As the presidential primaries crash headlong toward the first votes in three weeks, our pal Chris Cillizza has dropped any pretense of objectivity, today speculating about a Sanders sweep of both Iowa and New Hampshire. His fig leaf basis for indulging this fantasy scenario this is two polls yesterday, one showing Hillary Clinton leading in Iowa by 48-45 and the other showing Sanders leading in New Hampshire by 50-46. From this, Cillizza gushes:
Consider two polls conducted by the Wall Street Journal, NBC and Marist College in Iowa and New Hampshire that were released Sunday. In Iowa, Clinton has 48 percent, Sanders has 45 percent, and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley has 5 percent. In New Hampshire, it’s Sanders in the lead with 50 percent, with 46 percent for Clinton and 1 percent for O’Malley.
Even if you accept that these surveys are a snapshot in time and take a step back to look at the broader polling picture, the idea of Sanders sweeping the first two states remains plausible.
Ummm, not really. As Cillizza acknowledges deeper into the article, the NBC/WSJ poll in Iowa is out of whack with the trend line in Iowa which shows Clinton with a larger lead. Her lead in the Real Clear Politics average in Iowa is 10.6 points. The new poll is the closest of the five being used in the current average. Sanders has not led an Iowa poll since early September, and out of 43 polls in the state since late April, he has led in precisely two of them.
In New Hampshire on the other hand, Sanders’ RCP lead is a mere 4.7 points, Clinton leads two of the most recent polls, and she’s led in 16 out of 35 polls since early May. Sanders’ current lead is the product of one poll – by Fox News – showing him with a 13 point lead in early January. But at the same time, the new NBC/WSJ poll shows Sanders ahead by 4, while Clinton leads by 3 in a PPP poll.
From all this data, Cillizza spins out a “nightmare scenario” of Clinton losing both Iowa and New Hampshire. If anything, however, the data argues for precisely the opposite – if Sanders can’t win in either Iowa or New Hampshire, he’s pretty much done. And the chances of him losing New Hampshire are growing with each new poll recently.
But that’s not the story that Chris Cillizza wants to tell. What he suggests certainly isn’t impossible, but absent his transparent cherry picking of a single poll this morning, there’s no evidence to indicate that it’s any more likely now than it was a week or a month ago. Leading me to wonder why this story wasn’t headlined “Sanders lead slipping in New Hampshire.”
Actually, upon 2.3 seconds of reflection, I don’t wonder at all. Chris Cillizza is a hack.