The End Has No End

Bernie Supporters unwilling to back Clinton because of her connections to big banks while falling in love with Alexander Hamilton because of a musical sums up the Democratic Primary right now.

#BigIsBadUnlessItRhymes #ItWasClintonOnTheGrassyKnollAtWeehawken #PresidentForLife? #Democracy?

What are Bernie Supporters Doing?

A common belief being aired by Bernie’s most vocal followers is that people who vote for Clinton are either corrupted or ignorant, which is about as self-righteous and condescending as you can get. Even if you ignore the potential racial undertones of that argument, given the makeup of the Clinton electorate, it is still a profoundly smug thing to believe.

Sanders cannot win because a major of Democratic voters chose someone else. Clinton benefitted from the system, yes, because it is a system of democratic elections that she won a majority of. Sanders is now asking for Democratic powerbrokers to disobey the people and give the nomination to him, anyway. Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and state fair winning horse teamster, said in an interview on NPR that he’s known Bernie for 40 years and it’s hard for him to lose an election gracefully. It shows.

The idea that since Bernie does better than Clinton in polls against Trump, and therefore super delegates should disregard the primary results, is obviously a bankrupt argument:

First, the premise is probably wrong. Clinton has not hit Bernie particularly hard, and Republican Super PACs have run pro-Bernie advertising. Do you honestly think Republicans would try and help nominate a stronger Democratic candidate? If he was nominated, he would be defined quickly and negatively by the Right in a way that the Clinton brand is inoculated from. It’s easy to forget that many conservative Republicans claimed they would support Obama over McCain during the primary season until Obama was defined as liberal. In West Virginia, a majority of Bernie Sanders voters wanted the next President to be less liberal than Obama, which was not the case for Clinton voters. In a General Election, Sanders would be defined by his socialism, and not have the crossover appeal his supporters assume, especially against another populist.

Second, the “Bernie or Bust” argument is the same narcissism his supporters hate about Hillary. Sanders should stay in the race, take his message to the convention, and seek real changes to the platform; he’s earned that. But he also needs to start a conversation with his supporters about binding up the wounds of the party. It’s difficult to lose so narrowly, especially in a primary contest when the voters are people that generally agree with you. Perhaps the reason Clinton has been so gentle with Bernie is because she understands the pain of being so close to the nomination, and probably the Presidency, and falling just short. Hillary actually received more votes than Obama in 2008, and still stepped aside, because she understood the rules, played by them, and lost. This is not about one man or one woman, but the country, and “bust” is Donald J. Trump.

Senator Sanders needs to admit that he wasn’t robbed, as he knows he wasn’t. He’s losing the popular vote (56% to 43%), number of contests won (27 to 22), and the number of pledged delegates (1771 to 1499). I’m sorry, that is not within robbing distance. Berners may very well #BernTheConvention or bolt the party, but they would do so not as the fleeced majority, but the petulant minority. In a revolution, when you don’t get what you want peacefully, you turn to violence. That’s been the problem with Bernie’s rhetoric from the beginning. Revolutions must be forcible takeovers. They need not be democratic.

South Carolina and Nevada

Donald_TrumpJeb!? What happened? Jeb Bush’s campaign for president came to its final punctuation mark before midnight of the South Carolina Primary, finishing only as high as fourth in any contest. 63% of Jeb Bush’s genome has been President of the United Stated for a total of three terms, almost as many times as it as collectively invaded Iraq. Genes and money go pretty far in politics, but Bush’s campaign may be the worst spent 150 million dollars in American political history. It goes to show just how tired Americans are of the Bush family, how much politics has changed in a decade, and what the Republican Party has come to be. The GOP isn’t engaged in a civil war initiated by Trump. It’s been being pulled in two directions, old blue blood federalism and rural whig principles, since the Great Depression. The house is divided and the halves cannot stand each other.

The big winners last Saturday were Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton. Marco because he vanquished Jeb and will now inherit many of his supporters, and Hillary because she managed to prevent disaster in another close caucus. They both addressed potentially existential questions to the candidacy, and are now in position to strike, maybe.

The Republicans

Rubio answered the question of whether or not he could consolidate the GOP establishment, but he still needs to figure out how to win a state. Iowa was his triumphed 3rd, New Hampshire was his RubioGlitch finish in 5th, and now South Carolina his victorious 2nd. At some point, the boy wonder needs to bring something home other than a participation trophy.

The man with a third of the votes, half of his hair, and all of our hearts is again Donald Trump. Most of South Carolina’s delegates are winner-take-all, but each congressional district additionally gets three delegates. It didn’t matter, because Trump took them all. Typically, back-to-back wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina should lead to an unstoppable snowballing of support and the GOP nomination; however, Trump is neither typical nor unstoppable. Demographics favored Trump in the early states, but that will shift toward Cruz and Rubio as we move forward through Super Tuesday. Nevada caucuses for the GOP today, and it will be the first major test of Trump’s growing support. First, it’s a caucus like Iowa where ground game matters more, and second, it’s closed to independents. Our Iowa model predicted Trump victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina, but has him finishing third in Nevada. If Trump wins, it would mean he’s actually building support going into Super Tuesday rather than simply benefiting from better demographics.

The major problem for Trump going forward is his greatest strength: a third of GOP will vote for him no matter what he says. The back half of the equation is that he’s said a lot already and two thirds of the party is extremely reluctant to vote for him. The likelihood of Trump running away with a majority of delegates is still small. Rather, a Trump nomination would require the slimmest majority of delegates, built on a plurality of the votes. If he fails to procure a majority of delegates before the convention, even if he’s in the lead by a lot, he has zero chance at the nomination. The RNC would stand at Armageddon and fight for the soul of the party. A Trump nomination would cause widespread party bolting, low republican turnout, loss of the Senate, and deep donor dissatisfaction. Elephants would be extinct outside the confederate south and the far-flung rills of Appalachia for two years.

What’s more likely is a three-way race that continues between Trump, Cruz, and Rubio until the latter can seize momentum in mid-march with the winner-take-all Florida Primary. Ted Cruz is now under performing his Iowa numbers, losing evangelicals to Trump (take a moment to think about that), and finishing third in a state he had been referring to as his firewall. Cruz’s actual firewall is Texas on Super Tuesday. A loss on home soil to a New Yorker would mean more than just the end of his Presidential run, it would be the end of his political career. Luckily, Fox News is hiring.

The Democrats

It appears to be the beginning of the end for Bernie Sanders. He will be blown out in South Carolina this weekend, and then lose every state south of the Mason Dixon line on Super Tuesday, which is a majority of them. Hillary Clinton, off wins in Nevada and South Carolina, will point to her lead in delegates and ask, “Where’s the revolution Bernie?” In the most firm, monotone, and semi-aggressive voice focus groups can approve of. However, it is possible that like the Hispanic vote in Nevada, African Americans will not vote as monolithically as expected. If Sanders, like Obama 8 years ago, can exit Super Tuesday in a tie in committed delegates, we’ll be here all spring.

A fascinating outcome in the Democratic Primaries now versus 8 years ago, is that Clinton’s base has fundamentally shifted. In 2008, Clinton, slightly to the left of Obama, led with Hispanics and blue-collar workers, but eventually lost to the Obama coalition of young, Black, and/or highly educated voters. Clinton has absorbed many Obamacans, but lost much of her old base to Sanders. This may mean Secretary Clinton consolidates the Democratic Party more quickly and easily than Obama did, when many Hillary supporters vowed for months to support John McCain, only to eventually come home to the Democratic Party when the economy completely tanked mid-summer. If I’m Clinton, I want Bernie in the race to the end and 10 percentage points behind in every state, building Democratic voter rolls across the country. Then, allow Bernie to have influence over the party platform and give a primetime speech at the  Democratic National Convention to chants of “Feel. The. Bern.” He’s earned that.

Iowa

First, the Republicans

America on Fire(It’s the slow motion car crash you want to read about anyway)

I think Ted Cruz believes he actually is the Constitution. We the people are his stream of conscience, and in his gut are balled the founding fathers. The fiery sermon he gave during his victory speech after winning the Iowa Caucuses last night, full of vigor and self-aggrandizement not seen since William Jennings Bryan’s Cross of Gold, left little doubt as to why his campaign logo is an upside-down American Flag on fire:  We’re all going to hell unless Ted Cruz saves us.

Cruz started his speech by declaring, “Our rights come from our Creator.” And it was not entirely clear he didn’t mean himself.

Ted’s campaign has become explicitly evangelical. In Iowa, he declared that we must “awaken and energize the body of Christ.” (An image sure to elicit nightmares in Catholic children everywhere, or just anyone who’s seen a Crucifix before) Cruz’s victory was widespread across evangelicals, Tea Partiers, and college graduates, but mostly they were people that describe themselves as “very conservative.” He has set himself up in a strong position for when the southern states are brought up to vote on Super Tuesday. He will, however, have to face off against Trump again in South Carolina in three weeks. But who knows what shape Trump will be in then. .

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.

Nominees

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.

Caveats

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.

Methods

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.