Days of Change

Democracy in Action

February 8, 2016
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I’ve decided to stop being horrified by Donald Trump’s persistence and focus more on his daily foibles rather than a litany of reasons why it will be the end of the Republic to vote for him.

Trump lost Iowa. He may not have expected to win in the end, but he tried to win it and failed. He has a much better chance in New Hampshire, as his meager 30% beats the rest of the field which is effectively split 4-5 ways. Rubio has to beat Jeb. Cruz needs Carson out of the race and Trump needs to break 30% within a few more primaries.

In other words, the people are speaking. Trump has no magical powers, but has simply cornered the market on the most outrageous talking points. Every election season, there’s going to be one of those guys. Newt Gingrich seemed to fill that role in 2012. I may have my preferences in the contest, but at least all of them seem to be getting a shot.

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Any Port in a (Snow) Storm

February 7, 2016

This election year is the year of the insider outsider. In 1992, there was a true outsider in H. Ross Perot. He was outside either party, outside the political campaign system and possibly outside of his mind. He won 19% of the popular vote and 0 Electors. John Edwards actually got more Electors when someone wrote his name instead of John Kerry’s in 2004. This time, both parties have at least one outsider running for a party nomination.

It seems like the Democrats are a party of socialists, but Bernie Sanders has never actually joined. He has been an Independent for years, but votes with the Democrats except in extreme cases. It may also be why he isn’t afraid for his future as a Democrats, like so many others are who chose not to fight against Hillary Clinton. Such a binary choice has left Democrats who don’t like Clinton to only have Sanders as an option.

The Republicans are a different story. When this race began, there were a number of “Tea Party” Republicans who didn’t always mesh with the party on economic or policy issues. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul were the most outspoken Senators when it came to Obama’s budgets. Paul is out, and former outsider candidates like Marco Rubio and Chris Christie are considered RINOs. Bush and Kasich were always in the Republican mainstream.

That leaves Carly Fiorina, whose political experience was working for John McCain and running for the Senate in 2010. Ben Carson, who rose to fame when he criticized Barack Obama to his face at the National Prayer Breakfast. Then there’s Donald Trump, who not only hasn’t run for political office, he has eschewed most of the traditional actions of other politicians. He has certainly given the 11th Commandment a thrashing.

The problem with Trump as an outsider is that he can’t win without using the same tools as other politicians. Ted Cruz ate his lunch in Iowa because he had consultants and a ground campaign. I suspect that New Hampshire will put an end to any realistic aspirations of Ben Carson and most Christian support will go to Cruz. That could very well win him South Carolina.

I’ve made no secret that I don’t like Donald Trump. Everything he’s done during his campaign have only confirmed my opinions. He’s insulted candidates who get to close to him in the polls. He’s attacked Iowans who didn’t support him enough, he called a room full of New Hampshire residents biased campaign donors. He blames Ted Cruz for cheating and lowering his vote count when the polls say otherwise. This is all bad news for the general election.

Trump’s lousy attitude makes me much more likely to choose any other port in a storm from the GOP field. Of the 3 governors left, I’d pick Jeb. At least he talks a good game. I could vote for Cruz and hold my nose and vote for Rubio. I could also stay home while Trump runs against Hillary.

In 2012, Mitt Romney got 1 million fewer votes than George W. Bush got 8 years earlier. Creating a schism helps when you want to win a primary, but Republican and Democrat votes aren’t fungible. The great majority of Hillary Clinton supporters in 2008 still pulled the lever for Barack Obama rather than going to the Republican side. Trump is not going to back fill his ranks with Democrats if he loses the Republicans (as evil and establishment they may be) who he seems to be running to destroy.

I still expect him to be the next Ross Perot, except he doesn’t have to buy the air time.

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Mano a Manos

February 6, 2016
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Most of the Republican debates have been Trump vs. everyone else. Even though Ted Cruz was the winner in Iowa, tonight was very much everyone else vs. Marco Rubio. The biggest fight of the night was actually Christie at Rubio.

The Democrats had Hillary vs. Bernie in a state where Bernie has a good chance of winning. They are now facing off directly, with no O’Malley buzzing around. Hillary got just under 50% in Iowa. Can she break 50% in South Carolina?

I suspect that regardless of what happens in New Hampshire, Cruz has a good chance of winning SC. Even though Carson is more evangelical, the religious right in that state likes to win and Cruz is their non-Trump choice.

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Buying Your Vote

February 5, 2016
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When over a billion dollars are poured into an election where just over 100 million people vote, there is certainly some money being spent to sway those voting decisions. Now consider the fact that 2/3 of those voters won’t switch from one party to another in a matter of weeks, a lot of money is going into changing a relatively small number of votes.

Fox Business’ John Stossel had a segment about the use of analytics to target the individuals who are most likely to get you elected. It should be no surprise that Ted Cruz used this data collection to get a win in Iowa this week. There were ham-handed tactics like voter reports where you (and others) see how often you actually voted instead of staying home. At the same time, there were people on the ground who knocked on doors, but only the ones a phone app told them were good prospects to vote for Cruz.

2012 was a big year for analytics. It was how the Obama campaign knew who didn’t early vote and therefore who to call and contact incessantly until they did. The Romney campaign purchased products and data based on analytics, then chose either not to use them or use them badly. The ORCA scandal was not a fluke, it was the culmination of a campaign that spent money on technology and tactics they didn’t trust and never bothered to understand.

I’ve written extensively about the logistical advantages the Democrats have. Population density is the top indicator of party preference. They can literally drive a bus through an urban area and fill it in 10 minutes with voters en route to a polling place. Republicans have to work with larger ground to cover. Some guy with his own jet isn’t going to fix that.

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Dirty Enough

February 4, 2016
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The GOP presidential field has narrowed to a group of serious candidates and a few who have no chance but haven’t dropped out yet. Cruz, Trump, Rubio and Carson had some showing in Iowa. Bush will still have access to money, John Kasich and Chris Christie may do well in New Hampshire. Jim Gilmore and Carly Fiorina have no chance, even though Carly is fighting to get in the next debate.

Donald Trump is the perpetual motion machine of campaigning. His burn rate is low and he could cut himself a check any time he needs to. Either Rubio or Bush will make it in the next month, they basically fill the same slot. Carson can do well with Christians, but he has little else going for him. There’s only one slot that Kasich, Christie, and Fiorina have to fight to win. Then there’s Ted Cruz.

With Rand Paul out of the race, Ted Cruz is the last veteran Tea Party politician with credibility left. Rubio has morphed into an establishment candidate and Donald Trump is more representative of a Tea Party rally speaker from 2009. Cruz has tried to fight for limited government in the Senate, which is a weak position for a single individual against a large majority who like the deal making as is. Cruz is also a social conservative.

Back when I looked at the field, I liked Scott Walker the best. He’s a Tea Party governor who used his office to break the public union stranglehold over city and state budgets. He also stood up for social values in office. I like governors for president, and he was the most effective of the bunch. It seems the people who answer polls did not agree. Walker dropped out, urged the party to fight against the Trump surge and ended up over $1 million in campaign debt.

I’m not sure I count myself as a Cruz supporter, but he seems to be the Senate version of a Scott Walker. The most negative thing about him right now is that his campaign might have been too aggressive in winning the Iowa caucuses. First of all, let’s look at the polling before the caucus.

Business executive Trump leads with 31% while Cruz has 24%, giving Trump a larger margin over the Texas senator than he had a week ago. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has 17% and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has 8%.

The day before the caucus, Cruz was at 24% and was at 28% after. However, Carson was actually lower before the caucus. The more interesting numbers are Trump falling 7% below expectations and Rubio rising 6%. Given that data, the Microsoft conspiracy, where the Rubio donor and caucus app creator fudged the results, is more plausible.

I’d rather see underhanded tactics behind the scenes than Donald Trump on stage eviscerating someone who may be the nominee and end up getting that repeated in a DNC campaign ad. From what I’ve seen, if the Cruz campaign is dirty, it is just dirty enough to win. Clean campaigns (see John McCain) lose, especially against dirty Democrats. We’re not talking about ballot box stuffing or the South Carolina incident from 2000. If floating a rumor about a candidate who has no chance is as bad as it gets, I have no problem.

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The Unfunny Carson

February 3, 2016
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There are two scenarios involving the Cruz campaign, Ben Carson and CNN.

  1. CNN reports that Ben Carson was going home to Florida on caucus night and not going to New Hampshire or South Carolina. Instead, his next stop was another National Prayer Breakfast. He also had an important announcement. The Cruz campaign saw signs of a candidate not campaigning for an extended period of time and wanted to take the opportunity to convince those voters to choose Cruz instead. They failed to update their ground team when it was made clear the break was not related to ending the campaign.
  2. The Cruz campaign saw the CNN story about Ben Carson leaving, spun it into a withdrawal with full knowledge that Carson takes frequent breaks from campaigning and tried to trick caucus goers that a vote for Carson was a waste.

Donald Trump may be running and unconventional campaign, but Ben Carson is running a weird campaign. Before Monday, he was mostly being mocked as low-key to the point of unconsciousness with frequent gaps in his knowledge of government and world politics. I have no problem believing scenario #1 because going back to Florida for suits and up to DC for breakfast is not standard campaign practice.

If scenario #2 is true, the Cruz campaign managed to pull off a tactic with some deniability by scenario #1 being so possible. Honestly, would the absence of that “rumor” have changed the order of winners? Did that many Carson supporters totally give up because of something a Cruz supporter told them?

When it comes to most local (or Congressional) elections, the will of the people is directly expressed. smearing an opponent can easily backfire and voters have a low tolerance for dirty tricks. A presidential election won’t work that way. Two party machines are trying to control the will of over 100 million people and they take it seriously. If Trump and Carson can get rolled by one Ted Cruz state campaign, they have no chance against the DNC.

The fundamental rule still applies. Negative campaign ads work. They worked even when John McCain tried to be above it all and wouldn’t do the same stuff the Democrats did. Negative ads worked when Mitt Romney redefined his media strategy to the point where hardly any ads aired. The people of this country do not rise up against “unfair” opponents, no matter how much we’d want them to.

Political campaigns are like military campaigns. It’s war. Save the morality for peace time.

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Meaning in the Meaningless

February 2, 2016
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First of all, nothing that happened in Iowa last night was statistically significant. In the case of Hillary Clinton, literally a couple of coin flips could have given the victory to Bernie Sanders. Cruz, Trump and Rubio were at or near the margin of polling error. Given that, there are realities of the campaigns that have been revealed. Ted Cruz won Iowa. He spent a lot of money. He had a huge organization. His campaign also played a little fast and loose with the viability of the Carson campaign. These are all things that happen in campaigns.

Donald Trump lost. This is important because of all the apologists out in force today can’t accept that he lost. Those excuses are grim solace for a few reasons.

  • Cruz had to work hard to win and Trump hardly spent any money. Donald Trump is not Rachel Ray and he’s not starring in “Campaigning on $40,000 a day.” He chose to skip Iowa, then came back. He’d better be ready to spend some money because ground game is going to become a big deal in a few weeks.
  • Trump got second place without a ground game. Trump lacking an organization adds to his street cred, but will slowly kill him. The Democrats are masters at ground game. He’d better fix that if he expects to run a national campaign.
  • Cruz used dirty tricks. Donald Trump is willfully denying that Ted Cruz is an American citizen. He did the same taunting to Obama and Obama is still president. Cruz’ tricks are dirtier and more effective. Plus, Donald is kind of a big baby.
  • Cruz is going to get destroyed in New Hampshire. That’s entirely possible. I’m more interested in keeping Trump from running the table early than Cruz running the table. Trump is #1 in New Hampshire with only 38% of the vote. Better than Cruz, but not a mandate.
  • Trump got just as many delegates as Cruz and only 4% fewer voters. I promise one delegate will not decide the nomination. What Iowa does is break the spell of the unstoppable Donald Trump. He can be beaten and Trump’s support has a relatively low ceiling. The further this campaign gets, the less likely the supporters of other candidates will want to vote for Trump after he insults them over and over.

For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton tied Bernie Sanders for all intents and purposes. Chances are she will lose New Hampshire decisively. She does, however, have good prospects in big southern states like South Carolina. For the next month, it will be a real fight and Hillary will have to try to beat Sanders rather than sit and wait to be nominated. However, O’Malley dropped out. If his votes went to Sanders last night, Hillary would be singing a much sadder tune.

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Iowa 2016

February 1, 2016
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If there are 3 tickets out of Iowa, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio have them in near equal measure. Ben Carson has a ticket stub with 10% of the caucus vote. Projections are that Cruz won.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are locked in a battle for first, and O’Malley is out. I suspect the half dozen Republicans below 2% are either going to drop out or be very broke very fast.

On to New Hampshire.

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I Stand With Cruz… Sort Of

January 31, 2016
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Long-suffering readers of this blog know that I was not a big fan of Mitt Romney and thought he would lose the 2012 election. Still, when he became Obama’s only opponent, I was all in for his victory. Of the “boring” 2012 filed, I picked the most boring of all, Scott Walker, because he was a master ninja when it came to handing the unions and Democrats their asses.

Then there’s Donald Trump. He’s rich, he’s liberal. He supported Democrats. He used the term “New York values” before Obama was even elected. By 2011, he seemed to be more interested in the Republican side of the street, offering to host a GOP debate and asking Obama for a birth certificate. Now, maybe the had an Obama conversion like some of the liberals turned Republican by the events of 9/11/01. He seems to be signing all the verses of the Tea Party song book even though no one claims to be a Tea Partier anymore.

Let’s flash forward to a yuge Trump victory. In this case, he could get 30% in Iowa and whatever delegates that equals. In New Hampshire, it’s also close to 30%. If the field thins out some more that percentage may go up to 40%. In the GOP’s infinite wisdom, the new “winner take all” process could give Trump enough delegates with only that 40%.

Here’s the problem. There are a lot of establishment types who scuttled races in 2010 because they hated the Tea Party. What if we have a candidate who wins while insulting 60% of the party? Trump is most popular among Republicans. If he can only get into the mid forties nationally, he’s toast against a single opponent. Ronald Reagan annoyed the establishment, but he was unusually popular with Democrats.

For the time being, I’d like to see Ted Cruz win Iowa or New Hampshire, or both. I want Trump to actually prove himself by facing adversity, rather than boycotting it. He’s gone from avoiding Iowa, to insulting Iowans to giving up on the state to holding big rallies in the state. He also quit the Republican Party in 2011 when no one wanted to go to his debate. Is he going to give up on America as president?

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2012 Redux

January 30, 2016
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One of the things that hurt the Tea Party in 2012 was that while they were opposed to most every Democrat and especially Obama, they also didn’t want to give money to the RNC or any national group. Big donors and billionaires had no problem contributing to groups like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, who spent hundreds of millions with no measurable results.

The IRS made sure that any Tea Party group smaller than Tea Party Express would be unable to use their own funding in 2012. Instead, they went from candidate to candidate. When someone won a state primary, they were supported. As the harsh light of reality fell on them, another one was selected. This went on until Mitt Romney eventually won the nomination, as was predicted the whole time.

Now we have Donald Trump. He has money, but he doesn’t need to use it. He’s poised to get a plurality in many early contests. But, like 2012, he may see a succession of different #2 finishers in different states.

Bush has wasted the most money fighting Trump, followed by Rubio or Cruz, I’m not sure. If Trump does get the nomination, my guess is that many rank and file Tea Party members won’t work against him and won’t need to worry about financial contributions to Trump’s campaign. Would Trump need federal matching funds or any funds? Could he win on free media attention alone? If he does, he could create a recession in the media industry that relies on political ad revenue every few years. That would be something to see.

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