Friday Talking Points -- The Weird Turn Pro

[ Posted Friday, March 13th, 2020 – 16:54 UTC ]

In a surreal bit of coincidence this week, America saw a simultaneous broadcast of President Trump stumbling and lying his way through a primetime Oval Office address, while on another channel former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin danced around in a frilly pink bear costume while rapping "Baby Got Back," which contains the memorable line: "I like big butts and I cannot lie...." Signs of the impending apocalypse? You be the judge. What flashed through our mind was the old quote from Hunter S. Thompson: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." Or, as we might put it (with a fake Sarah Palin accent): "How's that 'stable genius' stuff workin' out for ya now?"

Yes, that's the type of week it was. The stock market went completely crazy, with wild swings up and down that mostly added up to it sinking like a rock. Before this week, trading had only ever been halted by the "circuit breaker" now built in to it (which is only triggered if the market loses seven percent or more in a single day) once previously, back in the 1990s. This week, it happened again -- twice. The market dropped by more points in one day than it ever had before, and then a few days later it blew through that record and dropped over 2,300 points. That was immediately after Trump addressed the nation (and Palin gyrated on stage).

So, America, the question now is: can we take much more of this Trumpian "winning"? Donald Trump keeps flailing about in an effort to make the coronavirus go away, but the problem is that you can't just insult it on Twitter or make up lies about it and everyone's going to forget about it. That's not going to work, as we've already seen.

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The Choice Couldn't Be Starker

[ Posted Thursday, March 12th, 2020 – 17:26 UTC ]

Both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have taken a page from Michael Bloomberg's campaign playbook, and they really need to continue doing this right up until the election (no matter which one of them becomes the nominee). Because more than anything else, it clearly shows the difference between having a sane adult as president and what we've got now.

The tactic I speak of was made evident when Bloomberg bought three minutes of nationally-broadcast network primetime towards the end of his campaign, in a bid to boost his chances. While it didn't do him much good at the polling places, I still thought it was a brilliant piece of political theater. Because Bloomberg didn't even mention Trump once, instead he quite calmly and rationally spoke to America's citizenry and showed us all the difference between how presidents have normally behaved in office during dire times and, by unspoken contrast, how Donald Trump manages a crisis. At that difference was pretty stark, for all to see.

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Grin And Bear It?

[ Posted Wednesday, March 11th, 2020 – 17:09 UTC ]

The stock market is now officially in bear market territory. Thus endeth the longest bull market in history, which lasted for the 11 years from just after the Great Recession's end until now. For those unfamiliar with the terms, the "bear market" designation is defined as: "losing 20 percent from the market's peak." Less than a month ago, the Dow Jones Industrial Average topped 29,500. Today it closed right around 23,500 -- a loss of roughly 6,000 points. And we may not have hit bottom, although with the current volatility it's tough to tell.

There is no word as of yet on how Donald Trump is taking this news. But it wouldn't surprise me to hear he's throwing an epic tantrum right about now. Trump has always been rather obsessed with the stock market, and he has claimed all the credit for its rise under his presidency. Now that the market is tanking, it seriously undermines his entire campaign theme, which is that the American economy "has never been better," and that the only way to continue such good times is for the voters to re-elect him. That's a tough argument to make when the market goes through 1,000-point drops multiple times in a single week, obviously.

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Predicting Mini-Super-Tuesday

[ Posted Tuesday, March 10th, 2020 – 15:39 UTC ]

Nobody, it seems, has come up with a name for today's round of primaries that is catchy enough so that everyone starts universally using it. Some call it Mini Tuesday, some call it Super Tuesday II, but no matter what you call it, the time has come once again to toss our darts at the wall in an effort to try to predict the outcome of the six races being run today in the 2020 Democratic primary race.

But, as always, before we look forward we must first look back. Heading in to Super Tuesday, my record was close to three right out of every four guesses (13 for 18). As it almost always does, Super Tuesday has humbled me once again. Last week, I called 16 races, however one of them has not finished yet (Democrats Abroad) and while today will be the cutoff for expatriate Democrats to cast their ballot, we still may not know the results of this far-flung primary contest for days, yet.

This leaves 15 races I did call. And my crystal ball had a big crack in it. Or, to be less poetic, I gave Bernie Sanders far more credit than he was due. Now, I hasten to point out that I certainly wasn't the only one to do so last week -- Bernie looked like the predominant candidate right up to the point when the returns started coming in. The only real argument the pundits were having back then was whether he would totally wrap up the nomination by winning an outright majority of the convention delegates, or whether he'd fall slightly short and we'd have a big convention fight.

What a difference a week makes, eh?

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Golfing While Rome Burns

[ Posted Monday, March 9th, 2020 – 16:49 UTC ]

Roman Emperor Nero didn't actually fiddle while Rome burned. It's a myth. Violins (or "fiddles") wouldn't exist for another 1,500 years or so, making the very concept impossible. That's not to say Nero might not have blatantly ignored a flaming crisis, of course, it's just quibbling about the literal meaning of the maxim. Now, American Emperor-With-No-Clothes Donald Trump didn't fiddle while the country was hit by a pandemic, either. Instead, he played golf. Twice. That's right -- in the midst of a huge crisis, Trump spent the entire weekend playing golf.

The stock market reacted Monday morning by dropping a further 2,000 points. This puts it down over 5,500 points from its all-time high less than a month ago. The reason I begin with this statistic is because it is one of two (the other being the unemployment rate) that we know Trump actually pays attention to. So I'm anticipating some wild flailing from the White House in the next 24 hours or so, because Trump dearly wants to run his entire re-election campaign on how great the economy is doing. If the coronavirus puts that at risk (as, indeed, it already has), then Trump will reluctantly have to make some sort of attempt to deal with the situation. Knowing Trump, it'll probably be the wrong thing to do; but to Trump the only thing that's important is whether Wall Street investors see him "doing something" and are calmed enough to stop the financial panic.

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Friday Talking Points -- Tennis, Anyone?

[ Posted Friday, March 6th, 2020 – 18:09 UTC ]

The stock market is crashing daily, a pandemic is sweeping America, a tornado in Tennessee just killed two dozen people, so of course First Lady Melania Trump decided to reassure the public with a message designed to calm people in these perilous times. The message? Don't worry, everyone -- the construction of the new White House tennis pavilion was still on track. No, seriously -- you just can't make this stuff up. She even donned a hard hat (in order to look fabulous) while making this tone-deaf announcement.

The internet's reaction, as usual, was not kind. Many referenced Marie Antoinette, either directly or indirectly. Perhaps the best response: "Let them lob serves." Just another week in Trump's America, folks.

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Ridiculously Premature Veepstakes Speculation

[ Posted Thursday, March 5th, 2020 – 17:58 UTC ]

I know, I know -- it's way too early for this.

Still, it's fun to speculate about, so we're going to push right ahead anyway and engage in some ridiculously-early ponderings of who should be chosen to round out the Democratic ticket this time around. If you are horrified of even the prospect of such meanderings, I'd advise you to do something else with the next 10 or 15 minutes of your time. There's always plenty of cat videos out there to watch, after all.

Ahem. Sorry, it's been a rather punch-drunk sort of week, as the Democratic nomination race enters an entirely new phase. We are now down to two candidates (well, plus Tulsi Gabbard, to be strictly accurate), which is certainly a big change from having to keep track of 29 of them. But while perusing a list of the also-rans today (after hearing the news that Elizabeth Warren had dropped out), we began wondering which one of them would make a good pick for each of the two remaining candidates with a chance to win the nomination. So we decided to share our musings. We'll take them one at a time (assuming for the sake of argument that they become the eventual nominee), and consider who would be a good veep pick for both of them.

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And Then There Were Two

[ Posted Wednesday, March 4th, 2020 – 17:57 UTC ]

The 2020 Democratic presidential nominating contest is ending as it began. If you look at the polling over the entire course of the race so far, Joe Biden led almost from beginning to end. Up until the voting actually started, Biden was the clear favorite to win the nomination. Indeed, there really was only one other candidate -- out of a total field of 29, mind you -- that showed the strength to even be competitive with the former vice president, and that was Bernie Sanders. Bernie held onto second place in the polling pretty consistently, and this remained almost unchanged from beginning to end. Only one other candidate ever even rose into the ranks Bernie and Joe occupied, but while Elizabeth Warren enjoyed a big spike upwards (briefly snatching first place away from Biden), it almost immediately fell back to where she was really only challenging Sanders for second place. For all the media swooning over this candidate or that (this week it's Beto... no, no, it's Mayor Pete... wait, Kamala's looking pretty good!... hey, how about Amy's debate performance?), none of them ever saw their poll ratings live up to the lavish attention bestowed upon them by the media. The entire race, from even before Biden announced right up until the Iowa caucuses, was really one between only Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Which is where we now find ourselves, once again.

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Predicting The Super Tuesday Outcomes

[ Posted Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020 – 14:49 UTC ]

Welcome back again for our continuing series where we attempt to pick the winners of all the 2020 Democratic primary contests. This is really the second part of a two-part article, as yesterday I discussed at length the shifting nature of the contest after three of the moderate candidates dropped out (Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar). Today we're going to forego the "big picture" analysis altogether and just dive right in to the state-by-state predictions.

Before we begin, we've got to update our totals for the race so far. In South Carolina, I only made picks for the top three positions, which all turned out to be correct. Personally, I was rather astonished at the margin of victory Joe Biden racked up, after predicting it would only be in the single digits (my worst prediction of the year so far, I humbly admit). Even so, going 3-for-3 in the South Carolina standings selection gives me a new total of:

Total correct 2020 primary picks so far: 13 for 18 -- 72%.

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Moderate Democrats Clear The Lane For Biden

[ Posted Monday, March 2nd, 2020 – 18:21 UTC ]

A week ago, I wrote an article about what I considered the most important upcoming factor in the Democratic presidential race, which was who would drop out and when would they do it. That question is now at least partially answered, as the third candidate since South Carolina voted has just officially exited the race. This leaves four major candidates (and Tulsi Gabbard) still in the race. But how the loss of Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar will affect Super Tuesday is really anyone's guess at this point -- which makes predicting the outcomes a lot harder.

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