Friday Talking Points [378] -- Back To The 1960s

[ Posted Friday, February 12th, 2016 – 18:15 PST ]

For those readers who weren't alive (or old enough) to experience the 1960s, this week we had somewhat of a history lesson, packaged as a Democratic debate. Now, part of why this happened is that the Democratic presidential campaign has entered into a "convince the minority voters" phase, since the upcoming two states to vote have a lot of Latino (Nevada) and African-American (South Carolina) voters. So there was quite a bit of attention spent on the Civil Rights era, which will continue right up to Super Tuesday, at the very least. We keep waiting for Bernie Sanders (or a moderator, for that matter) to bring up the term "Goldwater Girl" in a Hillary Clinton question, and last night would have been a dandy opportunity. But PBS held a much more "polite" debate, meaning lots of softball questions and ignoring any unseemly discomfort for the candidates (at least, for the most part).

Think about it: in the time that has passed since the last Democratic debate, there have been a number of interesting stories from the campaign trail, but almost none of them were brought up last night. The Clinton Foundation got subpoenaed over the whole Hillary email investigation. Her Goldman Sachs speech transcripts (which she promised, at the last debate, that she'd "look into" releasing) were not mentioned -- even though Politico ran an article this week quoting someone who was in the audience at one of those speeches saying:

It was pretty glowing about us. It's so far from what she sounds like as a candidate now. It was like a rah-rah speech. She sounded more like a Goldman Sachs managing director.

Bernie wasn't questioned about an apparent dirty trick in Nevada by some of his campaign supporters. Neither candidate was questioned at all about Nevada (we don't even think the word was used, the entire night), even though it will be the next state to vote. Nevada politics is interesting for both candidates (they both have strengths and weaknesses there) but you have to check the local press to even hear this discussion. We saw the debate as somewhat of a draw. Bernie made some good points, but so did Hillary. Both attacked sharply here and there, and both stammered through a few answers.

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Could Trump Become GOP Establishment Favorite?

[ Posted Thursday, February 11th, 2016 – 17:09 PST ]

To ask that headline question at the present time may seem almost insane. Trump? The favorite candidate of the establishment Republicans? Preposterous! Well, maybe so and maybe not -- hear me out before you either reject the notion out of hand or start rolling around on the floor laughing. Because it might just be more plausible than you might initially think. And remember, a lot of other things previously considered insane have already happened this election cycle.

The Republican race has not actually moved much since before the voting started in Iowa. Donald Trump is the strongest candidate, followed by Ted Cruz. Then there is a traffic jam (with apologies to the recently-departed Chris Christie) for the "establishment lane" -- or, in other words, for the white knight who is going to ride in and save the party from the likes of Cruz and Trump. Right now, there are three contenders for this position: Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich. The only real change between now and a few weeks ago is that Chris Christie is not in the running for the chosen establishment candidate anymore. Otherwise, the situation remains the same.

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New Hampshire Roils The Waters

[ Posted Wednesday, February 10th, 2016 – 16:43 PST ]

Last night, New Hampshire shook up the presidential race and roiled what were already less-than-calm waters, in both the Democratic Party and the GOP. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton looks a lot weaker than she did a few weeks ago. Republicans, meanwhile, are having to finally come to grips with a fact that's been staring them in the face for months: Donald Trump is indeed their frontrunner, and he might actually win their party's nomination.

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Nevada Gets No Respect

[ Posted Tuesday, February 9th, 2016 – 16:27 PST ]

While we're all sitting around waiting for the New Hampshire primary results to begin coming in, I'd like to take a moment to point out something which I hadn't really noticed before. Nevada is the Rodney Dangerfield of early primary states -- it don't get no respect.

I'm not sure exactly why this is, but it's hard not to notice the difference in the way the media and the pollsters -- and the politicians themselves -- treat Nevada differently than Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Take a look at the difference in polling. New Hampshire and Iowa both have had oodles of polls -- dozens released in the final days, in fact. Nevada, to date, doesn't even rate a polling-overview page on Real Clear Politics, since there haven't been enough polls conducted to even figure out an average. Pundits routinely forget to mention Nevada, and speak of the post-New Hampshire race as taking place solely in South Carolina.

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My New Hampshire Picks

[ Posted Monday, February 8th, 2016 – 17:18 PST ]

It is time once again to peer deeply into my somewhat-foggy crystal ball, and attempt to pick the winners of tomorrow night's New Hampshire primary. Before I get to that, though, some old business needs to be brought up. First, we have some very recent old business and then some truly ancient business, so bear with me.

So far this year, I'm not doing very well in the prediction business. Last week I boldly made my Iowa predictions, but they didn't turn out so hot. I had Bernie Sanders narrowly defeating Hillary Clinton, and I had the GOP lineup as: (1) Trump, (2) Cruz, (3) Rubio. Counting the Democratic race as only one pick (with only two candidates, being right about the order shouldn't count as two picks, whether right or wrong), I only got one right out of four. So my stats look pretty dismal here at the beginning:

Total correct 2016 Democratic picks: 0 for 1 -- 0%
Total correct 2016 Republican picks: 1 for 3 -- 33%
Total overall correct picks: 1 for 4 -- 25%.

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Friday Talking Points [377] -- Toss Of A Coin

[ Posted Friday, February 5th, 2016 – 17:06 PST ]

Appropriately, for the week which will also contain the Super Bowl, the first state to weigh in on the presidential election was decided (for Democrats) by a coin-toss. Or, to be accurate, seven of them. With tied caucuses in seven precincts, tossing a coin determined the winner between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Clinton won six coin-tosses, Sanders only one. Because of this, Clinton claimed a razor-edge victory in the whole state. To put it plainly, she got lucky. If the coin tosses had been a little less lopsided, Bernie would have had the opportunity to claim victory. Such is life, and such is the political process in Iowa.

Iowa officially kicked off (to continue our football metaphor) the 2016 primary season this week. New Hampshire is next in line, followed by Nevada and South Carolina (for Democrats), or South Carolina and Nevada (for Republicans). Then at the beginning of next month we move from retail politics to the wholesale frenzy of Super Tuesday. Game on, folks!

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GOP Tickets Out Of New Hampshire

[ Posted Thursday, February 4th, 2016 – 18:08 PST ]

The Republican field is (finally!) now officially down to single digits. With the post-Iowa exodus of Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum, only nine GOP candidates remain. Of course, this still includes more than one who will never be the nominee, but at least the winnowing has begun in earnest. The question on everyone's mind now is how many of them will be viable after New Hampshire votes. This election cycle, most pundits speak of the Republican race in terms of "lanes." There is an "outsider lane" and an "establishment lane," and so forth. I personally don't favor this metaphor, as I'm more inclined to use what might be called the traditional "Willy Wonka golden ticket" metaphor. In other words, there are a limited number of "tickets" out of New Hampshire, and anyone who doesn't hold one after the voting is over might as well just pack up their campaign.

So who will hold one of these tickets next Tuesday night? Right now, it's actually even tough to identify how many of these tickets will even exist. The people using lanes to describe the race have generally agreed that there will be only three lanes heading into South Carolina, and that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz already occupy two of them. By this logic, there are four candidates fighting hard for the establishment lane, and only one will emerge.

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Obama Poll Watch -- January, 2016

[ Posted Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016 – 17:10 PST ]

Obama Bounces Back

President Obama just had a very good month in the polls. Not spectacular, mind you, but still better than any month since January of 2015. Essentially, Obama regained the job approval polling ground he lost over the previous two or three months, and he is now positioned to continue improving in February as well. For the first time in a year, this movement is so noticeable it is easily visible on the big chart.

Obama Approval -- January 2016

[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]

January, 2016

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Why Not Just Allow Primary Votes To Be Bought?

[ Posted Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 – 17:46 PST ]

Maybe I'm just loopy from staying up late to watch the Iowa returns trickle in, but this morning I had a pretty radical idea, after reading a statistic that several pundits pointed out in their post-caucus articles. Jeb Bush apparently spent $14 million in Iowa to receive a little over 5,200 votes. According to many pundits today, that works out to roughly $2,800 spent per actual vote (it's actually under $2,700 when you run the numbers, but whatever). Which caused my epiphany -- why not just hand that cash over to the voters themselves, and eliminate all the middlemen?

Hey, I warned you it was a pretty radical idea. Vote-buying is, of course, highly illegal under current election law. But I think there's a case to be made for changing these laws.

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My Iowa Predictions

[ Posted Monday, February 1st, 2016 – 17:08 PST ]

The primary season officially gets underway tonight, as Iowa voters brave the winter weather and head to the caucuses. This will give political wonks some actual hard data to discuss, instead of just opinion polling and sheer speculation, so it's a big day on the political calendar for us. Because it's such an auspicious day, I'm going to make an honest attempt to pick the winners and almost-winners for both parties.

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