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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"He is a Dangerous Man for a Dangerous Moment"

That title's from the last line in this TPM piece summarizing Day 1 in Cleveland.  Well worth a read.

The start of the party conventions seems a good time to check back into the state of the race, post-footballing holiday.  France was an absolute ball.  10 games in all, most of the Tour de Mont Blanc, and copious wine and other delicacies consumed.  Felt like the longest of 3 week vacations, such that the return to actually sitting at a desk for stretches of time is proving difficult indeed.  The mind straying as it does - with speed - to future voyages.  London, Ireland, Bali, New Zealand, New Orleans, Chile, etc.  Oh so much to see. 

This RNC is a shambles, an embarrassment.  Astonishing theatre in its craziness and unpredictability, but mostly just scary in the way the Trump phenomenon has successfully brought the most outlandish and ridiculous aspects of American politics into the mainstream.  The amount of votes this guy is going to get, no matter what he says or does or promotes or sanctions, is truly frightening when considered in the larger context.  Hopefully this week will help signal the beginning of the end of Trump, but in the most unpredictable of campaigns, no one would bet on it. 

I was surprised in looking up the dates of the Democratic convention today to find it will be rolling out immediately following, starting next Monday.  That's a short window for the announcement of Hillary's VP, which I now assume will be Kaine or Vilsack.  Safe hands from a swing state, and why not?  Would have liked the idea of Warren, but can see her playing a big part in the administration regardless, and likely from a more important position than the #2 spot anyway.  Surprised that Trump went with the safe Pence pick, but you can see the rationale, especially if Gingrich/Christie were the only alternatives.  Neither will matter, which means continued advantage to the Democrats.

Looking forward to seeing what stories the rest of the convention season holds in store, and what it may all mean for the race itself.  Since the identities of the nominees crystallized at the end of May, it feels a bit as though everything has been in a holding pattern, awaiting a small but solid Clinton win and (thumbs held) the utter humiliation of Donald J. Trump.  No need to panic until the fundamentals change, but there is a lot of time left to run off the clock until the first Tuesday in November, and a lot can happen in the interim that might trigger the unimaginable - which makes the watching of this live-action history all the more compelling.

And as potentially destructive as Trump may yet prove to be, it bears remembering what an alternative RNC week in a sane universe might have been.  In this article, Vox has nicely laid out the doomsday scenario for Democrats that I most feared would unfold back in January, when I was on my way down to New Hampshire.  My, how much has happened since.   

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Clinton vs. Trump

The June 7th primaries have arrived, the last super Tuesday until the big one in November.  A bit shocking to consider that it is Hillary, and not the Donald, who in all likelihood will finally wrap up the nomination after California's votes are counted tonight.  Sanders and his campaign have struck a chord that will resonate through and beyond the election this fall, but ultimately he failed to win the votes and delegates necessary.  He didn't do enough to win the nomination.  It is, really, as simple as that.

Yet over the last few weeks, Bernie and his supporters have managed to channel their inner Kasich, insisting that victory remains possible in the face of all rational signs to the contrary.  Kasich dropped out when I least expected him to - just as he had Trump one on one - and I am hoping that Bernie makes the same decision tonight despite his comments otherwise.  The idea that he will go on all the way to the convention trying to sway superdelegates to overturn the results of the primaries is surely no longer a defensible position once all the actual votes have been counted.  To persist is only to assist Trump in the important election ahead.

So, as has been apparent for some time now, it is going to be Clinton vs. Trump.  Once they settle on the debates, I will be marking them in my calendar, not to be missed as entertainment or a live viewing of history for all the world.  Trump is showing signs of melting down in his recent comments about the "Mexican" judge and otherwise, and I look forward to the same continuing.  The more the polls turn against him, the more desperate he is likely to become, and given that he has no incentive whatsoever to hold anything back, the depth of the implosion could be spectacular.  From the VP selections to the conventions and then into the homestretch, it promises to be a most fascinating and unconventional race to watch.

Updates here will continue to be few and far between, at least for the next while.  This Thursday night, I'm off to France for the better part of a month to recreate the magic of Brazil as Coop and I have tickets to 9 Euro 2016 matches.  For good measure, I am throwing in the small matter of a hike around Mont Blanc as well.  Perfect time for a holiday that will treat me ever so well, I have no doubt.  Check back for further musings when we know who will serve on the tickets and for thoughts on the convention, which at least on the Republican side should make for some hilarious viewing. 

And that's about the only prediction I am willing to make.  Have a good rest of the merry month of June, all.  Enjoy wherever you are. 

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...