Bloomberg Debate Will Be Pivotal

[ Posted Tuesday, February 18th, 2020 – 17:03 UTC ]

Today, Michael Bloomberg placed in double-digit support in his fourth national poll, just before the deadline. As a result, he will be on tomorrow's debate stage. This could be a pivotal moment for the entire Democratic presidential race, no matter what the outcome.

Up until now, Bloomberg has had the freedom to carpet-bomb the airwaves -- with little or no opposition -- in almost every state in the Union. No other candidate has had a such bottomless supply of money (Bloomberg, by some reports, has now spent over $400 million in advertising alone -- a staggering number, considering that it's only February). In most of the states Bloomberg's been up on the airwaves, viewers have seen zero opposition ads to counter any of his message. This has allowed him to make the best possible first impression on millions upon millions of voters. But that's going to change tomorrow night, because for the first time Bloomberg will have to face all his Democratic opponents on free television for a few hours. So while his ads may have paved the way, this will really be the first time many voters will get the chance to see Bloomberg live and in person, rather than in heavily-scripted ads.

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From The Archives -- Our Forgotten "Presidents"

[ Posted Monday, February 17th, 2020 – 17:55 UTC ]

[Program Note: As I am occasionally wont to do, I am taking today off because it is a holiday. Sort of. Rather than celebrating the birthday of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington separately, we now have today's catchall holiday instead. Maybe this is for the best, because even George Washington wasn't even born on Washington's birthday -- and that has nothing to do with making all federal holidays fall on Mondays. But that's a different story, of course. Today I decided to reprint an earlier column, on the subject of how many actual presidents we have to celebrate today. And the answer's not as easy as you might think. So happy holiday, everyone, and I promise we'll resume new columns tomorrow.]

Originally Published February 21, 2011

Happy Presidents' Day, everyone!

The two formerly-individual holidays celebrating Washington's Birthday and Lincoln's Birthday have been merged into a single federal holiday -- a holiday which, while intended to honor both Washington and Lincoln, has now become somewhat "genericized" (in name, at least) into a celebration of all our presidents. But what about the forgotten presidents? [Or, to be scrupulously accurate, "presidents"?]

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Friday Talking Points -- Constitutional Crisis Of The Week

[ Posted Friday, February 14th, 2020 – 18:31 UTC ]

It was a fairly quiet week in politics, since we only had one new constitutional crisis erupt from the White House. OK, that's only partially tongue-in-cheek, but at least it wasn't one of those weeks where multiple such crises arise, we suppose.

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Don't Let Bloomberg Have A Free Pass

[ Posted Thursday, February 13th, 2020 – 17:07 UTC ]

That headline might be misleading, because some might read it as me joining in the complaints that Michael Bloomberg is somehow getting a "free pass" into the next debate. Nothing could be further from my meaning, though, because my actual message is that continuing to exclude Bloomberg from the Democratic primary campaign process -- which includes not only the debates, but also full media vetting and crossfire from the other candidates -- is the "free pass" that Bloomberg has, up until now, both enjoyed and ruthlessly exploited. To state it even more bluntly: Bloomberg needs to be challenged directly, and the sooner this happens the better. Any Democratic candidate who doesn't yet realize this is ignoring Bloomberg's possible impact on the race to his or her own peril, plain and simple.

How is not allowing Bloomberg into the debates a good thing? That's the question that really needs to be asked of those charging that he is "buying his way into the election," and that somehow this shouldn't be allowed. So far, what both the mainstream media and pretty much all the other candidates have largely been doing is to completely ignore Bloomberg in some sort of wishful hope that he'll eventually just go away. This is a dangerous fantasy, because he's not going anywhere (and neither is his money). Don't believe me? Then why is it that Bloomberg's name was not even mentioned by any of the Democratic candidates in any of the debates so far, until the last one happened? Even that appearance was instructive, because the moderator openly admitted that they had asked for viewers' questions to be submitted in real time, and what they got was an overwhelming number requesting that Bloomberg's campaign be addressed by the candidates on stage. In other words, the moderators themselves were not going to ask about him until the viewers absolutely demanded it. It's as if an 800-pound gorilla was in the room, yet neither the moderators nor the candidates thought it worthy to even comment on the shaggy heavyweight present. "Gorilla? What gorilla? Hey, let's have the Medicare For All debate dustup for the eighth or ninth time instead of talking about King Kong, whaddya say?" This is precisely what I mean when I say that Bloomberg, up until now, has gotten a completely free pass from both the media and the other candidates. They prefer not to talk about him at all, which lasted right up until the viewers demanded that the subject be raised.

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Democratic Realignment Continues Apace

[ Posted Wednesday, February 12th, 2020 – 18:03 UTC ]

There are now two early-voting states in the rearview mirror, after New Hampshire proved last night that it was far better at counting votes than Iowa. Otherwise, I would have had to wait a few days to write this article, but thankfully things went much more smoothly in the Granite State. So now we've got actual voters weighing in rather than just public opinion polling and punditry. And New Hampshire has shaken up the race even more than Iowa did, continuing the realignment of the Democratic presidential field.

This was, to be honest, long overdue. The polls for the past year have shown how incredibly stable this race has been, up until about two weeks ago. There was one big surge by Elizabeth Warren which fell back, one smaller and earlier surge by Kamala Harris which also fell back almost immediately, and a mini-surge by Pete Buttigieg which also diminished over time. That's it. Those are really the only graph lines which crossed -- or even appreciably moved -- during the entire year of campaigning before the votes actually started being cast. Throughout the whole time, Joe Biden had a commanding lead, Bernie Sanders held remarkably stable in second, and everyone else except Warren stayed well below double digits, for the most part. But now all that is not only changing, but changing very fast indeed.

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My New Hampshire Picks

[ Posted Tuesday, February 11th, 2020 – 15:16 UTC ]

It's "first in the nation" primary time, which means it is time once again to throw down my own markers and predict the winner of New Hampshire tonight. I've long felt that pundits who merely vaguely describe the race as it stands are craven, because it's a lot tougher to actually try to foresee the results ahead of time in an article under your own name. So I've always publicly announced my picks ahead of time, even if they turn out to be disastrously wrong in the end.

Which brings us to a new portion of the 2020 program, because now we can see how well my prognosticating is this year. My picks for Iowa were (in the order I predicted): (1) Bernie Sanders, (2) Joe Biden, (3) Elizabeth Warren, (4) Pete Buttigieg, and (5) Amy Klobuchar. The actual order (as of this writing, since we're still not entirely confident of the Iowa results) turned out to be: (1) Pete Buttigieg, (2) Bernie Sanders, (3) Elizabeth Warren, (4) Joe Biden, and (5) Amy Klobuchar. I agreed to follow the traditional measure of "winning," the count of how many "state delegate equivalents" each candidate chalked up, and in this count Buttigieg edged Sanders (even though Bernie got more actual votes than Mayor Pete).

As you can see, this was a pretty dismal result for my prediction abilities. I only got two out of five right, although if Bernie had edged out Pete it would have been three. Obviously, I missed how far Biden was going to fall, but I certainly wasn't the only one not to see that coming. Also obviously, I underrated Buttigieg by a mile. Oh well, live and learn. For the record, here's my 2020 stats so far (counting only Democrats, since I never make safe predictions of an incumbent president winning his party's primaries in order to boost my score):

Total correct 2020 primary picks so far: 2 for 5 -- 40%.

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Can Bernie Successfully Follow The Trump Playbook?

[ Posted Monday, February 10th, 2020 – 17:57 UTC ]

In 2016, Donald Trump ripped up the playbook on how to get elected president and then he wrote his own unique version. Quite obviously, it worked a lot better than anyone expected. Democrats now face a surprisingly similar situation in 2020 with Bernie Sanders, because he seems poised to use almost exactly the same playbook that allowed Trump to succeed against a field of candidates much more acceptable to his party's establishment.

Now, please don't get me wrong -- when I say Bernie Sanders could use "the Trump playbook" I am decidedly not talking about Trump's personal style of campaigning. Bernie's not going to suddenly start hurling playground insults at his fellow Democrats on a debate stage or anything like that. What I am talking about instead is the mechanics of how Trump won the Republican nomination.

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Friday Talking Points -- A Momentous Week

[ Posted Friday, February 7th, 2020 – 16:46 UTC ]

Throughout the presidency of Donald Trump there have been many weeks that have left everyone completely exhausted, because so many momentous events have happened with such blinding speed. Each time, it's been tempting to say: "Trump can never top that week" at the end of it. We've all but given up doing so, because no matter how intense things get, there always seems to be a way to ratchet things up the very next week. However, that temptation was almost overwhelming this particular week.

We had a State Of The Union speech on Tuesday (hopefully, Trump's last one). One day earlier, we had the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus on the Democratic side, which turned into its own sort of spectacular meltdown. Then we had the Senate voting to acquit Trump of the impeachment charges brought by the House. Trump waited one day before doing a victory lap, in an extended "Two Minutes' Hate" broadcast live from the White House. He let everyone know he's got an enemies list and he's now totally unrestrained. And now we're rushing to put together a Friday column before the next Democratic presidential debate happens, later today. Add in, just for the heck of it, a Super Bowl and the Oscars and you've got a week that will indeed be hard to top, at least on the sheer exhaustion scale of things.

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Reforming Iowa's Voting Process

[ Posted Thursday, February 6th, 2020 – 18:22 UTC ]

Iowa royally screwed up. That much is beyond dispute. In fact, as I write this -- days after the Iowa caucuses concluded -- the results still are not complete and no winner has been anointed. Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg are within a tenth of a point of each other in the metric used to determine winners, although Bernie's clearly going to win the popular vote (both of them, in fact). Perhaps by the time New Hampshire votes we'll all know who the winner in Iowa was. But at this point, even that isn't guaranteed.

The easiest thing to point the finger of blame at is the new and untested technology that Iowa relied upon to report the caucus totals. Savvy users of technology know full well that buying the 1.0 version of anything means you could be in for trouble -- big trouble, at times. People in the computer industry whose job it is to test software before release so that bugs can be fixed (software quality assurance engineers) have long had a saying: "The Ford Pinto was released six months early -- but that's not what everyone remembers about it." It doesn't matter how fast you get to market if there's an enormous and embarrassing flaw in your design, in other words. And the Iowa app blew up just as spectacularly as a rear-ended Pinto.

But that's an easy fix: use paper and the telephone. There! Problem solved!

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Democratic Field Realigns

[ Posted Wednesday, February 5th, 2020 – 17:09 UTC ]

As I write this, the Iowa Democratic Party has now reported 85 percent of the caucus returns. Perhaps after a full 48 hours we'll know the full results, but at this point I wouldn't bet on it. But while heaping scorn on Iowa is amusing, the results as they stand are realigning the entire Democratic presidential field, so it's worth taking a look at how everything is shifting.

The Iowa caucuses really had one big winner and one big loser. Pete Buttigieg outperformed expectations and is quite likely to win the largest haul of Iowa's "delegate equivalents," which is the yardstick that has always been used to proclaim who won the state. He also appears to have edged out Bernie Sanders in the final round of voting, although Sanders still holds the lead in the first round of voting. So Bernie unquestionably had a good night, but he is going to ultimately be denied bragging rights over "winning" Iowa to Mayor Pete.

On the losing side of the equation was Joe Biden. Biden came in fourth place, and he wasn't all that far ahead of Amy Klobuchar in fifth. This is not the way to prove you are the most electable candidate, obviously. Biden won't have a state race where he's the heavy favorite until South Carolina, either, which means that in both Nevada and New Hampshire he'll be struggling to beat his showing in Iowa.

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