The Early Contests Didn’t Shrink the Field Much
Trump Uses His Power as Part of Vendetta
Bloomberg Blamed End of ‘Redlining’ for 2008 Crisis
Biden Goes on the Attack
Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Resigns
The Day Democracy Died
• New Hampshire Claims Two Victims
• DOJ is 100% in the Pocket of DJT
• Bloomberg's Achilles Heel Shows Itself
• Powell Issues Warning to Congress
• CIA Scheme Finally Sees the Light of Day
• AOC Has a Primary Challenger
It was time for the good people of the Granite State to rock and roll on Tuesday. Unlike Iowa, they managed to pull off an election without any apparent meltdowns. Like Iowa, they gave most of their support to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Pete Buttigieg. Here are the totals, with 87% reporting (only candidates that got at least 500 votes included):
A few thoughts on the Democratic side of the contest:
- It's obviously a win for Sanders, who will end up with the most votes and a tie for the most delegates. That
said, he underperformed his poll numbers, he barely outpaced Buttigieg despite being a "local," and he way
underperformed his 2016 total in the state (about 60%). We've had a number of e-mails wondering why the variance between
2020 and 2016 is a big deal, since there were only two viable candidates four years ago, but there are half a dozen or
so this year, which means we should expect every candidate to get a smaller slice of the pie. The reason is that it
suggests that some sizable amount of the should-be-friendly-to-Sanders New Hampshire electorate was not so much voting
for him as they were voting against the unpopular Hillary Clinton. And extended to future primaries and caucuses in
2020, it makes clear that something like 70% of the Democratic electorate is open to a non-Sanders candidate if an
acceptable one is available. Further, given that Sanders tends to be either "first choice" or "way down the list"
for most poll respondents, it implies that there may be a number of candidates who could plausibly unify much of that
70%. All of this is supposition and guesswork right now, but supposition and guesswork are pretty much all we've got at
this point in the process. And it's educated supposition and guesswork, at least.
- It's also a win for Buttigieg, who proves, at least for now, that Iowa was no fluke. He outperformed his polling
numbers once again, which means that everyone should make a mental correction going forward until the pollsters figure
out what's going on. That said, he's going to have to hope that Nevada and South Carolina voters are not set in their
choices, and that they will give serious consideration to what happened in Iowa/New Hampshire (he's averaged about
6.5% in polls of the two upcoming states).
- Most of the things that are true of Buttigieg are also true of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN), who is also on the rise, who
also outperformed her polls, and who also needs voters in Nevada and South Carolina to be very open to considering other
options. The big difference is that she didn't do quite as well in New Hampshire as the former mayor, and her
polling in states #3 and #4 has been even more grim than his (she's averaging about 2.5%). Oh, and she's fighting with
Buttigieg for a lot of the same voters, by the way.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had a pretty awful night. New Hampshire is one of the most educated states in America
(#8), has one of the highest median incomes (again #8), and is near to Massachusetts. If Warren couldn't make a dent
here, it's hard to see what upcoming state will allow her to right the ship.
- Joe Biden had an even worse night, and has now gone from frontrunner to fifth place in just over a week. His polling
numbers were also off, but in the wrong direction. Clearly, he had access to internal polling and knew what was coming
when he got busy managing expectations. Unlike Warren, at least there is an upcoming state that just might be his
savior, namely South Carolina. In fact, the former Veep
on his election night "party" in New Hampshire so he could get in a little extra campaigning in the Palmetto State. If
he does not do well there, his campaign might well be over, especially with an establishment-friendly alternative (Mike Bloomberg)
waiting in the wings.
- As to all the other candidates on the ballot, the writing is now on the wall in letters larger than those found in the Hollywood sign: 2020 is not your year. More on these folks below.
At some point it is conceivable that both Buttigieg and Klobuchar will realize that neither one is going to beat Sanders, but a Klobuchar/Buttigieg ticket would feature two moderate Midwesterners and that might just do the job. But at the moment, that is a long shot. Although, right now, everything is a long shot.
On the Republican side, Donald Trump collected 85.5% of the vote and 20 delegates. He was on Twitter on Tuesday night bragging that he got more votes than any other Republican candidate in the history of the New Hampshire primaries. True enough, though we would argue that 85% is actually pretty mediocre when you don't have any real opponents.
Anyhow, New Hampshire's quadrennial moment in the spotlight is now over, and it's not clear they will get another one in 2024. The Nevada caucuses are up in 10 days, and are going to be as interesting as any the state has ever held (admittedly, this is only their fourth time, but still). The Silver State is one of the ones where Trump is being given delegates automatically, so on Feb. 22, the Blue Team will have the stage all to themselves. (Z)
Elections are a results-based business, and if you're not getting the results, there's nowhere to turn. Consequently, after two underwhelming performances, and with no real hope of a turnaround, Andrew Yang ended his presidential campaign Tuesday and then, about an hour later, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) ended his.
It is pretty easy to figure out what went wrong with Yang: His central campaign idea, a $1,000/month guaranteed income for U.S. adults, was an idea whose time has not yet come. He was extremely fuzzy on the math of exactly how the country might pay for such a thing, and beyond that, the United States is unusually conservative when it comes to change. Look at the response to Obamacare, for example. A nationwide UBI would be hard sell in a country that is pretty open to this kind of experimentation, like Norway or Iceland. It was several bridges too far for most Americans, even most left-leaning Americans. Beyond that, as someone who is not a professional politician, Yang understandably had absolutely no idea how to build a proper political campaign. Staffers spoke of a near-total lack of organization, along with an abrasive management style from the candidate and his upper management. Although Yang raised an impressive amount of money, that alone is simply not enough.
It is equally clear what Bennet's issues were. If you look up "generic, middle-aged white Democrat" in the dictionary, his picture is there. At least, we think it's his picture; it could also be Terry McAuliffe or Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), or Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), or Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA). It's hard to tell. Point is, there was nothing about Bennet that particularly stood out, which is a real problem in a field as crowded as this one. On top of that, he built his campaign around a wonky strategy, believing that if he engaged in heavy-duty retail campaigning in New Hampshire, he could turn the Granite State into an Iowa-style springboard. However, there are some significant problems with this approach. First, Iowa itself isn't much of a springboard anymore, even when they get the caucuses right. Second, New Hampshire is not a caucus state, and so is not as susceptible to being gamed by winning over a small number of very devoted supporters. Third, by pursuing a path that left him with barely a pulse in national polls, and no hope of appearing at the debates or of raising any real funds, Bennet was already an afterthought by the time his strategy was put to the test.
And so, that narrows the field down to nine. Obviously, the top five finishers in New Hampshire are going to hang on for a while longer. Tom Steyer isn't actually viable, but he's got money and he's convinced that South Carolina will be the key that unlocks his electoral dreams, so he's not going anywhere. And we all know about Michael Bloomberg's plans (and his money). But Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Deval Patrick? They could, and probably should, be gone by this afternoon. (Z)
Firing former AG Jeff Sessions and replacing him with Bill Barr may have benefited Donald Trump more than any other decision he's made. Barr, of course, helped wave away the Mueller report, and also assisted in facilitating the Ukraine scheme and then overcoming the impeachment trial. Three recent news stories further speak to the fact that the Dept. of Justice, like the GOP, has become a fully owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization.
To start, the story that made far and away the most headlines involved Trump crony and convicted felon Roger Stone. On Monday afternoon, federal prosecutors asked that Stone be sent to the hoosegow for 7-9 years. On Monday evening, the President took to Twitter to whine about how unfair it was to sentence a felon to prison just because he committed a few crimes. On Tuesday morning, "high-ranking Justice Department officials" (translation: Barr) sent a message to the judge in the case asking for a much more lenient sentence, and saying that the original request was made in error. On Tuesday afternoon, the four federal prosecutors who made the original request withdrew from the case, and two resigned, all of them understandably upset at being cut off at the knees by their own department. The wheels of justice aren't just turning slowly these days; they appear to have fallen off the carriage.
The second story also involves string pulling that would make even Alberto Gonzales blush. At the start of the month, Barr named Timothy Shea, one of his closest friends and allies, as U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C. In that capacity, Shea has authority over, among other things, former NSA Michael Flynn's criminal case and plea deal. On Monday, Flynn filed a motion to withdraw his plea deal. You can probably see where this appears to be heading. It's not proof, per se, but the chain of events is obvious enough that even right-wing publications smell a rat.
And finally, the DOJ has a budget each year for grants given to organizations that fight sex trafficking. Two recent grants, which were revealed on Monday due to a FOIA request, went to rather...questionable recipients. One of those was an organization called "Hookers for Jesus," which will help women escape sex trafficking, but only if they commit to becoming Christians. One might argue that violates the separation of church and state. A second has an impressive name, the Lincoln Tubman Foundation. However, Lincoln Tubman has absolutely no track record, and is currently being run out of the mansion owned by the parents of founder Brooke Burris. Burris, by the way, has a law degree and a BA in political science and no background in social work, psychology, human sexuality, or any other relevant discipline.
None of this, of course, is the least bit surprising. As Slate's Dahlia Lithwick points out, the President has literally made a career of abusing the legal system and subverting the law. "The law is for suckers" is the general idea. And he has a real gift for finding toadies who will carry out his will, and take the fall for him should it come to that. Barr has now developed enough of a reputation for corruption that Nigerian scam-style e-mails are being sent out by the bushel in his name: "I am William Pelham Barr The Attorney General of United States of America. On my assumption of office, I met your file of payment worth of Fifteen Million Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars submitted by my predecessor Jeff B. Sessions and after going through the file of payment, I was able to find out that all the necessary approval has been submitted and you have the right to claim this funds," they read. One can only imagine what will happen if Trump is reelected, and the last real constraint on his and Barr's behavior (we need votes in November 2020!) is removed. (Z)
Michael Bloomberg is currently cooling his jets on the sidelines of the Democratic presidential race, waiting—he hopes—until the moment that the Party's voters get desperate and he can ride to the rescue. However, he's unleashed so many commercials and is doing well enough in polls that he's now getting a lot of attention despite his name having appeared on zero primary or caucus ballots so far. And with attention comes scrutiny. So, it's not too surprising that one day after the former NYC mayor got some attention with his strong showing in the Quinnipiac national poll, a skeleton emerged from his closet.
The general contours of this skeleton were already pretty well known. While he was running New York, Bloomberg was a supporter of "vigorous" policing, including a policy called stop-and-frisk (also known as a Terry search). Prior to 1968, the police were not allowed to search someone without either arresting them or obtaining a warrant. However, in Terry v. Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled that the po-pos can search someone if they have "reasonable" suspicion that the person is dangerous, or is about to commit/is committing/just committed a crime. Needless to say, "reasonable" is often in the eye of the beholder, and stop-and-frisk has sometimes led to police overreach, and in particular to harassment of people of color.
Bloomberg has backed off his previous support for stop-and-frisk, and has even apologized. However, voters of color, and particularly black voters, have not forgotten or forgiven. And that is where Tuesday's skeleton comes in. Someone managed to dig up a speech, possibly delivered in Aspen, CO, in 2015, in which Bloomberg defended the policy. This individual extracted a clip from the speech and posted it to various social media platforms, where it quickly spread like wildfire.
Needless to say, hard evidence of this sort—audio or video—is much more damaging than mere reports of problematic behavior. Richard Nixon could confirm that, if he was still alive, as could at least half a dozen prominent athletes who made the double mistake of striking a woman and getting caught on video doing it. Making things worse for Bloomberg, however, are the exact words he used:
Ninety-five percent of your murders—murderers and murder victims—fit one M.O. You can just take the description, Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities, 16 to 25. That's true in New York. That's true in virtually every city. And that's where the real crime is.
Support for stop-and-frisk is not going to win Bloomberg many fans among minority voters. Declaring that 95% of murders/violent crimes are committed by young men of color, which is not remotely true, is going to help even less. In fact, some folks might say that such a statement is racist. Someone like Donald Trump, for example, who sent out a tweet that read: "WOW, BLOOMBERG IS A TOTAL RACIST!" The President then deleted that tweet, but you should still probably put your trust in his assessment. After all, if there's anyone who's an expert in racist behavior by New York billionaires in their seventies, it's Donald J. Trump.
So many candidates have suffered a major setback this cycle, only to rebound, that we cannot venture a guess as to how badly this will wound Bloomberg in the long term. The only thing we can say is that if Bloomberg is the Democrats' nominee, we have a pretty good idea of how Trump will attack him now.
One way Bloomberg could try to deal with this is picking a black woman as running mate and announcing this in advance. It would be odd to see primary campaign yard signs reading "Bloomberg/Abrams 2020" or "Bloomberg/Harris 2020," but there is nothing to prevent him from doing this if he wants to try to stop the bleeding. (Z)
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is a lifelong Republican who served in the George H.W. Bush administration, and who was appointed chair by Donald Trump. Point is, he's not unfriendly to GOP policy initiatives. That, plus his official position, means that the warnings he gave to Congressional Republicans during his address before them on Tuesday are probably worth heeding. He declared that annual $1 trillion deficits are not sustainable and, further, that current policy is setting the country up for an economic disaster.
The logic behind Powell's position is clear and essentially unassailable. When the government runs a deficit that big, it has to borrow a lot more, which pushes the associated costs of that borrowing much higher. Rinse and repeat. It's a vicious cycle for a country whose national debt is already at $23.2 trillion and counting. As to the looming disaster, the U.S. is already in the midst of the longest economic expansion in its history (128 months and counting; the previous record was 120 months). The fun is going to end at some point, and possibly sooner rather than later. When that time comes, the government has two big tools to take the edge off and/or to hasten recovery. The first is to dump a pile of cash into the economy. However, the pile of cash that might be spent is already being used to fund the tax break for rich people and corporations. And unlike, say, the money that the Obama administration loaned to banks and auto makers, most of it is not headed back into the government's coffers. The second tool is to reduce interest rates. However, as Powell pointed out, they're already so low that there isn't much room left to go lower.
Undoubtedly, there are still some Republicans, including the one who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, who still believe in the fantasy that giant tax cuts for the rich pay for themselves through higher tax revenue and by the prosperity trickling down to the masses. Of course, that theory was applied during the Reagan years and led to a recession, then tried again during the Bush 43 years and led to another recession. Now, the pattern is repeating itself again. One wonders how many trials it will take before everyone learns the lesson.
That said, it is only a few Republicans who are still buying what Arthur Laffer was selling more than 40 years ago, using a cocktail napkin. Most folks in Congress, Republican and Democrat, accept the truth of what Powell is saying. The problem is the solution. On the GOP side, the Mitch McConnells and Kevin McCarthys of the world have deliberately created an untenable situation so as to justify cutting entitlement programs. Of course, the Democrats control the House, and are never going to slash Medicare or Social Security so that millionaire citizens and trillion-dollar corporations can keep their bank balances as fat as is possible. So, the U.S. is presumably headed for an ugly showdown when the next budget talks begin (late summer). And it's likely headed for an even uglier recession in the near future. (Z)
In the past, the CIA has pursued some pretty wacky initiatives. A flying saucer meant to intercept Soviet missiles. Using hypnotism to turn foreign agents into CIA moles. Making a pornographic film featuring a man in a Sukarno mask in an effort to force the real Sukarno out of power. Hiding nuclear missiles under the Greenland ice sheet. Spy pigeons. Spy cats. Spy dolphins.
Maybe it's necessary to work your way through a bunch of nutty schemes in order to come up with the occasional winner. Who knows? In any case, on Tuesday, the Washington Post revealed for the first time the details of a scheme that worked brilliantly for half a century. Starting during World War II, the Swiss company Crypto AG got into the business of selling encryption devices to the world's governments and militaries, and quickly became the dominant player in the field, doing business with more than 120 countries. One small wrinkle, though: Crypto AG wasn't a Swiss company at all. It may have been physically located in Switzerland, but it was actually a CIA front funded by the U.S. and West German governments. That meant that when, for example, Iranian revolutionaries or Argentinian generals or Libyan government officials were sending "encrypted" messages to one another, those messages weren't a secret to the CIA (or the West German BND).
Obviously, Crypto AG is defunct, and has been for many years (the scheme came to an end in the 1990s). So, why are we running an item about it on a site centered on politics? Because whenever you read a story like the one coming out of Seattle yesterday, about how the King Conservation District is going to start experimenting with voting by cell phone, you should cringe. It's not easy to be sure where those apps or those electronic devices really came from, or what little bits of code might be buried deep within. And even if something nefarious does come to light, it might be years or decades too late. In short, it's another item that illustrates why we, a computer scientist and a very computer-savvy historian, both favor keeping elections just about as low-tech as possible. (Z)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is one of the half-dozen most famous members of Congress. And, given that her home district, NY-14, is D+29, she doesn't have to spend much time worrying about the general election. The primary, on the other hand, could potentially be an issue. And now, AOC has a serious challenger in the form of former CNBC Anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera.
We can hardly claim to be experts in the dynamics of every Congressional district, particularly those more than 2,500 miles from where either of us lives. However, we suspect there are three factors here that commentators will focus on, some of them much more rightly than others:
- Caruso-Cabrera is a TV personality: This is probably her biggest advantage as a candidate.
Her past career means she has name recognition beyond that of most congressional challengers, and also that she must
have fairly polished public speaking skills.
- Caruso-Cabrera is going to run to the right of Ocasio-Cortez: Our guess is that this does
not actually matter very much. If the good people of NY-14 wanted to be represented by a center-leaning Democrat, they
would have just reelected Joe Crowley back in 2018. Further, there is a certain cachet to being represented by one of
the most famous members of Congress (and one of the most famous Latinas) in America.
- Both are Latina: It may seem that Caruso-Cabrera's heritage will blunt some of Ocasio-Cortez' advantage in a district that is 80% Latino. We doubt this, however. There is a very sloppy tendency among much of the political media to assume that a Latino is a Latino is a Latino. Not so. In fact, Caruso-Cabrera is of Cuban heritage, while Ocasio-Cortez is Puerto Rican. The Puerto Rican voters in NY-14 outnumber the Cubans by a margin of at least 10 to 1. To the extent that ethnic identity matters, well, you can figure out which candidate that favors.
On the whole, it's probable that Ocasio-Cortez will not break a sweat as she sends Caruso-Cabrera to defeat. You never know, though. Maybe it will come to light that she was once a witch. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb11 Today's Ratfu**ing News
Feb11 Bloomberg Ascending?
Feb11 Iowa Results Are Finalized...Maybe
Feb11 Smear Campaign Against Romney Commences
Feb11 Update on All the President's Crooks
Feb11 RBG: No ERA
Feb10 Sanders Leads in New Hampshire
Feb10 Democrats Are Worried that the Nevada Caucuses Will Also Be a Disaster
Feb10 Steyer Surges in South Carolina
Feb10 Klobuchar Raised $2 Million Since Friday
Feb10 Giuliani Is Still Digging for Dirt on the Bidens
Feb10 Trump Blew Up the Electoral Map
Feb10 Which Political Theory Is Right?
Feb10 Trump Abandons Promise on the Deficit
Feb09 Sunday Mailbag
Feb08 The Reaping Has Begun
Feb08 Friday Night Lights
Feb08 Life Hasn't Been Good for Walsh
Feb08 Saturday Q&A
Feb07 Final Iowa Results Are In...Kinda
Feb07 In Spiking Poll, Selzer Made a Wise Decision...and a Mistake
Feb07 If You're A Presidential Candidate, Don't Believe Your Hype
Feb07 Sanders, Buttigieg Polling Well in New Hampshire
Feb07 Warren Gets Unhappy News in Nevada
Feb07 Democrats Debate Tonight
Feb07 Trump Commences Victory Lap
Feb06 Senate Acquits Trump
Feb06 Nadler: House Likely to Subpoena Bolton
Feb06 Will Anyone Ever Honor a Congressional Subpoena Again?
Feb06 Iowa Results Are Still Dribbling In
Feb06 Pelosi Dumps on Trump in a Private Meeting after SOTU
Feb06 Sanders Leads in New Hampshire Poll
Feb06 New Hampshire Becomes Even More Crucial Now
Feb06 Biden Still Hasn't Addressed His Son's Job at Burisma
Feb06 Cummings' Widow Loses House Primary
Feb05 The Results Are In...Mostly
Feb05 So, What Happened in Iowa, Exactly?
Feb05 Did the Iowa Results Contain Secret Bad News for the Democrats?
Feb05 Trump Delivers State of the Union
Feb05 Impeachment Acquittal Right on Pace
Feb05 Trump Gets Highest Ever Approval from Gallup
Feb05 Most Farmers Are Sticking with Trump
Feb04 And the Winner of the Iowa Caucuses Is...???
Feb04 Don't Forget, There's Also an Impeachment Trial Going On...
Feb04 State of the Union Address Is Tonight
Feb04 This Probably Won't Make the SOTU...
Feb04 ...Or This, for That Matter
Feb04 Bloomberg Gets in the Gutter with Trump
Feb04 Rush Limbaugh Has Lung Cancer