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Video: Nate Silver Talks About the 2016 Presidential Election at GMU in Arlington

by ARLnow.com February 29, 2016 at 6:00 pm 0

The Super Tuesday primaries are upon us. On Tuesday, voters in Virginia and almost a dozen other states will head to the polls to select a Republican and a Democratic presidential nominee.

Will Hilary Clinton remain the Democratic favorite? Will Donald Trump retain his unlikely status as the Republican frontrunnner?

On Feb. 16, polls and statistics guru elections guru Nate Silver sat down with prominent George Mason University professor Tyler Cowen, as part of the “Conversations with Tyler” series at GMU’s Arlington campus.

The Mercatus Center at GMU has posted video (above) and a transcript of the discussion. Here are some of Silver’s predictions and observations.

On Silver’s initial Trump skepticism:

I got a little frustrated, because a lot of people were saying, “Trump’s instantly going to evaporate in the polls.” If you go back and look at what we wrote, we said, “That could happen, but there are also a lot of candidates – Pat Buchanan, and so forth, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum – who will get 20, 25, 30-something percent of the electorate, and we have a high-floor, low-ceiling type of candidate.” 

Lots of unusual candidates have done well in early polls. Lots of unusual candidates have won Iowa or New Hampshire, not usually both, but one or the other. It’s the ability to consolidate the field after that, by becoming the consensus choice of the party that’s been more unusual. That assumption still might prove to be true.

On Marco Rubio’s chances:

I’ve been a Rubio optimist for a while, on the theory that he is the only candidate who really has appeal to all the various sectors and constituencies within the GOP, which may be a fraying party, but still, he has the highest favorability ratings in the party.

On Ted Cruz and the price of rigid ideology in the general election:

You can see that there’s a price for extremism. Not a price that can’t be overcome, if we go into a big recession or if Clinton or Bernie has huge problems, but Cruz would probably cost you three or four points relative to the median generic Republican.

On Trump’s potential pivot to the center in a general election:

But the most basic problem is that in an election between Sanders and Trump or Clinton and Trump, everything is quite left of center. Trump, when he was thinking about running as an independent in 1999-2000, had an eccentric platform. It involved single-payer health care, a wealth tax. He was anti-immigration, even then, but pro-choice.

He said explicitly, “I’m not bound by any party, really. I’ll probably reconsider my stances if I become the Republican nominee.”

On Bernie Sanders’ Democratic base of support:

Sanders, we haven’t really seen. Can he win states that are not very white and very liberal? Maybe he can. Nevada seems to be pretty close. I’m just saying, we haven’t really received that much information that would make you update your priors about Sanders all that much.

On Michael Bloomberg potentially entering the race as an independent candidate:

Obviously, in some ways, the climate could be as fertile as ever for some type of third candidate running, but Bloomberg, I don’t know. Number one, I’m not sure he differentiates all that well from Clinton, with whom he has a lot in common policy-wise, and Trump, with which he’s kind of the same character.

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