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.

The insanity may return

For those of you who thought having an Iowa caucus right after New Year’s Day (and a full ten months before the election) was ridiculous, well, we may just see this happen again.

In a Politico story from Friday, writer Emily Schultheis revealed that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is considering moving their primary – already scheduled prior to a date authorized by both parties (February 28, 2012) – to January 31. “It only makes sense that our state have its voice heard loud and clear,” said Brewer. I’ll bet 49 other governors feel the same way, Jan.

In turn, both Iowa (tentatively scheduled for February 6) and New Hampshire would be forced to move forward because Florida would likely jump forward from its January 31st date to stay ahead. Next thing you know, it’s a primary for Christmas – that’s the direction we’re headed. And it’s shameful.

I was hoping we’d see some common sense prevail after a 2008 Maryland primary that made our Congressman a lame duck 10 1/2 months before the end of his term (and just 13 1/2 after he’d won re-election.) And even February 12 was too late for Maryland to have a roster of picks to choose from since Mitt Romney withdrew from the race a week prior. Out of nine GOP candidates on the ballot only four were still active candidates at the time (John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Alan Keyes, and Ron Paul) while Democrats had just three of eight (Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Mike Gravel.) As for the rest, you may as well have tossed away your vote.

For years I’ve advocated a solution which does two things: makes smaller states more meaningful and compacts the race to a much shorter period. I think a June-to-November campaign is long enough, and here’s how it would work in reverse order, using a 2012 calendar as an example.

  • November 6: General Election.
  • September 4-7 and 10-13: Republican and Democratic conventions, respectively.
  • July 24: Sixth regional primary (Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico). In 2016 they go first.
  • July 17: Fifth regional primary (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska). In 2016 they go sixth, in 2020 first.
  • July 10: Fourth regional primary (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi). They would be first in 2024.
  • July 3: Third regional primary (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee). They would be first in 2028.
  • June 26: Second regional primary (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia, West Virginia). We would be first in 2032, after we work our way down the line.
  • June 19: First regional primary (Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine). They would cycle backwards to be first again in 2036.
  • June 12: New Hampshire primary. By the way, in order to stay first they have to close their primary so only previously registered Republican voters vote for the GOP nominee and Democratic voters for the Democrat.
  • June 5: Iowa caucus.

Doesn’t that seem like a more logical plan? It would probably save us all a ton of money because candidates would only have a shorter window in which to make ad buys and need only travel to certain small regions rather than all over the country. It also means that, aside from Iowa and New Hampshire, regions of the country would eventually get first crack at either a Republican or Democratic nominee (or both) every twenty years or so. And smaller states could get a little more love from candidates.

But I doubt my plan would be accepted by the powers that be. Instead, by the time the 2020 cycle comes around we’ll be voting in the 2018 General Election as the primary for 2020. Don’t think I’m kidding, either.