The Democratic Nomination is Political Moneyball
As the chairs fill for the next debate stage, we are seeing how Moneyball metrics and philosophy has changed the political process. We will see how key performance indicators (KPIs) and analytics are establishing who is in and who is out. Now, we will watch as the viewers scout the candidates.
How have KPIs changed the process? Instead of looking at metrics like number of pitches seen or inherited runners scored, The DNC has established that the candidates in the next debate must reach 2% in four public polls and must have 130,000 unique donors. What will be interesting is how the field will be narrowed after the September debate, if at all. Will they look at how many congressional districts the candidates have slated delegates? Will the DNC consider how much staff the campaigns have in the states leading up to Super Tuesday? Of course, as candidates drop out of the process following the first four primaries, the political Darwinism will take its natural course.
Then we go to the scouts. These are the viewers.
So, as we get to the last two or three chairs on the stage, what are these scouts selecting? So, in Moneyball, you read about how the A’s selected players who came from colleges and had high onbase percentage because, while they could have a lower upside than the younger players, they were the less risky selection. If enough of the scouts start to support Michael Bennett, Kristen Gillibrand, John Delaney or Jay Inslee, the answer will be pragmatism and low risk. It will also change the nature and tone of the debate. While the candidate’s brands are already established, there will be a noticeable shift to the center.
Then again, the scouts could look to candidate with a high upside. The kind of player who has the right tools – arm like a cannon, runs the basepaths on afterburners, slams the ball a mile – but a smaller data set. In this case, they haven’t established the donors or poll numbers, but they are interesting candidates: Marianne Williamson and her message that love conquers hate, Tom Steyer and his anti-Trump brand, or Bill di Blasio and his assertion that he has successfully implemented many of the far left policies in New York. Should a couple of these candidates reach the stage, then the course of the debate takes a hard turn to the left.
But that is not the only place the scouts, using their eye test, will affect the process between now and September. With about one in ten Democrats looking at the primary field this early, you will see the race cluster around four of five candidates. Despite being put through an electron microscope of political analysis, Joe Biden has maintained his position as the front runner. By any measure, he has a significant margin. At this point the question is whether he has an upside, with enough strongly rooted support to put the nomination away after Super Tuesday. The downside comes if there is a huge yearning for a new messenger, and the candidate that does better than expected in Iowa and New Hampshire becomes the new exciting candidate capable of challenging or beating Biden.
Many will say there are other datasets, polling internals and crosstabs, that are not considered above. True. But those KPIs – who is polling best amongst demographics that turn out for caucuses in Iowa – are not in the current consideration set. It seems the question on the table is what kind of player are the Democrats going to draft for their nominee – the one with a deep record who seems to be better positioned to beat the incumbent or the one with a high upside that can ignite a movement?