Becoming the loyal opposition

As the days of the Trump administration dwindle down to a precious few and the world is attempting to hoist him up on the petard of (so-called) insurrection, it’s clear that there are over 70 million Americans who are angry with the situation.

But let’s dispense with a few things first: the claims that Trump will return for another term after he declares martial law then drains the Swamp with thousands of arrests – ain’t gonna happen. Even if he uses the military, the size and scope of the necessary operation is such that SOMEONE would have leaked it out by now.

And it’s not just that: Trump doesn’t figure in the line of succession, even if you arrested Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Nancy Pelosi. It’s the same logic that said Hillary would be president if Trump was impeached and convicted. There’s just no Constitutional precedent for this – even in the midst of a civil war we held a Presidential election in 1864. We’ll never know, but would Abraham Lincoln have ceded power in March of 1865 had he lost?

There were originally going to be three main points to this post, but two of them have been taken care of in a different fashion. I liked Erick Erickson’s take on all the fake news that I alluded to above, so I encourage you to read it via The Patriot Post. My other writing home is also where the second part of this discourse ended up, regarding the fate of the Republican Party going forward. One key point:

Donald Trump was the candidate whose boldness on hot-button issues such as immigration and tax reform brought back those who became disillusioned when the Tea Party devolved to just another group of inside-the-Beltway grifters, and the Republican establishment cooled the fiery spirits of those the Tea Party helped to place in Congress.

“The Road Ahead for the GOP,” The Patriot Post, January 15, 2021

This was one of the longest pieces I’ve ever written for them because it’s a subject I am passionate about.

But in the wake of the purloined Presidential election and the catastrophe at the Capitol, people are probably shrugging their shoulders and resigning themselves to the end of our Republic, keeping their anger and passion inside to eat at them. Now I don’t have the overall surefire way to make you feel better, but perhaps it’s time to revisit what happened the last time we were in this situation.

Granted, the political landscape in 2021 is not really the same chessboard we were looking at in the dark winter of 2009. Back then we didn’t have the pervasiveness of social media to squelch the voices of conservatives nor did we have the upstream economic swimming made necessary by the ongoing CCP virus. (Of course, that will improve soon as Democrat governors finally decide that maybe, just maybe, they need to open up their state economies.) And that’s okay because perhaps this time we need to shift the focus to a smaller stage rather than try and play in a arena we’re not as familiar with. Complaining about federal spending and what would become Obamacare only delayed the inevitable twelve years ago because Tip O’Neill was right: all politics is local.

To that end, there is a trinity of issues which can be positively influenced at the local level in the near term, and in my opinion these are places the passion for Donald Trump can be well applied (or at least I think he would approve.) In at least one respect – the one I’m going to begin with – it’s not even necessarily political.

Support local small businesses.

This can be a lot easier said than done, particularly if you live in a rural area like I do. I have to admit we get a LOT of Amazon and Walmart boxes delivered to us, and the UPS truck is a regular sight around this area. On the flip side, though, we have a lot of small businesses that we can support in our town, particularly the restaurants. (I have my local favorite, and you should too. Patronize them often and leave good tips.)

The thing that is holding back businesses the most are the pandemic-inspired restrictions. I’m sure my local pizzeria would love to be able to open up all their seating despite their solid carry-out business. Initial mandates that favored big-box retailers as “essential” when their smaller counterparts – which often sold the same merchandise – were shut down led to the loss of millions of jobs and the perceived need to send out stimulus checks that are simply the gateway drug to the cherished regressive dream of a universal basic income. (Or, as Dire Straits once sang, Money for Nothing. I suppose it’s good the government hasn’t tried the chicks for free yet, because I could only imagine that disaster.)

I think if you asked the business owner who had to shut down whether they’d prefer the check or the business, 99% would be back in business. Seeing that the ice is beginning to break with some of these Democrats, perhaps it’s time to apply more pressure to Governor Carnage to end this so-called emergency and let businesses try to pick up the pieces.

Action items:

  • Patronize local, small businesses wherever possible.
  • Pressure local legislators and officials to advocate for the opening up of your state’s businesses as applicable. (Obviously people reading this from certain states can skip this part.)
  • If a business decides to go against a state’s forced closing mandate – don’t be a Karen, be a customer.
  • And it’s not just businesses: having open schools and resuming their activities would be a great help to employment as well. It brings me to my next part.

Reforming our schools.

One thing I loved about the Trump administration was the fresh perspective he brought to the Department of Education with Betsy DeVos. Unfortunately, her tenure was cut a bit short because she bought the media narrative about the January 6 protest, but her time at the DoE was the next best thing to it not being there.

Sadly, under Harris/Biden there will likely be some other NEA-approved hack running that show and undoing all the good DeVos did, so we need to do what we can to re-establish local control of our public schools as much as possible and push the envelope where required. If that can’t be done, then it’s time to support the alternatives such as homeschooling or non-public schools.

Of course, the best way to guide public schools is to become a member of their school board, but not everyone has that sort of time commitment nor do they want to go through the anal exam known as an election. (Furthermore, in the case of my local school district, reform would be slow: they elect one member of the five-member body every year, meaning it would take at least three years to install a like-thinking majority.) But it is a good idea to know about your local school board and see who the friendlies to the cause are. (If they have a BLM banner, it’s not too likely they’re conservative.) The ideal here is to revamp curriculum to bring it back to classical education as opposed to indoctrination, encouraging a variety of viewpoints and critical thinking. Public school students don’t have to be mindless robots; after all, I’m a case in point since I went to public school and a public university. I think I turned out okay.

On a state level, there are two priorities and this means you have to make some enemies in the teachers’ union: school choice and (corollary to that) money following the child. It’s your child and the state should be doing its level best to assist you in training up the child in the way he should go.

Action items:

  • Demand schools open up fully. The lack of in-person learning and activities has cost students a year of development.
  • Research your local school board and its candidates, even if you don’t have kids there. They are taking a lot of your tax money so you should be aware how it’s spent.
  • Advocate with your state legislators for school choice and money following the child.

And now for the biggie, the one which should be job one among all right-thinking Americans:

Restoring free and fair elections.

I’m going to begin with a quote. You may be surprised at the source.

Voting by mail is now common enough and problematic enough that election experts say there have been multiple elections in which no one can say with confidence which candidate was the deserved winner. The list includes the 2000 presidential election, in which problems with absentee ballots in Florida were a little-noticed footnote to other issues.

In the last presidential election, 35.5 million voters requested absentee ballots, but only 27.9 million absentee votes were counted, according to a study by Charles Stewart III, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He calculated that 3.9 million ballots requested by voters never reached them; that another 2.9 million ballots received by voters did not make it back to election officials; and that election officials rejected 800,000 ballots. That suggests an overall failure rate of as much as 21 percent.

“Error and Fraud at Issue as Absentee Balloting Rises,” Adam Liptak, New York Times, October 6, 2012.

It’s funny because that story concludes, “You could steal some absentee ballots or stuff a ballot box or bribe an election administrator or fiddle with an electronic voting machine,” (Yale law professor Heather Gerken) said. That explains, she said, “why all the evidence of stolen elections involves absentee ballots and the like.”

It didn’t get any better in 2020, as hastily-passed (or decreed) election law led to the chaotic scenes we saw played out in several big-city vote counting venues. Combine that with the molasses-like pace of mail sent through the USPS – I received a Christmas card sent by a friend in Kansas December 18 on January 4 – and we got an election result that millions are skeptical about.

I know there are some who swear these practices are on the up and up, but this is the question we should be asking these officials: If you support election practices we can’t trust, how can you be a public servant we can trust?

At a minimum, we should be demanding that changes made for the 2020 election should be scrapped entirely. This was no way to run an election, and it will always be fishy how Donald Trump (and a host of other Republicans) led in their election in certain states until the wee hours of Wednesday morning before suddenly being overtaken in a barrage of votes for Democrats. I will give kudos to the election officials here in Delaware who demanded all mail-in ballots be delivered by 8 p.m. on election night because the counting was pretty much done by the late local news.

I don’t care if you call it the TEA Party again – with the acronym now standing for Trump’s Election Avengers – but here are the action items, as the beginning of a list of demands for real election reform:

  1. The voter rolls should be purged of inactive voters (no voting in the last four years) and those who use fake addresses such as P.O. boxes. Big-city election boards should be made to use some of their ill-gotten largess to investigate these places.
  2. Absentee balloting should no longer be shall-issue. There has to be a legitimate excuse, although advanced age should remain a legitimate excuse. Deadline for absentee ballot return is Election Day, no postmark exceptions.
  3. Ballot-harvesting should be outlawed or curtailed to leave only family members allowed to return a limited number of ballots.
  4. Early voting should be eliminated, or at the very least cut back to the weekend just prior to the election.
  5. There should be more election observers, and not just Democrat and Republican. We should add two independent or minor party voters who are also allowed to observe and object.

This isn’t to say that we should ignore the excesses of the Harris/Biden administration and speak out when necessary. But in making these more easily attainable changes at the local level, we make it more difficult to enact change on a national scale.

If we want to make the necessary changes, we have to borrow the “think globally, act locally” mantra from the environmentalist wackos for a bit and ride out the next four years as the real shadow government. It’s only through us that a government for and by the people not perish from the earth.

The frightening possibility: meet Kamala Harris, President of the United States Senate

Editor’s note: It’s been a long, long time since I’ve done one of these but since I trust this man implicitly on the subject I thought it was worth publication. Think of it as GO (guest opinion) Friday, the special Monday edition.

Guest opinion by Richard Douglas

Meet Kamala Harris: President of the United States Senate.

Republican members of Congress considering options in the face of an apparently-fraudulent Biden/Harris election victory ought to keep in mind another inevitable consequence of a Biden/Harris Administration: Kamala Harris as President of the United States Senate.

If former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris are inaugurated on January 20th, don’t be surprised to see Vice President Harris standing at the Senate door on January 21st demanding the presiding officer’s gavel. She would have a perfect right to it under Art I, Section 3, clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution, which provides that “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate ….”

The Senate’s Standing Rules are in accord, and were written on the apparent assumption that the Vice President would actually preside in the Senate more often than not: “In the absence of the Vice President, the Senate shall choose a President pro tempore …. (Rule I (1.) Appointment of a Senator to the Chair). In fact, to this day a Vice President’s Office is set aside just off the Senate floor.

During the first George W. Bush term (2001-2005), for two years the U.S. Senate was split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. Vice President Dick Cheney was seen often in the Senate to break ties, the only circumstance where the Vice President may actually cast a Senate vote. But the limit on voting is no obstacle to taking the Senate presiding officer’s chair and gavel at will. Why haven’t Vice Presidents asserted the right to do this?

Several possible reasons occurred to me, based upon five years’ experience as a senior Senate lawyer, living and breathing Senate procedure.

First, it would not surprise me to learn that during the Gore and Biden vice presidencies, the Senate Democratic Caucus may not have wanted their former colleagues in the presiding officer’s chair. Neither Gore nor Biden ever served in the Senate Democratic leadership in spite of nearly a half century of Senate experience between them. Food for thought.

What else might account for the absence of our Vice Presidents from the Senate President’s chair? As I learned as treaty lawyer for the late Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina (who knew Senate procedure very well), many Senators — perhaps most — don’t understand the Senate’s Standing Rules or their own constitutional prerogatives. Exhibits A and B for the latter proposition are the Paris and Iran deals, which thoroughly trampled Senate treaty practice.

Perhaps Senators also fail to grasp the potential impact and authority of a Presiding Officer armed with a good grasp of Senate Rules and parliamentary procedure. No surprise there.

Finally, a basic lack of imagination could account for the fact that no Vice President in my memory (starting with Lyndon Johnson) has ever taken hold of the Senate presiding officer’s gavel and seriously used it. But there are good lawyers in Biden circles who know the rules, and they won’t miss a trick. It seems to me that Kamala Harris would not fail to perceive the opportunity to dominate daily work in the Senate almost at will from the presiding officer’s chair.

What would it mean to have Kamala Harris as President of the Senate? Choreographed points of order from the Democratic Senate caucus? Strategic Senate recesses to allow Biden recess appointments? Erection of insuperable parliamentary roadblocks to Republican initiatives to confound the Biden-Harris White House? The list of possibilities is long. If I were Kamala Harris, I would be looking for a retired Senate parliamentarian now to teach me the finer points of Senate procedure.

Would Kamala Harris gain anything by taking the Senate gavel frequently when the Senate is in session? If she is inaugurated, it will be her right and privilege to do so. And why wouldn’t she? For someone with presidential ambitions, it is hard to imagine a more bully pulpit, outside the Oval Office, than the Senate President’s chair, whence every word and deed is beamed out to the world by C-SPAN and other media.

In general, contested points of order, parliamentary procedure, and the Senate Rules can be waived by unanimous consent or put to a vote. Consequently, a Kamala Harris Senate presidency might not matter so much if the GOP had a strong majority in the Senate and could prevent unanimous consent or GOP defections on every point of order or parliamentary dispute. Except that the GOP doesn’t have a strong Senate majority, and can’t keep its own members from defecting. What’s more, the fluid U.S. Senate run-off in Georgia makes the Senate vote count even harder to nail down at this point.

What is easier to predict, however, is that even if the Republicans hang on to a Senate majority, Congress could come to work on January 21st with Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and Kamala Harris as President of the Senate. This is a genuine possibility which will quickly ripen into a reality if Congress fails to reverse what appears to have been an election victory procured by fraud.

Kamala Harris as President of the Senate. Does Congress care?

Richard Douglas is a former Senate staffer for Sen. Jesse Helms and ran twice (alas, unsuccessfully) for a U.S. Senate seat from Maryland.

Odds and ends number 99

This will be the pre-election edition of odds and ends. I have so much stuff in my e-mail that’s interesting and intriguing that I’ll end up doing two parts, with the less time-sensitive stuff coming later this week or maybe next, depending on my mood.

As always, these are items I can deal with in a span of words covering anywhere from a couple sentences to three or four paragraphs, give or take.

The media is not your friend

I get a lot of items that pick on the media, but none have said so more succinctly than The American Spectator‘s editor Melissa McKenzie. This wasn’t from a featured article, but an e-mail summary:

Whether Trump wins or loses, THEY’VE ALREADY LOST. Their industry is over. Their ideological hegemony is done. They are relics of a bygone era. The worst part is that they’ve done it to themselves. They’ve torched their credibility and manage to cover nothing of importance. 

(…)

The insanity you’re seeing from the mainstream media is terror. They hate Donald Trump, but without him, they’re over. They’ve boxed themselves into a corner.

So while marveling about the MSM’s nuttiness, keep in mind that it’s not really about Trump. It’s about them. They’re experiencing existential dread. They’re right to be afraid.

“Trump: The End is NOT Nigh,” Melissa McKenzie, October 5, 2020.

To take the point further, Erick Erickson compared two styles of new media, pointing out the difference between Left and Right:

The difference is that the conservative sites are frequently just running pre-written PR pieces. The Acronym sites actually have reporters and editors, running as partisan news operations. They are actively digging dirt and churning stories to damage the GOP. Their efforts are not to facilitate truth, but to advance a leftwing narrative.

(…)

As an aside, conservatives need to take note on this. In the past, conservatives tried to do something similar to what Acronym is doing. Unfortunately, the donor structure on the right largely exists to make a profit and see a financial return on investment. Progressive donors want to affect change and see their return on investment based on narrative shaping and advancement of an agenda.

“A Tale of Two Stories With Common Facts,” Erick Erickson, October 19, 2020.

Back in the day I used to be one of those conservatives who knocked themselves out doing news reporting and commentary. Over the years I have worked with a bunch of news aggregators; here’s a list gleaned from my blog categories: Examiner.com, Conservative Weekly, Red County, Watchdog Wire, and Liberty Features Syndicate. Except for the pittance I made off the Examiner, these weren’t paying gigs because of what Erickson noted – these entities had to make a profit and could not with paid contributors. (The Examiner got less and less lucrative over time, too.)

But there is a market out there that’s being filled with videos and podcasts, and someone somewhere is making money for nothing, as Dire Straits would sing. That’s where people are going for news, and it’s driving the gatekeepers crazy.

The realms of money and mail in politics

Did you know that over 40 percent of Democrat donors are unemployed? That’s what a September story in PJ Media claimed. It was even more pronounced in 2020, as the number edged up over 50 percent.

I think there’s something wrong with the system when it’s being gamed in that way. But that’s nothing to how vote-by-mail seems to be manipulated: here’s a list of recent vote-by-mail disasters compiled by the fine folks at the Capital Research Center.

Then again, if you asked Rebecca Mansour and James P. Pinkerton at Breitbart, this is all part of a seven-part scheme to promote vote-by-mail “chaos.” Add in accusations of ballot harvesting, and, if the Russians’ goal was to sow distrust in our electoral system then the Left is helping them succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

All I know is that I’m going to go express my preferences on Tuesday, and hopefully the state and national voters agree. Let’s just say I won’t be supporting the ones who are the target of these allegations.

The coming unrest

As I’ve probably mentioned from time to time, I keep tabs on the Indivisible movement. While they have reached the late TEA Party stage of constantly begging for money, they also have their little schemes and one they recently hatched is called “Protect the Results.” (Why do I suspect the only results they are interested in protecting are the ones where they are winning?)

They claim that they “created a coalition of more than 100 organizations that are committed to protecting our democracy if Trump and his desperate Republican allies throw our country into a manufactured constitutional crisis.” If it takes until January to find the needed votes for Joe Biden Kamala Harris, they are willing to wait.

At the time I initially heard from them, they were up to 240 events nationwide (now it’s 471) but the one I’m most interested in is slated for Ocean City on November 4. (There are none in Delaware or elsewhere on the Eastern Shore.) Of course, the location is not released but we know the sponsor: “Join Indivisible Worcester MD to wave signs to honor the valid results of the 2020 election, ensure that every vote is counted, and show up to demand the peaceful transition of power. We’ll have some signs but not enough for everyone, so bring signs if you can.”

There are only so many outdoor locations in the Ocean City area where a crowd of a couple dozen would be noticed at this time of year, so be looking and if you see them ask them if they’ll accept a Trump victory.

One problem I have with Trump

There are a lot of things I’ve liked about Donald Trump, as I detailed yesterday. But one bone I have to pick with him is his energy policy – while he isn’t going to ban fracking like Joe Biden, he’s leaving a lot of chips on the table and one of those was his recent extension of an energy exploration ban in the Eastern Gulf and South Atlantic until 2032. We just finally got to energy independence, so why leave these potential assets to wither?

As API’s Mark Green opines:

Most concerning is the abrupt about-face for U.S. energy policy embodied in the president’s executive order. Suddenly shelving the vast oil and natural gas potential of the Eastern Gulf and South Atlantic, which would be critically important to the nation’s strategic energy needs, is a 180-degree shift from the U.S. “energy dominance” theme heard so often from the administration the past few years.

Mark Green, “The Administration’s Misstep On Eastern Gulf, South Atlantic Offshore Policy,” Energy Tomorrow, September 14, 2020.

We don’t know how much oil is down there, but without seismic testing and exploratory drilling, we won’t know if they are going to find dry holes or millions of barrels we can use. We should make the attempt to find out – not just in those areas but farther north where it can perhaps create jobs unlike the wind turbines no one but the moneyed interests want.

Misdirection

Charles “Sam” Faddis is a veteran intelligence operations officer, so I think he has a pretty informed opinion when he writes:

The Iranians have already begun sending spoof emails to potential voters seeking to sow dissension. The Russians may soon follow suit. Americans need to be on guard.

(…)

The same FBI that wants us to believe that Iranian spam is a serious threat to our democracy is the same FBI that has been sitting on Hunter Biden’s laptop for ten months. That laptop is filled with evidence of what appears to be a worldwide operation by the Biden family to cash in on Joe Biden’s position as Vice-President and then as former Vice-President. It is also filled with evidence to suggest very strongly that Joe Biden – the Democratic Party candidate for President – looks like he may be bought and paid for by Beijing.

Charles Faddis, “Are The Chinese One Step Away From Putting Their Man In The White House While The FBI Worries About Iranian Spam Mail?” AND Magazine, October 22, 2020.

It’s somewhat unfortunate that the Hunter Biden child porn angle has drawn the most attention in this scandal. Hunter Biden isn’t on the ballot, but Joe Biden is and anything that ties him into this sordid tale is more important to know than the drug habit and other details of his son’s tawdry life.

Sunday evening reading (on Monday)

Erick Erickson is back on here, and this time he says he’s gonna make you mad. But I didn’t get mad because I just remember God is in control.

You’ve got two old geezers who act like they’re fighting over the last chicken wing at an all you can eat buffet early bird special who the American public has concluded are the best we can do in a nation of over 350 million people and that is a damning indictment on the whole nation. Part of me thinks your excitement and enthusiasm for your particular candidate is just to cover the shame of these two candidates being the best we could do.

(…)

PS — while you were out on your boat parade or car parade or in your socially distanced circle of jerks bragging that your side was all masked up unlike the other side, you weren’t phone banking, you weren’t knocking on doors, and you weren’t getting out the vote in the closest presidential election in our lifetime. Now you can get off my lawn.

Erick Erickson, “Gonna Make You Mad This Morning,” October 30, 2020.

What’s really funny is that I just read a Facebook post from a self-styled Maryland political expert (and #NeverTrump) who complained the exact same thing about the 4,000 to 5,000 cars that participated in a mobile Trump rally along the Beltway.

Of course, that implied these people were going to help out in the campaign. There are a lot of people who do political volunteering, but 95% of those drivers in that parade weren’t political volunteers and never will be. It’s like a mobile yard sign – if not, why would it be a big deal when President Trump draws 60,000 to a rally and Joe Biden has half a hundred? The CCP virus is just an excuse – Trump backers are passionate, and they will show up at the polls. Just make sure you bring a friend or two.

What’s at stake in Delaware?

If you are a recipient of e-mail from A Better Delaware, you’re already aware of this, but they came up with an outline of their priorities.

There are ideas to return the estate tax, and increase the top rate for income taxes – which are already rather high to begin with. They will also create issues for small business, many of which have owners who file as individuals and not businesses.

They point out that proposed regulations and mandates on businesses will result in job cuts. These mandates include paid family leave and increasing the minimum wage.

The government transparency that was already an issue before the CCP virus has been enhanced by the suspension of FOIA compliance and lack of input into the budget process, including how to spend our (surprising) budget surplus. It was never explained how some businesses were deemed essential while others withered on the vine.

Corruption in the state – it’s not just shady land deals, but a legislature that routinely ignores its own rules.

Certificate-of-need laws the federal government scrapped end up restricting our access to health care.

I’m going to talk a lot more about Delaware in the post-election edition, but this is enough for now. Tomorrow I’ll make a few wild guesses and we will see if 2020’s election is just as bad as the rest of the year.

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.

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.

Odds and ends number 95

Back with bloggy goodness in bite-sized chunks of a couple sentences to a few paragraphs. Let’s see what the e-mail bag has in store.

A pro-life concern

Political e-mail is often chock full of hyperbole, but I found a recent e-mail from the folks at the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance PAC interesting – is there really a renewed pro-abortion push here? They call it a “political attack group,” a 501 (c)(4) which “will be able to take massive checks from outside Maryland starting from Day 1.” But I didn’t find any news story on the subject, which makes it sound like just so much hype.

To me, theirs is the kind of e-mail that sets back the cause. Don’t just tell me there’s an AP story, give me a link – for all I know this was three years ago. It’s bad enough that a group with less than $1,000 in the bank, and a group that didn’t spend a dime on candidates in the 2018 election, is asking for money to counter this phantom threat.

More bad news for Maryland business

The headline of a Maryland Public Policy Institute business climate study made it sound like businesses are becoming less optimistic about business conditions in the state overall, yet they remain relatively positive.

But buried in the remaining information was an interesting dichotomy between businesses along the I-95 corridor, where companies believing the state was business-friendly prevailed by a 49-16 average margin, and outstate companies which only deemed the state business-friendly by a 39-35 count. Given that the overall mark was 46-19, it’s apparent that the outstate entities were but a small portion of the survey – probably no more than 15%. However, that’s 100% of the issue here on Delmarva.

Add to this the war on plastic – which is in the process of having the good guys lose in Delaware – as well as the laughable job creation numbers proponents of the maglev boondoggle are touting, and we may have seen an economic peak on Delmarva until people with real sanity are placed back in government, at least in the view of the MPPI.

But their annual magnum opus is the Annapolis Report, which grades the Maryland General Assembly on its work for the session. If they were a college student, the MGA would be on academic probation.

The Democrats’ deplorable problem

For decades the prevailing belief was that Republicans were for the business man while Democrats were for the working man. In 2016, however, that philosophy was turned on its head as thousands and thousands of union workers ignored their Big Labor bosses who backed Hillary Clinton and pulled the lever for Donald Trump, enabling him to win in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

But, as David Catron recently argued in The American Spectator, the Democrats who think those voters are the key to 2020 victory are barking up the wrong tree. He contends:

(S)upporting Trump simply isn’t the done thing in polite society. To do so is to risk loss of social status – if not outright ostracism – and open conflict with friends or family. Trump supporters mislead pollsters or simply refuse to answer their questions pursuant to similar psychological and social incentives. All of which leads to a lot of confusion concerning who it is that supports President Trump and precisely why. This, in turn, renders it very difficult for round heel politicians like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren to pander to “working class” voters they badly need to “win back” to the Democratic fold in the 2020 election cycle.

David Catron, “Why the Dems Will Never Win Back Trump Voters,” The American Spectator, June 24, 2019.

I’ve talked about this a couple times on the radio, and Catron makes the argument as well: I sensed this back in 2016, which is why I did “Bradley effect” updates on the Presidential race. If you believed the actual polls on a state-by-state basis, Hillary Clinton should have had upward of 300 electoral votes. But if you assume the polls underestimated Trump by five points, your blue map becomes a shade of pink that carries The Donald to victory. My last couple “Bradley effect” maps suggested a narrow Trump win so I wasn’t as shocked as I thought I might be when it really happened.

On another deplorable front, the pull of Big Labor doesn’t seem to be as strong as it used to be. I remember writing on this situation for The Patriot Post back in 2014, but even after another half-decade of trying the UAW still can’t get its hooks into an auto plant south of the Mason-Dixon line, failing again to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This latest update comes from my friends at the Capital Research Center.

More on the Presidential sweepstakes

I have a number of different items here.

Let’s start with Erick Erickson, who points out in a brief but concise Resurgent article that Joe Biden’s not a racist – it’s just proof of how far the Democrats have moved the Overton window on that subject.

And if you want bat-crap crazy Democrats, look no further than the Indivisible crowd.

After the recent Democrat debates, the Astroturf group polled its followers and found that their preferred candidates didn’t line up with the ones on top of the mainstream polls:

We asked Indivisibles to identify which candidates they are considering voting for and which they are definitely not. The results revealed that the historic candidacies of women, people of color and LGBTQ candidates are faring well among the movement and have plenty of room to grow as the field narrows. It also revealed that some of the presumed frontrunners may hit a ceiling with activists, given how many Indivisibles say they aren’t considering them at all.

Indivisible news release, July 2, 2019.

In other words, identity politics is alive and well. “(I)f the election were held today, 35% of people said they would vote for (Elizabeth) Warren and 31% selected (Kamala) Harris,” they said. Compare this to the Morning Consult poll from yesterday (July 16) where Warren and Harris combined for just 27% of the vote, a number that still trailed frontrunner Joe Biden. In fact, those “women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates” only account for about 40% of the vote, trailing those white males in the top 2 slots and scattered among the rest.

I’m not going to sit and do the math, but I daresay that Indivisible isn’t much of a movement when the candidates 66% of their group support can’t even muster half that amount of support in a wider poll.

Who’s really gerrymandering?

This is a fascinating study from the CRC. While the Democrats contend that independent redistricting commissions will best address the issue of gerrymandering (which, of course, only became a problem after the TEA Party wave election of 2010, which got the break of getting to draw districts for this decade), this study suggests the hype from Democrats is overblown.

Two more states – but a bunch to go

If you’re a fan of the Constitution Party, the good news is that they kept ballot access in two states (Arkansas and North Carolina) and their goal is access in 35 states. Maryland will probably not be one of them because their 10,000 signature threshold is daunting for the two minor parties which generally qualify for the ballot, the Green Party and Libertarian Party, let alone a smaller entity such as the CP. In Delaware they need over double their number of registered voters by the end of 2019 to qualify, which seems unlikely unless a concerted effort to flip members of other minor parties occurs.

And last…

You may notice this is the day of Tawes, but there’s no pictorial.

After 13 or 14 years of going, I just lost interest in the event the last few years. And considering this is a pretty much dead year on the election calendar – no 2020 Senate election and not much going on in the Congressional realm – it was not worth taking a day off to go and overpay for food, a little bit of beer, and a crapton of diet Pepsi. Since I’m not an invited guest to the tents where the real action is, I’m happier being home.

To my friends who were there, I hope you had a good time. But it just isn’t that much fun for me anymore.

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.

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.

Reviewing the field (part 2)

When I left you last, we had eliminated the first eight Democrats in the current field of 24 running for President. Today there are a number of good matchups in this round so let’s get cracking!

#9 Kirsten Gillibrand (52, U.S. Senator, New York – down from #8) vs. #8 Cory Booker (50, U.S. Senator, New Jersey – down from #7)

This is a battle of two Senators who have had some difficulty standing out in a crowded field. I alluded to Gillibrand’s lackluster campaign in part one; fortunately, she’s up against a Senator who’s been more of a laughingstock to some and who hasn’t been the successor to Barack Obama he was perhaps shooting to be. It’s a battle of attrition here and a mild upset.

Winner: Gillibrand, 51-49.

#10 John Hickenlooper (67, most recent past governor of Colorado – down from #9) vs. #7 Amy Klobuchar (58 – for a few more days – U.S. Senator, Minnesota – down from #6)

Even though Hickenlooper is well known for opening a brewpub after being laid off as a geologist, his lack of buzz nationally wouldn’t be enough to overcome the fellow moderate, who has the advantage of the more national Senate stage.

Winner: Klobuchar, 59-41.

#11 Steve Bullock (53, term-limited current governor of Montana – not ranked) vs. #6 Elizabeth Warren (69, U.S. Senator, Massachusetts – down from #4)

Because Bullock is shiny and new, and Warren seems to have taken courses from Hillary Clinton on how to alienate broad swaths of the populace by trying to appear like a normal person, I smell an upset here. Warren’s campaign hasn’t been the juggernaut some may have hoped for when she jumped in the race so early.

Winner: Bullock, 52-48.

#12 Michael Bennet (54, U.S. Senator from Colorado – not ranked) vs. #5 Beto O’Rourke (46, former U.S. Congressman from Texas – no change)

Given the fact Beto is trying to “reboot” his campaign, the fact he drew the nondescript Bennet is a definite godsend for him. Out of the eight lower seeds that advanced, Bennet might be one of the just two or three O’Rourke could beat right now.

Winner: O’Rourke, 55-45.

#13 Andrew Yang (44, entrepreneur – up from #15) vs. #4 Kamala Harris (54, U.S. Senator from California – down from #3)

This is the opposite of the previous race, as Yang could beat some of the lower echelon players on a head-to-head basis. While Harris hasn’t run the most inspiring campaign, she would have enough name recognition over Yang – who may become the next Pete Buttigieg surging up through the field with good debate performances – to win this round. That may not be the case in a couple months.

Winner: Harris, 54-46.

#19 Tim Ryan (45, U.S. representative from Ohio – not ranked) vs. #3 Pete Buttigieg (37, mayor of South Bend, Indiana – up from #13)

Over the past two month, Pete has become the flavor of the day but he may be closing in on his expiration date as he receives more press scrutiny from opponents on both sides. In this case, though, he will have no trouble with the little-known lower seed Ryan whose Midwest roots are negated by Buttigieg’s similar background.

Winner: Buttigieg, 61-39.

#18 Julian Castro (44, former HUD Secretary – down from #12) vs. #2 Bernie Sanders (77, U. S. Senator from Vermont – no change)

While this has the same disparity of seeding as the previous contest, here’s another case where the expiration date may be on the milk carton. Remember, these are head-to-head battles and something tells me that feeling the Bern is so 2016 – meanwhile, Castro seems to be slowly building momentum. Bernie was never going to win this anyway, and I think his support isn’t as widespread as believed – witness how quickly he’s lost frontrunner status.

Winner: Castro, 51-49.

#16 Jay Inslee (68, current governor of Washington state – down from #11) vs. #1 Joe Biden (76, most recent previous Vice President and two-time previous candidate – no change)

There’s a reason Joe is the frontrunner, and Inslee isn’t the candidate who can beat him. Running on climate change is thin enough gruel, and it really serves well to alienate Joe’s Big Labor base.

Winner: Biden, 73-27.

So we are set up for part 3, which will wrap things up tomorrow. Here are the matchups, which go pretty much according to seeding except for my two huge upsets.

  • #5 Beto O’Rourke vs. #4 Kamala Harris
  • #11 Steve Bullock vs. #3 Pete Buttigieg
  • #7 Amy Klobuchar vs. #18 Julian Castro
  • #9 Kirsten Gillibrand vs. #1 Joe Biden

The semi-finals would pit the O’Rourke-Harris winner against the survivor of Gillibrand-Biden and place the Bullock-Buttigieg victor opposing the Klobuchar-Castro winner. Oddly enough, three of the four quarter-final pairings have a male against a female. Think that’s interesting? #Metoo.

See you tomorrow.

Reviewing the field (part 1)

Time flies when you’re having fun.

It’s hard to believe that two months ago Sunday I did a somewhat tongue-in-cheek take on March Madness, applying it to the Democratic presidential field that (at the time) had fifteen aspirants. To make it a regional I added Joe Biden to the mix, and sure enough he entered the race a few weeks later.

And so did a bunch of other folks – enough, in fact, to allow me a set of eight “play-in” contests before I set the field of 16. (Once upon a time, in the early 1950’s, that was the size of the NCAA basketball tournament. Now it’s the size of Division 1 men’s hockey, leading up to the Frozen Four. In that case, Amy Klobuchar should be an automatic.)

So, since I think politics should be fun and we make it a horse race anyway, here is how my updated tournament would play out. First of all, let’s go though the opening round byes – the top 8. But I’m going to be coy and present them in alphabetical order and not as seeded quite yet.

  • Joe Biden
  • Cory Booker
  • Pete Buttigieg
  • Kamala Harris
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Beto O’Rourke
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Elizabeth Warren

Now to those who have to endure a first round matchup: all these contenders would move on to face one of the top eight in the next round. The “score” is how I would imagine a balloting between the two candidates would go.

#24 Wayne Messam (44, mayor, Miramar, Florida – not ranked) vs. #9 Kirsten Gillibrand (52, U.S. Senator, New York – down from #8)

Honestly, I don’t think Messam has any chance to make the debates and his campaign will fade away to obscurity well before fall. He was already dishonest enough to announce for President the day after winning another term as mayor. It’s fortunate Gillibrand’s lackluster campaign drew this first round opponent.

Winner: Gillibrand, 73-27.

#23 Mike Gravel (89, former U.S. Senator from Alaska and 2008 Presidential candidate – not ranked) vs. #10 John Hickenlooper (67, most recent past governor of Colorado – down from #9)

Gravel isn’t running for president so much as he’s running for a debate slot. He has a similar attraction to Democrats as Ron Paul did for Republicans – way out of the mainstream but a principled elder statesman. Hickenlooper hasn’t made a big splash despite his experience as a two-term governor and previous mayor of Denver. That’s why this round is a lot closer than one might expect.

Winner: Hickenlooper, 57-43.

#22 Marianne Williamson (66, author and motivational speaker – down from #16) vs. #11 Steve Bullock (53, term-limited current governor of Montana – not ranked)

It’s a bit of a surprise to me that Williamson qualifies for the debates (or at least claims to based on number of donations) as a political neophyte, and she may have an appeal to a certain segment of Democrat voter. But Bullock, who is one of the two most recent entries, is hanging his hat on one fact: he won re-election in 2016 in a state Trump carried handily.

Winner: Bullock, 71-29.

#21 Tulsi Gabbard (38, U.S. representative from Hawaii – down from #14) vs. #12 Michael Bennet (54, U.S. Senator from Colorado – not ranked)

Gabbard has had a passionate following for several years, but her early entry didn’t scare a number of more well-known candidates out of her lane. However, she has as her opponent a technocrat Senator that hasn’t won with a majority in his own state and will bring up a few questions as he was born outside the U.S. – his father was an assistant to the ambassador to India. This one could have been an upset, but not quite.

Winner: Bennet, 53-47.

#20 Seth Moulton (40, U.S. representative from Massachusetts – not ranked) vs. #13 Andrew Yang (44, entrepreneur – up from #15)

It’s arguable whether Moulton should be this high, but his more recent entry gives him the slight advantage over fellow member of Congress Gabbard. His campaign has gone nowhere, though, and he may not make the debates. On the other hand, Yang has a certain amount of buzz and passion behind him as a non-traditional aspirant. This one is easy.

Winner: Yang, 77-23.

#19 Tim Ryan (45, U.S. representative from Ohio – not ranked) vs. #14 Bill de Blasio (58, mayor of New York City – not ranked)

Ohio is a good state for a Democrat to be from, as politicians from those states in the so-called “Clinton firewall” from 2016 are thought to be the best hope for knocking Donald Trump from his perch among working-class Americans. Meanwhile, while former New York mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani have made themselves household names, Bill de Blasio (who just entered the race last week in an epic fail of an announcement) just doesn’t have that cachet.

It’s a matchup perfectly suited for a Midwest guy, and the first upset.

Winner: Ryan, 56-44.

#18 Julian Castro (44, former HUD Secretary – down from #12) vs. #15 Eric Swalwell (38, U.S. representative from California – not ranked)

While Castro’s campaign isn’t off to the start I’m sure he hoped for, he has a couple advantages in this field: he’s the only Cabinet officer and – more importantly for those Democrats checking off the boxes – the only Hispanic. Swalwell is a one-note samba regarding gun control, which is an important enough emphasis in the full field for his ranking but won’t be enough to advance him. This is another upset based on seeding.

Winner: Castro, 59-41.

#17 John Delaney (55, former U.S. representative from Maryland – down from #10) vs. #16 Jay Inslee (68, current governor of Washington state – down from #11)

Both of these gentlemen were in my original March Madness as lower-ranked contenders and both remain there today. But Inslee has leaped ahead of Delaney because of the latter’s difficulty in getting people interested enough in his campaign – which is closing in on the two-year mark this summer – to put him over the donor number threshold.

Winner: Inslee, 57-43.

Six of the eight of my non-listed candidates from March were in the bottom half of the field and none ranked higher than eleventh. Just three of them (Bullock, Bennet, and Ryan) advanced and here’s who these winners will face in round 2, which will be part 2 of this brief series.

  • #8 Cory Booker vs. #9 Kirsten Gillibrand
  • #7 Amy Klobuchar vs. #10 John Hickenlooper
  • #6 Elizabeth Warren vs. #11 Steve Bullock
  • #5 Beto O’Rourke vs. #12 Michael Bennet
  • #4 Kamala Harris vs. #13 Andrew Yang
  • #3 Pete Buttigieg vs. #19 Tim Ryan
  • #2 Bernie Sanders vs. #18 Julian Castro
  • #1 Joe Biden vs. #16 Jay Inslee

There are some really interesting matchups in play for round 2, so look for that tomorrow as I carry on this tournament.

A real March madness

With the field now set for the big college basketball dance, it’s time for the annual riffs on that theme – and what better style of madness than to determine seedings for the Democratic presidential field?

I’m going to go from #16 to #1, but feel free to handicap the bracket yourself.

#16: Marianne Williamson, 66. She’s a non-traditional candidate who’s best known as an author and motivational speaker; however, she has one recent (unsuccessful) run for Congress under her belt.

#15: Andrew Yang, 44. The other non-traditional major candidate in the field, he’s an entrepreneur who founded a non-profit called Venture for America. His key issue: a universal basic income for Americans.

#14: Tulsi Gabbard, 37. A member of Congress from Hawaii since 2013, Gabbard also served two tours of duty with the Army National Guard in Iraq, a deployment that cut short her initial political office in Hawaii’s House of Representatives, where she was elected at age 21.

#13: Pete Buttigieg, 37. He was elected mayor of South Bend, Indiana in 2011, and prior to winning a second term in 2015 served for seven months as a Naval reservist in Afghanistan. Shortly after returning from that deployment, Buttigieg announced he was gay. He is the only candidate in the field who still has an exploratory committee.

#12: Julian Castro, 44. Castro was Ben Carson’s predecessor as HUD Secretary, serving from 2014-17 after five years as mayor of San Antonio as well as a city councilman.

#11: Jay Inslee, 68. The governor of Washington state since 2013, he previously served seven non-consecutive terms in Congress – one as a representative of a more rural area and the last six in a Seattle-area district after he moved there. His main issue: climate change.

#10: John Delaney, 55. The founder of a business lending institution, Delaney served three terms in Congress before declining re-election in 2018 to focus on his Presidential run. He was the first candidate in the race, announcing a year and a half before the Iowa caucuses.

#9: John Hickenlooper, 67. He served most of two terms as mayor of Denver before leaving that post as the elected governor of Colorado in 2011. He recently concluded his second and final term in that post.

#8: Kirsten Gillibrand, 52. The most recent candidate to make it official, as she took the exploratory committee training wheels off over the weekend, Kirsten was Hillary Clinton’s replacement in the Senate, moving up from the House barely two years after her arrival there in 2007. She won election in 2010 to finish Clinton’s term and re-election twice since, 2012 and this previous November.

#7: Cory Booker, 49. He’s been New Jersey’s junior Senator since being elected in a 2013 special election, moving up after serving for over seven years as the mayor of Newark. He won that job in his second try, four years after concluding his one term on their city council with a defeat in his initial mayoral bid.

#6: Amy Klobuchar, 58. She has served as a Senator from Minnesota since being elected in 2006; previously she was the county attorney for Hennepin County, which is essentially Minneapolis and its suburbs, for eight years before moving up to the Senate. She announced her bid outside in a Minnesota snowstorm.

#5: Beto O’Rourke, 46. He’s perhaps most famous for a race he lost, falling short of replacing Ted Cruz in the Senate last year. By running for Senate, he abandoned a three-term House incumbency that followed six years on El Paso’s city council as well as a colorful past that included computer hacking and touring the country as bassist in a punk rock band.

#4: Elizabeth Warren, 69. She was elected to the Senate in 2012 after serving as the initial administrator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but being passed over for formal nomination to be the CFPB’s director in favor of Richard Cordray. A longtime law professor, her other claim to fame is being known as “Fauxcahontas” for claiming American Indian ancestry, perhaps even getting professional benefit from that claim. Ironically, she makes no secret about once being a Republican but switching parties in the 1990’s.

#3: Kamala Harris, 54. Stop me if you heard this one before: young black lawyer runs for President based on a few years in state office and barely two years in the Senate. Indeed, this is the case with Harris, who spent seven years as the District Attorney in San Francisco before going statewide in 2010. Six years later, she won her Senate seat and now she’s running for President.

#2: Bernie Sanders, 77. The only current aspirant to have run for President before, if you count several unsuccessful campaigns before he finally won a race (for mayor of Burlington, where he served for eight years) you would find his political career is older than five of his fellow candidates – he first tried for office in a special January, 1972 Senate election to a seat he would eventually win 34 years later, in 2006. That followed a 16-year stint as Vermont’s lone House member. While Sanders has always officially been an “independent,” he’s caucused with the Democrats since joining Congress.

#1: Joe Biden, 76. Yes, I know, he’s not formally in the race. But I’m going to give him the top seed because all these folks to his left, not to mention his association with a still-popular President, make him the most popular candidate – even more so than the ones in the race. The RCP average has Biden up seven points on the rest of the field.

So that’s the way the seeding goes. I see exactly zero chance of a 16 over 1 upset, but that 15 vs. 2 matchup may be more interesting than people think. 3 vs. 14 is pretty much a walkover, as the Gabbard campaign is having several issues, but I wouldn’t sleep on 4 vs. 13 – I think that may be your first upset special.

Oftentimes 12 vs. 5 is a trap game for the higher seed, but I think the more popular Texan takes it. 11 vs. 6 is probably not much of a contest, but 10 vs. 7 may be a close call, too. I think 9 wins over 8 in the mild upset.

Of course, all that does is put the 9 seed out in the second round as the 1 seed advances to the Final Four. The 2 seed will crush the weakened 7 seed in a contest that isn’t as good as the intriguing 2-15 matchup was.

In a thrilling 6 vs. 3 contest, I think the lower seed takes it in a big upset. And it sets up another crazy matchup of 13 vs. 5 that nearly becomes a second huge shock to the system.

Because the 5 seed had so much taken out of him in the prior game, he’s no match for the #1 seed. But the 6 seed moves on, ousting the #2 seed as his game runs out.

So in my final I would have Klobuchar vs. Biden. If Biden ran into foul trouble (i.e. an ill-timed inappropriate remark, which he’s quite prone to do) this could be Klobuchar’s to win. But she has a little baggage of her own, and people are pretty much immune to the things Joe says, so I think he would hang on in a very close contest.

Obviously a lot can change in the coming months, but I think that’s the state of play for the moment.