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.

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 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.