Election Numbers Crunching: Republican Edition

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The ghost of Marco Rubio could haunt the campaign trail all the way to the Republican Convention in Cleveland this July. By DonkeyHotey (Marco Rubio – Caricature) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The process through which we Americans nominate candidates for president is extraordinarily complicated, as 2016’s election is making excruciatingly clear. Comprehensive, readable results can be found at Real Clear Politics“Election Central: 2016” page. I’ve put their delegate tables into an Excel spreadsheet in order to analyze the current state of both parties’ contests. Following are the results, which include Tuesday’s primaries and caucuses.

On the Republican side, a candidate needs 1,237 delegates to win an outright majority on the first ballot at the convention. There are 2,472 delegates available; 1,633 delegates have been awarded in contests so far, though one of the millions of reasons this is so complicated is that not all of those are bound to a particular candidate. There are 839 delegates remaining for allocation, which is 34% of the total number of delegates. Now, let’s break down each candidate with significant delegate totals:

  • Donald Trump has won 739 delegates and needs 498 more for a majority, which is 59% of the remaining possible delegates. So far, Trump has won 45% of delegates awarded, so he’s actually pretty far off the pace needed to win a majority.
  • Ted Cruz has won 465 delegates and needs 772 more for a majority, which is 92% of the remaining possible delegates. So far, Cruz has won 28% of delegates awarded, so he’s way off the pace.
  • John Kasich has won 143 delegates and needs 1,094 more for a majority, which is 130% of the remaining possible delegates. So far, Kasich has won 9% of delegates awarded, and he literally cannot achieve a majority on the first ballot at the convention.
  • Marco Rubio has won 166 delegates, which is 10% of the total delegates awarded. He dropped out of the race, but many of his delegates can become unbound depending on the rules of each state. This could be very important, and you can read the details here.

If we assume that Rubio supporters in remaining states will mostly go to Cruz or Kasich, members of the Republican Establishment who want to deny Trump the nomination can spin the above numbers as good news. Cruz, Kasich, and Rubio delegates amount to 47% of the total awarded. If this pace continues, that would be enough to deny Trump a majority. And if that happens, you can talk me into anything happening at the convention: unbound Rubio delegates voting for Trump to push him over the top in order to stop a potential Republican civil war, Cruz and Kasich making a deal to win on the second ballot with Cruz at the top of the ticket, Trump’s campaign manager assaulting and sexually harassing delegates on the convention floor – really, anything.

Now, to rain on the Republican Establishment’s parade for a moment, many of the remaining contests are winner-take-all, which means Trump can get on pace for a majority by taking delegate-rich, winner-take-all states like Wisconsin (42 delegates), Pennsylvania (71 delegates), and California (172 delegates). Trump leads in the most recent polls conducted in each state, but those polls include Rubio and some even include Ben Carson. So, they’re outdated, and the whole thing is such a mess I won’t even hazard a guess about which way those electorates are leaning right now.

Just for fun though, let’s add New York to the mix, which awards 95 delegates proportionally. If Cruz and Kasich don’t break the 20% vote threshold there, they will not win any delegates, meaning Trump could grab all 95 and he’s currently way ahead in the New York polls. If we give Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, California, and New York to Trump, that’s 380 delegates. That would leave him 118 delegates shy of the majority threshold, which is only 26% of delegates in the other remaining states!

Trump still has a viable path to an outright majority. It may be time for the Republican Party to repay its “nonsense debt” – a phrase coined by Josh Marshall in this piece that explains what’s happening to the Republican Party. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Stay tuned tomorrow for crunching the Democratic Party’s nomination contest numbers.

Requiem for a Rubiobot

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Turns out Rubio’s candidacy was the joke. Sad! By Michael Vadon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Give Jeb Bush credit for something. He saw the writing on the wall and got the hell out before his home state of Florida could make a fool of him. Another Florida man, Marco Rubio, was not so wise. He and his media enablers blundered on in the vain hope that Rubio’s “accomplishments” and “moderation” might prevail, at least in his home state. Winning in Florida would give Rubio his rationale for staying in the race until the convention where he could try to steal the nomination if Donald Trump hadn’t secured an outright majority of delegates.

Instead, Rubio finished a distant second to Trump. The latter won all of Florida’s delegates with a plurality of the vote since the state’s Republican Party had decided to make it a winner-take-all contest. Now, Rubio has decided to drop out of the race. His campaign will go down as a textbook case of how not to win a major party’s nomination.

Rubio is the second emptiest suit in American politics (Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, has a lock on the emptiest suit title). Some have tried to compare him to Barack Obama, another person who ran for president while a first-term senator, claiming that Democrats can’t have it both ways when they point to Rubio’s lack of experience and accomplishments. Maybe that’s fair, but then it’s fair to point out that Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review and Rubio had a 2.1 GPA in high school. I wasn’t the greatest high school student either, but I’m not a big enough idiot to think I’m qualified to be president of the United States.

Rubio’s demise is good news for Democrats and the people whom were burned by Rubio’s rising star. While barely different from any of the other Republicans running for president in policy terms, and worse on some like a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body and foreign policy, Rubio scared Democrats. He seemed poised to take advantage of the same playbook that Karl Rove used to run George W. Bush into the White House. Americans have a vague, not altogether unreasonable sense that the two major parties ought to alternate running the executive branch. Rubio’s empty suit was ready to be filled with the same compassionate conservative, uniter-not-divider nonsense that sold Americans on Bush, who proved to be a budget-destroying warmonger and generally incompetent president. Handing over the keys to Republicans in 2016 would be the same mistake the country made back in 2000.

Meanwhile, Tuesday’s elections couldn’t have gone better for Trump. The Los Angeles Times has a readable compilation of the results. Trump won in Florida, Illinois, and North Carolina. Missouri is too close to call at the moment but he’s leading there. Though Trump lost in Ohio, John Kasich’s win there is actually a strategic victory for Trump, as election numbers crunching guru Sam Wang explains at The American Prospect. In fact, as matters stand now, Trump winning three and probably four out of the five contests, Kasich winning the one in Ohio, and Rubio dropping out is the best possible outcome for Trump. The vote-splitting strategy that Mitt Romney and other GOP establishment types have advocated in order to deny Trump an outright majority of delegates suffers greatly from an unviable Rubio candidacy.

It is certainly Trump’s nomination to lose now. Perhaps the only line of attack left to Republicans is to point out that Trump likes his steaks well done.

Weekend Links

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Gratuitous photo of me chilling with a friend’s dog during my visit home last month.

Today was the first day of classes at our English training school here in Dali, Yunnan Province. This semester I have three classes, each two hours. I am exhausted tonight. It usually takes me two weeks to get back into teaching shape. Teaching English as a foreign language to kids, you’re on your feet pretty much the entire class playing games, using the whiteboard, presenting new words and language patterns, and giving kids attention when they have group or individual tasks. That means I was on my feet and on mentally, switching between English and Chinese, for six hours. Cry me a river, I know, but wow do I feel like having a beer and watching some TV.

On American politics, where else can we start but with Donald Trump and what went down in Chicago? This BBC report has the story and raises some fair questions. It’s obviously not ideal that violence erupted yet again and that Trump felt compelled to cancel his rally. This just seems bad on both sides, though I haven’t gone through the reporting or footage in any depth. But, in true both-side-do-it fashion, there is an element of “why are you making us look like racists by protesting our racist rhetoric and making us get into fights with you” going on here.

I’m conflicted about the effectiveness of these Trump protests. For one thing, I doubt they have any influence over the direction of the Republican nomination contest at this point. Trump’s core supporters are locked in and every other candidate understands they need those voters to win the nomination outright or steal it from Trump at the convention and still have any chance in the general election. If anything, the protests probably encourage Trump supporters to close ranks and feel that Trump must be saying something right. After all, from their perspective, Trump’s speeches and his supporters’ behavior at his rallies are making all the right people angry. This Trump thing is more tribal than it is anything else.

For all we know, the clashes may be encouraging Republicans repulsed by Trump to default to their tribal allegiance. Still, I don’t mean to suggest that protesters should sit idly by and let Trump’s movement go unchallenged. Really, there are no good options here.

Some links:

  • It’d be nice if a gift for clairvoyance, or profound political acumen, explained my getting this Trump movement right back in August of last year. Alas, there was no secret. It was just understanding what motivates a large and enthusiastic plurality of Republican voters. This information’s been hiding in plain sight for decades, and has been lit up in neon since a certain president with a certain skin color took office in 2009. Also, I should credit professor of law Paul Campos, whom I read over at Lawyers, Guns & Money, for pointing out in July 2015 that Trump needed to be taken seriously, likening his candidacy to Ronald Reagan’s.
  • Campos again, writing at Salon about the bill of goods the Republican elite has been selling the base since Reagan. Read the whole thing after you pick your jaw up from the floor:

Here are the numbers: between 1945 and 1974, per capita GDP in the U.S. grew from $17,490 to $27,837.  That is an impressive improvement, but it pales in comparison to what has happened since: in 2014, per capita GDP was $55,185, i.e., almost exactly double what it was in 1974.  In terms of economic output, the country is twice as rich per person now as it was then.

Where has all this money gone?  The answer ought to shock anyone who cares about either economic opportunity or increasing inequality.  The average household income of the bottom 50% of American households was $25,475 in 1974, and $26,520  in 2014.  In other words, half the population has gotten essentially none of the extra $10 trillion dollars of national wealth that the American economy has generated over the past forty years.

  • Josh Marshall with a reliably useful take on the most recent Republican debate.
  • Also at Marshall’s site TPM, here’s an article reminding us that Trump has been encouraging his supporters to get violent. I don’t know how we would read his comments any other way, or why we would think his supporters would hear or read them any other way.
  • Hillary Clinton does make it hard sometimes. In trying to find something nice to say upon Nancy Reagan’s passing, she just completely made stuff up about Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s HIV/AIDS record. They basically couldn’t have had a worse record. Clinton has retracted and apologized, and it’s plausible that she misspoke, but this was bad. Read Dan Savage’s appropriately outraged take on this, and listen to the embedded audio if you can stomach listening to Reagan’s administration and the press laugh and joke about the burgeoning epidemic. And yes, it’s as bad as I just made it sound.
  • Ending on a somewhat lighter note, here’s Jonathan Chait on the top-notch advice Marco Rubio has received in the past several weeks. Hopefully Rubio’s admirers’ will start cursing Trump with their wisdom.

Enjoy the weekend. Time for that beer and some idiot box.

Weekend Links

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The blog’s author asks a Chinese kid what he thinks about Donald Trump. (Ha ha no, actually it’s an action shot of me during a promotional lesson we held at our school yesterday for prospective students.) 

Congratulations to the staff of Ivy Language Academy here in Dali, Yunnan. This month we celebrate our second anniversary. We opened in March 2014 with 18 total students. We’re going to start this semester with at least 65 and probably more! The marketing team really humped it these past few weeks with clear, excellent results to show for it during our promotional classes this weekend. Thanks for all your hard work!

There were some contests of consequence yesterday for both parties. On the Republican side, Ted Cruz gained some ground. Marco Rubio had another dismal showing and Donald Trump called on him to drop out of the race. That’s an interesting move for Trump. While a two-man race would open up a clearer path to an outright majority of delegates for one of the two candidates, Trump would also run the risk of the Republican establishment rallying around Cruz. But, the Republican establishment hates Cruz. Sad!

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders had nice showings yet netted fewer delegates than Hillary Clinton. The math still shows Clinton to be the overwhelming favorite. However, Sanders has raised a ton of money, continues to win contests, and for now has no particularly compelling reason to drop out.

Links for the weekend:

  • If you want to understand the support for Trump, you could do much worse than this series of posts by political scientists over at The Washington Post: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
  • Here’s the question for the Republican establishment coming out of Saturday’s contests.
  • In the category of blog titles I wish I had written: “Let Us Dispel With the Idea that the Rubiobot Knows What He’s Doing. He Has No Idea What He’s Doing.”
  • Alex Pareene had Rubio and his campaign’s ineptitude pegged in late December.
  • Authors over at Lawyers, Guns & Money deal with the stench of Clinton’s speaking fees. The fact that she remains incalculably more preferable to any Republican candidate shows just how lousy American politics and the elite that take advantage of it can be.
  • To drive the point home about why voting for the Democratic Party’s candidate is the right move: anyone remember George W. Bush? Don’t just take it from me and some other liberal, go read a conservative! The current Republican Party is a mess while the Democratic Party generally has its act together. Bush was what happened the last time we threw out a generally competent party in power just for the hell of it. And this time, the Republican Party is even more bereft of people who know what they’re doing than it was in 2000.
  • Speaking of W, Matt Taibbi draws a straight line from Bush to Trump. But don’t be fooled that any other Republican candidate is better than Trump.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Super Tuesday and the Republicans’ Dilemma

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Trump country. Republican Super Tuesday 2016 By Nizolan [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Today’s voting could essentially render the ultimate results of both parties’ nomination contests foregone conclusions. Polls suggest Donald Trump will win strong pluralities nearly everywhere, Ted Cruz will win Texas and move into a clear second place in delegates, and Marco Rubio probably still won’t have a first place finish anywhere, yet mainstream pundits and Republican establishment types will still find a way to tell us Rubio is really in good shape if you just squint hard enough. Trump will still have competition, and the Republican establishment will be trying to find ways to sabotage him, but for now it’s Trump’s race to lose.

Hillary Clinton looks poised to win majorities nearly everywhere except Bernie Sanders’ home state of Vermont, where he’s killing it. I like Sanders in spite of the magic math behind his proposals, but it appears to be over for him. He’s had a good influence on the race. Clinton would do well to co-opt some of his aspirations and rhetoric, and try to bring his enthusiastic supporters into her fold. It will be interesting to see how Sanders and his camp deal with his dropping out, whenever that happens. Democrats are going to need him to be a good soldier, and I would think that the man himself will graciously support Clinton. As a Democrat, I’m a little worried about the intentions of Sanders’ supporters; several prominent Sanders partisans have claimed they won’t vote for Clinton. We’ll have to revisit the issues of sitting out elections and protest voting as the general election approaches.

There will be more to write about all this once we have results. But before we go, let’s just dwell for a minute on the spectacle of the Republican Party’s leading candidate for its presidential nomination having a hard time disavowing the support of one-time Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke and his white supremacist followers. This has once and for all exposed the Republican Party as the natural home of American white supremacy and racism. Respectable Republicans are just shocked, shocked and outraged are they, at this development. Like the “Southern Strategy” hasn’t been a thing since Richard Nixon.

Who knew that humble tax cutters, welfare state slashers, opponents of universal healthcare and poisoners of African Americans’ water were sharing a political party with tens of millions of outright racists this whole time? Who could’ve known?

Well, now we know. Moderate Republicans, you want low taxes? Well, you need the votes of tens of millions of racists to help you elect your candidates. You want limited regulations on the activities of American corporations? Well, you need the votes of tens of millions of racists to elect your candidates. You want to repeal the Affordable Care Act? Well, you need the votes of tens of millions of racists to elect your candidates.

Evangelicals, you want to criminalize abortion? Well, you need the votes of tens of millions of racists to elect your candidates.

Gun enthusiasts, you want people to be able to own and carry in public pretty much any gun they want? Well, you need the votes of tens of millions of racists to elect your candidates.

Climate change deniers, you want to reverse President Obama’s climate regulations? Well, you need the votes of tens of millions of racists to elect your candidates.

Holding these policy preferences doesn’t necessarily make you a racist. But you’d better be ready to answer for the company you keep.

So, Um, Trump’s Gonna Win?

Yes. Well, probably. At least, I don’t see how he doesn’t win the Republican nomination given current facts on the ground (the general election is a much different and much more unpredictable story). Donald Trump has won nearly every category of voter – and in Nevada, every category – so far that has come out for the Republican contests. It used to be self-evident that support for dropouts Chris Christie and Jeb Bush would go to Marco Rubio. Reality had other plans. If Trump’s lead only increases when a candidate drops out, he wins. Now we have the three-man race predicted here, and if Rubio and Ted Cruz don’t play rock-paper-scissor or whatever it takes to get one of them to drop out, Trump wins. And if one of them drops out, Trump probably still wins.

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The Republican nomination contest. By Peretz Partensky from San Francisco, USA (Dumpster Fire) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Those of you who have been reading Swinging Dead Cats since it started last August already knew that Trump was likely to win the Republican nomination. Along with declaring Trump the frontrunner in my post “Surprise! Donald Trump Appeals to White Nationalists” I mentioned that the Republican party harbors a substantial minority of no-doubt-about-it racists. I got some pushback on that one. This is an important point that people keep missing. Sometimes, the answer to questions like the ones I asked in the linked post are really, horrifyingly simple.

So what’s going on here? Why would a bloc of voters who have always voted for GOP economic policies all of a sudden be open to Democratic economic policies espoused by someone who sounds like a racist demagogue?

Anyone pushing back want to read this polling of South Carolina’s Republican voters and try to argue again that many of them are not racists? A staggering 38% of South Carolina Trump voters wish the South had won the Civil War. If 38% of Trump voters wish the South had won the Civil War, and the South fought the Civil War over the right to continue owning slaves, then 38% of Trump voters still believe that we ought to have the right to own slaves. As Esquire’s Charles Pierce likes to say, South Carolina is the “home office of American sedition.” So some might say hey, it’s South Carolina. But if people think that 38% number isn’t similar across the South, they haven’t been following American politics.

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Trump is building a yooge, classy, beautiful, unbelievable coop for the Republican chickens coming home to roost. Mexico is paying for it. By Curtisscoopsandyardbarns (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Now, Christie’s endorsement of Trump blunts the momentum Rubio may have had after Thursday night’s debate. The idea that Rubio did any real damage to Trump among the latter’s own core supporters was laughable anyway.

Meanwhile, the math is what it is: Trump is winning and racking up delegates, and a strong plurality of the hundreds of delegates up for grabs on March 1st look likely to go Trump’s way. Trump is leading in every state that votes next Tuesday and usually by wide margins, except in Texas – Ted Cruz’s home turf. Cruz is likely to win in Texas, giving him a second state (he won Iowa). Rubio will do well enough that the Republican establishment and much of the media will convince themselves he still has a chance. So Cruz and Rubio will both stay in the race.

This is a nightmare scenario for the GOP establishment. Starting on March 15th most Republican contests are winner-take-all, meaning that Trump would win all of a state’s delegates with only a plurality of the vote. This will almost certainly happen if both Cruz and Rubio stay in the race. Trump could essentially have the nomination wrapped up by the end of March!

The Trump phenomenon is not really a mystery, as Matt Taibbi explains in his excellent recent piece over at Rolling Stone. The racial and cultural resentments of many Americans, and their justified anger over their economic situations (though deeply ironic as they’re the ones who have been voting middle class-gutting Republicans into office, after all) – these were always there for someone to come along and put them together, unleash them without filters, and see what happens.

New Hampshire Recap

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A New Hampshire Trump supporter on his way to vote. By Usien (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Want to know how absurd this 2016 Republican nomination contest has become? Here’s the spokesman for the fourth-place finisher in New Hampshire, whose campaign has spent way more money than any of the other candidates’ campaigns, arguing that the second-place New Hampshire finisher has no viable path to the nomination. That’s right, Jeb Bush’s campaign is trying to stake out ground as establishment frontrunner even as it departs New Hampshire having placed behind John Kasich and Ted Cruz and just barely in front of Marco Rubio. And of course, I’m burying the lede here: Donald Trump placed first in New Hampshire, has outperformed the polls in doing so, and his potentially damaging second-place finish in Iowa is now a distant memory.

Just one week ago, the Republican establishment seemed poised to rally around Rubio and his strong third-place finish in Iowa. One humiliating debate performance and a fifth-place finish in New Hampshire later, and Rubio appears to be dead in the water. It’s not a strong look when your state campaign chairman is caught on camera physically assaulting a “Robot Rubio” protestor. The Rubiobot has indeed malfunctioned.

What do the New Hampshire results mean for the Republican race? Ben Carson (dead last) and Carly Fiorina (second to last) should drop out. Chris Christie’s sixth-place finish and return to New Jersey would indicate that he’s dropping out. He shook up the race by badly exposing Rubio during last Saturday’s debate, but Rubio’s poor performance in New Hampshire did not benefit Christie. The Granite State was everything for Christie’s campaign, but it turns out he is about as well-liked there as he is in New Jersey.

Moving on, the field will effectively consist of five candidates. Here are the five in order of their support in an average of national polls: Trump (29.5%), Cruz (21.0%), Rubio (17.8%), Bush (4.3%) and Kasich (4.0%). Carson has been running fourth nationally at 7.8%, and Christie and Fiorina are tied at 2.5% each. That’s almost 13% of the electorate that needs to find a new candidate.

Now the circus moves to South Carolina, which holds its contests on February 20th. South Carolina polling is badly outdated; we don’t even know the effects of the Iowa contest there and now we have New Hampshire’s results to consider as well. Trump has been running strong in South Carolina, so that probably won’t change. If Trump can break 40% in South Carolina, that would indicate he’s on his way to securing a majority among some voting populations, even in a still crowded field.

Nobody in South Carolina knows who Kasich is, so how does he capitalize on his second-place finish in New Hampshire? For some perspective, let’s remember that Kasich won second place in New Hampshire with about 16% of the vote; it’s a crowded field, sure, but when 84 out of 100 voters are choosing someone else, you’re not exactly crushing it. But this “success” in New Hampshire means Kasich will move on and try to compete in at least one more contest. That leaves him, Bush, and Rubio vying for establishment support. In the wake of Rubio’s face plant last Saturday and disappointing New Hampshire result, maybe Bush, who has been close to Rubio in South Carolina, actually has an opening. I can’t believe I’m writing that.

New Hampshire was a bad result for the Republican establishment. Support for its preferred candidates is extremely fractured. Trump and Cruz go into South Carolina competing for first and second, while the establishment candidates will likely continue to fight among themselves. As long as nobody emerges to lead the establishment, Trump and Cruz will keep this a two-man contest and will rack up valuable delegates in these early states.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has to be disappointed with receiving under 40% of the vote and losing by a bit more than 20%. Bernie Sanders outperformed the polls and received about 60% of the vote. Nevada is going to offer Democrats their first venue that doesn’t skew so white and liberal, so Clinton has reason for optimism. The theory of the race that the Clinton campaign has embraced so far is that Clinton will do well in more diverse states where Democrats are not so liberal. Past polls have backed up this theory. I’m looking forward to seeing new polls out of Nevada and South Carolina to find out if the ground has really started to shift or not in this race.

It’s just hard to say what’s going to happen. Sanders couldn’t have asked for two friendlier states to start the nomination contest, yet he only won one of them. However, if you had told the Sanders campaign seven months ago that they would practically tie in Iowa and dominate in New Hampshire, they would have taken that in a heartbeat. Clinton came out of the first two contests bruised but certainly not broken. She has contests in much friendlier states coming up. However, she got crushed again by younger voters. Is it time for the Democratic establishment to start panicking?