The Phony Campaign

2019-03-17 Update

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The big phony news: Beto O'Rourke announced his 2020 candidacy and (in an almost certainly causal sequence) his Google phony hits exploded by over a factor of 13. Impressive! With an even bigger collapse in phony hits, President Trump is in third place phony-wise, trailing both Beto and Kamala badly.

Beto also improved his lot at Betfair slightly over the week, with a 0.9% bounce in his win probability. That's nice, Beto, but not as nice as Biden's 1.2% increase, or Andrew Yang's 1.1% increase.

We bid farewell to Mike Pence and Amy Klobuchar this week, but welcome Julian Castro back into contention, at least for a while.

It's interesting to note that Yang is doing Betfair-better than career pols Warren, Castro, and Booker. And far better than the career pols who Betfair considers to be even longer shots: Gillibrand, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Gabbard, Hickenlooper, Inslee,… What do the Betfair bettors know that we don't?

And, since Pun Salad is not above making childish jokes about people's names: if Yang wins the Democratic nomination, could he find a running mate named Yin?

Candidate WinProb Change
Beto O'Rourke 8.3% +0.9% 13,000,000 +12,042,000
Kamala Harris 11.9% -0.6% 5,900,000 -820,000
Donald Trump 33.1% +0.6% 2,110,000 -12,190,000
Bernie Sanders 12.5% -0.3% 357,000 -116,000
Elizabeth Warren 2.3% -0.2% 208,000 -4,552,000
Joe Biden 12.4% +1.2% 205,000 -14,000
Julian Castro 2.0% --- 103,000 ---
Cory Booker 2.2% -0.3% 71,500 -3,000
Andrew Yang 3.6% +1.1% 9,060 -11,940

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Linkwise, we are Beto-heavy this week. First up is Matt Welch at Reason who wonders: Has Phony Betomania Already Bitten the Dust?.

    In retrospect, the biggest surprise was that Beto O'Rourke did not announce his long-expected (though recently denied) presidential candidacy last week in his native habitat of South by Southwest, while he was promoting an HBO documentary about his stirring failure to unseat one of the most reviled incumbents in American politics.

    But then, the former El Paso congressman, whose occasionally moody Gen X uplift has almost completely overshadowed his unusual political path and heterodox policy beliefs, probably knew he was about to get the full Vanity Fair Annie Leibovitz cover treatment:

    And about that Vanity Fair cover, some juxtaposing genius noticed:

    Reagan wins (among other things) the belt competition.

  • In case you were not sufficiently braced, Jim Geraghty advised his readers to Brace Yourselves for Betomania.

    Ah, here we go again.

    The magazine covers and posters . . . [click through for a montage]

    . . . the graffiti murals . . .

    . . . the gushing media profiles, the adoring interviews with late-night hosts, the hagiographic documentary, the t-shirts, the celebrity endorsements and appearances, the social-media mania, the volunteers creating their own designs for posters and logos and campaign imagery . . . we’ll probably get the flash mobs from 2018 restarted, too.

    Except the last time we did this, all of the hype and hoopla was for a once-obscure slender guy in his mid-to-late 40s who had been in the legislature for a while, hadn’t been able to get many pieces of legislation passed whether his party was in the majority or minority, who boasted about his across-the-aisle friendships but who had never really defied his party’s orthodoxy, who had little or no executive experience, who could do mundane tasks such as driving or sweating and have them described by political reporters like he was completing the 12 labors of Hercules, who was full of charisma but vague enough in his answers and agenda to be a blank slate to everyone looking for an ideal candidate. Same script, slightly different leading man.

    Gosh, it's almost as if the media (and a large fraction of the electorate) are easily gulled by good looks and charismatic patter.

  • Kyle Smith has a more cynical take on Weirdo O’Rourke.

    Friends of the young Bill Clinton and Barack Obama spoke of the special glow of promise they had about them, even back in their early twenties. Angels sat on their shoulders. History gave them a wink and said, “Hey, good lookin’, I’ll be back to pick you up later.”

    Robert O’Rourke? Not so much. He was just a weirdo. That isn’t my word, it’s how his friends saw him. “You’re supposed to make friends with future secretaries of state, not weirdo musicians,” one O’Rourke pal, Adam Mortimer, told the New York Times. “It’s like, wait, one of the weirdo musicians might run for president.” One contemporaneous photo accompanying the Times story about O’Rourke in his New York City years (four at Columbia University, three reenacting Reality Bites afterwards) shows him with what appears to be a food stain on his crotch, sitting between his girlfriend and a dog who is obviously possessed by Satan. The other picture has O’Rourke wearing a moustache and a ladies’ floral dress.

    The former El Paso congressman’s spastic “Hey, I’m still figuring out these new hands” presidential-kickoff video, in which his upper limbs appeared to be subject to mad random yanks by an angry puppeteer, was merely the latest odd detail in the saga of Weirdo O’Rourke. It was even weirder than Elizabeth Warren’s “Greetings fellow earthlings, I too enjoy fermented malt beverages!” video. Robert/Beto is a man so apart from other human beings that he recently thought nothing of ditching his wife and three kids so he could drive around the country, alone, accosting unsuspecting dentists to help him apply Novocaine to his aching soul. He might be the first person ever to run for the White House on a platform of asking the nation help him figure out who he is.

    As a recovering computer geek, I noticed that one of Beto's long-hidden talents was computer hacktivism, as a member of the "Cult of the Dead Cow" (CDC).

    Good news? At least he was skilled at something other than dreamboatery? Not so much. The linked article claims that he "was more focused on writing screeds for the CDC's text-file essays than hacking." Even as a hacker, he was more of a wannabe.

  • And the hits just keep on coming, this one from Jack Shafer at Politico: The Semigoguery of Beto O’Rourke.

    If O’Rourke promised to seize all the tendrils of power, encouraged race or class war, blocked dissent or promised the impossible, we wouldn’t hesitate to call him a demagogue, which he isn’t. President O’Rourke is more likely to host the bands from the Vans Warped Tour in the Rose Garden then he is to order the 3rd Infantry Regiment to dissolve Congress at bayonet point. Think of him instead as a semigogue, a temperate politician who exploits the naiveté of the mob with his hollow yet passionate appeals to goodness, light and possibility. A demagogue traffics in fear. A semigogue peddles hope. A demagogue hoses gasoline onto a fire. A semigogue pours milk or maybe a craft brew. A demagogue bangs the table with a closed fist. A semigogue talks with fluttery hands. Because he never issues genocidal orders or establishes totalitarian regimes, the semigogue can also escape our deep scrutiny. Instead, he lulls his targets into political sleep with his eternal kindness, his overdone decency and his endless speeches.

    Shafer goes on to ask: Will it work? Geez, I hope not. (And given my lousy track record, I'm taking myself out of the prediction business … until I lose my good judgment and get back in.)

  • At the Bulwark, Jonathan V. Last advises us to be afraid. Very, very afraid. For Biden, Beto, or Biden-Beto Is the GOP's Worst Nightmare.

    Let’s try to put our arms around how dangerous Biden, Beto, or Biden-Beto would be for Trump.

    The Trump theory of reelection is essentially this:

    • He starts out 3 million votes in the hole.
    • He gets lucky and draws a challenger who is either a radical leftist, deeply unlikeable, or both.
    • He holds his 2016 states with similar margins.
    • Maybe he flips New Hampshire.

    Last goes on to detail how a Biden/Beto ticket might pop this strategy like a balloon.

  • But there are other candidates still technically alive, and (at the Federalist) Mitchell Blue looks at the policy proposals from one of them: Warren Floats 19th Century Policy For 21st Century Tech Problems.

    Elizabeth Warren made headlines last week for her Medium post entitled “Here’s how we can break up Big Tech.” In the piece, Warren laments that Facebook, Amazon, and Google have grown too big, and suggests government must break up the companies to encourage competition.

    Warren is clearly trying to position herself as a protector of consumers who is hip to the internet age (WhatsApp! Instagram! A joke about Bing! Hold on, I’m so excited, I’m going to git me a beer!). But when you delve into the details of her plan, you quickly realize that Warren is using 19th century solutions for 21st century problems.

    Click through for the details, with a bonus section that describes how Andrew Yang's proposals are (somehow) even worse.

    I've recently started listening to podcasts on my walks with my dog. In a recent offering from Reason, Todd Zywicki noted how Warren is a direct ideological descendent of Louis Brandeis. (Although Brandeis was arguably a bigger friend of free speech tnan is Warren.)