The Phony Campaign

2019-10-27 Update

Let's lead off with an ad for BIDEN 2020, brought to you by the geniuses at Bad Lip Reading:

"Nathaniel, Nathaniel, Nathaniel."

But Joe was our big winner over the week, improving his electon probability by 1.2% percentage points. Big loser: Senator Liz, who shed 3.2 percentage points. The bettors still find her more likely to win than Joe, though.

And the Mike Pence boomlet seems to be over (for now), as he dipped back under our 2% inclusion threshold. Hillary's still hanging in there, with the punters believing she's got a better shot at winning than all but four Democrats (Liz, Bernie, Pete, Joe). And Trump.

In our phony standings, Mayor Pete had an absolutely stunning week, with Google discovering two million new phony hits. Sorry, President Bone Spurs, even though you gained nearly a million new hits, you're in a distant second this week.

Candidate WinProb Change
Pete Buttigieg 5.1% +0.8% 2,750,000 +2,030,000
Donald Trump 41.2% -0.3% 2,180,000 +940,000
Hillary Clinton 2.5% +0.2% 715,000 +21,000
Bernie Sanders 4.9% +0.2% 535,000 +82,000
Joe Biden 10.5% +1.2% 430,000 +35,000
Elizabeth Warren 21.5% -3.2% 265,000 +54,000
Andrew Yang 2.0% -0.3% 32,800 +1,400

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • But what about Hillary? Well, Mairead McArdle reports at NR that not everyone's enthused: Senate Democrats Warn Hillary Not to Jump Into 2020 Race. Specifically, three of them:

    In the wake of reports that Hillary Clinton is considering making a late entry into the 2020 presidential race, Senate Democrats are warning her against it, saying the party has moved on.

    “She’s done a great service to our country and public service, and I supported her wholeheartedly, but I believe it’s time for another nominee,” Senate minority whip Dick Durbin said, according to a Politico report.

    Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico called the move a “mistake.”

    Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, generally the most conservative Senate Democrat, said, “Absolutely not,” when asked about a possible Clinton 2020 run.

    Michael Ramirez also commented in his own style: Here comes Asteroid Hillary.

    [Here comes Asteroid Hillary]

    I would have thought that Senator Liz had already filled the 'unlikeable shrill elitist' niche this time around. I guess we'll see.

  • P. J. O'Rourke takes A Squint at the Democratic Nomination Contest at his American Consequences perch. Among the objects squinted at:

    But before we get into specifics let’s perform a rudimentary analysis called “Weigh the Bullshit” or “WBS.” What we do is we Google “Political positions of Elizabeth Warren” and “Political positions of Joe Biden” and print out their respective Wikipedia entries.

    Biden’s is 25 pages long but liberally interspersed with photos of Joe-Looking-Presidential and Joe-Being-Statesman-Like. It includes 151 reference notes.

    Warren’s is 42 pages of dense gray print with 251 reference notes.

    It is an axiom of American politics: If you value individual liberty and economic freedom, always pick the candidate with fewer ideas.

    That's a good guideline. Except I'm pretty sure that would be a clear win for Trump: no ideas whatsoever.

  • Also comparing the field is Bob Maistros at Issues & Insights: Democrat’s Health Care ‘Debate: Textbook Distinction Without A Difference.

    In the latest installment of the way-too-long-running Dem Debaters Gone Wild series the other night, cuddly “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg and Senator Amy “Don’t-Forget-to-Duck-When-I-Hurl-Binders” Klobuchar were working overtime trying to create separation from their out-in-orbit competitors – and thereby revive the myth of the “moderate Democrat.”

    The Dynamic Duo from the Midwest, claim the media, were staking out the party’s “centrist” wing versus the “progressives” with their attacks on Elizabeth Warren and her Medicare for All plan – appropriately challenging the Massachusetts solon on how the galactically expensive scheme would be financed (more on that in a minute).

    You see, both the senior Senator from Minnesota and the CEO of sleepy South Bend (2010 population: 101,168 and sinking) are positioning themselves as guardians of private healthcare policies – and common sense – with their advocacy of a “public option.” Said proposal would ostensibly allow Americans to choose a version of Medicare or, in the immortal phraseology of one Barack Obama (in an expression once rated the Lie of the Year), keep their own plans.

    Bob asserts, and I agree, that the "distinction" is between (a) those who want a full government takeover of health care right away and (b) those who propose the "public option" way-station as an intermediate step toward the same ultimate goal.

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson analyzes the Elizabeth Warren Tax Plan: Her Financial Berlin Wall.

    Senator Bernie Sanders, an antediluvian Brooklyn red who literally honeymooned in the old Soviet Union as dissidents were being shipped off to the gulags, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, the counterfeit Cherokee princess who holds forth on “accountability” from her comfortable sinecure at Harvard Law, which once put her forward as the first “woman of color” on its faculty. The wretched old socialist from Vermont is making a good scrappy show of it — and I sincerely wish Senator Sanders the very best of health after his recent cardiac episodes — and, the times being what they are, apparently anybody can be elected president of these wobbly United States. But Warren — in spite of being a plastic banana of titanic phoniness, an ass of exceptional asininity, an intellectual mediocrity, and a terrible campaigner on top of it all — seems the more likely threat. Sanders, who cannot resist that old Soviet liquidate-the-kulaks-as-a-class rhetoric, insists that “billionaires should not exist.” Warren has a ghastly imbecilic plan for that.

    Click through for the details, but the bottom line is: if you're going to treat the "tippy top" of rich people as milk cows to fund your socialist schemes, you've got to have some way to pen them in place while you're doing that.

  • But even if she manages that effectively, there's still the problem of … math. At Reason, Peter Suderman uses it to show that Elizabeth Warren Is Running Out of Fake Money to Pay for Her Terrible Ideas.

    The first problem with using a wealth tax to finance Warren's plans is political. Even with unified Democratic control of Congress, an unlikely proposition, it's hard to imagine that a wealth tax would actually pass. The second problem is practical. It is quite difficult to calculate wealth, especially for the richest households, which tend to have obscure assets, as well as the resources to shield their fortunes from evaluation. Indeed, capital flight is one of the reasons why the large majority of developed economies that have adopted wealth taxes have also abandoned them. In a survey of economic experts conducted by Chicago Booth earlier this year, for example, 73 percent agreed Warren's wealth tax would be "much more difficult to enforce than existing federal taxes" thanks to complications arising from valuation and tax evasion.  

    Meanwhile, Warren's insistence that the math adds up ignores the very real academic debates over the source of her estimates. One study presented at the National Bureau of Economic Research this summer, for example, found that Warren's numbers vastly over-estimate the amount of wealth that would be available to tax, suggesting that it would raise far less revenue than what she projects. 

    I've recently seen an emerging pro-Warren argument along the lines of: "Well, none of her spending or taxation plans will pass Congress anyway, so who cares if nothing adds up? Vote for her anyway. Her heart's in the right place."

    It's not (yet) stated so bluntly, but …

  • At Power Line, John Hinderaker notes yet another example of Joe Biden’s Trouble With the Truth.

    In his lifetime in politics, Joe Biden has always had a tenuous connection to reality. As he has gotten elderly, that connection has weakened further. While politicians in general are not famed for veracity, Biden’s pronouncements–especially about himself, a topic on which you might expect him to be an authority–are uniquely likely to be false.

    The latest case in point: Brother of Sandy Hook victim calls out Joe Biden for ‘factual inaccuracy’.

    Although Wheezy Joe is leading in the polls, he's lagging among the oddsmakers. I suspect that might be due to the perception that his "mental faculties", as John says, are "slipping away."

  • And you'll notice that, with the bare minimum 2% probabiliity, Andrew Yang just might be on the verge of elimination. So we should get in our shots while we can. Daniel Mitchell looks at Andrew Yang’s Dependency Dividend. Quoting the Tax Foundation:

    Andrew Yang said he wants to provide each American adult $1,000 per month in a universal basic income (UBI) he calls a “Freedom Dividend.” He argued that this proposal could be paid for with…a combination of new revenue from a VAT, other taxes, spending cuts, and economic growth. …We estimate that his plan, as described, could only fund a little less than half the Freedom Dividend at $1,000 a month. A more realistic plan would require reducing the Freedom Dividend to $750 per month and raising the VAT to 22 percent.

    As Dan notes, the Tax Foundation is pretty generous to Yang, making a few rosy assumptions about the disincentives involved in his tax increases. But still, the "Freedom Dividend" punches a $1.5 Trillion/year hole in the federal budget.

  • And even the geek-friendly folks at Wired threw a bucket of cold, neutron-absorbing heavy water on a different scheme: Andrew Yang Wants a Thorium Reactor by 2027. Good Luck, Buddy.

    Yet of all Yang’s futuristic policies, one in particular stands out for its uniqueness and specificity. To transition the United States from fossil fuels to green energy, Yang wants the government to invest $50 billion in the development of thorium molten-salt nuclear reactors—and he wants them on the grid by 2027.

    “Nuclear isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s a solid solution for now,” Yang’s climate policy page reads. It calls out thorium molten-salt reactors in particular as “a technology we should invest in as a stopgap for any shortfalls we have in our renewable energy sources as we move to a future powered by renewable energy.”

    The Wired article details the hurdles. But still… as this article relates, it only took a decade or so to go from Fermi's Chicago Pile No. 1 in 1942 to various commercial (and military) reactors.

    I don't want to succumb to the "nerd harder" fallacy, but… c'mon, geeks. Those old guys in the 40's and 50's were that much smarter than you?