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...

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

[Insert "Super" pun here]

Yesterday was the day - the Presidential Super Bowl.  Except it wasn't really, of course, with so much left to play for.  Clinton's support among minorities helped her blow Sanders out in so many primaries that he faces an impossible task to catch up in the delegate math.  But there is no reason for him to get out at this point, especially given his astonishing fundraising.  I think he has proven a good opponent for Clinton: resisting the urge to get personal to win, making her look moderate for the general by comparison, helping her hone her message as a candidate, and keeping her somewhat in the headlines during the long primary season.

There shouldn't be any issue in uniting the party, and it will be quite interesting to see if the young voters that have been inspired by Sanders to get out and vote will turn up in the general.  Also interested to see what Sanders wants out of this when the race is over - he's clearly not going to be the VP nominee for a host of reasons.  Does he want anything other than to go back to his iconoclastic, independent, ivory tower Senate seat?  Here's hoping he stays in the public eye, if only so that SNL and Larry David can keep going back to that well for more comedic gold.

As for the Republican side, Cruz and Rubio did enough to avoid the Trump blowout that could have ended this race.  Cruz's victory in Texas by a significant margin (and the bonus of Oklahoma and Alaska) now keeps him in the race for awhile, which is a disaster for Rubio.  But how does Cruz stay in the spotlight given the upcoming states?  Which can/will he target?  His path is so difficult, and Rubio is so far behind, that the only anti-Trump option now seems to be if all other candidates combined collect enough delegates to keep Trump from claiming a majority.  Then the fun will really begin.  Too bad the convention is in Cleveland as it might otherwise be tempting to check out!

The path to a contested convention really starts in two weeks, with Kasich in contention in Ohio and Rubio desparately needing the win in Florida.  And that starts tomorrow night with the FoxNews debate in Detroit.  No doubt the campaigns are busy drafting up ever more creative insults to drop, and the tension in the Megyn Kelly v. Donald Trump scenes are sure to be excellent.  A good warm-up to the most important North London Derby in recent memory against the hated Spurs on Saturday morning as well.  Excited - if still quite a bit nervous - to see what the future holds on both fronts...