What to watch in Iowa: GOP


Donald Trump needs to win or finish within 2-3% in a close second. His whole philosophy and appeal is that he is a winner:

“We’re going to win so much — win after win after win — that you’re going to be begging me: ‘Please, Mr. President, let us lose once or twice. We can’t stand it any more.’ And I’m going to say: ‘No way. We’re going to keep winning. We’re never going to lose. We’re never, ever going to lose.”

-Trump, quoted by the Washington Post

If Trump is not one of the winners Monday, well that makes him a loser, and his binary brain will explode.

Ted Cruz has the easiest night. He’ll finish first or second and be a major force with no one on his right flank. He just needs to break 20%. If he fails to do that, the establishment attacks of the past two weeks will have worked to eat away his support, and they will crescendo going into New Hampshire.

Marco Rubio needs to finish third. The third place finisher will likely absorb the “Stop Cruz and Trump” momentum going forward. Everyone knows Marco’s thirsty, but can he win states?

Rand Paul needs a haircut.

Jeb Bush needs his exclamation point more than ever. If he finishes third, he’ll grab the “Big Mo” in the words of his father. At minimum, he needs to look like he tied Rubio.

Is Ben Carson still in the race? Anyone who loses to Dr. Carson in Iowa is, officially or unofficially, finished. I’m looking at you Jeb!

Chris Christie needs to stay alive with >5% so that he can withdraw after New Hampshire and save face.

John Kasich only cares about New Hampshire. He’s played the expectation game well.

Carly Fiorina.

Mike Huckabee will be there.

“Santorum” describes Rich Santorum’s campaign pretty well. It seems like it’s been 60 years since Rick was dueling for the nomination, probably because he still lives in the 1950’s. Zing. Let the fight for Rick Santorum’s supporter begin.

Election Prediction (N = 1)

My expected outcome from the election is more from my heart than my head. I am part sentimentalist, part strict constructionist, and part anarchist.

First, the sentimentalist

Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination and chooses Tipper Gore as her running mate.

Her national campaign slogan is, “It’s the Women’s Turn Now.” She runs on the plank that if elected President she will tirelessly help “women who have been assaulted or sexually groped in public.” She runs TV commercials in swing states showing Tipper Gore being manhandled by Al Gore at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. Most voters either did not watch the convention, or do not remember Al Gore and think the event happened last week.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz retains her position as DNC chair as she can show savings exceeding $100 million simply by reusing the Clinton-Gore bumper stickers and lawn signs from the 1992 and 1996 campaigns.

Hillary Clinton, through the Clinton Foundation, negotiates a deal with MSNBC allowing Rachel Maddow to retain her one-hour show, and for the remaining 23 hours of air time, MSNBC replays the I Love Lucy episode, “Job Switching.” The Foundation buys the rights to the episode and places it in the public domain, reducing MSNBC’s costs to almost zero.

This episode is considered one of the best from the series. In it, Lucy and Ethel take jobs at a chocolate factory. Small chocolates emerge from a machine on a conveyor belt and must be dipped in liquid chocolate. The speed of the conveyor belt increases, causing mayhem. No one can stop laughing. Meanwhile, Ricky and Fred are at home wearing aprons, doing the laundry and cooking. While ironing, they burn holes through the clothes and the kitchen becomes a mess.

MSNBC viewership finally reaches six digits for 23 hours each day; however, Rachel Maddow falls to last place of all cable news shows.  It appears MSNBC viewers use her time slot for their bathroom breaks. MSNBC is profitable for the first time since its inception. The FEC rules the Lucy episode is not a violation of any campaign-finance laws or equal time requirements, as the program is in the public domain.

Polls show Hillary Clinton slightly ahead after four weeks of this barrage.

After a bruising Republican convention, Marco Rubio wins the nomination. Lacking the financing and infrastructure to win the general election, he chooses Jeb Bush as his running mate. Jeb Bush accepts realizing it would be better to follow the path his father took to become President (VP first) than the path his brother took. Since both Rubio and Bush are from Florida, this has the making of a constitutional disaster. Let’s hope so.

I am not going to describe the details of the campaigns; not a pretty sight. The FCC forces the campaigns to issue letter warnings on all TV commercials so children are spared seeing the horrors.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., on Election Day and completely ignored by the media, Vice President Biden and Supreme Court Justice Kennedy join a group of Revenant re-enactors and head out to a remote area of Appalachia. They are not heard from again.

And now, the strict constructionist

The election results are in.  Rubio has 269 electoral votes and Clinton 268. How? It doesn’t matter. Say one district in Maine is tied.¹  Or that same Maine district votes for a third party.  (Perot, seeing Obama has won twice feels large ears are now a plus for a candidate and runs a third-party campaign that wins this one electoral vote) Again, it doesn’t matter how. What’s important is that no one obtains the minimum 270 to win.

(My fallback position is that Rubio wins in electoral votes, but the Florida electors are prohibited by the Constitution from also electing Bush as VP. This is not as much fun as the scenario I am going with. But it would also be a hoot.)²

The country must now be spoon-fed a civics lesson on how the Constitution prescribes a winner when no candidate has a majority from the electoral college.

The House of Representatives is asked to determine the President. The current members of the House (2015-2016 term) caucus within each state.³  Each state has one vote. Even though some state delegations have equal representation and cannot agree on one candidate, enough Republican-majority states vote in Rubio and he is declared President. The Clinton Foundation makes a valiant lobbying effort promising to put all Dukes of Hazzard reruns in the public domain if Republicans vote for Hillary, but that effort fails.

And finally, the anarchist

The Senate is now asked to determine who will be Vice President. The new members of the Senate (2017-2018 term) each have one vote. The 2016 election resulted in a net gain of four seats for the Democrats.  The Senate is deadlocked.

The potential tiebreaker, VP Biden, cannot be found.  Jeb Bush files suit against his opponent, Tipper Gore. The case is labeled Bush v. Gore. The media panic. What should it call this lawsuit so as to distinguish it from the previous Bush v. Gore lawsuit? Oh, the humanity. Scholars are brought in to deal with the ensuing “Labeling Crisis.”

First there were two George Bushes. George Herbert Walker Bush v. George Walker Bush; Bush I v. Bush II; Bush 41 v. Bush 43; and Bush v. W.

Then there were ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State, and Daesh.

Now we have two Bush v. Gore lawsuits. Will it be Bush v. Gore I and II? Or Bush v. Gore 2000 and 2016? Scientists are brought in to clone William Safire to write a New York Times editorial to determine the appropriate label. MSNBC provides 24-hour coverage of the cloning process. Although it is just test tubes under incubating lights, their viewership is the highest ever.

The lawsuit is immediately moved to the Supreme Court. The court is split along party lines 4-4.  The potential tiebreaker, Kennedy, cannot be found.

Again, this is just my opinion. I may be wrong.

¹ Maine and Nebraska are not “winner take all” states, rather one Elector is chosen from each congressional district and two Electors are chosen from the statewide vote totals. 

² Electors cannot vote for a President and Vice President from the state they represent.  Therefore, Florida electors would be unable to vote for Rubio and Bush for those two positions.  From the 12th Amendment: “The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves”

³ Whether or not the current House and Senate or newly elected House and Senate vote is not exactly set in stone. The only time something like this has happened since the adoption of the 12th Amendment is 1824, when neither J.Q. Adams or Andrew Jackson obtained a majority of Electoral Votes. At that time, the lame-duck congress stayed in session until early March, and they voted Adams President in early February. Today, the new congress is sworn in on January 3rd (20th Amendment), just two weeks after the Electoral College officially votes.  That would leave the lame-duck chambers two weeks to vote on the new President and Vice President. The Senate requires a two-thirds quorum to vote, and the Democrats (currently in the Senate minority) could take a two-week vacation to Hawaii. In 1824 at the end of the Era of Good Feelings and one party rule, both Adams and Jackson accepted Calhoun as their Vice President, so the Senate never needed to vote. The Republican House just requires a quorum of a single representative from each state with half the states represented, and would probably be able to quickly pick the next President despite Democratic opposition. It would be the constitutional crisis of the century.  It would be every bit as messy as 2000, except this time it would be in the hands of congress.

Pre-Iowa Predictions

State of the Mugwumps

When Trump first announced he was running for President I realized I was in trouble. I was caught in a cycle of shame that started every morning by erasing my internet browser’s history and ended every night alone in bed with the lights off and the volume on my computer turned way down, watching videos of him saying crazy things to a crowd of crazy people. It was all I thought about at work. I no longer found normal candidates entertaining, perfectly good candidates that any average guy should be totally happy with and attracted to.

Trump challenged John McCain’s military record, he promised to ban entire races and religious groups, and he blamed Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle in response to her calling out his sexism. All of this led to even greater plaudits by a sliver of the population being ever more whipped into a white geriatric froth. It wasn’t until mid-September that I realized he wasn’t going away, and that was a dark moment in my life.

Is Trump’s support real? There are three camps:

The simplest answer is “Yes.” The GOP has been using the rural south and west to win elections for half a century and the base is tired of playing second fiddle. They’re ripping power away from the northeastern Republican elites and nominating whom they want for a change, a soulless businessman from New York that lives in a gold-plated Manhattan apartment.

An alternative explanation is “Yes, but they aren’t people who vote.” Polls suggest Trump has the support of about 30% of Republicans, who make up about 30% of the electorate, for a total 10% of the country, which is about the same number of people who think the moon landings were faked.Venn

The final answer is “Yes, and much more than polls suggest.” The basic argument is that because Trump and his supporters are openly mocked by the Blame Stream Media and closet-communist academics, people lie about not liking what Trump is saying. Polls, under this scenario, would be underestimating his strength in what is effectively an inverse Bradley effect. This may also explain why Trump does so much better in online polls than over the phone or in-person interviews.

Iowa will of course be the first test of these theories, where Trump faces a head-to-head battle with Ted Cruz. You know the Republican establishment hates Ted Cruz when Bob Dole, George W. Bush, and the Governor of Iowa (Republican Terry Branstad) are openly rooting for Trump to beat him.

And who thought that Hillary Clinton would be in a serious fight with a socialist in Iowa, let alone New Hampshire? The pre-primary environment appears more hostile to mutual understanding and measured principles than anytime since the Progressive Era.


Likelihood of NominationThe Mugwumps aren’t much concerned with Sanders or Trump. The overwhelming consensus is that Bernie Sanders is not Barack Obama and Donald Trump is not Ronald Reagan. Despite the anti-establishment rhetoric, Ted Cruz going as far as referring to his senate colleagues (and himself?) as the Washington Cartel, the Republican Party generally falls in line with the Party leaders, who will in the end pick the nominee from a voter picked list of final candidates. This favors well for Marco Rubio and, to a lesser extent at this point, Jeb Bush, who collectively the Mugwumps give a 57% chance of procuring the nomination.

But what if neither Rubio or Bush can win enough states to legitimately (or at least with the pretense of legitimacy) get the nomination at the convention? We see two possibilities: The Party learns to live with Cruz (31%) / Trump (3%) or the Republican National Committee engineers a brokered convention using arcane parliamentary tricks (circa 1912) to re-nominate Mitt Romney (8%). Admittedly, they may need to unearth Elihu Root to pull off the latter.

On the Democratic side, despite Bernie’s predictable rise in Iowa and New Hampshire polls, Hillary Clinton is closer to the nomination than a year ago. Maybe if Joe Biden was around to split the stalwart vote Bernie would have a chance, but it’s increasingly unlikely he will capture a majority of national democratic support, even if he wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, which is also unlikely. Of course, all of this assumes a Clinton collapse due to scandal is unlikely. We’re not saying a Clinton scandal is unlikely, they will come in considerable number, but that Clinton will, as Clintons do, survive them only to come back stronger than before.

2016 Pre-Iowa General Election Model

Without knowing the party nominees, the health of the economy 9 months from now, or even the major issues of the campaign, can we accurately predict the outcome of the 2016 November election? No, but let’s try anyway. The Mugwumps predict a map not dissimilar to 2012, where the Democratic Party holds the interior lines and the added advantage of the GOP having to play defense in Appalachia with a Clinton on the ticket.

2016 MapIntegrating these individual state probabilities into a stochastic Electoral College model yields an 85% predicted chance of the Democratic Party retaining control of the White House for another four years. The most likely outcome is a Democratic Electoral Vote (EV) total of 297, notably winning the swing states Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada, while losing ground from 2012 by losing Florida and Iowa. The old adage that the road to the White House for Republicans requires Ohio appears to be the case, and a Democratic win there seems sufficient to keep the White House blue. However, Ohio is not enough for the GOP. The most likely Republican victory is a narrow one that goes through Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Iowa, which on the surface does seem doable.

2016 ModelOne might think, and would be wrong, that the White House predictably swings to the opposition party after two terms of single party control. In fact that can and does happen, but requires either an economic downturn or the opposition party to shift its ideology to, ideally, novel and, at minimum, more centrist positions. Opposition populism and extremism almost always fail, with the notable exceptions of Jefferson and Jackson, and their elections marked radical changes to the party system. Does the GOP appear poised to make novel and centrist legislative proposals? Maybe, and certainly Rubio has potential, but probably NObama.

Regardless of your party identity or political ideology (unless that happens to be anarchy), we should all hope for a landslide winner. There’s only a 1.02% chance of a 269-269 tie, in which case every close state would be recounted and the House of Representatives would caucus by state delegations to pick the next President. Then the Senate would name the Vice President, presided over by Joe Biden. Maybe. Or maybe they would wait for the new congress to be sworn into office. The Supreme Court would definitely have to get involved. The fact is the rules are vague and everyone who agreed to them has been dead for almost 200 years.


This analysis assumes the likelihood of a major third party candidate, such as Trump or Bloomberg, to be very small. If either entered the race outside the two party system, it would dramatically alter the map and model.


The Mugwumps were polled on the likelihood of each state or district (DC and the congressional districts of Nebraska and Maine) going Democratic or Republican in November. A ten thousand iteration stochastic model was generated based on these individual state outcomes and EV appropriation. If a state or district was predicted to be won with >90% probability it was called Solid, between 90% and 75% was called Leaning, and <75% by either party was called Toss Up.

A previous version of this article stated that the the 12th Amendment gives the power of picking the President and Vice President to the newly-elected congress, rather than the lame-duck congress, where there is no majority winner of the Electoral College.  Precedence states that the lame-duck congress can act immediately.