With the Republican field down to just legitimate five candidates (and Ben Carson), Donald Trump continues to hold the top slot. The Democratic side saw very little movement over the last week, despite a dominant win by Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire.

The outside shock to the election this week was the sudden death of Antonin Scalia. The associate justice died of natural causes sometime before Saturday morning, February 13. With President Obama making it clear that he will nominate a replacement and the Republican controlled senate making it clear they will try to block it, the election year will have at least 3 months dominated by talk of the Supreme Court. If the Republicans succeed in blocking the nomination, than the debates in the fall will have a very salient concern about the nomination. This is really bad for the Republican nominee because the most salient Supreme Court questions tend to be social. Marco Rubio made that clear when he talked about making abortion illegal (in all cases including rape and incest) and blocking gay marriage in his closing statement for the most recent Republican debate. These issues poll well with the GOP base, but are way out of the mainstream for the general population. Republican positions on voting rights, gun ownership, and environmental regulations are similarly not in the mainstream. They fare better on general corporate regulations and immigration questions, but these are less salient parts of the general population discussions about the Supreme Court.

A closer look at the Republican race:

1) Trump is heavily favored to carry South Carolina on Saturday, February 20 and likely in the Nevada Caucus on Tuesday, February 23. Should he carry both states, going 3 for 4 with one second place, he will be well over 50% to carry the nomination. Trump has started to show his true positions this week, taking moderate positions on both social (defending Planned Parenthood’s work on women’s health) and foreign policy (and once again defending diplomacy and restraint in the Middle East) matters. This could complicate the dynamics of any three person race between Trump, Ted Cruz, and establishment winner. Trump may become more dangerous to the establishment than Cruz, if he is running the left of the establishment.

2) Rubio cemented his disastrous stay in New Hampshire with a fifth place finish after blowing the Saturday, February 6 debate. But, he has come on strong in South Carolina where he the likely to be the top establishment candidate again (after his strong third in Iowa). He is just 5% to win South Carolina, but 15% to come in second and 35% to come in third. Which makes him 55% to show (i.e., come in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd). A strong finish in South Carolina and Nevada could put him back in the establishment position.

3) The two governors, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich are tight behind Rubio, with Bush slightly more likely to show at 35% to Kasich’s 30%. Only one of them will remain viable after South Carolina and Nevada.

4) Ted Cruz is 65% to come in either first or second (55% for second), so South Caroline looms large for him as well.

PredictWise20160214b

Vertical Lines: Monday, February 1 Iowa Caucus; Saturday, February 6 debate; Tuesday, February 9 New Hampshire Primary; Saturday, February 13 debate
Sources: Betfair, Hypermind, PredictIt, http://twopointoh.predictwise.com/politics/2016-president-republican-nomination/

A closer look at the Democratic race:

If Hillary Clinton can win Nevada (55% likely) she will make short work of Sanders. If Sanders wins Nevada, and Clinton take South Carolina (as expected), we are in for a long race.

PredictWise20160214a

Vertical Lines: Monday, February 1 Iowa Caucus; Thursday, February 4 debate; Tuesday, February 9 New Hampshire Primary; Thursday, February 11 debate
Sources: Betfair, Hypermind, PredictIt, http://twopointoh.predictwise.com/politics/2016-president-democratic-nomination/