Bringing it into focus

Tonight I finally finished my political widget for 2020 with the races I intend to highlight. Nationally I have the Presidential race, of course, with those who will be on the ballot in Delaware. [I have spotted the Green Party this one; however, I may have to change Howie Hawkins to a write-in if they indeed don’t make the ballot – they were right on the bubble last I saw.)

The biggest amount of work I had was the Senate race, although the Governor’s race was a surprisingly close second. In both instances, not everyone has a website as some simply get by with a social media page – and are lucky to get 1% of the vote.

Indeed, we will have the largest GOP primary field for governor in the state’s relatively brief history of primaries – the most I found in my limited research was three, and this time we have a half-dozen thanks to Scott Walker’s late entry. He is one of two of those perennial candidates, the type I’m familiar with from Maryland thanks to their comparatively lax threshold for getting on a party ballot. It’s not quite “alive and breathing” but it’s not that far off, either. Walker and David Graham are serial candidates, although neither has always run as a Republican.

With businessman Neil Shea formally withdrawing on Thursday, the two outsiders are attorney Julianne Murray and business owner David Bosco, who was actually the first one of the remaining six to formally file after Shea got the ball rolling in late May. Add in the two sitting State Senators able to run from cover this time around (Colin Bonini and Bryant Richardson) and it’s a race where any of them would kill for 40% because that is likely sufficient. (In six-way Democrat primaries four years ago, Lisa Blunt Rochester won with 43% to 25% for her nearest competitor and Bethany Hall-Long prevailed with 29% to 22% for second place. So first to 40 almost definitely wins and 35 may be enough.) Right now Bonini would probably be the favorite simply based on name ID but he’s also lost statewide twice so one of the new faces may be a surprise winner.

By the same token, the Democrat primary is also worth watching because John Carney has a primary challenger from his left (just like U.S. Senator Chris Coons does.) There’s little doubt Carney will win, but a showing of 25-30% from the challenger would mean Carney’s support would be soft among progressives or could be construed as a protest vote against his draconian rule during the pandemic. I think the latter would be more true if the Democrat turnout was much lighter than the GOP’s or Carney’s race was significantly undervoted compared to the other statewide races. (This also applies to the Coons race.)

The U.S. Senate and House races are rather “meh” compared to the battle for governor. There are only two contenders on the Republican side for both House and Senate, and they both pit multi-time losers against fresh faces which have their own baggage. It’s actually possible that both members of Delaware’s Congressional delegation would have jail time on their resumes, although both claim to have been humbled by the experience. Both these races are older men against younger candidates roughly half their age – one a photogenic woman and the other a Log Cabin Republican.

Aside from that, the statewide ballot will be rather light in September. Primary voters will see a race for Insurance Commissioner on the Democrat side, but that’s it. On a local level, there is only one race for a Delaware General Assembly seat from Sussex County and that’s not decided until November. Out of ten possible contests, only one will be elected by other than acclamation.

Now that my field is pretty much locked in, my weekend project is to put the final bow on this session’s monoblogue Accountability Project – Delaware edition and begin working on a dossier series similar to those I’ve done in previous years. For those new to the website, the idea for the dossiers is to take topics of my choosing that I deem most important and take a deep dive into the candidate’s stance on them. (This includes asking them directly.) Each topic is assigned a point value and each candidate is given points based on how closely they fit my ideal, with the winner getting my endorsement. (They don’t get my primary vote because I’m still in the Constitution Party.)

To begin the series, I’m going to lay out one ground rule: the first round through the topics will focus solely on the GOP candidates. I don’t have to worry about the IPOD or Libertarians until after the primary and the Democrats won’t score well with me anyway, so there’s no need for me to score Carney vs. Williams or Coons vs. Scarane. Doesn’t matter which of them win because they’re Lenin to me.

Here are the proposed topics for the 2020 races. If you were here in 2016, these will sound familiar for the federal races:

Federal races: Education, Second Amendment, Energy, Social Issues, Trade and Job Creation, Taxation, Immigration, Foreign Policy, Entitlements, Role of Government, and Intangibles. (Intangibles is sort of a catch-all of other stuff.)

Governor: Agriculture/Environment, Transportation, Social Issues, Law Enforcement/Judicial, Education, Second Amendment, Job Creation, Taxation, Role of Government, Intangibles. Notice the order shifts around somewhat at the state level.

Once I get the mAP up next week, I’ll begin posting my dossier series. It’s going to be a busy couple months here at monoblogue.

Lowered expectations

Subtitled, kicking the can down the road.

I’ve been blogging now for a decade and a half, with most of that time being spent creating and curating content for this website. In that time I have found my way onto many mailing lists and searches, but few have been as bizarre as something I received the other day.

I had to look up who Sara Croom was, but her story seems legit: She is the Managing Director of a PR firm called Ainsley Shea, which is somewhat unusual because they are headquartered in Minnesota yet keep a branch in the D.C. area where Sara works.

It was a nice enough ask:

As you continue your political coverage, please find the attached memo outlining national popular vote – as well as offering a few of National Popular Vote (NPV) key spokespeople, who are available for interviews. 

If you have any questions, or need anything further, do let me know and I would be happy to help. 

Be well and stay safe. 

E-mail from Sara Croom, April 30, 2020

Even though I am a definite skeptic, I looked up the memo, entitled “National Popular Vote: Media Guidelines” to see if they had any different talking points. There were none, but the one thing I noticed was the end goal: having NPV in effect in time for the 2024 election. (Another thing: a key spokesperson for NPV is former Maryland LG and failed Senate candidate Michael Steele. That tells me a lot.)

This is in contrast to the Democrat Party’s seemingly overt goal for 2020, which is to conduct strictly mail-in balloting so they can more easily manipulate the results in states they control. (Bear in mind that there are four key states which Trump won in 2016 which now have a Democrat governor: Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.)

The method of enacting NPV has been the same since Maryland was the first state to join the proposed compact in 2007: once states representing 270 or more electoral votes sign on, those states will give their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote regardless of the results within their state. Given the fact that every state currently in NPV is a reliably Democrat state I’m going to assume this will work only until the time some “racist” Republican carries the overall popular vote, in which case these states will certainly renege on the deal.

Their key argument, however, continues to be that elections are decided in just a few swing states and they get all the attention despite being a small subset of the overall electorate. (Remember, prior to 2016, states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin weren’t considered swing states because they had been solidly Democrat for several cycles in a row.) The election focused on states like Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Ohio – states outside the bicoastal focus of news networks and full of icky “deplorable” voters. If you lived in one of those coastal blue states or the deep red states in the Bible Belt, the campaigns basically ignored you.

Where that argument falls apart is that, under NPV, rural and sparsely-populated states will be ignored even more by campaigns as they would cater to the desires of densely populated urban areas – of course, to pander to those areas the campaigns would have to steer themselves to the left of center. Had 2016 been an NPV election, Hillary would have won in a larger popular vote landslide because Trump’s secret weapon of Rust Belt lunch-pail voters would have been less likely to come out, skipping yet another election thanks to their discouragement at a rigged system. As it turned out, just enough of them turned out to tip the scales in the aforementioned key states heretofore presumed Democrat blue to swing an election decided by less than 80,000 votes in three large states. All because Hillary took them for granted.

Since the founding of our country, the electoral system has functioned as anywhere from 13 to 51 separate state elections leading to one balloting that as of 2020 will feature just 538 voters selected by individual states. Has the will of the people always held sway? No, but it’s not like a tiny majority dictated the tune for the rest of the nation – or is it? Not only did neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump garner a majority of votes cast, but based on voter registration and turnout, the real winner in 2016 was none of the above since only about 55% of eligible voters showed up.

NPV is one of several voting initiatives championed by the Democrat Party, all of which are calculated to bolster “turnout.” Unfortunately, vote-by-mail, automatic registration, compulsory voting, and ballot harvesting create vastly increased potential for mischief that just somehow almost always seems to accrue in the favor of Democrats. (Just ask Norm Coleman, right?)

If we really want to do electoral reform, how about culling the voter rolls to keep those who are serious about voting on them and eliminating duplicates and dead voters, and requiring a photo ID for voting in person on Election Day? I take the time to learn the candidates and issues and show up, so why can’t everyone else?

The surprising developments

Two weeks ago I thought we would have four candidates after Super Tuesday, and it turns out I may have gotten that part correct. After that, though…

Had I known Mike Bloomberg was such a terrible debater, perhaps I would have discounted his chances to be the anti-Sanders. Instead, Joe Biden picked himself up off the mat and delivered a knockout blow to two of the four contenders I thought would survive beyond the 14-state extravaganza, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. (Not that I expected a whole lot out of them beyond tomorrow, but regardless…)

So, on this eve of Super Tuesday as I write this, we are down to five of the original 25. (I think after tomorrow I’ll be consolidating that sidebar so I can begin adding local races.) We have Tulsi Gabbard as the one person under 70 years of age remaining in the race, but she’s honestly running to be a protest candidate because she’s never cracked the top 5 in any of the initial contests. (It wouldn’t surprise me if she doesn’t tomorrow either despite the withdrawals of many of her opponents, who probably outpoll her with the early voting done before they split the scene.)

If you are an establishment Democrat, you are probably grateful Elizabeth Warren hasn’t gotten the hint yet. (Perhaps she will figure it out when she loses her home state to Bernie Sanders, but by then some of the damage will be done.) Since she inhabits the progressive lane along with Bernie, her supporters are siphoning votes away from him and that could knock Sanders down in a few places, costing him maybe 20 to 30 delegates out of the hundreds at stake tomorrow.

On the other hand, the establishment probably wishes Mike Bloomberg would just create a SuperPAC for his millions rather than take votes away from Joe Biden. Tomorrow will be the first time he’s on the ballot, and there are some places where he may well win a significant share of delegates, particularly if they aren’t attuned to what happened in a poorly-watched debate and only see the 30-second ads with which Bloomberg has carpet-bombed the airwaves. Having the other candidates drop out – despite their Biden endorsements – buries Bloomberg’s gaffes farther down the memory hole.

Speaking of gaffes, the obvious wild-card as we enter Super Tuesday tomorrow is what comes out of the mouth of Joe Biden. Yes, he strung together two passable debate performances, but he was also bailed out by how badly Bloomberg was twisting in the wind. You know, every time President Trump mis-speaks, it’s treated as a sure sign of dementia. but the same doesn’t hold true for Creepy Joe. Odd, isn’t it?

And then you have Bernie Sanders, who will probably win most of the Super Tuesday states. However, with the withdrawal of two main opposition candidates – a pair who may not have reached the 15% viability threshold but would have split the vote enough to create a plethora of results like Nevada’s – it becomes less likely that Sanders will get 50 percent of the delegates plus 1 out of everything. As long as this remains a three- or four-way race we could have a situation where everyone gets a share in each remaining state.

But to be honest, I think someone will get just enough delegates to win on the first ballot. Sooner or later the race gets down to two and one of the contenders will begin getting a majority of delegates in each state. It’s going to depend on who establishes the winning streak because once that happens the inevitability factor will kick in – no one wants to vote for a loser. I figure this happens about the end of March, which makes for interesting timing.

Once we get past the big three primaries on March 17 (Florida, Illinois, Ohio) there’s a slate that would seem to be Biden-friendly (Georgia, Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii, and Louisiana) but then the tide turns to a more Sanders-style docket in Wisconsin April 7 and the Acela primaries on April 28 (Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island.) Aside from Biden’s probable decisive win in Delaware, that could be the point where Bernie takes control, because he has to: the remaining slate has a lot of rural states in flyover country which would likely go for Biden (as well as Washington, DC.)

The arrangement of primaries and the factor of who remains in the race make for an interesting spring. Of course, President Trump has only the token opposition of William Weld to deal with so he’s free to make his comments about his prospective opponent. In two weeks when my birth state prepares to vote, the race may be changed once again, so maybe my speculation is worth what you paid for it. (There is still a tip jar up there, though.)

I’ll stay up a bit tomorrow, but I’m not waiting up for California results – for that, you’re on your own.

A not-so-elite eight

We’re a few weeks away from basketball’s March Madness, but I’m returning one final time to the occasional series I began in the midst of that phenomenon last year on the then-swelling Democrat presidential field to reflect on how it all shook out – and what may well be yet to happen. If you go back to last March, here’s where I ranked the eight who remain in the field now, with updates as they occurred:

  • Joe Biden was #1, holding that spot in May and September.
  • Bernie Sanders was #2, holding that spot in May but slipping to #3 in September.
  • Elizabeth Warren was #4. She fell to #6 in May but jumped to #2 in September.
  • Amy Klobuchar was #6. She fell to #7 in May and stayed there in September.
  • Pete Buttigieg was #13. He jumped to #3 in May, but fell to #5 in September.
  • Tulsi Gabbard was #14. She fell to #21 in May but surged to #9 in September.
  • Tom Steyer was first ranked #8 in September.
  • Mike Bloomberg got into the race after my rankings.

So it’s interesting that most of my top choices have remained in the fray, with the only early surprises being Buttigieg and, to a much lesser extent, Gabbard.

(Numbers 3 and 5 early on were Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke, respectively. Harris was my highest-rated casualty, while Beto faded pretty quickly. Buttigieg initially pushed Amy Klobuchar out of the top 6, then Cory Booker kept her out as he reached the top 6 in September before he, too, exited the race.)

There’s also something to be said about Tulsi Gabbard hanging in there, as she has outlasted the initial turmoil in her campaign. She’s sort of like the Ron Paul of the 2020 Democrat race, but considering I had her initially in the bottom tier with a lot of folks who have long since departed the scene, it’s admirable that she’s found a support niche and said some things which needed to be said. She sure took care of Kamala Harris.

It’s also worth reviewing just how these candidates did in the first two races of the year: the Iowa caucus (assuming they are done counting) and the New Hampshire primary.

For the Iowa caucus I am using the initial alignment votes, as it’s their closest equivalent to a primary.

  • Bernie Sanders: 1st with 43,699 votes (24.7%)
  • Pete Buttigieg: 2nd with 37,596 votes (21.3%)
  • Elizabeth Warren: 3rd with 32,611 votes (18.5%)
  • Joe Biden: 4th with 26,322 votes (14.9%)
  • Amy Klobuchar: 5th with 22,474 votes (12.7%)
  • Tom Steyer: 7th with 3,054 votes (1.7%)
  • Tulsi Gabbard: 9th with 342 votes (0.2%)
  • Mike Bloomberg: 10th with 215 votes (0.1%)

Between the first and second rounds Buttigieg gained the most votes (although not enough to pass Sanders, who gained the fewest) while Warren was a distant second in that category. In terms of absolute numbers among these contenders, Biden dropped the most votes in districts where he fell short of 15% viability but Steyer lost a far greater proportion of his vote and nearly as many in raw numbers. In terms of delegates from Iowa, Buttigieg gets 13, Sanders gets 12, Warren 8, Biden 6, and Klobuchar 1, with one uncommitted.

Moving on to New Hampshire:

  • Bernie Sanders: 1st with 76,355 votes (25.6%)
  • Pete Buttigieg: 2nd with 72,445 votes (24.3%)
  • Amy Klobuchar: 3rd with 58,774 votes (19.7%)
  • Elizabeth Warren: 4th with 27,428 votes (9.2%)
  • Joe Biden: 5th with 24,911 votes (8.3%)
  • Tom Steyer: 6th with 10,694 votes (3.6%)
  • Tulsi Gabbard: 7th with 9,745 votes (3.3%)
  • Mike Bloomberg: 9th with 4,777 votes (1.6%)

For his part, Bloomberg was a write-in candidate in New Hampshire so it’s actually sort of astounding he did that well. Sanders and Buttigieg picked up 9 delegates apiece, while Klobuchar got the other 6 to move into fourth place ahead of Biden overall: Buttigieg has 22, Sanders 21, Warren 8, Klobuchar 7, Biden 6, and uncommitted 1.

The next state up is Nevada, which isn’t a treasure trove of delegates (just 36) but establishes the narrative for the week leading up to the South Carolina primary at month’s end and Super Tuesday on March 3 – which will probably eliminate half or more of this field. Because all of the initial focus was on Iowa and New Hampshire, there’s little polling to go on for Nevada but what polls there are suggest this may be a real fight for spots 2 through 6 and that four or five candidates could share in that delegate pool. This is particularly true as the race is a hybrid caucus with early voting, unlike Iowa.

Bernie Sanders is considered more or less a lock to make the 15% threshold; however the key question is whether Joe Biden – who led in Nevada through the polling done in early January – will crater enough to miss out on getting delegates. All others except Bloomberg – who is not participating – and Gabbard are flirting with that 15% viability number, as all except Warren have trended upward polling-wise in the last few weeks. That 2 through 6 order of finish is going to be the thing to watch as there could be five candidates in the 8-18% range.

As for South Carolina, that is considered to be the last stand for both Joe Biden and Tom Steyer. Biden once had a lead approaching 30 points in the state, but that has dwindled down to single-digits. If he continues to sink and gets passed by Bernie Sanders and even Steyer (who are currently 2 and 3) in late, post-Nevada polling I can’t see Joe surviving to Super Tuesday.

At some point, the field has to consolidate. It’s just my wild guess that among the eight contenders the one to go after Nevada will be Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden will finally figure out his time is past once he fades to third or fourth in South Carolina, perhaps not even getting delegates there. Gabbard won’t spend much money, but I think she will stay in the race on principle for a little while – at least long enough to outlast a couple others who are in. (But she’s not sniffing double digits in any caucus or primary this year unless she’s the last protest vote candidate left.) By the same token, many thought Tom Steyer would cash in his chips after New Hampshire but I don’t think he gets enough of a bounce after Nevada or South Carolina to be present in the race beyond Super Tuesday.

Once the smoke clears after March 3, I think the field is down to 4. Seeded from worst to first, we will have:

  • Pete Buttigieg. When you look at the field, he’s trying to straddle the moderate lane. But Pete’s support is lacking among black voters, and while he’s a fresh face, he’s struggled to handle the scrutiny as the field has dwindled. America tried the inexperienced guy with the funny name and distinction of first ____ president route once already this century, so I’m not sure they’re quite ready for another, especially with his particular first.
  • Amy Klobuchar. She has hung around in this race quite nicely, lurking just outside the top tier and watching as various flavors of the month (Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, etc.) have had their fifteen minutes of fame before fading away once Americans got to know them. By default she’s moving into the top tier but the question is whether she can consolidate any sort of base, female or otherwise, in time to establish her presence before the primaries are too far gone to get enough delegates; thus, she might now be running for vice-president. Would a Sanders-Klobuchar ticket be the unity ticket the Democrats need as their best hope to oust Donald Trump? More importantly, would you like to be a fly on the wall for those interactions?
  • Bernie Sanders. He has plenty of money and a passionate support base. But some guy just as smart as me pointed out that the ceiling for a Socialist vote seems to be 45%, and that’s before you know who the candidates are. Yet the two initial factors, combined with a desire to keep Milwaukee from feeling the burn – literally – could well be good enough to push Bernie over the top. If so, and if the aforementioned Sanders-Klobuchar package doesn’t sound good enough, look for an effort by the #NeverTrumpers and mainline Democrats to find a stalking horse candidate who can snatch away just enough support from Trump to steal the election, or even win outright. Maybe it will be…
  • Mike Bloomberg. This man is doing more to advance the narrative that politics is a commodity than anyone in our nation’s history. Donald Trump parlayed years of television fame into $5 billion in free media to win the White House, but Mike Bloomberg is eschewing even that step (unless you count his news service.) By nationalizing his campaign with an unprecedented advertising blitz in the opening months and just skipping ahead to campaigning for Super Tuesday, he made spending a whole summer, fall, and holidays trying to gain name recognition in some backwater Iowa county or New Hampshire hamlet absolutely unnecessary. (The same goes for a ground game – why beg and cajole when you can just buy oodles of staffers?) Of course, only billionaires or extremely adept fundraisers could afford to run that way.

By this time three weeks hence, we should pretty well have an idea whether the Democrats will have a nominee in hand before their convention or will have to endure multiple ballots for the first time in decades. If the latter comes into play, I don’t think there will be a white knight entering the race (so have a seat, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry) but they may try and figure out who can best fool us into believing they’ll have a pro-American agenda.

All of their top-tier candidates have flaws, and there’s no guarantee that the disparate elements of the Democrat party are going to come together for a particular candidate, let alone nominate one who appeals to independents or can bring older, more traditional Democrat voters back home – you know, the ones who voted for Trump because they couldn’t stand Hillary. This is especially true when your top two contenders are northeastern liberals (like Hillary), your third-place one is female (like Hillary), and the fourth-place contender is openly gay, with his own “first husband.” (Sort of like what was often rumored about Hillary.) There’s a generation of voters who won’t flinch at that last aspect, but I believe there’s a larger generation who is better at turning out on Election Day and isn’t down with having a gay man in the Oval Office, okay Boomer? Maybe next time he runs in 2024 Pete has a better shot.

Assuming the Trump train has enough momentum to make it to a second term in the 2020 election, look out. If you thought this cycle was bad, wait until the Democrats begin their 2024 campaign this November 4.

The Democrats’ state of play

If you follow the horse race that is the Democrat race to the 2020 presidential nomination, you may notice that in the last week several participants have cashed in their chips and called it a campaign: onetime Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak dropped out Sunday, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock withdrew Monday, and Tuesday it was arguably the biggest name yet: California’s Senator Kamala Harris. (To tell you how crowded the field was, I didn’t know perpetual also-ran Wayne Messam had left the race before Thanksgiving until just now as I was writing this.)

With these four departures, the field which had swelled up to 25 participants at one time is now down to 15; however, only five of them have qualified for the next debate this month. (Harris was actually a qualifier, but her campaign ran out of cash.)

I’m going to look at the race now in a little different way. First we need to break the field down into the various constituent groups which make up the Democrat Party, and then we can tier them off into their relative chances for success. These are in alphabetical order of first candidate in the group.

First of all come the old white guys: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders.

Corollary to that group but unique in its own way are the gazillionaires: Michael Bloomberg, John Delaney, and Tom Steyer.

We then have the black contingent, which now consists of Cory Booker and Deval Patrick.

Next up is the gay community, which – insofar as we know – only consists of Pete Buttigieg.

The remaining Hispanic contender is Julian Castro.

Then we have the women: Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Marianne Williamson.

That leaves the Asian guy, Andrew Yang, last. Seems appropriate since a lot of Democrats don’t count Asians as an oppressed minority.

Anyway, there are also tiers of contenders shaping up. The first group are the ones I don’t see even making it to Iowa or New Hampshire. From most likely to be out to maybe they’ll defy this pundit and make it to the caucuses we have John Delaney (a gazillionaire), Michael Bennet (an old white guy), and Marianne Williamson (a woman.)

Next up are the ones I see throwing in the towel after Iowa/New Hampshire: the black guy Deval Patrick, the Hispanic Julian Castro, the Asian guy Andrew Yang, and two ladies: Tulsi Gabbard and Amy Klobuchar.

That leaves us with seven moving forward. Of that seven, I think the three who will be in the weakest position will be the black guy Cory Booker and the remaining two gazillionaires Steyer and Bloomberg. However, I seem to recall Bloomberg’s strategy was to basically ignore the first four states and concentrate on Super Tuesday, so both of them may stay in the game for awhile.

I realize we are a long way out, but the polling is interesting among the first four states. As it stands, both Iowa and New Hampshire have a pecking order where Pete Buttigieg is first, followed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden in fourth. But while Biden seems weak in the first two states, he’s leading the pack in Nevada, South Carolina, and California, just ahead of Elizabeth Warren. So the early Buttigieg momentum is stalled once the contest heads out of the first two states (and by a significant amount, like 15 to nearly 30 points behind Biden.)

One burning question that should concern the Biden camp is the fallout from the Ukraine investigation and the saga surrounding his son Hunter. The press has seemed less than curious about this, particularly in comparison to Donald Trump’s children. (Luckily there are voters taking up the slack.) But it’s his good fortune to have his top-tier peers with their own problems: Bernie probably hits his ceiling of support at 20 percent because he’s yesterday’s news, Warren has her issues with honesty and integrity, and Pete Buttigieg won’t get the black vote because of his hometown issues and his sexual preference. (Remember, Maryland’s gay marriage issue wasn’t a slam dunk because the black community wasn’t its strongest supporter. Only this year has support for the issue passed 50% among blacks.)

Between the top tier four, though, they gather up over 70% of the votes in four of the five key states RealClearPolitics is polling. (In New Hampshire, it’s only 65%.) So the other huge question is whether one of the outside candidates can gather a large enough chunk of the 30% remaining (doubtful) or whether one candidate can coalesce that 30% behind their camp. My guess at the moment is that Elizabeth Warren is the most primed to do so.

If a Warren vs. Trump race comes to pass, I would expect the battleground states will be the four that Hillary Clinton considered her firewall: Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. But the results may be the same: women were already predisposed to vote against Trump, but blacks may be more inclined to vote for Trump (which helps in Michigan). The key is if union workers again back Trump against the wishes of their leadership.

At this stage in the game, though, I think the field will be no more than 10 by the time the ball (or whatever ornament towns across America use) drops on New Year’s Eve.

A time to re-rank

An occasional bit of shtick I have employed this summer is the ranking of Democratic presidential candidates. It was a fun mental exercise when they got ready for the first round of debates, but there’s a method to the madness as well.

Since I last ranked these folks a couple months back, two candidates entered the race but five have dropped out, leaving the field at 21 by my count. Only ten qualified for tonight’s debate; however, I don’t think that necessarily covers the top ten in the race for a couple reasons. My tiers are a little bit different, and they’re not completely polling-based.

First, the ones who are out:

  • Kirsten Gillibrand (was ranked #9)
  • John Hickenlooper (was ranked #10)
  • Eric Swalwell (was ranked #15)
  • Jay Inslee (was ranked #16)
  • Seth Moulton (was ranked #20)

I kind of figured there were four uneven tiers to the race, and perhaps the best way to do this is by tier, ranked in order within each. So my fourth tier, the “why are they still bothering?” tier, looks like this.

  • Tim Ryan (was 19, now 18)
  • Joe Sestak (was unranked, now 19)
  • Mike Gravel (was 23, now 20)
  • Wayne Messam (was 24, now 21)

Needless to say, none of them sniffed the upcoming debate. Sestak was about the last to start, and he is a little different sort of Democrat, but there are a couple others in that lane who are struggling, too.

Now the third tier, which has to really hustle to still be around for the Iowa caucuses or New Hampshire primary.

  • Beto O’Rourke (was 5, now 12) – in debate
  • Steve Bullock (was 11, now 13)
  • Michael Bennet (was 12, now 14)
  • John Delaney (was 17, now 15)
  • Bill deBlasio (was 14, now 16)
  • Marianne Williamson (was 22, now 17)

Obviously, the biggest surprise out of this group is Beto, who is actually on the debate stage but has really made a mess of his campaign; so much so that I don’t think the debate will help him. The others are now out of the “top ten” debate, although a couple in my next tier arguably should be included based on factors besides polling and donations.

The second tier has all debate participants except for two, but if you had a top ten only eight of those make my cut.

  • Pete Buttigieg (was 3, now 5)
  • Cory Booker (was 8, now 6)
  • Amy Klobuchar (remains at 7)
  • Tom Steyer (unranked, now 8) – not in debate
  • Tulsi Gabbard (was 21, now 9) – not in debate
  • Andrew Yang (was 13, now 10)
  • Julian Castro (was 18, now 11) – in debate

Castro has an inside track as the only Latino in the race, but I don’t see him really creating the buzz that Tulsi Gabbard has. Nor can I discount the vast wealth Tom Steyer possesses, which is why he ranks high. (Look, it worked for the President we have now…)

And then we have our first-tier top 4.

  • Joe Biden (remains at 1)
  • Elizabeth Warren (was 6, now 2)
  • Bernie Sanders (was 2, now 3)
  • Kamala Harris (remains at 4)

I almost put Harris into the second tier, as she has struggled to keep a coherent message. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren has vaulted into the top tier as others fade.

Quickly, let’s go through some head-to-heads:

  • #1 Joe Biden annihilates #16 Bill deBlasio
  • #2 Elizabeth Warren defeats #15 John Delaney, but this wouldn’t be a huge blowout
  • #3 Bernie Sanders has enough to get past #14 Michael Bennet
  • #4 Kamala Harris easily beats #13 Steve Bullock in an interesting paring
  • In a battle of fading stars, #5 Pete Buttigieg eliminates #12 Beto O’Rourke
  • #6 Cory Booker barely handles #11 Julian Castro
  • I think #10 Andrew Yang pulls the upset over #7 Amy Klobuhar, who hasn’t set the world on fire with her campaign
  • #9 Tulsi Gabbard uses her buzz to slip past #8 Tom Steyer

Round 2:

  • In a grueling one, #1 Joe Biden outlasts #9 Tulsi Gabbard
  • No second upset: #2 Elizabeth Warren over #10 Andrew Yang
  • #3 Bernie Sanders finds someone he can beat in #6 Cory Booker
  • #4 Kamala Harris wins the battle of constituent groups over #5 Pete Buttigieg

Semi-finals:

  • I still think #1 Joe Biden is vulnerable, thus #4 Kamala Harris takes him out
  • #2 Elizabeth Warren is much less unlikable than #3 Bernie Sanders, so she advances to an all-female final

Final:

I’m still going with the minority hope for the second coming of Barack Obama: Harris squeaks by Warren. But Elizabeth is closing fast on that one.

One last bit of fun and frivolity: this is the number of Facebook “likes” each of these candidates have, in reverse order.

  • Wayne Messam – 5,256
  • Mike Gravel – 19,870
  • Joe Sestak – 17,409
  • Tim Ryan – 45,216
  • Marianne Williamson – 814,698
  • Bill deBlasio – 66,066
  • John Delaney – 358,540
  • Michael Bennet – 103,926
  • Steve Bullock – 32,210
  • Beto O’Rourke – 916,363
  • Julian Castro – 141,063
  • Andrew Yang – 176,552
  • Tulsi Gabbard – 376,996
  • Tom Steyer – 487,159
  • Amy Klobuchar – 258,525
  • Cory Booker – 1,192,736
  • Pete Buttigieg – 440,781
  • Kamala Harris – 1,148,668
  • Bernie Sanders – 5,103,842
  • Elizabeth Warren – 3,280,688
  • Joe Biden – 1,487,599

Surprising to me Joe doesn’t have the most – he’s barely third.

Life’s been good: former GOP rep seeks to oust Trump

In a move akin to tilting at a windmill, former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh announced his intention to run for President on the Republican ticket. And he spared no harsh words for the titular head of his party:

I’m betting you’re tired of having an unfit con man for a president. A president who sides with foreign dictators over our intelligence community. A president who spews hate virtually every time he opens his mouth. A president who is teaching millions of American children it’s okay to lie and it’s okay to bully.

See, Donald Trump doesn’t represent us – he represents the worst of us. He hasn’t delivered on his promises, he thinks he’s above the law, and he’s tweeting us into a recession, as we speak.

You know it, I know it, we all know it: We can’t afford four more years of Donald Trump. No way.

Joe Walsh for President website

To be honest, I’m not really seeing the con here when it comes to Trump: to me it’s been baked into the equation since 2016. I think Republican voters had a pretty good idea about what they were getting. As for me, I knew better than to expect the second coming of Ronald Reagan, and in many respects I’ve been correct: I’ve neither been shocked nor surprised when he does things like keep the ethanol mandates in place, resist the idea of reforming Social Security, or speak about increasing gun restrictions. On the other hand, Trump has cut regulations at a faster pace than I ever imagined and exhibits a solid America-first foreign policy.

So when former Rep. Walsh maintains he’s in the race as an honest alternative to Donald Trump, the naysayers contend he’s the last but maybe not best hope for the #NeverTrump movement to throw a wrench into his plans. But Walsh is a somewhat flawed candidate himself, having to put up his own mea culpa regarding statements he’s made over the years.

Furthermore, Walsh’s campaign is simply based on opposition to Trump the person, but the wild card is whether he opposes Trump on policy and, if he does, where. Presumably Joe would be supportive of the issues he ran and won upon as a TEA Party-backed darling back in 2010, but some of those issues have been addressed over the last decade and others are unlike what the TEA Party dealt with. We don’t know from his website and not many folks have taken the time to listen to his radio show, which airs on a handful of stations in the late evening.

So Republicans now have a third choice, as Walsh joins President Trump and former Massachusetts governor (and 2016 Libertarian VP candidate) William Weld, who covers the liberal Republican end of the spectrum. But the Trump nomination will likely unfold in the minimum number of states required to clinch, with neither Walsh nor Weld being able to secure a convention delegate or a nomination at the 2020 GOP convention.

Who’s in and who’s out? Dems debate round 2

This is one of those things which sneaked up on me. I had meant to re-seed my Democrat contenders earlier this month before the second round of debates at month’s end, but never got around to it. (Lining up a radio book tour takes some time, you know?) So I’ll just use my seedings from May, which are still relatively accurate.

This time debate #1 will feature:

  • #2 Bernie Sanders
  • #3 Pete Buttigieg
  • #5 Beto O’Rourke
  • #6 Elizabeth Warren
  • #7 Amy Klobuchar
  • #10 John Hickenlooper
  • #11 Steve Bullock
  • #17 John Delaney
  • #19 Tim Ryan
  • #22 Marianne Williamson

Last time around the first debate was the “kiddie table” debate, but this time they have some star power. Arguably, though, three of the top four (a number that could even be six of the top seven) seeds in this debate are trending the wrong way since the seedings were last established. Now I would say Elizabeth Warren is the one to beat.

This is also interesting in that, after the top four in this field, four of the most pragmatic Democrat candidates are all clustered together here in Klobuchar, Hickenlooper, Bullock, and Delaney. Honestly I think at least two of that four are out by the time we get to the September debates.

Meanwhile, I believe Williamson was added to this debate to make Bernie look sane by comparison.

Now for debate #2:

  • #1 Joe Biden
  • #4 Kamala Harris
  • #8 Cory Booker
  • #9 Kirsten Gillibrand
  • #12 Michael Bennet
  • #13 Andrew Yang
  • #14 Bill de Blasio
  • #16 Jay Inslee
  • #18 Julian Castro
  • #21 Tulsi Gabbard

It’s a “big f—in’ deal” that Biden and Harris are placed together because that’s the drama for this debate. This is bad news for the other eight, although some may get a word in edgewise here or there. It’s a good night to be Tulsi Gabbard, who’s beat the odds to make it in again – she’s the only other woman in the field since Gillibrand is really a potted plant.

For the bottom-tier guys, well, sorry about your luck.

And speaking of the bottom tier, there are some who were again left out in the cold as well as the new contenders who haven’t been seeded yet.

  • #20 Seth Moulton
  • #23 Mike Gravel
  • #24 Wayne Messam
  • Joe Sestak
  • Tom Steyer

Don’t forget that original #15 seed Eric Swalwell has dropped out.

Leaving aside the lack of seriousness the small-town mayor Messam and nearly 90-year-old Gravel bring to the race, you have to wonder if Moulton’s time is running out. He’s a distant second in his own state to Warren, and at just 40 years old, Moulton has plenty of time to ponder a run in 2024 or 2028 – at least one of which will be an open-seat race.

Maybe, if I think about it, I’ll reseed after this round of debates. Then again, August looks like a busy month for me.

Believe it or not, we get another one!

Today marks a bittersweet anniversary: it was four years ago today that the best Republican choice entered the Presidential fray. Unfortunately, Bobby Jindal never got any traction in the race as it was already apparent that Donald Trump was going to get all the media attention after he announced just eight days before.

But while Jindal was the unlucky thirteenth to enter a 2016 Republican field that was still to expand by four more aspirants (Chris Christie, Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Jim Gilmore were still to come), the Democratic 2020 contender who announced yesterday is the 25th in what’s become a massive field. Needless to say, he won’t be in the debates this week and that’s a shame because he may be the only one running in a centrist, foreign policy-focused lane.

Retired Admiral and former Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania is probably not going to play the game of “can you top this?” in the headlong rush to the left that the Democratic field’s Overton window is undertaking. Moreover, in a more perfect world for him, he would have been in the race already but there were some health issues in his family which came first. Maybe he figures better late than never.

As Joe notes:

What Americans most want today is someone who is accountable to them, above self, above party, above any special interest … a President who has the depth of global experience to restore America’s leadership in the world to protect our American Dream at home … and one who is trusted to restructure policies where too many see only the growth of inequity not of the economy.

Announcement by presidential candidate Joe Sestak, June 23, 2019.

I don’t think Sestak has a chance to win the nomination, but I believe his entry will impact the race. He may only get a few percentage points but those will come from voters who may have backed Joe Biden until he moved left on a number of issues. Your old-line Democrat voters in rural areas will like Sestak because of the military background and the fact he represented a working-class state. If Biden weren’t from Delaware, Sestak would do well there and may do reasonably well in Maryland should he still be in the race. He may well punch above his weight.

Thinning the field

I missed this last week, or should I say I didn’t get to post on it right away. But we learned who was in and who was out of next week’s first two Democrat presidential candidate debates. Obviously the front-runners made the criteria established by the Democratic National Committee, but there were a couple surprising omissions in light of how I seeded the race a few weeks ago. (See how useful that is for constructing a narrative within my website? Now you have to go back and check that out.)

Each night’s field was somewhat randomly set, and there was the idea of spreading “top-tier” candidates out so that neither night was overly weighted toward one group – but as it turned out they unwittingly came close to the “kiddie table” debate concept employed by the 2016 Republicans.

Without further ado, and listed in my previous seeding order, this is the lineup for debate #1:

  • #5 Beto O’Rourke
  • #6 Elizabeth Warren
  • #7 Amy Klobuchar
  • #8 Cory Booker
  • #14 Bill de Blasio
  • #16 Jay Inslee
  • #17 John Delaney
  • #18 Julian Castro
  • #19 Tim Ryan
  • #21 Tulsi Gabbard

To be quite honest, the star of this debate is probably Warren, who’s picked up some polling support lately. But there is an interesting dynamic at play among the three women included and this field could end up helping Tulsi Gabbard.

As for the men, the five lower-seeded men are fortunate to be placed in a field that has the fading star of Beto and gaffe-prone Cory Booker. If any of them have a robust debate, they could move up in the polls – especially as the front-runners take shots at each other.

Here’s debate #2:

  • #1 Joe Biden
  • #2 Bernie Sanders
  • #3 Pete Buttigieg
  • #4 Kamala Harris
  • #9 Kirsten Gillibrand
  • #10 John Hickenlooper
  • #12 Michael Bennet
  • #13 Andrew Yang
  • #15 Eric Swalwell
  • #22 Marianne Williamson

The top 4 are either going to destroy each other or bury the other six. It sort of reminds me of the old Big 10 days when all the teams played each other but you knew it would be Michigan-Ohio State for the title at the end – we just have four teams instead of two, but they are all way ahead of the rest. And I would be curious to see what sort of Ron Paul effect the non-politicians Williamson and Yang have on the field here – after all, you can’t out-outsider them in this group.

The non-contenders who didn’t get in:

  • #11 Steve Bullock
  • #20 Seth Moulton
  • #23 Mike Gravel
  • #24 Wayne Messam

They are still soldiering on, hoping to get into the next round of debates in July. Bullock claims he’s already qualified, which is possible because he got a very late start in the campaign – obviously that will knock someone else out if he makes it in. Moulton is probably the one serious candidate most likely to drop out because Messam is whining about not getting a town hall meeting and Gravel was simply in it to get on the debate stage.

This has inspired another post but I think I’ll save it for next week, just before the debates.

Hogan takes a pass…on 2020

It’s no surprise that Larry Hogan, the now term-limited governor of our fair state of Maryland, decided to disappoint the #NeverTrump whisperers in the moderate wing of the Republican Party and skip his chance at being cannon fodder for Donald Trump on The Donald’s way to the Republican presidential nomination in 2020. As CNN put it:

“I truly appreciate all of the encouragement I received from people around the nation urging me to consider making a run for President in 2020,” Hogan tweeted Saturday. “However, I will not be a candidate.”

Hogan said that he would instead focus on his second term as governor and his upcoming role chairing the National Governors Association.

“That work is important, and I believe both of those roles will give me the opportunity to make an impact on the direction of my party and our nation,” he added.

“Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan says he won’t challenge Trump in 2020,” Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN, June 1, 2019.

I’m sure Larry won’t be voting for Trump next year given our governor’s track record, and truth be told he’ll have the advantage of a fairly dull campaign year in 2020. Barring a heretofore unexpected vacancy in the U.S. Senate, there are no statewide races on the 2020 docket, and aside from the possibility of a spirited race in a redrawn Sixth Congressional District, the House races will likely be decided in their respective primaries. So Larry won’t have to demean himself by campaigning for any of those icky conservatives – not that he has much in the way of practice.

However, Larry has established an eerie parallel to his abortive 2010 campaign for governor; a campaign that barely got out of the starting block before he pulled the plug, deferring to his old boss Bob Ehrlich. Out of that came Hogan’s Change Maryland organization, which served as a foil to the governorship of Martin O’Malley and paved the way to Hogan’s 2014 victory – a victory he gloats about.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is not a career politician. He spent nearly his entire career as a small businessman. Fed up with high taxes, politics as usual, and decades of a one-party monopoly, he started Change Maryland, the largest non-partisan grassroots citizen organization in state history. In 2014, out-numbered in party registration by more than 2-1, and outspent by more than 5-1, Governor Hogan pulled off the biggest upset in America to become only the second Republican Governor elected in Maryland in 50 years.

Governor Hogan quickly got to work and set an example for the nation, accomplishing what many believed was no longer possible: reaching across the aisle, and working together to achieve real bipartisan, common sense solutions.

As Hogan was taking the hard pass on a 2020 run, he traveled a familiar road in setting up an organization primarily dedicated to keeping his name in the limelight. Dubbed An America United, Hogan is obviously setting this group up to prepare for a centrist run for the GOP nod in 2024 – basically the same lane John Kasich had in 2016 and held prior to that by guys like John McCain and Jon Huntsman. When most of the news glowingly featured on the site comes from the Washington Post, New York Times, or CNN – the farthest right source of his front-page news is the now-defunct home of #NeverTrump establishment Republicans The Weekly Standard – it’s a pretty safe bet that the group is not going to venture too far right of center.

Naturally the group has its goals, expressed in the standard bromides about “bipartisan, common-sense solutions to create more and better jobs, cut taxes, protect the environment, build our infrastructure, and improve education.” Unfortunately, based on his record in Maryland, what he considers “common sense” is just slowing the long-standing drift away from the ideals that made the nation great. After all, he turned his back on creating jobs in the energy industry (private-sector jobs), squandered opportunities to cut taxes further by asking for ever-larger budgets, and contracted the Democrat disease of believing that to “improve education” is to spend much more money on it rather than allowing the billions that’s already there to follow the child.

In 2024 the nation will be in a quandary: either facing an uncertain political future after eight years of Donald Trump or dealing with the backsliding which will be occurring should one of those in the Democrat “clown limousine” be running for re-election. I honestly suspect that’s what Larry is hoping for, knowing that only once in the last 90 years has a Republican president been elected to succeed a fellow Republican (Bush 41 after Reagan.) John McCain in 2008, Gerald Ford – who served as President but was never elected in his own right – in 1976, and Richard Nixon in 1960 were the last three to try, but you have to go back to Herbert Hoover winning in 1928 after Calvin Coolidge chose not to run to find the previous example before the late George H.W. Bush.

(However, the string is even longer for Democrats: the last time a Democrat succeeded a Democrat, aside from death in office, was 1856 as James Buchanan served one term after fellow one-termer Franklin Pierce. To tell you how long ago that was, Pierce in 1852 succeeded the last Whig to be President, Millard Fillmore. Your Presidential tidbit.)

So don’t think Larry is uninterested in the 2020 race. He’s just choosing to bide his time, perhaps believing that America electing a far-left President will allow him to escape the crocodile that will call any Republican “extremist.” But I have news for Larry: even if he became a “blue dog” Democrat to run, he would still be on the menu regardless.

Reviewing the field (part 3)

Today we decide – well, until the next time I do this exercise which will be after the initial two sets of debates. (Not that I plan on watching: I like to keep my dinner down.) At that time the field will probably be sorted back closer to a more manageable 16 as those who don’t make the debates get the hint and money shifts toward those who the media believes has a chance.

Yesterday we brought ourselves to what would normally be called the Elite Eight – but we are talking about the clown limousine here.

So let’s see how this shakes out to find a winner, shall we?

#5 Beto O’Rourke (46, former U.S. Congressman from Texas – no change) vs. #4 Kamala Harris (54, U.S. Senator from California – down from #3)

I noted yesterday that Beto had the advantage of a weak opponent in the last round. Unfortunately for him, Harris is a better player and that needed “reboot” is getting the Texan booted out of this tournament. Besides, Harris at least won her Senate election.

Winner: Harris, 56-44.

#11 Steve Bullock (53, term-limited current governor of Montana – not ranked) vs. #3 Pete Buttigieg (37, mayor of South Bend, Indiana – up from #13)

Bear in mind again that these are head-to-head matchups, and this is one of the most intriguing. As I said before, Bullock can brag about winning a state that also was won by Trump and he comes across as pragmatic. On the other hand, Buttigieg has been pulled into the weeds a lot lately on various issues, such as religion, and then there’s an 800-pound gorilla in the room: are Americans ready for a gay president? With this alternative, I think the answer is not quite.

Winner: Bullock, 52-48.

#7 Amy Klobuchar (58 – for a few more days – U.S. Senator, Minnesota – down from #6) vs. #18 Julian Castro (44, former HUD Secretary – down from #12)

This is another tough call. In theory it’s easier for Castro to win this matchup, but Klobuchar has two things going for herself that Bernie Sanders did not: a more moderate world view and a favorable gender in this day and age. In a battle of female vote vs. Latino vote, they will go with the bigger prize against Donald Trump.

Winner: Klobuchar, 55-45.

#9 Kirsten Gillibrand (52, U.S. Senator, New York – down from #8) vs.
#1 Joe Biden (76, most recent previous Vice President and two-time previous candidate – no change)

If “Creepy Joe” can stay out of Kirsten’s hair he wins this one easily because Gillibrand hasn’t ran a stellar campaign. Of the women vying for the Oval Office, she’s one of the more nondescript despite being Hillary Clinton’s successor in the Senate.

Winner: Biden, 60-40.

This sets up a really good pair of semi-final matchups.

#7 Amy Klobuchar vs. #11 Steve Bullock

Klobuchar is the higher seed because she’s been in the race for a longer time. But her appeal is also that of being a woman at a time when Democrats are looking to avenge the loss of Hillary Clinton yet one with a reputation of being pragmatic, perhaps because of her Midwest roots.

But Bullock counters most of these advantages with the elements of executive experience (as the only remaining one in the field) and the fact that he won a state Trump won. And Trump didn’t come close in Minnesota, unlike most other Midwest states. However, Montana is not a state that immediately comes to mind for complexity, making the executive part a little more moot.

This is one that Klobuchar pulls out in the end by four points.

Winner: Klobuchar, 52-48.

#4 Kamala Harris vs. #1 Joe Biden

Harris has really coasted along in this campaign, knowing that she will do well enough in her own state of California (which will be an early player in the process in 2020, unlike most of its history) to be a force for the long haul. But she also provides one of the most difficult contrasts for Biden to face despite his name recognition and experience. Is Harris articulate and clean enough for the voters?

I think when it comes down to it, Democrats want a new face. Biden may be highest in polls right now, but he may be scraping his ceiling in popularity when you begin to consider the Obama effect is wearing off and he’s against a woman of color – instant Anita Hill reminder, anyone?

I believe Democrats are bound and determined to have a woman on the top of their ticket against Donald Trump.

Winner: Harris, 51-49.

The final:

#7 Amy Klobuchar vs. #4 Kamala Harris

In the chill of February, Amy Klobuchar began her campaign in front of hundreds of diehard supporters braving a snowstorm. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a visual that compared with thousands in the streets to send Harris off a few days earlier.

The Democrat party is a collection of coalitions, and this is where it gets dicey. The question is which coalitions will go which way, and how strongly will they fight for their candidate? Overall I get the sense that, while the Democrats may be better served with a more centrist, qualified candidate they are going to go with the one who checks off the most boxes and goes the most against the grain. Those who are pining for a second black president who would be the first woman president will probably have enough pull within the party to prevail.

Winner: Harris, 54-46. She succeeds Biden, who I had winning in the initial March Madness post.

I’ll look at this again in July, with new seedings and perhaps a different result based solely on my gut instincts.