On the heels of the most recent F&M poll, Tom Wolf has maintained his large lead over all other Democratic challengers, particularly when including leaners:
What’s more, Wolf’s support doesn’t seem very soft. It remains statistically identical when you filter out the people who have a lower likelihood of voting in the primary on May 20th — and 51% of his supporters already say they are “certain” to support him on primary day.
We are a mere six weeks away from the election — and with some important caveats — it makes sense for us to look at a study Nate Silver did, in his book The Signal and the Noise, on statewide polling and the likelihood of success based on the amount of time prior to the election. For our purposes, Mr. Silver finds that the probability of a candidate winning based on a 20+% polling lead one month prior to the election is 99.7%.
Of course, there are a couple things that make this number not 100% accurate in our case: (1) This figure was used based on Senate – not gubernatorial — election data, and (2) it was compiled from general — rather than primary — election data.
The fact that these numbers were computed using Senate numbers doesn’t strike me as amazingly important due to the fact they’re both statewide races — but significant to mention nonetheless because federal elections are normally more partisan than state races. The more important factor here is that voters are much more likely to switch their support from one candidate to another in a primary than a general, since the candidates’ positions are normally so similar — so the likelihood of success in primaries at this point out for a study like this is likely smaller.
Anecdotally, it’s also hard to see how the other three candidates make enough ground on Mr. Wolf to win the nomination this May. The numbers will undoubtably tighten when McCord’s ads reach more people and the Schwartz campaign starts running theirs as well. But those ads will have to bring down Wolf’s numbers while also bringing up their own, which will be difficult considering that Wolf seemingly doesn’t have many negatives for the other candidates to expose. And even if he did, he likely has enough money to refute them with ads if his campaign feels it’s something they need to respond to.
Remember that probability deals with the likelihood of success or failure. The ‘success’ of a Wolf victory doesn’t care if it’s by 1% or 30% — so any poll-tightening for these predictions doesn’t matter.
It’s probably naive to think that Tom Wolf has a 99.7% chance of winning the PA-Gov Democratic Primary six weeks out — but it’s likely not that far off.