The Phony Campaign

2019-04-21 Update

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Happy Easter to all. Your Easter hymn this year is Leon Russell's Roll Away the Stone.

But it's also time for our usual Sunday feature, seeing how the 2020 Phony Campaign is evolving:

Candidate WinProb Change
Pete Buttigieg 7.3% -0.2% 8,750,000 +3,270,000
Donald Trump 43.9% +2.7% 1,670,000 -540,000
Bernie Sanders 11.6% unch 327,000 -125,000
Joe Biden 8.3% unch 252,000 -6,000
Elizabeth Warren 2.2% +0.2% 178,000 -5,000
Kamala Harris 8.9% -1.2% 89,800 -23,200
Beto O'Rourke 4.2% -1.4% 72,300 -8,000
Andrew Yang 2.8% +0.1% 18,700 +5,300

"WinProb" calculation described here. Google result counts are bogus.

Observations: (1) Bernie is the only non-Trump candidate with a Win Probability over 10%; (2) Elizabeth Warren's Win Probability actually improved a tad from last week, surprising your blogger, who thought she was destined to swim with the other don't-know-they're-doomed fishes (Klobuchar, Gillibrand, Gabbard, Booker, etc.); (3) Pete Buttigieg is absolutely killing Donald Trump in phony Google hit counts [but see disclaimer above].

  • So what's the deal with Mayor Pete and phoniness? Perhaps, as David A. Graham notes at the Atlantic: Pete Buttigieg Is Running on Cory Booker’s Playbook.

    But familiarity can breed contempt, or simply indifference. Booker has also long struggled with the impression that he’s doing too much of a shtick, that he’s a bit of a phony, or simply that he’s too ambitious, as he acknowledged perplexedly to New York last September. “My closest friends say to me, ‘When I have conversations with people, they ask that question: “Is he for real?” ’ Which I don’t understand.”

    Perhaps relatedly, the former Hillary Clinton aide Nick Merrill told New York that Booker is a skilled retail politician. “From afar, he never really did it for me,” Merrill said. “I find the constant snapping in Senate hearings to be a little ridiculous, and the opposite of authentic. Then I saw him up close and was converted. He’s incredibly impressive.” (Ominously for Booker, Clinton’s fans often say the same about her: She’s incredibly impressive in small groups, but struggles to connect as directly onstage.) Buttigieg, on the other hand, has excelled in larger settings—the wholesale politics that’s most essential for presidential hopefuls.

    OK, the wholesale/retail politics distinction is a serious insight. But it's hard not to be amused by: (1) the underlying theme of Graham's article seems to be: "I don't know much about Buttigieg, but I'm supposed to write something about him, so maybe I can get away with talking about Cory Booker instead." And (2) I really like "opposite of authentic" used to avoid saying "phony".

  • At Reason, Zuri Davis applies the Purity Test to Pete: These Positions Place Pete Buttigieg at Odds With Libertarians. For example:

    Buttigieg has previously invoked his military service to criticize endless war. He's also used his experiences to speak positively about national service. Though he hasn't presented any official positions, his sentiments on the latter indicate that he would be comfortable with mandatory national service.

    Earlier in the month, Buttigieg told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that national service would be part of his campaign. While his proposal is otherwise vague, Buttigieg explained that service could be an answer to bridging social divides. Maddow responded that even the Pentagon is against conscription for the sake of morale and quality of recruits.

    Mandatory (occasionally further euphemized as "universal") national service is an occasional remedy recommended by statists who have enough good sense to deplore the excesses of identity politics, and want to come up with some scheme to push the "we're all in this together" alternative.

    My own modest proposal: combat military service should be mandatory for descendants of representatives who vote to authorize and fund foreign military interventions. Might be an effective check on that particular power.

  • At AEI, Sean Trende is Evaluating the 2020 Democratic primary field. Comments on Beto! seem apt:

    Three terms in Congress and a failed Senate bid aren’t the usual qualifications for a presidential candidate, but these are not usual times, and “real estate mogul/reality TV host” and “first-term senator” weren’t typical resume lines in 2016 and 2008 either. More importantly, as a friend of mine put it, O’Rourke has “it.” I’m not entirely sure what “it” is, but it’s the thing that allows you to stand on the countertop in diners and give speeches without seeming hokey. This Democratic field has some heavy hitters, at least on paper, but most of the candidates running lack “it.” O’Rourke will have a ton of money, and he is exactly the type of candidate who can catch fire in Iowa.

    It's your call Whether you find the countertop-standing thing to be "hokey" or not. I find it difficult not to think of it that way.

  • At the young-adult website Vox, Anna North finds that Trump’s “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT” tweets are an insult to #MeToo. A sample of what's she's talking about:

    Trump’s use of “presidential harassment” to refer to the Russia investigation has ramped up over time, as David A. Graham at the Atlantic noted in January. It’s a way for the president to cast himself as an innocent victim of outside forces who are depressing his poll numbers and threatening his authority.

    But by using the word “harassment,” Trump is also co-opting the language of the #MeToo movement. In recent years, countless women have come forward to report unwelcome sexual behavior by powerful men — including Trump himself. By using the same language, Trump is suggesting that he’s actually the real victim.

    Boo hoo!

    Yeah, well, maybe. Seems a stretch, except for that "I'm a poor victim" thing. That's a theme for our time; everyone wants to claim victim status. As George Will pointed out nearly five years ago (and got into trouble for his truth-telling).

  • At Reason (again, sorry), Matt Welch observes that Orange Man is insecure about his prospects: Donald Trump, Scaredy-Cat.

    "Crooked Hillary," Donald Trump tweeted in November 2017, "bought the DNC & then stole the Democratic Primary from Crazy Bernie!" The unusually tight relationship during the 2016 primary between the Democratic National Committee and its presidential front-runner, the president suggested, might be worthy of a Justice Department investigation.

    If that were true, then the FBI should have a new case on its hands: the unprecedented collusion between the Republican National Committee and Trump himself.

    Well, slight difference: Hillary wasn't the incumbent in 2016. But still, point taken. Trump is clearly worried about the symbolism of a significant fraction of non-Trump votes in 2020 primaries.

    Matt talks about the 1972 insurgency of Pete McCloskey against Nixon, which fizzled badly.

  • Daniel J. Mitchell asks the question: Is Crazy Bernie Sanders a Sincere Hypocrite?.

    Bernie Sanders demonizes the rich and argues that millionaires need to pay higher tax rates in order to finance a bigger burden of government.

    Which presumably means that he should surrender more of his income, since he is part of the gilded class. The New York Times has a report on the Vermont Senator’s lavish income.

    Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, disclosed 10 years of tax returns on Monday… He and his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, reported income that topped $1 million in 2016 and 2017… Mr. Sanders’s higher income in recent years has created some political awkwardness for the senator, who in his 2016 presidential campaign frequently railed against “millionaires and billionaires” and their influence over the political process. …His income now puts him within the top 1 percent of taxpayers, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service.

    Yet when asked why he didn’t pay a big chunk of his income to the IRS, Sanders showed typical statist hypocrisy by giving the same reason used by every rich person (including Trump) and every big corporation.

    Mitchell's answer: yeah, he's probably a sincere hypocrite.

    Still, I'd like a straight, concrete, answer from Bernie and all the other Democrats who can't go thirty seconds talking about taxation without saying that the "rich" aren't paying their "fair share": please tell me what that "fair share" is, for each income level.

  • And, finally, an Easter-themed Tweet.

    I, for one, am not ready for a president whose name I can't figure out how to pronounce.