Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Back Home Again in St. John's

The last of the important Tuesday primaries tonight for at least a month, and so just a quick report from the Rock befitting the anti-climax it looks likely to be.  The Veep gambit hasn't helped (Carly's most notable contribution so far being this classic clip of her falling off the stage, and Trump mocking Cruz for not helping!).  Ted's unpopularity is hurting him, and the rank and file have just made the decision that enough is enough.  Assuming tonight follows the polls, the fat lady will be bursting to belt into song in California.

Definitely a shame.  The contested convention would have been excellent.  Even so, I suppose, Trump's involvement will add an element that makes it unwatchable regardless.

The current polls that show Clinton trouncing Trump make me nervous.  Hopefully she sails through from now until November.  But inevitably (perhaps) there may come a time when it gets closer, and Trump's unpredictability is a real wild card.  It seems that his unfavourables are a deal-breaker, but this race has totally reinforced the old "expect the unexpected" cliche.  In a year when a 5000 to 1 longshot can win the Premier League (well played Foxes!), it is not a stretch to say that, truly, anything can happen.

As an old Turkish flatmate of a friend once memorably said: "Time will show."

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

To Veep or Not to Veep

Running behind this Tuesday, hauling out the boat to remove a ridiculous amount of mussels from the hull, quick new paint job, and then back in again just as our surprising April snowfall began.  Very close now to diving right into this majestic summer - with the boat and the Euros and a lazy July through October planned after banking some significant hours in the first few months of the year, it is going to be sweet.

Will we have a contested convention in Cleveland to look forward to?  I still hope so, even as Trump seems to be flirting with a cloak of inevitability.  Increasingly desperate, Cruz has floated various trial balloons.  The mutual non-aggression pact with Kasich makes perfect sense, although count on Kasich messing up the launch by not at least hinting to his supporters that for him to have a chance they may have to vote Cruz in Indiana to run this game out.  The musings about pre-announcing a VP selection are more intriguing.  We have never really seen a contested convention before, so what might work and what might not is a real unknown.

The best analogy is, of course, 1976.  A year perhaps best known for Newfoundland and Labrador's sole Brier win (perhaps, eh? -ed.), but also featuring a pretty compelling moment in US Presidential politics that I had never really considered...  Before this year (before now), have you ever heard the name Richard Schweiker?  This was the Senator from Pennsylvania that the upstart Reagan announced as his VP prior to the convention - which apparently started the now standard practice of announcing pre-convention.  For a great recap of the 1976 convention in its glorious chaos, check out this excellent oral history.

Not surprising to see Cruz following in the footsteps of his idol.  And as Reagan's efforts were meant to pull in delegates from Pennsylvania, has Cruz indicated a willingness to pick Fiorina with an eye to winning votes in California?  Colour me sceptical that Carly is the answer to Cruz's Trump problem, but who knows?  Worth the gambit at the very least, if only to keep his name in the spotlight.  But presumably a stronger pick would play even better.  Problem - who would want it?

All that a long lead in to the short prediction for the votes to come tonight.  118 delegates are at stake, and the 538 guide from late March had Trump winning 91, with Rhode Island and Connecticut the biggest vulnerabilties.  No matter what happens, it is likely nothing specific will be decided tonight.  Next Tuesday is Indy, though, where Cruz has a shot and Trump needs a decent amount to stay on target.  Momentum could swing another time if Cruz can figure out the argument that will stick, or if he can rally some of that Wisconsin magic. 

I hope he does at this point, just to keep the farce running on.  We will know a lot more in a little over a week.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

You know you need unique New York

A favourite tongue twister in the title (more here, particularly love the Dr. Seuss riff on socks) marks another in the line of Tuesday primaries.  This brief commentary comes to you from St. John's, and a lovely view from my porthole window out the Narrows.

Why brief?  Well, what is new to say?  Clinton continues to lead, with Sanders pluckily picking away at her heels, an annoyance more than anything, while Cruz amasses delegates from the rank and file while failing to chip into Trump's long held leads in the votes to come.  Expecting more of the status quo to follow tonight.  Unless Bernie pulls out a shocking win, of course.  But such a result seems impossible bar a minor miracle (which may explain why he thought his time was better spent seeking an audience with His Holiness at the Vatican rather than the hustings!)

On the Republican side, the real drama seems to lie in the states to come, Indiana and California chief among them.  Cruz has lost an opportunity to really dent Trump by failing to do any damage to his poll numbers.  It has not helped him that Kasich does not look likely to have made the necessary breakthrough to keep Trump under 50% in NY, and so lower his delegate haul.  Look forward to the speeches tonight at least to see the new framing comments for the months to come.

One new thing to watch going forward is how much sway Trump (and Cruz) may have over the convention planning, assuming no candidate has the magic number of delegates before Cleveland.  I laughed at the Donald's comments that the GOP needs to put some "showbiz" into the convention, although he is probably not wrong.  All bets are off in terms of how the Republicans deal with the mess of a contested convention, I think I'm hoping for that outcome at this point just to see how it unfolds.  And to laugh along the way, of course.  Imagine suggesting this time last year that the mid-April NY primary would matter to both parties, and that the choices left on the Republican side would be Trump or Cruz?  Another reminder that most anything is possible.  And so not to settle for the mundane or obvious... "Nothing slipshod drip drop flip flop or glip glop.  Tip me to a tip top grip top sock."  Until next week!

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Another Tuesday, Another Vote

The praxis here has been for postings to be made in advance of key primary votes.  Wisconsin today, so that means it is time for the usual update on the state of the race. 

Par for the course on the Democratic side, with Hillary set to run out the clock on Bernie.  Frustrating for his supporters, no doubt, but short of an indictment there is simply no way he captures enough delegates.  Feel the math, as Krugman said a few days ago in a good little piece.  How the Senator conducts himself in the coming months will be critical - but unifying against the eventual opponent should be about as easy as possible given the main contenders on the other side.

Trump has endured some difficult moments recently - exactly along the lines of what might have been expected shortly after his entry into the race.  The surprise is that it has taken this long.  His unfavourability ratings with women are verging on the hilarious.  I love how his response is only that "Nobody respects women more than I do."  How do you argue with that?  Heh.  I would not be surprised if he actually believed that, such is the ego. 

I have long thought that the real fun would be in eventually watching Trump lose, that his downfall (when it comes) would offer even more entertainment value than the shockingly unexpected rise.  He seems to be such a poor loser, and unwilling to accept any personal responsibility, that it cannot help but end terribly for him.  The whining and bitterness at the voters and/or the system will be excellent.

For a long time, it looked like it would be Hillary to put him to the sword.  Now it increasingly seems like Cruz could manage it in Cleveland.  He performed strongly in Utah and looks set for an impressive showing tonight in Wisconsin.  It is a sign of just how much Trump is struggling that Cruz is in with a chance.  Early on I assumed that Ted would be the only one of the candidates that the Donald could beat head-to-head, but even here the signs of weakness are on full display as the party fears the full consequences of turning the keys over.

Let's see how far below the 25 delegate marker Trump falls tonight.  Then it looks like the next big test is New York on the 19th and a bunch of states on the 26th.   New Hampshire seems ages ago - running for President really is a monstrous, all-consuming enterprise.  Trump will have a chance to regain some momentum in NY and after, but as the stories start to emerge about the extent to which convention delegates are bound after the first ballot, I really do wonder if all these crowds and rallies will be for naught.   In such an organizational fight at the grassroots level, I would take the zealot and true believer who has been planning his Presidential run for years over the demagogue who is used to coasting on his personality.  Every time.  I would love to see Trump fall agonizingly close to 1,237, only to see waves of his supposed delegates desert him in the contested vote. 

I have seen nothing to suggest that Cruz will get anything other than humiliated in the general election.  So should we spare a thought for Kasich's chances, as he putters away?  Nah.  As rational as his argument about actually winning the Presidency for the GOP may be, when you have to make the statement: "I'm not gonna be a pincushion. I'm not gonna be a marshmallow...", that's when you should know your race is almost certainly run.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Attempts at Olympic Averaging the Future

Here's the article on the Republican side that I have been waiting for since last week's primaries ended, courtesy of the invaluable 538 site: "Will Trump Clinch?"  The answer, unsurprisingly, is close.  What is most helpful about the article is how it identifies the base requirements Trump will need in the upcoming contests.

I am assuming Trump wins Arizona and Cruz wins over 50% in Utah tomorrow, which would put him very slightly under the trajectory estimated here.  Tough spot for Kasich from a game theory perspective - eating into Cruz's vote in either state hurts him in the long term, but there is nowhere else to campaign.  The next stop on the tour is not for another two weeks in Wisconsin, and he might claim a moral victory in moving a few delegates to his column in Utah.  But the latest projections show clearly just how fine a margin it may take to stop Trump.  If that's the plan at all costs, then it is time for a serious non-agression pact between the remaining two pretenders.

Then again, it is not clear why Kasich should necessarily prefer the odious Cruz to the volatile and impudent Trump.  So maybe he is just prolonging his time in the limelight, hoping against the odds that whatever delegates he scrambles together manage to mean something come July?  You can see how Trump is succeeding in eating these career politicians up though, with the strained logic and blinkered perspective on display in interviews such as this.  Or he is hinting at the type of three-dimensional chess strategy that Douthat was outlining rather hilariously recently in the NYT?  If so, man, that kool-aid is strong.

The real story for now is that regardless of the upcoming outcomes, the world is in for an extended three month "will he or won't he?" saga.  That narrative alone suits Trump fine, and barring some serious incident or unexpected drop in support, he's the nominee.  Although is there ever anything certain under the sun, when Texas A&M can come back from 12 down with 44 seconds left to make the Sweet Sixteen?  Spare a thought for the kids at Northern Iowa today.  Such is the crazy randomness of this world.  Just when you think you have seen it all...

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Ides Have It

Where were we?  Oh yes, "super" Tuesday analysis and the like, including Willard Romney's non-endorsement of the frontrunner.  Much has happened since, including the first truly subdued debate performance by the Donald, Carson's endorsement the next day despite having been compared to a child molester by Trump, and the rather scary outbreaks of rally violence.  Most of all, some key delegate victories, notably for Cruz, as well as the upset victory for Bernie in Michigan on the Democratic side.

But what does it mean?  Trump still seems inevitable - despite the increasingly fervent calls to stop him by conservatives from deep within the party.  Clinton well on course too, although her inability to seal the deal in key states against her socialist opponent certainly raises some serious flags for the general election.  So hard to see the end game for Sanders.  He continues winning among his core support, who will not be moved, even as he is running out of time and delegates along the way.  Tonight looks like it will provide further embarrassment for Clinton at the same time as she extends her delegate lead, thanks to expected big wins in Florida and North Carolina.  What a time this could have been for Elizabeth Warren if she had decided to put her name forward.  Here's hoping the Democratic brain trust have a plan on how to rally some of Hillary's unconvinced supporters in the general.  Would Sanders be interested in the Veep slot?  Starting to think he would actually fit in well as a successor to Biden...

The real story - as ever - is on the Republican side.  In what universe this time last year did I foresee that I would be typing the 4 word combination of "trump ohio delegate math" into trusty Google?  That is where we find ourselves, and as ever the answers flow forth (in 0.48 seconds).  Here's a memo from one of the Super PACs getting paid millions to stop Trump in his tracks, and the upshot if Trump loses Ohio:

Trump can win ALL the delegates in the Virgin Islands, Arizona, Delaware, Oregon and New Jersey…  AND win the large majority of delegates in Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana and California… AND win DC, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Maryland, West Virginia, Washington and New Mexico and STILL FALL SHORT of the 1,237 threshold. 

Sounds ominous for the current delegate leader, although perhaps this is just another example of the preachers speaking to the converted?  I am taking the polls at face value and assuming this will be one of the more embarrassing nights of Rubio's life.  I am not sorry to see him go, since the beginning I was most worried about his chances as the nominee, extraordinarily conservative positions dressed up to look entirely unthreatening.  Strange to see a politician in his position decide outright that one turn in the Senate was enough, and now unemployment beckons.  Hopefully, we have seen the last of him on the public stage, although at just 44, I would be surprised. 

At least with Cruz, the smarminess and self-righteousness and radicalism is on full display.  A truly impressive performance to get to this point, where it seems he is now the only other legitimate candidate left with any chance to stop Trump from breezing to the nomination in Cleveland.  I remember reading this take on him from Josh Marshall back almost a year ago when he announced (can it have been that long?) and laughing along at the truth of it.  All of it basically still applies.  He has had his share of luck in getting into a position where the chips have fallen such that he still has a path despite his many obvious faults.  Hard to imagine convincing Lindsey Graham that he would be backing Ted even a few months ago.

I have little doubt Cruz would likely turn out to be a worse President than even Trump, but I have fewer doubts about his ability to actually win the White House, regardless of the circumstances between now and November.  So here's hoping Cruz holds his own in the other primaries tonight, and even squeaks out a better than expected delegate count.  And I could see it.  There was a lot of talk about how Trump did well in the most recent debate, but I wonder if it that storyline might get rewritten if Illinois, North Carolina, and particularly Missouri shift late toward Cruz.  It would truly be spectacular to watch the carnage that would unfold if Trump somehow arrived at the convention with a plurality (but not a majority) and then Cruz breezes past him on a second ballot.  Truly, truly spectacular. 

For that glorious chaos to happen, it does seem to require at minimum a Trump loss in Ohio to blunt tonight's momentum and limit his delegates.  So a final word for the jovial, experienced Kasich.  Proper kudos to the extent of the delusions required for him to remain positive throughout this entire race in the face of such craziness, and to arrive at a space this deep into the primaries with a straight face, despite basically nothing at all to show for it except a few second place finishes.  He keeps saying he thinks he is going to be the nominee, and I guess that's what he has to say to convince himself to get up every morning, but... wow.  Talk about suspension of disbelief.  His victory speech tonight, if it comes, will be so over the top it could be hilariuos.  I am already looking forward to the Trump machine starting into the attacks.  Low energy Jeb, Lying Ted, Little Marco.  What quality sobriquet will the Donald come up with this time, I wonder?

So - "Fasten your seatbelts," as Kasich is prone to say.  There may be a twist or two to come after tonight yet.  How fitting it would be if PaddyPower actually did jump the gun after all!     

Thursday, March 03, 2016


Mitt Romney's speech today was quite something, I must say.  He even takes a shot at Trump's "lousy hat" after one of the most comprehensively scathing deconstructions of a candidate out there, and delivered by the prior nominee at that?  Whoa.  There is no walking back from this, and Josh Marshall is right that if Trump is the nominee, clips from this speech will be aired by Democratic supporters right through to November.  

Trump's response, of course, is pure Trump.  Referencing his Romney endorsement from 2012 (which is actually fascinating to watch, as Trump was clearly onto some of his current themes and style back thene), Trump responded: “I could’ve said, ‘Mitt drop to your knees’ and he would’ve dropped to his knees," Trump said. "He was begging. He was begging me."  Short-fingered vulgarian to the last.

But what's the point here?  How could Trump be beaten?  It seems too late to imagine him failing to at least prevent one of the others from getting a majority of delegates.  And if he arrives at the convention with a strong plurality and having won the majority of states, imagine the outrage that would explode from him if he's denied the nomination.

This is an intriguing idea though.  Essentially, Cruz and Rubio make a pact to work together, and agree that whoever attracts the most delegates will lead the ticket and the other will be picked for Vice-President.  Doubt it could work, since the Presidency is such a grander prize than No. 2 that there would still be far too much self-interest involved in the pursuit of delegates.  It is a sign, as with Mitt's speech, of how things have gotten so far out of hand for the Republicans.

I do love how nicely that speech was timed as the lead-in to the FoxNews debate in a few hours.  Will be watching that one tonight (with rum and popcorn!) and so surely further thoughts to follow...