The Phony Campaign

2019-11-10 Update

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We welcome Michael Bloomberg to the list, popping into the oddsmaker table this morning with a 4.2% chance of being Your Next President. His net worth ($53 billion USD) makes Tom Steyer ($1.6 billion USD) look like a shiftless bum on the street corner. Back in 2013, Reason put him at number one on its 45 Enemies of Freedom list. (Elizabeth Warren barely made the list, at number 45, but that was six years ago. I bet she'd do better, by which I mean worse, now.)

So Nanny-statist Mayor Mike is our big probability-gainer this week. Everyone else's odds decreased or remained static, but Senator Liz was the Big Loser for the second week in a row, as more people weighed in on her "plans" to suck vast sums of cash out of private hands and spend it on things she thinks are more worthwhile.

And as far as phony results go, President Bone Spurs is running away with the competition.

Candidate WinProb Change
Donald Trump 40.8% -0.2% 7,730,000 +5,950,000
Pete Buttigieg 6.9% -0.5% 988,000 -112,000
Hillary Clinton 2.1% -0.8% 954,000 -24,000
Bernie Sanders 6.1% -0.5% 502,000 -38,000
Joe Biden 11.2% unch 465,000 +20,000
Elizabeth Warren 17.1% -1.1% 262,000 +4,000
Michael Bloomberg 4.2% --- 51,800 ---
Andrew Yang 2.0% unch 42,600 +1,800

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • So let's let Jacob Sullum welcome Mayor Mike to the campaign trail: Michael Bloomberg’s Centrism Combines the Worst Instincts of the Right and Left.

    Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is reportedly entering the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, presenting himself as a moderate alternative who can beat Donald Trump. That mantle had been claimed by Joe Biden, but Bloomberg, who previously said he was staying out of the race, apparently has been disappointed by the former vice president's performance so far.

    It's highly doubtful that Democratic primary voters will find Bloomberg, who until recently was a Republican, more appealing than Biden. But in the unlikely event that Bloomberg wins the nomination, the presidential nomination will pit a billionaire busybody again a billionaire bully, a match-up that might be entertaining but will not offer an obvious alternative for voters who favor limited government.

    Well, other than the Dave Barry write-in alternative.

  • Trump's musings on the Constitution's "phony emoluments clause" continue to ring the Google bell, but this Newsweek story is pretty eyebrow-raising: Trump Campaign's Meal Contests Are 'Out-and-out Fraud' if Nobody Wins, Says Ex-White House Lawyer.

    If the Trump 2020 campaign is holding phony contests to raise money by offering a prize of meeting President Donald Trump that is not honored then it is "out-and-out fraud," a former White House lawyer said, and could lead to prosecutions.

    The Popular Information newsletter reported that the Trump campaign has held 15 contests since 2018 offering the prize, which includes a meal, travel and hotel expenses, and a photo with Trump for the winning donor.

    Other campaigns have used the same cash-raising tactic, including those of Jeb Bush, Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg. These contests are typically followed up with an announcement of a winner and images from the meal.

    But there appears to be little, if any, public evidence of any winners to date of the Trump campaign's contests, raising questions about who has won the prizes.

    Hm. Alexa, what's that old cliché? "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Still…

    Confession: I'm a sucker for these "contests". So far this cycle, I've entered Mayor Pete's and Senator Liz's. (You don't need to donate money to enter.) I have this fantasy of asking some magical question that the candidate will run off the rails answering, dooming their campaign.

    That hasn't happened, unfortunately. The main effect is that I get lots and lots of subsequent campaign spam in my Inbox. (Six messages from Mayor Pete and his minions yesterday alone!)

    I'd enter Trump's contest, but they want your e-mail and your cell phone number. Yeah, I do not want Trump calling my cell phone.

  • Of course, Tom Steyer's not a shiftless bum on the street corner as I implied above. Steve MacDonald at Granite Grok reports Billionaire Hedge Fund Manager Tom Steyer's Campaign Trying to Buy Endorsements. Quoting an AP story:

    A top aide to Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer in Iowa privately offered campaign contributions to local politicians in exchange for endorsing his White House bid, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the conversations.

    The overtures from Pat Murphy, a former state House speaker who is serving as a top adviser on Steyer’s Iowa campaign, aren’t illegal — though payments for endorsements would violate campaign finance laws if not disclosed. There’s no evidence that any Iowans accepted the offer or received contributions from Steyer’s campaign as compensation for their backing.

    As I left as a comment on GG: If you see me endorse Steyer, you'll know what happened. I won't have gone cheap, though. I'd need something in the high two figures.

    Pay attention, candidates: Pun Salad can be bought. Think: Amazon gift cards. Lavish meals. Funny t-shirts. Be creative.

  • David Harsanyi notes Pete Buttigieg's Bogus Religious Tolerance.

    Not long ago, Saint Peter Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., the media’s go-to expert on all matters of faith, was asked about Beto O’Rourke’s contention that churches that refuse to embrace progressive spiritual rites should be stripped of their tax-exempt status.

    “I’m not sure he understood the implications of what he was saying,” Mayor Pete responded. “I mean, that means going to war not only with churches, but I would think with mosques and a lot of organizations that may not have the same view of various religious principles that I do, but also, because of the separation of church and state, are acknowledged as nonprofits in this country.“

    Buttigieg’s implication was that while O’Rourke’s “war” against Christians might be justified, there’s also a chance that those efforts might ensnare a favored progressive group. This isn’t a defense of religious tolerance as much as a warning  — a good one — that any state empowered to target problematic Catholics or Evangelicals could one day come after Unitarians or Reform Jews, as well.

    Mayor Pete (correctly) notes that the First Amendment protects unpopular opinions against government persecution. He seems more than a tad wistful that such protection extends to opinions he doesn't like.

  • At Reason, Peter Suderman continues to weigh in on Elizabeth Warren’s Fake Plan To Pay for Medicare for All . Click over for the nerdy details, but here's the take-home:

    For Warren, however, realism is clearly not the point. She released the plan after months of pressure to explain precisely how she would finance the tens of trillions in new government spending that even the cheapest, most efficient version of a full-fledged single-payer system would require. Like a general insisting on the size of his army by lining up row after row of mannequins and scarecrows, Warren has enlisted a legion of implausible savings mechanisms and unworkable tax hikes in hopes of cobbling together something that looks convincing from afar.

    Her goal was not to figure out how to pay for single-payer, or outline the political challenges and economic tradeoffs that it might entail, but to produce a document sufficiently festooned with technocratic jargon and data points drawn from savings projections that did not pan out all so that she could say she had a plan to finance the program, dismiss her critics, and then change the subject.

    Warren has not come up with a plan to pay for Medicare for All. Instead, she has concocted a $52 trillion package of fanciful assumptions, unworkable reforms, and psuedo-wonky gobbledygook, and figured out how to pay for that.

    Other words appearing in Peter's article: "balderdash", "mythical", "fake".

    Have I mentioned one more invaluable boon provided by the web? Thesauri are free and online!

  • Andrew Yang reliably holds down the lowest position on the phony poll, and Wired's Nicholas Thompson points to a possible reason for that: Andrew Yang Is Not Full of Shit. It's long and well-reported.

    He has run his campaign in the most modern of digital ways too. The guy is dynamite on Reddit, and he spends time answering questions on Quora. And that is part of why he’s going to win, he hollers from the stage. He can beat Trump on his own terrain—“I’m better at the internet than he is!”

    But the tech-friendly trappings mask a thorough critique of technology itself. His whole message is premised on the dangers of automation taking away jobs and the risks of artificial intelligence. He lambastes today's technology firms for not compensating us for our data. If there’s a villain in his stump speech, it’s not Trump—it’s Amazon. (“We have to be pretty fucking stupid to let a trillion-dollar tech company pay nothing in taxes, am I right, Los Angeles?”)

    Hey, Andrew, we try to keep things PG-13, or at least TV-MA around here. Could you hold off on the f-bombs?

    Thompson links to a Forbes article that estimates Andy's net worth at … $1 million USD.

    That's one-twelfth of Senator Liz's net worth. And 0.002% of Mayor Mike's net worth.

    Even Bernie is worth $2.5 million.

    Andy bills himself as a "tech entrepreneur". He sold his test-prep company to Kaplan "low tens of millions". So shouldn't that job description be "money-losing tech entrepreneur"?

  • And finally, NH Labor News ("Where Labor and Progressive Politics Intersect") reports: Tulsi Gabbard Files Nomination Papers for New Hampshire Primary. And she said:

    New Hampshire has always played a unique and historic role in selecting presidents, and voters here take that responsibility seriously. I love and appreciate the independent spirit and values represented across the ‘Live Free or Die’ state that are firmly rooted in the bedrock of our Constitution and Bill of Rights — the freedoms and liberties that so many of our nation’s sons and daughters throughout history have fought and sacrificed to protect — sacrifices I do not take lightly. I made a promise to support and defend our Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic when I enlisted as a soldier in the Army National Guard almost seventeen years ago. I took that same oath when I was sworn in as a member of the United States Congress nearly seven years ago. These freedoms, that I and so many others who serve our nation are willing to sacrifice our lives to defend, are what make our country great.

    Tulsi has recently introduced legislation to reinstate the "Fairness Doctrine" imposition on TV and radio broadcasters. She's suing Google on the novel theory that it "infringed on her free speech rights." And (of course) she's a fan of degrading the First Amendment in the guise of "campaign finance reform".

    Tulsi, please let me know when you're an actual fan of LFOD.