The Race Is On

Nate Silver is a God among political junkies. He predicts elections. He accurately called the 2012 U.S. presidential results in all 50 states and in 49 of 50 states in 2008.

Here are some of the things he says: One, most election forecasts are biased.  Liberals will call for liberal candidates, conservatives for conservatives.

Two, it is easier to predict the bigger races (Presidential, Senatorial) than the smaller ones (Congressional, local).

Three, although there may be outliers, the consensus is mostly correct. The prospect of a dark horse beating the pack is rare.

Four, polls are better than qualitative factors in determining outcomes. The numbers will change over a campaign but will get more accurate the closer to E-Day. Candidates who are up by 5% over their rivals around election day win 95% of the time.

Feb. 12 kicks off the Philippine political season with all eyes on the critical Senatorial race. Below are the SWS polls taken in August and December of 2012 and Jan 17 2013:

Ranking on                             8/12               12/12             1/13  (% of votes)

Loren Legarda (TP/UNA)       2                      1                     1          (65%)

Chiz Escudero (TP/UNA)        1                       2                     2         (62%)

Alan Cayetano (TP)                  3                        3                     3        (58%)

JV Ejercito (UNA)                    8-9                    5                     4         (53%)

G. Honasan (UNA)                  5-7                     8                     5-6      (48%)

Koko Pimentel (TP)                8-9                     6-7                 5-6      (48%)

M. Zubiri (UNA)                     10-11                  9-10                7         (47%)

Cynthia Villar (TP)                 10-11                  4                     8-9      (46%)

J. Enrile (UNA)                       4                          6-7                 8-9      (46%)

A. Trillanes (TP)                     5-7                      11                    10         (45%)

Grace Poe (TP/UNA)            26-28                  13                    11         (45%)

N. Binay (UNA)                        –                         9-10                12         (43%)


S. Angara (TP)                       5-7                         13                   13         (39%)

D. Gordon (UNA)                 12                           12                    14         (36%)

Bam Aquino (TP)                 17                            17                    15         (34%)

Jun Magsaysay (TP)           14                           15                     16          (33%)

Janby Madrigal (TP)          16                            14                    17           (28%)

Risa Hontiveros (TP)         18                            18                    18-19     (25%)

E. Maceda (TP)                   20                            16                    18-19     (25%)

T. Cojuangco (UNA)          22                            23                    20           (14%)


1. The top four candidates (Legarda, Escudero, Cayetano and JV Ejercito) are good to go.

2. Candidates in spots 5-9 (Honasan, Pimentel, Zubiri, Villar and Enrile) are within the statistical margin of error. Villar and Enrile have significantly weakened since August and could be in danger if this trend continues. Enrile started strong following the popularity of his father in the Impeachment; but may have suffered from JPE’s “Christmas gifts”. His “political dynasty” label may also not have helped.

3. Candidates in spots 10-12 (Trillanes, Poe and Binay) are in a statistical dead heat. Poe, a common candidate of Team Pnoy and UNA and the subject of a TV series, has momentum and will gain more traction. Binay has the name and Jojo will move mountains to get her in. Both ladies will easily advance to the middle of the pack, pushing back those now in spots 5-9. Trillanes is precarious.

4. Candidates 13-16 (Angara, Aquino and Magsaysay) have an outside chance if the President goes all in for them; displacing Trillanes, Villar or Enrile (if the latter two continue to lose ground).

5. Candidates 17-20 (Madrigal, Maceda, Hontiveros, Cojuangco) have never ranked and will be hardpressed.

The game changers to the election will be:

1. The President- P-Noy is the X factor. He will campaign for the team but will reserve his scarce time and resources for his favorite(s) and where it will make a difference. No point wasting capital on the first and last placers.

2. The “Three Kings” (Binay, Erap and JPE)- Same comment.

3. The machinery- A campaign consists of a ground war (the machinery) and an air war (TV/radio ads). As the incumbent, Team PNoy theoretically has the edge in the ground game especially in key battlegrounds like Cebu and Mindanao. With Daan Matuwid, how far will it press its home court advantage?

4. The money- A competitive Senate race requires an estimated P50-100 MM depending on one’s standing, with 80% spent on the air war. The laggards will run out of cash especially in the crucial final two weeks.

5. The religious vote- The Catholic vote is there but over-rated and could merge with the Christian Movements for a “Morality Vote” and to balance the INC.

6.  The headlines- Expect black propaganda especially on the fringe candidates all of whom are within spitting distance of each other. It will not be pretty.

The dynamics of the senatorial contest are unique in that it is a  race for the top dozen spots and not winner-take-all. The idea is to, individually and collectively, jettison who you can from the 12 person lifeboat.

 With so many running, the elections will be loud and confusing. The challenge is how to separate the signal from the noise, the trend from the headlines, the substance from the fluff. In the cacophony, voters could well tune out and revert to the base instincts of name recall and emotional engagement.

My prediction? Legarda, Escudero, Cayetano, Ejercito, Poe, Binay, Pimentel with Angara, Aquino, Enrile, Honasan, Trillanes, Villar and Zubiri contesting the last 5 spots. On this count there would be 3 common victors with the other 9 split almost evenly between Team Pnoy and UNA. The full Senate would then be divided about equally between the “independents”, the “Administration” and the “Opposition”.


About Leo Alejandrino

The blog is principally a commentary on Philippine politics and economics.
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