The Phony Campaign

2019-12-15 Update

Welcome to the Pun Salad Sunday Featurette, where we examine the authenticity of the current crop of presidential candidates.

After a week of impeachment news, the punters looked hard at the field, and… decided that Donald J. Trump was even more likely to win the election. He's our big winning-probability gainer this week (plus 4.0 points), approaching even odds for re-election.

A surprising big loser: Mayor Pete Buttigieg, shedding 2.2 points, dropping his winning probability below Elizabeth Warren's… even while she was dropping a point herself.

And we welcome the plucky Andrew Yang back to our table, whom the bettors rescued from last week's sub-2% showing.

Sure, Andrew. People betting their own money say so.

Candidate WinProb Change
Pete Buttigieg 6.1% -2.2% 4,030,000 +2,260,000
Donald Trump 48.8% +4.0% 2,440,000 +470,000
Hillary Clinton 3.2% +0.7% 854,000 +14,000
Bernie Sanders 8.7% +0.2% 535,000 -57,000
Joe Biden 12.5% +0.7% 480,000 +31,000
Elizabeth Warren 6.3% -1.0% 283,000 -5,000
Michael Bloomberg 5.1% unch 120,000 -12,000
Andrew Yang 2.2% --- 49,000 ---

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • The hard-hitting investigative reporter Lucy Diavolo in Teen Vogue clears things up for her audience: Baby Yoda Is More Popular Than 2020 Democrats, but Could He Actually Be President?.

    At 50 years old, he’s certainly old enough. But it’s unclear if he can produce a birth certificate to meet the natural-born citizen requirement for president, as he’s an unknown alien species living a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away — presumably well before the United States was even constituted. And while he may be up for space travel, he’d be hard-pressed to meet the 14-year residency requirement even if he were a natural-born citizen.

    I'm pretty sure you could write him in, though. I've committed to Dave Barry, myself, but if you want to go with someone more fictional, fine.

  • And the Boston Globe reports (for some reason) on a candidate who is Living or dying in the Live Free or Die state.

    New Hampshire is a hill Michael Bennet is willing to die on.

    The Colorado senator is scaling back his efforts in Iowa and refocusing his dark-horse presidential candidacy on the Granite State. He’ll be barnstorming its near and far reaches for the next two months, holding town-hall meetings.

    “This is it, man, this is it," says Bennet, professing to be hopeful about his prospects.

    Unfortunately, we've already used that Jim Carrey GIF this week, Mike. The most recent polls have you behind… well, nearly everybody.

  • President Bone Spurs loves the p-word, as noticed in this Tweet.

    Yeah, that's our thrice-married President musing on the intimate personal details of the (second) marriage of a political opponent. Classy! Just the kind of thing of which America needs four more years.

  • Trump could go after Elizabeth Warren on… y'know… an actual political issue. For example (WSJ possibly paywalled): Warren’s Economic Illusions. A new study contributes to the pile-on:

    On Thursday the analysts at the Penn Wharton Budget Model pitched in their two cents. According to their dynamic estimate, which takes account of macroeconomic effects, Ms. Warren’s tax would bring in only $2.3 trillion over 10 years. That’s almost $1.5 trillion less than Ms. Warren is counting on.

    The model also says the economy under Ms. Warren’s wealth tax would be about 1% to 2% smaller in 2050, compared with the baseline, though the exact outcome depends on whether Congress spent the revenue in ways that lifted productivity. Meantime, average hourly wages in 2050, “including wages earned by households not directly subject to the wealth tax, would fall between 0.8 and 2.3 percent due to the reduction in private capital formation.”

    It’s not that the Penn Wharton model is precisely accurate. As Russ Roberts likes to say, you know macroeconomists have a sense of humor because their estimates include decimal points. Still, Ms. Warren’s promises are wildly unrealistic. She’ll pay for a $20.5 trillion health program, which actually costs $34 trillion, by imposing a $3.75 trillion wealth tax, which actually raises $2.3 trillion. The real magic trick would be getting voters to believe that.

    That's boring, of course. With numbers. Let's talk about marital sleeping arrangements instead.

  • Despite TV ad after TV ad, poll-wise, Tom Steyer is down there in single-digit-or-less-land with Patrick/Delaney/Williamson/Bennet/Yang/Gabbard/Klobuchar/Bloomberg. (Did I miss anyone?) It's too bad, because as Brendan Nyhan points out in the WaPo, You could teach a political science class on all of Tom Steyer’s bad ideas.

    Steyer also advocates term limits in Congress, which he claims will “defeat the corporations who’ve bought our democracy” by preventing them from, in effect, capturing legislators. “The longer an elected official stays in office,” his website states, “the more beholden they become to corporate backers and special interest groups.”

    First of all, the promise is unrealistic: Steyer’s plan would require a constitutional amendment to overturn a Supreme Court decision, U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, that prevents term limits for members of Congress.

    More important, however, the evidence is at best equivocal on the effects of term limits. Some studies find they would actually enhance the power of special interest groups. The problem is that incumbents who lack a reelection incentive can reduce the effort they devote to their jobs, becoming less attentive to their constituents and working less on the legislative process. The political scientists Alexander Fouirnaies and Andrew B. Hall, for instance, use data from 1995 to 2016 to show that legislators facing term limits sponsor fewer bills and miss more votes. This shift can increase the influence of outside forces such as interest groups and lobbyists, who will happily fill the vacuum in expertise and effort created by term-limited legislators.

    As Brendan points out, they have had legislative term limits in California since 1990. And if you're like me, that's all you need to know about term limits improving governance.

    But as Brendan doesn't point out: the President has no Constitutional role whatsoever in the amendment process. If Steyer really wanted them, he'd be running for a legislative office that would at least have some chance of putting term limits into play.

  • The candidate who has been dubbed "My Little Aloha Sweetie" by a well-known blogger gets some advice from local pols: NH Democrats Want Tulsi Gabbard to Vote for Herself in FITN Primary.

    Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is so committed to winning the New Hampshire primary that she’s moved to the Granite State, renting a house in Goffstown, N.H.  Now that she’s moved in, the question has arisen: Should she be able to vote for herself here, too?

    According to the New Hampshire ACLU, the state Democratic Party, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and — oddly enough — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the answer appears to be yes.  Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii should be able to cast a vote in the New Hampshire presidential primary.

    New Hampshire is embroiled in an eternal debate about whether college students should be able to vote in (say) Durham (UNH) or Hanover (Dartmouth). But, yeah Tulsi, if you'd like to make a statement on that issue, go for it.