The Phony Campaign

2019-06-30 Update

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So last week I wondered whether the two-night Democrat "debate" would shake things up in the prediction markets. Boy, did it ever.

The first thing you'll notice is that Beto! is (finally) gone, having dropped below our 2% WinProb threshold.

Candidate WinProb Change
Donald Trump 45.7% +0.5% 2,200,000 +80,000
Bernie Sanders 4.9% -1.8% 1,400,000 -10,000
Joe Biden 8.0% -6.7% 1,310,000 +310,000
Pete Buttigieg 5.5% -0.9% 886,000 -334,000
Elizabeth Warren 8.3% +1.0% 181,000 -25,000
Kamala Harris 11.5% +5.2% 106,000 +12,000
Andrew Yang 3.1% -0.1% 28,000 +7,100

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

Wheezy Joe was clearly the big loser over the week, the Betfair gamblers dropping his odds from "obvious front-runner" to "still a credible candidate". Senator Kamala impressed a lot of easily-impressed people, and suddenly she's the front-runner.

Go figure. In phoniness, however, President Trump remains supreme, with Bernie nipping at his heels.

  • Dave Barry provided his debate analysis, and you really should read the whole thing, but here's his take on a candidate to whom we don't really pay enough attention.

    Does any Democratic candidate really “stand out” from the crowd? I would say yes, one does: Andrew Yang. I am not making Andrew Yang up: He’s an actual candidate, appearing in the Thursday night debate group, and to my knowledge he is the only candidate who is tackling what I think we can all agree is the single greatest menace to America today: robo-callers. According to Yang’s website, as president he would set up a special number where you could report unwanted robo-calls; if a robo-call company generated enough complaints, the federal government would “issue significant fines.”

    I think that’s a great policy. My only suggestion would be to change the words “issue significant fines” to “drop the robo-call people from helicopters.” But my point is, Andrew Yang is somebody you might want to take a hard look at.

    Andrew also (when he managed to get a word in edgewise) claimed to be the candidate who is "drawing thousands of disaffected Trump voters, conservatives, independents, libertarians, as well as Democrats and progressives." OK, my ears pricked up a bit at "libertarians". Then flopped back down again when I remembered his willingness to have the government regulate political speech.

  • The p-word showed up in the debates, most notably as reported at The Week: Bernie Sanders' plan for beating Trump? 'We expose him for the fraud that he is'.

    Perhaps no one landed a sharper blow [at Trump] in the early moments of the debate than Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was asked for his response to critics who might claim that nominating a democratic-socialist would result in re-electing Trump.

    "The American people understand that Trump is a phony, that Trump is a pathological liar and a racist, and that he lied to the American people during his campaign," Sanders said. "He said he was going to stand up for working families. Well, President Trump, you're not standing up for working families when you try to throw 32 million people off the healthcare that they have and that 83 percent of your tax benefits go to the top 1 percent."

    To roaring applause, Sanders concluded: "That's how we beat Trump. We expose him for the fraud that he is."

    Lordy! Note at least some of the "roaring applause" was coming from not-exactly-poor people, as the Miami Herald tracked down the pricing:

    For $4,500, a sponsor gets two tickets to a pre-debate reception on June 26 and two tickets to both debate nights. For $3,000, a sponsor will get the two tickets to the reception and two tickets for one of the debate nights, though it is unclear if the person gets to pick which night. A $1,750 donation to the party covers one ticket to the reception and one ticket for a single debate night.

  • Michael Ramirez commented on Bernie Sanders and endless free stuff.

    [Bernie Panders]

  • At Vox, Matthew Yglesias had an amusing take on the first night of the debates: Elizabeth Warren won on June 26. Fine, but why? It was her "artful dodge" of a straightforward question:

    Moderator Chuck Todd launched the second half of the debate with an effort to bait Warren into taking an unpopular position on guns, trying to get her to say it would be a good idea for the government to confiscate firearms that Americans already own.

    Warren didn’t deny Todd’s (obviously correct) premise that in some sense, the existing stock of dangerous weapons is at least as big a problem as any future flow of new sales. But she also didn’t bite. She reiterated Democrats’ poll-tested question that we need to “do the things that are sensible and do the universal background checks and ban the weapons of war.”

    Then she said “we can double down on the research and find out what really works,” which isn’t really something I’m used to hearing in the gun debate but sounds like the kind of thing a smart professor would say. We need to find out “where it is that we can make the differences at the margins that will keep our children safe. We need to treat this like the virus that’s killing our children.” That sounded tough on guns. She wants to treat them like a virus!

    But Todd saw she was trying to dodge him. He wanted to make news by getting her to issue a call for the government to take away Americans’ guns. He pressed again, “Do you think the federal government needs to figure out a way to get the guns out there?”

    Warren ducked and weaved, reiterating her call for research and conveying how seriously she takes the issue both intellectually and morally but without falling into Todd’s trap:

    What I think we need to do is treat it like a serious research problem, which we have have not done. Guns in the hands of a collector who had them for decades who never fired them and takes safety seriously, that’s very different from guns that are sold and turned over quickly. We can’t treat this as an across-the-board problem. We have to treat it like a public health emergency, and that means bring data to bear and make real change in this country whether it’s politically popular or not. We need to fight for our children.
    In short, she finessed the issue.

    "Finessed" here means what, class?

    Note (of course) that Yglesias approves of dishonest obfuscation and rhetorical fog when it serves the overall goal of getting political power. It's been a long-held position for him.

  • At the Washington Examiner, Jerry Dunleavy notes one of Wheezy Joe's shifting stories: From 'Don't go' to 'Go': Joe Biden has told opposite stories about his advice on Osama bin Laden raid.

    Joe Biden has offered two starkly different and contradictory accounts of his role in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

    After initially saying that he opposed the operation and told President Barack Obama not to do it, the 2020 Democratic front-runner changed his account to say he hedged in front of other officials but privately told Obama to go ahead.

    Every other account of the decision-making process indicates that the former vice president's first version was true and his later accounts were not. In 2012, he said his advice was, 'Don’t go.' By 2015, he had settled on saying he'd privately told Obama to 'go.'

    I also told Obama to go. It was very private.

  • At Reason, Shikha Dalmia (who is, let it be noted, an open borders advocate) describes Joe Biden’s Immigration Hypocrisy.

    Recently, I predicted that former Vice President Joe Biden would quietly move away from his longstanding flirtation with restrictionist policies and tilt in a pro-immigration direction. The Democratic presidential contenders in general are scrambling to be seen as more friendly towards immigration, and given that Biden has made a career out of swinging with the wind like a "rusty weather vane", as Reason Editor at Large Matt Welch put it, it was only a matter of time before he "creak[ed] in the direction of prevailing winds."

    That time arrived yesterday: Biden penned an op-ed in the Miami Herald positioning himself as a champion of immigrants whose polices will reflect "American values." But look past the highfalutin rhetoric and what you find is rank hypocrisy combined with the lamest reform agenda.

    Yes, another issue on which Biden is walking away from his past record in order to pander to Democratic primary voters.

  • And Kirsten Gillibrand has long been absent from our phony table. Currently, Betfair puts the probability of President Gillibrand at 0.31%. Which is more likely that President Marianne Williamson, but…

    Anyway, we cannot ignore the Power Line analysis of Kirsten Gillibrand’s total lack of authenticity.

    Gillibrand has made a strong run in the phoniness sweepstakes, though. Indeed, she looks to be running away with that prize. This is no mean feat considering that Sens. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren are in the race.

    Perhaps the starkest example of Gillibrand’s lack of authenticity is her flip on gun control. As a congresswoman from upstate New York, she was pro-gun and a favorite of the NRA. As soon as she become a Senator with a much different constituency, she changed her position.

    How does Gillibrand explain her flip? She says it happened at Nazareth Regional High School in Brooklyn where she went to console Jennifer Pryear, a mother whose deceased daughter was a victim of gun violence.

    In other words: Gillibrand uses a horrible tragedy to attempt to disguise her unprincipled pandering. That's impressive phoniness! Matthew Yglesias would give two thumbs up!