest office in the land. At these events, the oft-used term “smoke-filled rooms” described the sometimes behind-the-scenes activity that led to the final selection of a nominee. Sometimes this person was an obvious, well-known national figure; other times, an unexpected, relative unknown captured the nomination.

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November 12, 2015

Republicans 2016: White Evangelicals Dominate the Early Calendar By Geoffrey Skelley

Based on the election calendar, white evangelical Christians are going to receive ample attention early in the 2016 Republican primary. Using exit poll data from the 2012 and 2008 GOP primaries, as well as data from the Census Bureau and the Public Religion Research Institute’s American Values Atlas to help estimate numbers for states with no exit polls, we found that about two-thirds (64%) of the total delegates in states with contests on or before March 8 will come from states with electorates that may be at least 50% white evangelical.

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August 27, 2015

Democrats 2016: The Primary Map Still Favors Clinton By Geoffrey Skelley

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been under siege for months as additional revelations and developments regarding her use of a private email account continue to drip out. Last week, the Crystal Ball explored what might happen should Clinton drop out of the Democratic primary or, as the rumors swirl about the possibility, if Vice President Joe Biden enters the race.

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May 14, 2015

Democrats 2016: Sanders Now Clinton's Chief Rival By Geoffrey Skelley

“Inevitable.” That’s the word often used to describe Hillary Clinton and the 2016 Democratic nomination. Can anyone beat her? Anything’s possible, but the odds appear quite low. Still, her most threatening intraparty opposition could prove to be a man who isn’t even technically a Democrat (yet, anyway): independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-identified “democratic socialist.” We see him as a potential thorn in Clinton’s side, and to reflect that, we are moving Sanders to the top of the non-Clinton tier in our presidential rankings for Democrats.

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March 5, 2015

Coattails and Correlation By Geoffrey Skelley

Few political observers will be surprised that the correlation between presidential and Senate results has been increasing over the last few presidential election cycles. That is, during a presidential election year, the Senate race in state A has increasingly tended to have a similar outcome to the presidential result in state A. Other analysts have noted the growing relationship between the two variables, such as National Journal, which produced a great infographic examining the 2000 to 2012 elections.

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February 12, 2015

The Era of Competition: How 2016 Could Set a Presidential Record By Geoffrey Skelley

The United States is in the midst of an era of great competitiveness in presidential contests. Not once in the last seven presidential elections has a party won more than 55% or less than 45% of the two-party vote. In a recent article for Politico Magazine, the Crystal Ball team argued that fundamentals, recent history, and the nation’s marked political polarization portend a highly competitive 2016 tilt. If the indicators for 2016 play out close to expectations and induce a tight open-seat battle, it may become the eighth consecutive contest where neither major party garners more than 55% of the two-party vote, a new record.

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January 15, 2015

Harry Reid & The Senate Survivors By Geoffrey Skelley

If history is any indication, it would be hard to pick against Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) if he runs for another term next year. His races are often close, but he has shown a remarkable amount of resilience over the years, frustrating Republican attempts to dislodge him. In fact, by some measures Reid has had a tougher time retaining his seat than any of the longest-serving senators during the century-long era of popular Senate elections. He is, in many ways, the heartiest of the “Senate survivors.”

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November 13, 2014

14 From ’14: Quick Takes on the Midterm By Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley

After going over the results from last week, we had a number of bite-sized observations to offer — 14, to be exact.

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April 17, 2014

Exiting the House: The many paths to ending a career in Congress' lower chamber By Geoffrey Skelley

Over the past 40 years, there have been many ways to leave the U.S. House of Representatives. Specifically, nine different methods. The main ones, beyond losing a primary or general election, are to retire or run for another office. But a member can also do one of the following: be appointed to another office, resign, be expelled, pass away or, in the rarest of instances, have the House vacate one’s seat.

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March 27, 2014

Putting Their Eggs in the Wrong Midterm Basket By Geoffrey Skelley

Barring significant changes in group voting habits, many commentators have argued that “The Coalition of the Ascendant” is positioned to give Democrats a notable edge in elections in the near future. There may be some truth to that supposition: The country is clearly getting more diverse, and nonwhite voters tend to vote strongly Democratic.

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December 15, 2012

South Carolina Doubles Down on 2014 By Geoffrey Skelley

When Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) unexpectedly announced that he planned to resign his seat in early 2013 to become president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, he set in motion an odd American political occurrence: the double-barreled Senate election. This is when there is both a Senate special election and a regularly-scheduled Senate election held on the same day in the same state. In 2014, South Carolina will have a special election for the rest of DeMint's term at the same time Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) is up for reelection.

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June 29, 2012

2012 Gubernatorial Update: Republicans Aim For Their High-Water Mark By Geoffrey Skelley

A record-tying year could be in store for Republicans in 2012. No, we’re not talking about Mitt Romney -- even if he wins, Romney will not equal Richard Nixon’s 60.7% popular vote share in 1972 or Ronald Reagan’s 525 electoral votes in 1984. Rather, Republicans can tie a record in another category: the number of state governorships the party has held at one time.

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May 19, 2012

The States That Put President's Over The Top By Geoffrey Skelley

We all think we know which states are the pivotal players in the Electoral College. The Crystal Ball's most recent look at the map showed that there are seven "Super Swing States:" Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia.

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February 4, 2012

Unemployment and the Presidential Race By Geoffrey Skelley

Back in September, the Crystal Ball examined the possible electoral impact of state-by-state unemployment figures because, after all, presidents are elected in 51 individual battles (50 states plus Washington, D.C.)

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January 21, 2012

Romney's Opponents Look for the Spirit of '76 By Geoffrey Skelley

While Mitt Romney may very well be on his way to winning the GOP nomination, he is not completely out of the woods yet. With so many primaries and caucuses left to be decided, it is perfectly possible that other candidates will win some of the remaining states as long as they stay in the race. We only have to look at the party nomination struggles in 1976 to see how frontrunners who started fast ended up facing long, hard slogs to the nomination.