Britain’s next PM announcement: 9:30pm AEST tonight

Liz Truss set to be Britain’s next PM. Also: US Democrats’ midterm prospects improve, and Bolsonaro likely to be ousted in October’s Brazilian elections.

9:47pm Monday: It’s a lot closer than the polls had it, but still a very easy win for Liz Truss. She wins over 81,000 votes to over 60,000 for Rishi Sunak. In percentage terms, that’s a 57.4-42.6 margin for Truss.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is a paid election analyst for The Conversation. His work for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

The winner of the Conservative leadership contest, and thus Britain’s next PM, will be announced at 9:30pm AEST tonight (12:30pm UK time). In July, Conservative MPs whittled the candidates down to a final two: Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. The Conservative membership voted by mail between these two, with the postal reception deadline passing Friday.

A YouGov poll of 1,089 Conservative members for Sky News UK that was conducted August 12-17, gave Truss a 66-34 lead over Sunak, down from her 69-31 lead in early August. Among the 57% who had already voted, Truss led by 68-31. Boris Johnson would easily win a three-way race with 46%, to 24% for Truss and 23% Sunak.

In national UK polls, Labour has taken a double digit lead over the Conservatives. A key reason is the massive rise in energy prices, with the price regulator confirming on August 26 that energy prices for the typical household would increase 80% from October compared to now. That means gas and electricity prices this coming northern winter will be about 2.6 times what they were in the 2021-22 winter after a large increase in April.

It’s also plausible that some people voted for Johnson at the 2019 election, rather than for the Conservative party. By ousting Johnson, the Conservatives could alienate these voters. But the next UK general election is not due until late 2024, and the economy may be better then.

US by-elections suggest improved prospects for Democrats at midterms

I wrote for The Conversation last Thursday that before the US Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade ruling on June 24, the average US by-election was recording a two-point gain for Republicans relative to partisan lean. In four by-elections since, it’s been an average of a nine-point gain for Democrats. This analysis does not include the Alaska by-election on August 16, which was resolved Wednesday by preferential voting. Democrat Mary Peltola defeated Republican Sarah Palin to gain this seat.

Polling is also consistent with a lift for the Democrats two months before the November 8 midterm elections, while Liz Cheney suffered a crushing loss in the Wyoming Republican primary.

Brazilian elections: October 2 and 30 (if necessary)

The first round of the Brazilian presidential election will be held October 2, with a runoff October 30 if no candidate wins at least 50%. The contenders are far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and the leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula), who was president from 2003 to 2010.

In five polls conducted at least partly since the August 28 first presidential debate, Lula leads Bolsonaro by between four and 13 points. Another left-wing candidate is winning 8-9%, so Lula will probably not win outright in the first round. In the runoff, Lula has a seven to 15 point lead over Bolsonaro.

Italian, Swedish and Israeli elections

There hasn’t been much change in Italian polls ahead of the September 25 election since my detailed write-up three weeks ago. The right-wing coalition is in the high 40s, the left coalition in the high 20s or low 30s, the Five Star Movement has about 12% and a centrist alliance about 7%. With 37% of parliamentary seats to be elected by first past the post, the female leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, is likely to be Italy’s next PM.

The Swedish election is next Sunday, and it uses proportional representation (PR) to elect its 349 MPs. The Social Democrats are well ahead, but only have 29% so would be far short of a majority. They would still need at least one more coalition ally after the Left party and the Greens.

The Israeli election will be held November 1 after the collapse of a coalition formed to keep former PM Benjamin Netanyahu out. The 120 Knesset seats are elected by PR with a 3.25% threshold. Polls currently suggest that Netanyahu’s Likud, with religious and far-right allies, would fall short of the 61 seats needed for a Knesset majority, but are ahead of the current governing parties.

UK Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton by-elections live

Live commentary from late Friday morning. Also: Israel’s anti-Netanyahu government collapses and a leftist wins in Colombia for the first time.

Live commentary

1:10pm As I said earlier, the political class exaggerates the meaning of by-elections, which are poor predictors of the next general election result. But these bad losses for the Conservatives could put Boris Johnson back in danger.

1:06pm Lib Dems win T&H by about 14% – HUGE swing!

1:04pm Lib Dems GAIN T&H from Conservatives

1:01pm Labour wins Wakefield by about 18%.

12:57pm Labour GAINS Wakefield from the Conservatives.

12:10pm Wakefield results due in the next 30 minutes, T&H in 60 to 90 minutes according to Britain Elects. This was posted ten minutes ago.

11:40am Friday I haven’t missed anything at gym. More than 4.5 hours after polls closed, still no results from either by-election. All I can report is that turnout in Wakefield was 39.1% (down 24.5% from 2019 general election turnout) and 52.0% in T&H (down 19.9%). Turnout in by-elections is always well down from general elections.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is a paid election analyst for The Conversation. His work for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

UK parliamentary by-elections are today in two Conservative-held seats, with polls closing at 7am Friday AEST. Both seats were vacated owing to misbehaviour by the incumbent MPs, with the Wakefield MP resigning after a conviction for child sexual assault, while the Tiverton & Honiton MP was caught watching porn in parliament.

Wakefield was held by Labour from 1932 until the Conservatives won it in 2019, while Tiverton & Honiton has been Conservative-held since its creation in 1997. Labour will be the main challenger in Wakefield and the Liberal Democrats in Tiverton & Honiton. Two polls in Wakefield have Labour winning by 20 and 23 points; I have not seen any polls in Tiverton & Honiton.

If Labour wins Wakefield, I believe it would be their first gain at a by-election since Corby in November 2012. In a sign that by-election results are overread by the political class, the Conservatives regained Corby at the 2015 general election, and have held it since.

At the 2019 general election, the Conservatives won Wakefield by 47.3-39.8 over Labour, with 6.1% for the Brexit party and 3.9% Liberal Democrats. Wakefield voted Leave by 63-37 at the 2016 Brexit referendum. The Conservatives won Tiverton & Honiton in 2019 by 60.2-19.5 over Labour with 14.8% for the Liberal Democrats and 3.8% Greens. It voted Leave by 57.8-42.2.

While Tiverton & Honiton is held by a big margin, the Liberal Democrats had massive swings to them at both the North Shropshire by-election in December 2021 and the Chesham & Amersham by-election in June 2021.

In recent days, there has been much media and political focus on rail strikes. While voters want the trains to run, inflation and the resulting real wage cuts are a major problem, so voters may sympathize with workers demanding better pay.

Other matters: Israel, Colombia and Ukraine

A year ago, Israeli parties from across the political spectrum formed a government to oust Benjamin Netanyahu, who was PM from 2009 to 2021. However, this government has now collapsed, and new elections are expected in late October or November. Polls suggest Netanyahu’s Likud, with support from religious parties, would win close to a majority of the Knesset.

At Sunday’s Colombian presidential runoff election, the left-wing Gustavo Petro defeated the right-wing populist Rodolfo Hernández by a 50.4-47.3 margin. Petro is the first leftist to win the Colombian presidency.

The left has performed well in recent South American elections, with wins in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. The most important South American election is Brazil in October, where far-right President Jair Bolsonaro is badly trailing his left-wing challenger, Lula.

The Ukraine war has faded out of the headlines, but it still going on. There is currently a bloody conflict in eastern Ukraine. This continuing war is one reason for high global inflation, which is undermining Western incumbents.

Note: I go to gym on Friday mornings, so will not be providing commentary until I return.

Netanyahu ousted in Israeli Knesset confidence vote

Also covered: US and UK by-elections, a German state election and federal polls, and the far-left narrowly wins in Peru.

11:24am Saturday A grim Survation poll for Labour in Batley and Spen, with the Tories leading Labour by 47-41.

11:06am Friday The Lib Dems have GAINED the UK Chesham and Amersham by-election from the Conservatives. The Lib Dems won 56.7% (up 30.4%), the Conservatives 35.5% (down 19.9%) and Labour a pathetic 1.6% (down 11.2%).

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

At the March Israeli election, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc of parties won 59 of the 120 Knesset seats, two short of the 61 for a majority. Netanyahu was given the first attempt to form a government, but was unsuccessful.

On June 2, just before the deadline expired, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid announced he had formed a government that excluded Netanyahu. Under the agreement, Naftali Bennett, leader of the far-right Yamina, would be PM for two years, with Lapid taking over for the remainder of the four-year term. The coalition has parties from across the political spectrum, including a small Arab party for the first time in an Israeli government.

On Sunday, the Israeli Knesset held a confidence vote in the new government, and it won this vote by 60-59, with one Arab member abstaining. Bennett became PM, ending Netanyahu’s 12 successive years as Israel’s PM. Yamina won just seven seats at the election, while Yesh Atid won 17.

The key question is how long the present government will last. The parties that formed it are united only by their detestation of Netanyahu. As the government is headed by a far-right PM, it’s unlikely to be good for Palestinian rights.

US Democrats perform strongly in New Mexico by-election             

At a by-election for New Mexico’s first Congressional District on June 1, the Democrat defeated the Republican by a 60.3-35.7% margin. The almost 25-point Democratic victory is two points better for Democrats than Joe Biden’s margin over Donald Trump in the same district in 2020, and eight points better than the Democratic incumbent in 2020. This was much better for Democrats than the dreadful result in a Texas federal by-election on May 1.

In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Biden’s current ratings are 53.2% approve, 40.7% disapprove (net +12.5%). With polls of likely or registered voters, his ratings are 53.6% approve, 41.3% disapprove (net +12.3%).

Biden’s initial ratings had high disapprovals by the standards of past presidents, and he was ahead of only Trump on net approval. But his approval has since been very steady, and he has overtaken Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford at the same point of their presidencies.

Good result for CDU at German state election

At the June 6 Saxony-Anhalt state election, the conservative CDU won 37.1% (up 7.4% since 2016), the far-right AfD 20.6% (down 3.4%), the Left 11.0% (down 5.3%), the centre-left SPD 8.4% (down 2.2%), the pro-business FDP 6.4% (up 1.6%) and the Greens 5.9% (up 0.8%). The CDU won 40 of the 97 seats, the AfD 23, the Left 12, SPD nine, FDP seven and Greens six. 5% is needed for the proportional allocation of seats, so the FDP missed out last time.

In German federal polls ahead of the September 26 election, the CDU/CSU has advanced at the expense of the Greens since my last update in early May, with the FDP also up, while the Left is close to the 5% threshold. Right-wing parties now have about 50% combined, to about 43% for the combined left. Another poor election for the left in a major European country is likely.

Upcoming UK by-elections

On Thursday, a by-election will occur in the Conservative-held Chesham and Amersham. While this seat has been Conservative-held since its creation in 1974, it voted 55% Remain at the Brexit referendum. To compensate for the loss of its Leave-voting seats, Labour needs to gain seats like C&A. Although Labour finished second in 2017, the 2019 results were 55.4% Conservative (down 5.3%), 26.3% Lib Dem (up 13.3%), 12.9% Labour (down 7.7%) and 5.5% Greens (up 2.5%).

There will be a July 1 by-election in Labour-held Batley and Spen, which voted 60% Leave at the Brexit referendum. The 2019 results were 42.7% Labour (down 12.7%), 36.0% Conservative (down 2.8%), 12.2% for an independent, 4.7% Lib Dem (up 2.4%) and 3.2% Brexit party.

Far-left defeats far-right in Peru

In the June 6 Peru presidential runoff, the far-left’s Pedro Castillo defeated the far-right’s Keiko Fujimori by just a 50.13-49.87 margin. Fujimori is the daughter of the former dictator, and has narrowly lost three runoffs. In the first round, Castillo won 18.9% and Fujimori 13.4% with the rest being too split to qualify for the runoff.

Israeli election minus three days; UK local elections minus seven weeks

A right coalition under Netanyahu looking likely in Israel, while UK Labour’s polling is poor, and support for Scottish independence drops.

Live Israeli election commentary

6:40pm With 87% in, Netanyahu’s right bloc has declined to a combined 59 of the 120 seats, two short of a majority. A key reason is that the United Arab List, which was below the 3.25% threshold previously, is now back up to 4.0%. Also, Tel Aviv, a bastion of the left in Israel, reports late.

2:55pm With about half the votes counted, OryxMaps has the right-wing parties aligned with Netanyahu getting a total of 65 of the 120 Knesset seats. This is currently biased towards the right.

9:55am An updated exit poll, based on late voters, now gives Netanyahu’s right bloc 60 of the 120 seats, one seat short of a majority. As I said before, it’s still highly possible for Netanyahu to form a government even if his bloc is just short.

7:30am Wednesday The OryxMaps Twitter account has details of three exit polls. While there are differences in individual party support, all three give the most probable right-wing coalition (Likud, Yamina, Shas, UTJ and Religious Zionists) 61 of the 120 seats, enough for a majority.

Counting is slow in Israel, with most votes not counted until the afternoon our time. It will take a few more days to get final results.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

The Israeli election will be held on Tuesday, with polls closing at 7am Wednesday AEDT. This election will be held just over a year after the last election. Owing to failure to form a governing coalition, there were three elections in a year from 2019-20.

After the March 2020 election, a grand coalition was formed between Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’ Blue & White, with Gantz recanting on his promise to not form a government with Netanyahu owing to COVID. Before entering negotiations with Netanyahu, Gantz had received support from 61 of the 120 Knesset members; he threw away what is likely to be the best chance to defeat Netanyahu.

Under the agreement, Netanyahu and Gantz would rotate the premiership, with Netanyahu having the first 18 months. The agreement broke down at the end of 2020, when Gantz realized (surprise! surprise!) that Netanyahu had no intention of giving up being PM. The Knesset was dissolved in late December.

The 120 Knesset members are elected by national proportional representation with a 3.25% threshold. Blue & White won 33 seats at the 2020 election, but are now only polling just above this threshold.

Likud is easily the largest party in the polls with about 31 seats, well ahead of Yesh Atid with 18. Religious parties (UTJ, Shas and Religious Zionist) are likely to win 20 combined seats. The right-wing Yamina is on about nine seats. Likud plus these four parties is about 60 of the 120 seats, very close to a majority.

Even if these five parties fall short of a majority, Netanyahu may be able to form a government with the assistance of former leadership rival Gideon Saar’s New Hope. New Hope has several former Likud members, and polls give it about eight seats.

It isn’t just the opposition’s disarray that is helping Netanyahu, but also Israel’s successful vaccination program; it is the world’s leader on vaccine doses administered per capita. From a peak of 101 COVID deaths on January 20, Isreal’s daily COVID death rate has fallen into single figures.

Bad polling for UK Labour ahead of local elections

Local elections will be held throughout England on May 6, and also include elections for the Scottish and Welsh parliaments. Owing to COVID cancellation of 2020’s elections, there will be far more seats than usual at stake.

Last April, Keir Starmer easily won the Labour leadership. Like most incumbents, the Conservatives had a polling surge in their favour as a result of COVID. But with deaths increasing to a peak of more than 1,500 on several days in January, Labour was in a near-tie with the Conservatives in late 2020.

The UK’s vaccination drive, with 42 doses per 100 people, has been far better than the European Union (13 per 100). As in Israel, UK deaths have fallen dramatically from their January peak. As a result, the Conservatives have opened about a six-point lead over Labour.

A bad performance for Labour in the local elections probably means little for the next general election, not due until 2024. But Starmer could be ousted. It takes 20% of Labour’s MPs to nominate a challenger. Much of Labour’s left-wing membership voted for Starmer in the expectation he would perform much better than Jeremy Corbyn at the disastrous 2019 election. If Labour can’t poll better, Starmer could be replaced by a left-winger.

As with UK Labour’s support, support for Scottish independence has recently fallen. A ComRes poll in January gave Yes to independence a 13-point lead, but in March they had No up by two points, with other pollsters similar. There has been a recent dip for the SNP that could cost them a majority in the Scottish election; there is a far more proportional system for Welsh and Scottish elections than UK general elections.

German and Dutch elections

In Germany, there has been a slump in support for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU that gives the three left-wing parties a realistic chance of forming government at the September election. The left nearly won outright majorities at two recent state elections. However, Wednesday’s Dutch election was dismal for the left. I covered these elections on my personal website on Friday.

Trump’s ratings slide back to pre-crisis levels

Joe Biden has clear leads over Trump in key states as the coronavirus death toll and economic damage rise. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont,

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 43.4% approve, 52.6% disapprove (net -9.2%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 43.8% approve, 52.5% disapprove (net -8.7%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump has lost five points on net approval, returning his ratings to about their early March levels, before the coronavirus crisis began.

As the US coronavirus death toll increases to over 50,000, there has been far more criticism of Trump’s early response, and this appears to have punctured the “rally round the flag” effect.

Furthermore, there has been a massive economic impact from the virus and related shutdowns: in the last five weeks, over 26 million filed for unemployment benefits. In the latest week, over 4.4 million filed. While this is a slowdown, it is far ahead of the previous record of 695,000 weekly jobless claims. The April jobs report, to be released in early May, will be grim.

The RealClearPolitics average of national polls gives Biden a 5.9% lead over Trump, little changed from 6.1% three weeks ago. However, most of the polls in the average were taken in early April, when Trump’s ratings were better.

As we know from 2016, the US does not use the popular vote to elect presidents; instead, each state is allocated Electoral Votes (EVs). A state’s EVs are its House seats (population dependent) and senators (always two). There are 538 total EVs, so it takes 270 to win. With two minor exceptions, states award their EVs winner-takes-all.

In 2016, Trump won 306 EVs to Hillary Clinton’s 232, ignoring “faithless” electors, despite losing the popular vote by 2.1%. Trump won Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan by 1.2% or less.

The three most recent Florida polls give Biden an average two-point lead. In Michigan, he has an eight-point lead in the only April poll. In Pennsylvania, Biden averages a seven-point lead in two April polls. In Arizona, which has trended Democratic at recent elections, Biden leads Trump by 9% in an April poll.

Despite noisy protests in Michigan and other states advocating an end to social distancing, polls show the vast majority of Americans want social distancing to continue. In an AP-NORC poll, just 12% thought distancing measures went too far, 26% said they didn’t go far enough and 61% said they are about right.

To have a realistic chance of winning the next election, Trump needs the US economy to be perceived as improving by November. While his base is loyal, lower-educated voters in general want a good economy, and Trump needs their support to offset losses among higher educated voters owing to his behaviour.

Despite the continued economic and coronavirus woe, the Dow Jones has rebounded from a low below 18,600 on March 23 to be currently above 23,500. Stock traders anticipate a V-shaped recovery, which would assist Trump. But since March 31, there have been 25,000 to 35,000 new US coronavirus cases every day. I am sceptical that the US can reduce the caseload to a point where economic activity can safely resume anytime soon.

Israel and South Korea election updates

In my previous article, I said that right-wing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc won 58 of the 120 Knesset seats at the March 2 election. Owing to coronavirus, Blue & White leader Benny Gantz would attempt to form a national unity government with Netanyahu. On April 20, the Netanyahu/Gantz agreement was sealed, with Netanyahu remaining PM for at least the next 18 months. After three elections within a year, this is a big win for Netanyahu, giving him his fifth successive term as PM.

Despite the coronavirus, parliamentary elections were held in South Korea on April 15, with precautions to stop the virus spreading. The left-wing Demcratic party of the incumbent president was rewarded for South Korea’s strong performance on coronavirus. They won 180 of the 300 seats (up 57 since 2016), to 103 for conservative parties (down 19). 253 seats were elected by first past the post, and 47 proportionally. The Democrats won the FPTP seats by 163 to 84 on vote shares of 49.9% to 41.5%.

Is Trump’s ratings improvement sustainable?

Trump’s ratings have improved to near-record highs, but his improvement is far less than other leaders. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Donald Trump’s current ratings with all polls are 45.8% approve, 49.7% disapprove (net -3.9%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 46.3% approve, 50.3% disapprove (net -4.0%). Trump’s ratings have improved 5-6 points in the last two weeks, and are the highest they have been since early in his term.

Despite the rise in Trump’s approval, the RealClearPolitics average of national polls gave virtually certain Democratic nominee Joe Biden a 6.1% lead over Trump, down only a little from 8.5% last fortnight.

A recent Fox News national poll gave Trump a 51-48 disapproval rating. However, 53% thought a quicker response from the federal government could have slowed the spread of coronavirus, while 34% said it was so contagious nothing could stop it spreading. Despite the higher rating for Trump, the same poll gave Biden a 49-40 lead.

Major crises tend to produce a “rally round the flag” effect for incumbents. Trump’s gains so far are dwarfed by George W. Bush’s gains in approval of over 30 points after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Other current leaders and governing parties have had far bigger bounces in their ratings than Trump. In Britain, two recent polls gave the Conservatives 54%, up from the mid to high 40s. In Germany, the conservative Union parties are currently in the mid-30s, up from the mid-20s before the crisis. The latest French poll gave President Emmanuel Macron a -8 net approval, up 26 points.

Even in the US, Trump’s bounce is far less than the bounce for New York’s Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo’s net favourable rating improved from -6 to +48 in a New York Siena College poll. New York has the most US coronavirus cases so far.

An example of a major crisis that produced an initial rally round the flag effect, but nothing else, is the December 2010 to January 2011 Queensland floods, during which over three-quarters of the state was affected.

I obtained old Newspoll data on request from Kevin Bonham. In October to December 2010, the Labor state government was trailing the opposition LNP by a landslide 59-41 margin. In January to March 2011, Labor surged ahead by 52-48, but then fell immediately back to a 60-40 deficit in April to June 2011. Labor never recovered, and was reduced to just seven of 89 seats at the March 2012 state election.

The Queensland polling indicates that, if the coronavirus crisis is resolved relatively quickly, people will be more focussed on other factors by the November election. In that case, how much damage the economy takes and whether it is clearly recovering are likely to be key factors in the election.

The more likely scenario is that coronavirus will damage the US both economically and in health terms for a long time. The US already has far more cases than any other country. I do not believe Trump’s ratings gains will be sustained if the US falls into a massive health and economic crisis.

The crisis has already had an economic impact: in the week ending March 21, almost 3.3 million new jobless claims were submitted, far exceeding the previous record of 695,000. Weekly jobless claims are published every Thursday, and this Friday we get the March US jobs report.

Israel and Ireland election updates

At the March 2 Israeli election, Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc won 58 of the 120 Knesset seats, while more left-wing parties won 55 seats. Yisrael Beiteinu, which had failed to work with either side at the previous two elections, won the remaining seven seats. Owing to the coronavirus crisis, Blue & White leader Benny Gantz has opted to attempt to form a national unity government with Netanyahu.

At the February 8 Irish election, the two traditional conservative parties – Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael – combined won 73 of the 160 seats, eight short of a majority, with the far-left Sinn Féin winning 37 seats. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are attempting to form a coalition government, which would require either another party or independents.

US presidential election: Biden vs Trump

With Biden certain to be the Democratic nominee, will coronavirus damage Trump’s re-election prospects? Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

1:30pm Thursday Biden now leads Sanders by 1,199 to 902 in The Green Papers’ delegate count.

2:30pm The delegate count at The Green Papers has Biden leading Sanders by 1,178 to 884.  Biden is well on his way to the magic 1,990 delegates required, but several primaries have been postponed until June, so he’ll have to wait longer.  Overall popular votes are currently 40.7% Biden, 30.6% Sanders.

2:13pm Arizona casts most of its votes by post.  With most counties reporting their early postal votes, Biden leads by 42.8-30.0, and it has been CALLED for him.

1:42pm In late counting updates, Biden has won Washington State by 1.4% with few votes left.  This should have been a strong state for Sanders.  In California, Sanders leads Biden by 35.2-28.0, with still over 700,000 votes left.  Sanders’ lead has lifted from 6.6% a week ago.

1:30pm Some good news for left-wing Democrats!  With 72% reporting, progressive challenger Marie Newman leads conservative Democrat incumbent Dan Lipinski by a 47-44 margin in the Democratic primary for Illinois’ third Congressional District.   Dave Wasserman has CALLED it for Newman.

12:40pm With 38% reporting in Illinois, Biden is winning by 59-37.

11:30am Biden wins the Illinois primary, where he leads by 65-29 with 2% reporting.

11:12am Wednesday Biden has won the Florida primary, where he currently leads Sanders by 61-23 with 73% reporting.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

This is an updated version of an article I had published at The Conversation on Monday.

Four states were scheduled to hold Democratic primaries on Wednesday in Australia: Florida, Ohio, Illinois and Arizona. These states will award 14.5% of all pledged delegates, taking us to 61.5% of total delegates. However, Ohio dramatically postponed its primary owing to coronavirus concerns. Polls close between 10am and 1pm AEDT.

Given Joe Biden’s crushing victories over Bernie Sanders last Tuesday, the Democratic contest is effectively over, and Biden will be the nominee. So the question now is how Biden will fare against Donald Trump in the general election this November.

Trump has alienated many highly educated voters with his general behaviour; these voters assisted Biden against Sanders in suburban counties. But most lower-educated voters did not care about Trump’s behaviour so long as the US economy was going well. And until recently the economy was going very well.

According to the official February jobs report, there were 273,000 jobs created that month, and an unemployment rate of just 3.5%. Inflation-adjusted weekly wages were up 0.5% in February, lifting the annual rate from zero to 0.7%. The Dow Jones index was above 29,000 points on February 20.

The coronavirus outbreak has heavily impacted global stock markets, with the Dow now just over 20,000. It has not yet affected the US jobs situation, with weekly jobless claims at 211,000 on March 7, about where they have been for most of the last year. The US Labor Department releases these reports every Thursday.

However, the health and economic impact of coronavirus will almost certainly worsen. There are now almost 3,500 officially confirmed US coronavirus cases, and this is likely to be a major undercount owing to lack of testing. Measures attempting to halt the spread of the virus, such as by closing restaurants, schools, sport and tourist attractions, will have an economic impact.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Health System Tracker, the US health care system is worse than in comparable countries. About 49% of Americans have private health insurance paid for by their employer; if they lose their jobs in an economic downturn, they also lose their health insurance.

In 2010, Barack Obama and Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to assist the uninsured. In 2017, Trump and the then-Republican controlled Congress came close to repealing Obamacare. If there is a coronavirus-driven recession and health crisis, Democrats will use the 2017 votes to attack Republicans.

In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Trump’s ratings with all polls are currently 42.7% approve, 53.1% disapprove (net -10.4%). With polls of registered or likely voters, his ratings are 43.9% approve, 52.4% disapprove (net -8.5%). His ratings have slid since their mid-February peak.

In general, the beginning of a major crisis helps incumbent governments. FiveThirtyEight has charts of previous presidents’ ratings, and George W. Bush’s ratings surged over 30 points to 83% approval immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

At this stage, there is not yet a recession or a health crisis in the US. But Trump is vulnerable if either occurs. The economy has been Trump’s great asset. In my opinion, it’s the only reason he has a realistic chance of re-election. On health care, Trump’s ratings were close to their record lows near the July 2017 attempt to repeal Obamacare. Coronavirus poses a clear danger to Trump’s re-election.

In the RealClearPolitics average of national Democratic polls, Biden leads Sanders by a 55-34 margin, showing the contest is over. In general election polls, Biden leads Trump by 6.4%. Furthermore, in the four polls taken after March 3 Super Tuesday, when Biden took a strong grip on the Democratic nomination, he led Trump by an average 8.5%.

Israel: Gantz to attempt to form government

At the March 2 Israeli election, PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc won 58 of the 120 Knesset seats, to 55 combined for Blue & White (B&W), the Joint Arab List and Labor. Yisrael Beiteinu, which was once part of the right bloc, won seven seats. On Sunday, B&W leader Benny Gantz won the support of 61 Knesset members. He now has six weeks to form a majority government, which would require both the Joint List and Yisrael Beiteinu.

Super Tuesday Democratic primaries: live commentary

Live commentary on the Super Tuesday primaries that occur tomorrow in Australia. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

2:35pm Friday Warren has dropped out, leaving a two-candidate race between Sanders and Biden.  The delegate count at The Green Papers currently gives Biden a 671-599 lead over Sanders, from popular votes of 35.1% Biden, 28.7% Sanders. In California, Sanders has an 8.4% lead over Biden with over 3 million votes remaining, but some of these will be Republican primary votes.  Late counting in California skews more left the longer it goes.

2:19pm Thursday Last night, Bloomberg withdrew from the contest and endorsed Biden.  No decision has yet been made by Warren.  In California, Sanders leads by 8.7% with all election day precincts reporting.  We should know approximately how many outstanding votes are left tomorrow.

9:53pm Conversation article up.  Biden is likely to win ten states to four for Sanders, and has a 102-delegate lead in The Green Papers count.  In 2016, Clinton had little appeal to lower-educated whites, and that’s likely why Sanders was competitive.  But Biden has more appeal to the lower-educated than Clinton.  Once moderate rivals withdrew, he consolidated the moderate vote.

8:37pm With 79% of election day precincts counted in California, Sanders leads Biden by 31.8% to 22.8%.  California takes FOUR weeks to count all its votes, so there’s lots of late counting to look forward to!

7:32pm With almost all votes counted in the Israeli election, the right bloc lost a seat, so Netanyahu will be three seats short of a majority.  It’s right 58 out of 120, left 55, Yisrael Beiteinu seven.

7:27pm The California Secretary of State now has 64% of precincts reporting, and Sanders is almost 10% ahead of Biden.

6:00pm Texas CALLED for Biden.

4:15pm Biden up to a 1.8% lead in Texas, and the Needle now gives him a 70% chance to win.

4:06pm Biden overtakes Sanders in Texas.  He’s 0.4% ahead with 60% of election day precincts in.  The Needle gives Biden a 56% chance to win Texas.

4:05pm The NY Times shows 23% of California’s Election Day precincts have already reported, but the California Secretary of State (the official results service) says only 4%.

3:47pm With 54% of election day votes reporting in Texas, Sanders leads by 1.2%.  The Needle still sees this as 50-50 between Sanders and Biden.

3:21pm Dave Wasserman has called Texas for Biden, but the NY Times Needle says it’s 50-50 with 34% reporting.  Sanders has a 3.6% lead.

3:18pm Massachusetts officially CALLED for Biden.  With 65% reporting, he has 33.4%, Sanders 26.7% and Warren 22.1%.

3:10pm With 93% of election day votes in in North Carolina, Biden’s lead is now almost 19 points, up from seven before election day votes.

3:03pm California not called for Sanders, but it looks good for hime in exit polls.  Biden likely the only other candidate who breaks the 15% delegate threshold statewide.

2:47pm Minnesota CALLED for Biden.  He leads by eight points with 57% reporting.  Sanders was supposed to win here.

2:45pm With 43% reporting in Alabama, Sanders is at 16.2%, close to the 15% delegate threshold.  Falling below 15% would be a disaster for Sanders.

2:34pm Sanders has won Utah, a stronghold for Republicans where the small Democratic electorate is progressive.

2:30pm In Texas, Sanders leads Biden by 5.6% with 23% of election day precincts in.  The NY Times needle has Biden very slightly ahead.

2:25pm Dave Wasserman projects Elizabeth Warren will finish third in her home state of Massachusetts, behind Biden (first) and Sanders (second).

2:15pm While I was out for lunch, Biden was CALLED the winner in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee, giving him six state wins.  Sanders won Colorado, mainly due a split early vote.  Early voting dominates in that state.  Biden currently leads in Minnesota and Massachusetts, which Sanders was supposed to win.

1:01pm The NY Times needle gives Biden a 68% chance of winning Texas although Sanders currently leads by 6.6%.

12:58pm As the Election Day vote comes through in North Carolina, Biden increases his lead.  He’s now leading in NC by 11% with 29% in.

12:45pm In Virginia, where the election day vote was virtually all voters, Biden leads Sanders by 54-23 with 96% reporting.

12:34pm Maybe early voting will stop Biden from routing Sanders.  Biden is only up by seven points over Sanders in North Carolina with 12% of Election Day precincts reporting.  Biden not doing so well in votes cast before South Carolina and the withdrawals.

12:18pm With 66% reporting in Virginia, Biden is crushing Sanders by 30 points.

12:15pm Polls in Arkansas close at 12:30pm, then it’s Colorado and Minnesota at 1pm, Utah at 2pm and finally California at 3pm.

12:10pm As regards Texas, a small part of the state is in the Mountain Time zone and doesn’t close til 1pm AEDT.  Exit polls will be released then.

12:06pm Alabama CALLED for Biden, while the other 12pm states are uncalled.  In Massachusetts, it’s a close three-way race between Biden, Sanders and Warren (it’s Warren’s home state).

11:57am Biden is over 20% in the first Vermont results.  If he stays above 15% there, he gets delegates, which Hillary Clinton was unable to do in 2016.

11:49am Biden has a 55-23 lead over Sanders in Virginia with 32% in.

11:40am Count in Virginia is already up to 22%, and it’s Biden by a crushing 54-24 over Sanders with nobody else close to clearing 15%.

11:34am CNN CALLS North Carolina for Biden based on a large exit poll lead.  This is looking better and better for Biden.

11:27am With 1% reporting in Virginia, Biden leads Sanders by 51-25.  Everyone else is well below the 15% delegate threshold.

11:24am The next polls to close are North Carolina at 11:30am AEDT, then Alabama, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas at 12pm.

11:08am Sanders CALLED the winner in his home state of Vermont, but the exit polls suggest Biden will beat the 15% threshold there, restricting Sanders’ delegate advantage.

11:01am Biden CALLED the winner in Virginia by CNN based on exit polls.  He has a 63-18 lead over Sanders with black voters (27% of the electorate) and a 43-26 lead with whites (63% of electorate).

10:20am Wednesday With 94% counted in the Israeli election, right-wing parties have 59 seats (up four since the September 2019 election) and left-wing parties 54 (down three).  Likud is the biggest party with a 36-32 lead over Blue & White, reversing the 33-32 deficit last September.  It appears that Netanyahu’s coalition will be two seats short of a majority.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Fourteen states vote in the Super Tuesday Democratic primaries tomorrow, in which 1,357 of the 3,979 total pledged delegates are awarded (34% of all delegates). Delegates are awarded proportionally to vote share, but with a high 15% threshold that applies to both statewide delegates and Congressional District (CD) delegates. The more Democratic-leaning a CD is, the more delegates it receives. Polls close between 11am and 3pm AEDT.

A few days ago, it appeared likely that Bernie Sanders would come out of Super Tuesday with a large delegate lead over his nearest rival. Even if Sanders did not win a majority of Super Tuesday pledged delegates, such an outcome would have put him on course for a large plurality of all pledged delegates at the July Democratic convention. In those circumstances, Sanders would probably be the nominee.

However, Joe Biden had a crushing 28-point win over Sanders at Saturday’s South Carolina primary. In the next two days, moderate rivals Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar withdrew from the contest and endorsed Biden. There has not been enough time for polls to catch up with these developments, but they are very likely to assist Biden.

The FiveThirtyEight forecast has the chance nobody wins a pledged delegate majority surging to 63%. This does not necessarily mean a contested convention, as it includes cases where one candidate wins a strong plurality, and a deal is worked out before the convention. No delegate majority chances have surged because Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren are still in, and will be assisted in getting to 15% by the withdrawals.

Sanders now has just a 52% chance of winning more delegates than any other candidate, down from over 70% at his peak, while Biden’s chances have rocketed to 48%. The Democratic contest is now effectively a race between two men in their late 70s, and the winner will confront Donald Trump, who is a mere 73.

I recommend The Green Papers for delegate and popular vote counts. The next contests are next Tuesday, when six states vote that account for 9% of pledged delegates.

Netanyahu could win Israeli election outright

With 81% counted in Monday’s Israeli election, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc of parties had 60 of the 120 seats, to 53 for the opposition left bloc. If the right bloc wins one more seat, Netanyahu would have outright victory after April and September 2019 elections resulted in no government being formed. Yisrael Beiteinu, with seven seats, was unable to cooperate with either the Arab Joint List or the religious right parties before. This result comes despite Netanyahu’s November indictment on bribery and fraud charges.