Sanders Widens Lead In New Hampshire
The Strangest State of the Union Ever
Pelosi Rips Trump’s Speech In Half
Kweisi Mfume Wins Special Primary In Maryland
Biden’s Poor Showing In Iowa Shakes Establishment
Political Wire by Email
• Don't Forget, There's Also an Impeachment Trial Going On...
• State of the Union Address Is Tonight
• This Probably Won't Make the SOTU...
• ...Or This, for That Matter
• Bloomberg Gets in the Gutter with Trump
• Rush Limbaugh Has Lung Cancer
The first wave of Iowa caucus results were released Tuesday afternoon; see Wednesday's post for our thoughts on them.
As you may have heard, Iowans caucused last night. And undoubtedly, someone won. Maybe multiple someones, given the new rules about reporting both delegate and raw vote totals. And who was it that won? Well, your guess is as good as that of the Iowa Democratic Party.
In theory, the results should have begun to trickle in around 8:30 ET. That time came and went with nary a vote being announced, and then the delay stretched to an hour, two hours, three hours. Eventually, the Iowans had to concede that there were "issues" with the process. Around midnight ET, they finally threw in the towel and said there would be no results announced on Monday night. When will they be ready? Again, your guess is pretty much as good as theirs.
What exactly went wrong? That's not terribly clear, either. CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico and pretty much every other outlet talked to precinct chairs who said they were simply not able to report their results. Late Monday/early Tuesday, the Times reported that the fancy new app that allows results to be submitted electronically was not properly tested, and had failed spectacularly (a rather predictable possibility). So, that's one explanation. On the other hand, party officials issued a statement referring obliquely to "inconsistencies in the reporting." That seems significantly different to us from "we're having trouble getting all the data." Party pooh-bahs also say there was no hacking involved, although how they know that, and know it so quickly, is not clear. Of course, even if there was hacking, they would not admit it until they were left with no other option but to do so. Add it all up, and this could turn out to be many things.
As you can imagine, the campaigns are furious about this boondoggle. None of them are happy to have spent so much time and money in Iowa, only to get results that will be both late and murky, at best. Further, this has given Donald Trump and the GOP fodder for mocking the Democrats. "They can't even run a caucus and they want to run the government" tweeted Trump campaign chair Brad Parscale, while calling it "the sloppiest train wreck in history." Surely, he was just being modest with that last part, though.
Eventually, some of the candidates decided to take lemons and make lemonade, as best they could. It was Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend) who figured out that he might as well seize the moment and declare victory, since who is to say he's wrong? Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) followed suit, and eventually all of the leading candidates were finding ways to claim victory in the absence of...well, any indication of who was actually victorious. Actually, there are some rumors about candidates who did surprisingly well, or surprisingly poorly, but it would be irresponsible to repeat them without firmer evidence.
So, what are the implications of all of this? In the short term, the importance of the Iowa results will be significantly reduced, perhaps even to the point of irrelevance. Whoever underperformed (and surely more than one candidate did) will raise questions about how legitimate the numbers really are. Again, without naming names, there is scuttlebutt that a candidate who was expected to do well came in a fair bit below the 15% threshold statewide. If that holds, that candidate will say: "How can we believe in such a strange and unexpected result?" And, frankly, that will be a fair question.
Consequently, second-in-line New Hampshire will, in effect, become first-in-line New Hampshire. It will be the first set of results that will be untainted (unless, of course, the New Hampshirites manage to screw up, too). It was entirely possible that Iowa would have been the end of the line for some campaigns (Sen. Michael Bennet, D-CO?), but now those folks will live to see another day. It was also possible that New Hampshire would have been the end of the line for some campaigns (Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-MN, implied that she might be in that boat), but now those folks will linger on until South Carolina, at the very least.
In the long term, Iowa's first-in-the-nation status is in deep, deep trouble. Even before Monday's fiasco, there were op-eds and commentaries of all sorts pointing out some of the reasons that the current setup is problematic. Among the common complaints:
- It is not fair that Iowa (or any other state) should always get to go first.
- Iowa, whose citizenry is over 90% white and disproportionately aged, is not representative of the Democratic Party,
or the American electorate in general.
- Iowa, as a small state, is not a great test of a candidate's ability to build a real campaign. Put another way, a
state small enough that it is possible to have contact with nearly every voter is not preparation for the many states
where that is not possible, or for a national election.
- From a tactical perspective, the purpose of a primary is supposed to be to identify the most electable candidate,
and Iowa hasn't done a great job of that. In their entire history, in elections that were contested, the Iowa caucuses
have tapped only two Democrats that went on to victory (Jimmy Carter in 1976, Barack Obama in 2008). On the GOP side,
things have been even worse. Only once have the Iowa Republicans correctly picked a winner from a contested field (George
W. Bush in 2000).
- Also from a tactical perspective, the Democratic Party might be better off lavishing attention on a state that is
swingier than Iowa, and/or one that has more EVs than Iowa.
- The caucuses can be gamed, and tend to reward the best-organized candidate, and not necessarily the most electable
- The caucuses are, in many ways, discriminatory. To start, anyone who cannot clear 2-3 hours in their schedule on a
Monday evening (people with night jobs, people with kids, etc.) is not able to participate. In addition, Iowa is one of
the states that disenfranchises felons for life. The Hawkeye State has also been
about accommodating folks who are blind, deaf, wheelchair users, or who otherwise need special arrangements.
- The caucuses are anti-democratic, in that they are just about the only form of citizen voting in the United States that is not conducted via secret ballot. There is a reason the country switched to that method over 100 years ago.
These concerns alone might have been enough to doom the Iowans. And now, on top of that, they've botched things. Actually, to be more thorough, they botched the 2016 caucuses, creating much controversy, and then they botched the last major poll of the 2020 caucuses, and then they botched the 2020 caucuses themselves. That's a pretty lousy record, particularly if Monday's problem turns out to be a poorly executed app. After all, building apps is science, but it ain't rocket science. Especially when all the app has to do is pass a little bit of data to a server; that's dangerously close to Programming 101.
Anyhow, the good people of Iowa have inadvertently managed to extend their time in the spotlight by another 24 hours, give or take. They might want to pause and enjoy it, because this is very probably their last time in the spotlight for a while. (Z)
Speaking of near-total dysfunction, the Senate continues to lurch toward the inevitable acquittal of Donald Trump, which is still scheduled for Wednesday, that timing having been approved by the defendant himself.
On Monday, the impeachment managers and the President's defense team made another round of closing arguments, essentially repeating what they said during the closing arguments they made last week. However, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) did use his time to press for one GOP senator to vote "guilty," declaring "It is said that a single man or woman of courage makes a majority. Is there one among you, who will say, Enough?"
Surely, the answer to the Representative's question is "no." A vote for conviction will make no difference in the outcome of the trial, of course. What it will do, however, is allow the Democrats to claim some semblance of a bipartisan rebuke of the President. That, in turn will enrage the rebel senator's Republican constituents, not to mention Trump himself. Reportedly, he's already plotting revenge against those he blames for this whole mess, including Schiff, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), and former NSA John Bolton. At the moment, Bolton is reportedly at the top of the list, and the President is talking about having him investigated by the Dept. of Justice for revealing classified information. However, if Romney or some other GOP senator votes for conviction, they will surely move right to the top of the enemies list, and who knows what a now-unfettered Trump might do to them? Audits of their tax returns? Federal funding for their state redirected to the border wall? Encouragement and money for a primary challenger? Bugs planted in their residence?
Needless to say, just as the Democrats would like a "bipartisan" vote for conviction, the Republicans would like a "bipartisan" vote for acquittal, and so they are putting much pressure on the three Democrats most likely to help them out with that: Sens. Joe Manchin (WV), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), and Doug Jones (AL). In a pretty clear sign that he might just vote with Team Red, Manchin called for the Senate to consider a motion of censure against the President, which would be the first time that has happened since Andrew Jackson nearly 200 years ago.
When we wrote about a motion of censure on Saturday, we thought that the Democrats might not be too enthusiastic about that option, since it would theoretically allow vulnerable Republicans like Susan Collins (ME) and Martha McSally (AZ) to have it both ways. Now, we're not too sure about our original assessment. A motion of censure would give vulnerable and semi-vulnerable Democratic senators, most obviously Jones, a way to thread the needle between Democratic and crossover Republican voters, both of whose support will be needed in their reelection bids. Meanwhile, it would leave the 53 Republican senators, and in particular the vulnerable senators, with two bad options. If they voted for the motion of censure, then the Democrats would say: "See! Even the Republicans know the President did wrong." And if they voted against, then the Democrats would say: "You heard all that evidence, and you weren't even willing to support a slap on the wrist? How deep does your lack of conviction go, exactly?"
Today, the Senators will debate some more, a discussion that may include Manchin's suggestion. There will also be time for them to make brief statements, so they can post the video clips to their Twitter accounts. In short, it is shaping up to be a day remarkably devoid of substance. (Z)
Just in case the fiasco in Iowa and the denouement of the impeachment trial are not enough news, Donald Trump's third State of the Union address is scheduled for tonight. The White House has remained pretty tight-lipped about the contents, but it's not too hard to guess what will happen. Customarily, presidents spend perhaps 25% of the address bragging about the accomplishments of the previous year and 75% talking about what they hope to do in the upcoming year. Trump, being Trump, has generally flipped those percentages. So, expect to hear a lot about the economy, the still-not-official NAFTA v2.0, the economy, the Middle East peace plan, the economy, the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and, quite possibly, the economy.
The main drama will be whether or not Trump decides to launch into a harangue about impeachment. On one hand, Trump gotta Trump. On the other hand, Republicans on the Hill are begging and pleading with him not to talk about it, since the whole thing is not a great look for them anyhow, and the optics get even worse when the President openly brags on a national stage about the acquittal that he knows is coming, before it's even official. Anyhow, tune into any broadcast or cable news network tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET to find out which side wins out in this little debate. (Z)
Just as the impeachment trial was getting underway, we proposed that the Trump administration would seize upon the opportunity to sneak a few controversial things in under the radar while most voters' attention was elsewhere. We would suggest that we were on target with that. On Jan. 22, the administration relaxed Obama administration rules about dumping chemicals into rivers and streams. On Jan. 29, Trump expanded his travel ban, adding six more countries to the list, including Nigeria, whose officials don't quite know what they did to deserve such treatment. And this week, the administration has rolled back strict Obama-era limits on the use of landmines by the United States armed forces.
Since this White House is not exactly known for transparency, particularly when they are trying to sneak things in under the noses of the American people, it's not clear who or what prompted this change in policy. Under Obama, the only place where landmines could be used was the Korean DMZ, but now they will be usable in a much broader variety of circumstances. The problem with landmines is that they're pretty dangerous to soldiers, even the ones they are ostensibly supposed to protect, and they are really dangerous to civilians. For example, the U.S. laid a lot of landmines in Vietnam; since that conflict ended, 40,000 civilians have been killed by leftover landmines, and it's estimated that to remove the rest will take...300 more years. For reasons like these, 164 countries have forbidden all landmines; that is a total that some might consider instructive. Since every single one of the members of NATO, excepting the U.S., are on that list, it may make it difficult for the Pentagon to actually make use of their newfound leeway. So, it's entirely possible this is just for purposes of bragging to the base. (Z)
Last week, we noted that Donald Trump's border wall (well, border fence) doesn't exactly appear to be built for the long haul, as several segments have already collapsed after being hit by a vicious...gust of wind. And you thought that bit about the Big Bad Wolf huffing and puffing and blowing the Three Little Pigs' houses down was just silly.
As it turns out, there's another bit of information about the border fence that is none-too-flattering for the administration, and that the President won't be bringing up at rallies. There aren't that many miles of new construction, and it turns out that where there has been construction, there are also flash floods in the spring and summer. This leaves the administration with two options: Either allow the fences to be washed away in the flooding, or else leave the gates open for about six months a year. Needless to say, a fence that is wide open half the time is not too much of a deterrent.
In the end, all of this was entirely foreseeable. When Trump started talking about his wall back in 2015, anyone and everyone (including us) wrote many articles about how the "easy" segments of wall were already in place, and that the remaining, unfenced portions of the border were unfenced because of the various challenges they posed, including: (1) geographical barriers, (2) land ownership and other legal issues, (3) accessibility challenges, and (4) flooding and other environmental concerns. Put another way: Trump was told about all challenges by experts and he didn't care. That kind of sums up his whole administration. (Z)
Donald Trump sat for an interview with Sean Hannity before the Super Bowl, and decided to take that opportunity to (primarily) launch personal attacks on his potential Democratic opponents. That included Michael Bloomberg, whom Trump slurred as "Mini Mike" and "very little" while also claiming (falsely, of course) that the Democrats were planning to give Bloomberg a box to stand on at the Democratic debates. The President also said these same basic things on Twitter:
Mini Mike is now negotiating both to get on the Democrat Primary debate stage, and to have the right to stand on boxes, or a lift, during the debates. This is sometimes done, but really not fair!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2020
For the record, Bloomberg is 5'8", which is about average height for an American man. That means that Trump, whether he realizes it or not, is insulting a fair number of Americans, including a fair number of people in his base.
A few years ago, Michelle Obama—in an obvious reference to Trump—famously said "when they go low, we go high." Generally speaking, Democrats have adhered to that philosophy. Maybe because they did not want to ignore the advice of a popular first lady, or maybe because it seemed the mature thing to do, or maybe because they felt that nobody can successfully out-gutter Donald Trump. Michael Bloomberg, however, does not feel so encumbered. And so, after being insulted by Trump, he punched right back, declaring that Trump is "a pathological liar who lies about everything: his fake hair, his obesity and his spray-on tan."
We can only speculate as to why Bloomberg is willing to play dirty when, in general, other Democrats have not been. A few possibilities:
- He's a New Yorker: Not taking crap from anyone is part of the image.
- He's a man: It's not fair, but male candidates are given far more leeway when it comes to
direct aggression against their rivals. If Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) mocked Trump's
clothes, or hair, or weight, or, God forbid, the size of his...hands, they would be excoriated.
- He's not really a Democrat: Inasmuch as Bloomberg changes party registration like some
people change socks, he may not have much fealty to the Party's values/philosophy, or to the words of a prominent member.
Someone like Joe Biden, by contrast, really needs to keep the Obamas on his good side.
- He's got nothing to lose: The worst-case scenario is that this whole "president" thing doesn't work out, and he goes back home to his luxury condo and resumes counting his billions.
In any event, if Bloomberg's punches land and appear to be helping him in the polls, expect some of the other Democrats to take off the gloves and to get down in the gutter, as well. (Z)
On Monday, longtime right-wing radio personality Rush Limbaugh announced that he has been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. As someone who is reflexively anti-science, he has repeatedly denied a link between smoking and cancer, though his doctors presumably disagree, and might well lay the blame for his condition at the feet of his longtime cigar-smoking habit. Although it is hard to be specific without more detail, the survival rate for this particular type of cancer is not great; around 15% make it one year past diagnosis.
Should his aggressive course of treatment, or the failure of said course of treatment, compel Limbaugh to bring an end to his radio program, it is hard to know what the impact will be on the right-wing media. On one hand, Rush has become a huge Trump supporter and fan. Further, his success very much paved the way for Fox News and Breitbart, not to mention other right-wing talkers like Mark Levin, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, Ben Shapiro, and Glenn Beck. On the other hand, with so many imitators, Limbaugh's influence will echo long after his own voice goes silent. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb03 Should Iowa and New Hampshire Go First?
Feb03 Can the Caucuses Be Hacked?
Feb03 Ann Selzer's Poll Will Not Be Released
Feb03 Poll: All the Leading Democrats Could Beat Trump
Feb03 Biden Wins Endorsement from Union That Backed Sanders in 2016
Feb03 DNC Changes the Admission Requirements for February Debate
Feb03 Vote on Trump's Conviction is Expected Wednesday
Feb03 Ernst Says President Biden Would Be Impeached Immediately
Feb03 Schiff Won't Say Whether He Will Subpoena Bolton
Feb02 Drip, Drip, Drip...
Feb02 Sunday Mailbag
Feb01 Party First (and Second, and Third...)
Feb01 Delaney Is Out
Feb01 The UK Is Out, Too
Feb01 Saturday Q&A
Jan31 The End Appears to Be Nigh
Jan31 Sanders Campaign Prepping List of Executive Orders
Jan31 Today in Metaphors
Jan31 Time to Get Creative
Jan31 ERA, Now?
Jan31 Super Bowl Sunday Will Offer No Respite from Politics
Jan31 Abrams Has Her Senate Candidate
Jan30 Senators Finally Get to Ask Questions
Jan30 John Bolton's World Is Upside Down
Jan30 White House Wants to Block Publication of Bolton's Book
Jan30 Poll: Majority Opposes Use of Executive Privilege to Muzzle Witnesses
Jan30 Poll: Biden and Sanders Are in a Statistical Tie in Iowa
Jan30 Biden Gets 200 Endorsements in South Carolina
Jan30 Trump Appointees Will Flood Iowa on Caucus Day
Jan30 Team Trump Hands Out $25,000 to Black Voters
Jan30 Trump May Not Go Gentle into That Good Night
Jan29 Trump Defense Wraps Up
Jan29 Trump Unveils Middle East Peace Plan
Jan29 Casualty Figures for Iran Strike Revised Upward
Jan29 Deficit Officially Reaches $1 Trillion
Jan29 Democratic Senate PAC Raised $61M in 2019
Jan29 GOP Braces for Collins Run
Jan29 Republicans Nervous about House Fundraising
Jan28 Trump Defense Hit with a Lightning Bolton
Jan28 Democratic Muckety Mucks Are Scared Witless of Sanders
Jan28 Which Democratic Candidate Is Being Hurt Most by Having to Be in Washington?
Jan28 Supreme Court Gives Trump a Victory on Immigration
Jan28 Pompeo Situation Is Turning Ugly
Jan28 Collins Expected to Run for Senate
Jan27 John Bolton Is Complicating Things for Trump....
Jan27 ...And So Is Lev Parnas
Jan27 Nadler Will Miss Part of the Impeachment Trial Due to Wife's Cancer
Jan27 Pompeo Melts Down
Jan27 Sanders Is on a Roll