A cloudy crystal ball

If the Good Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be in line waiting to cast my vote when this comes up. I’m writing this on Monday night.

I guess we will begin with this, since it’s the most important.

I did an electoral map the other night which is the most likely electoral scenario in my eyes. It’s enough for Trump to win but not as much as he did in 2016 because he loses Wisconsin and Michigan in my scenario but gains Minnesota. If not for that and keeping Pennsylvania he would be out.

I also believe the Republicans hang on to the Senate but it may be a 51-49 majority or even 51-50. Can’t see them gaining quite enough to take back the House but there’s a decent chance I may be wrong. I can see enough of a gain, though, to make subsequent special elections meaningful because it may be something along the line of a 219-216 Democrat majority – which will make a Speaker election dicey.

In 2016, Donald Trump lost Delaware by 11 points, but he was the closest Republican when it came to winning a statewide race. I honestly think if he were running against anyone but Joe Biden, he would have an outside chance of winning the state but in this case I think Biden carries by about 15 points – let’s say 56-41, with the other 3% scattered among the Libertarian and Green candidates.

In this case, he won’t be the closest Republican. I think that distinction will go to Julianne Murray, who just may win if this becomes a referendum on John Carney’s handling of the CCP virus and the economy in general. This race may come down to how many votes can be manufactured in New Castle County, but I suspect it will be along the lines of a 50-45 finish, with IPoD’s Kathy DeMatteis getting 3-4% and the Libertarian candidate John Machurek picking up 1%.

Next closest will be Lee Murphy, who isn’t going to lose as badly as Scott Walker did. He will give LBR the closest race she’s had, although with just two under her belt it doesn’t say much. This matchup seems like a 55-43 type of match, with the IPoD candidate Catherine Purcell getting most of the other 2 percent over Libertarian David Rogers.

In both of the other two-person races – lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner – they’ll probably end up about 60-40 in favor of the incumbent Democrats, which is simply because people vote party line and neither Republican had built up her name recognition enough to make a dent. It’s a shame because both seem like they can do the job really well.

Last but not least is our U.S. Senate race. This could either be the biggest shocker in decades or, more likely, a 20-plus point whipping of Lauren Witzke by Chris Coons. There’s already a portion of the Republican base upset with her and I’m not sure Lauren’s push for the union vote is paying dividends. I look at this as a 60-37 race, with Libertarian Nadine Frost getting more of the other 3% than IPoD’s Mark Turley.

In the Delaware legislative races, the lack of opposition put up by Republicans in some races may cost them. There are a couple districts where I can see Democrats knocking off vulnerable state Senators (who often voted with the Democrats anyway) so that they will be up 14-7 going into the full turnover in 2022. In the House, with Democrats already spotted a 15-7 lead in unopposed candidates, it’s doubtful the GOP will improve on its 26-15 deficit. I think they will hold that number.

Looking quickly at Maryland, I think Andy Harris ends up north of 70% against Mia Mason in the First District House race. And to be honest, I have no sense of how that Wicomico County race I wrote about will go. There are more Republicans in the district but the question is how many will buy the horse hockey that the Democrat running is a “conservative Democrat.”

It’s also interesting to note that, based on their daily report, Republicans are already over 30% turnout in Maryland early voting, and in that regard they are crushing Democrats by 13 points. On the other hand, Democrats have returned 81% of their mail-in ballots to the Republicans’ 75%, but there is a wide disparity in their numbers – 49.8% of Democrats requested mail-in ballots while only 25.7% of Republicans opted to vote that way. So if there are long lines in Maryland tomorrow, that’s probably good news for the GOP because more of them have yet to vote – by my quick and dirty math about 57% of Democrats have voted in Maryland compared to 48% of Republicans.

So it’s doubtful that Donald Trump would carry Maryland, but he may come within 20 points and that would be a yuge improvement over losing 60-34 there four years ago.

Never say never…

Life is really funny sometimes. Back in 2016 when I took the exit ramp I was a convicted man, but somehow that road has led me in a strange direction. No, I’m not quite back on that highway but I think I can see it from here.

It didn’t take me all that long to begin shedding the “never” part of a certain term. Taking a hacksaw to regulations was very endearing, and getting a much-needed tax cut was certainly a push in the right direction. But it all began with that deep breath of optimism that came about in the latter days of 2016; the feeling that something better was indeed going to finally come along after years of waiting. And as if a sign from above, I was restored to what I once was: after eight long, disheartening years of being forced out of a good job due to misfortunes and dire economic circumstances, Providence allowed me to get a foot in the door, and a few months later make my full-time return. I wasn’t quite the classic prodigal son, but I almost broke down and wept on the day of my return to full-time work there. Certainly I had been humbled by the previous eight years.

In my lines of work and various side hustles, I depend greatly on a good economy. Over the last four years we have taken the low gear of the last administration – what was then proclaimed as a “new normal” – and turbocharged it so that the new new normal lent itself better to prosperity. And even when we were suddenly thrown into reverse by the CCP virus, allowing the states to govern their response has gotten many of us back on track – particularly those fortunate enough to live in states with traditionally Republican governors. (Our friends in Maryland don’t have one of those. He can vote for whom he wants, but I’m not applauding the stance anymore because it seems now to me more out of spite than anything else. At least in 2016 I voted for a legit write-in.)

But perhaps the biggest factor in steering my response was the absolutely unfair media shake we have seen for our current president. I think back to 2012 and Mitt Romney, and ponder whether we would be electing his replacement if the media had been as curious about scandal back then as they have over the last four years. Imagine if something like Benghazi had happened under the current administration: blaming it on a video would not fly with a persistently questioning and curious media. Having the sandbags placed by constant and phony investigation arguably cost the Republicans the House in 2018; fortunately, they didn’t lose the Senate, which brings up another point.

In the last four years, we have now seen 1/3 of the Supreme Court turn over as well as hundreds of new circuit and district judges installed. While the imprint of these new appointees is still somewhat faint, over time we will begin to see their effect on the judiciary system if the trend is allowed to continue. Jurists who understand the plain meaning of the Constitution as well as the vision of those who wrote it are a significant line of defense against damaging revisions to our government and rescinding of our God-given rights. Perhaps they can also be the impetus to bringing about correction in a positive direction for a change.

To be sure, I don’t agree with the current occupant of the Oval Office on everything, and for that reason I also pondered a couple alternatives. It turns out Tom Hoefling, who I considered last time, is a write-in for Delaware*, but the reason I didn’t vote for him in 2016 was his slight but significant misunderstanding of the role of government. (Sadly, even though I don’t really care for the Constitution Party’s nominee Don Blankenship, feeling that he is a grifter of sorts, his campaign didn’t even bother to become a write-in candidate in Delaware. That’s a post for after the election.)

On the other hand, I was very compelled with Jo Jorgensen’s run as the Libertarian candidate. But when you think about it, there are a number of areas Jorgensen is advocating where the current administration is already moving in that direction, particularly in foreign policy. And when you further think about it, the current system wouldn’t lend itself to policy success for a Jorgensen administration because neither Republicans nor Democrats would have much incentive to assist her. It could be the long-term solution to this is to remove party affiliation from the ballot, but that will not occur without a vast public mandate.

Finally, it occurred to me the other day that 2020 is the first time I have ever blogged about a Republican president seeking re-election. I hadn’t began blogging yet when George W. Bush began his re-election run in 2004; in fact, I hadn’t even moved here. When I arrived in October of that year it was too late to register in Maryland so I voted absentee in Ohio. Obviously the next campaign in 2008 gave us Barack Obama and we kept him for 2012, so the return of the Republicans meant 2020 would be their first crack at re-election in 16 years.

Back in 2016 I gave three options for the election results:

I guess the way I look at it there are three possibilities here: either Trump is going to lose to Hillary, he will beat Hillary and govern exactly as I predict he will, or he will be a great President and I will have assessed him incorrectly. Truly I wouldn’t mind being wrong for the sake of this great nation, but I have no evidence to believe I will be.

“Taking the exit ramp,” August 1, 2016

With the evidence of the last four years, I’m going to do something I rarely have to do: admit I was wrong. It’s precisely why you should never say never, because I painted myself into a #NeverTrump corner and have to get my feet dirty to get out. But I really don’t mind.

Given the record and the horrible alternatives, the time has come to return to my political home for an election. America, we need to re-elect Donald Trump.

*There are over twenty write-in candidates for President recognized by Delaware, but just three have vice-presidential picks listed. So those were the three I looked up, including Hoefling.

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.