The Phony Campaign

2016 Kickoff

[phony baloney]

Despite an overwhelming lack of popular demand, Pun Salad is once again bringing its dull scalpel of political analysis to the 2016 presidential season, the Phony Campaign. Cheap shots, complete lack of respect, and facile reasoning are our guidelines. Simply because the candidates take themselves way too seriously is no reason why we should.

For newcomers: every so often, Pun Salad tabulates how many Google hits are associated with each presidential candidate's name when the additional search term "phony" is added. This reveals how the Web views the relative phoniness of the candidates, and how those perceptions change over the course of the campaign.

In our fantasy world, that is. In reality, these hit counts almost certainly mean less than nothing. They're just an excuse for Pun Salad to bitch about politics and politicians. Which amuses Pun Salad, if nobody else.

Who to include? At least for now, we'll use a wagering site where people bet their own money on likely nominees. Our arbitrary cutoff will be 10-to-1 odds; we'll ignore longer shots. That gives us seven candidates, two Democrats and five Republicans:

Query String Hit Count
"Jeb Bush" phony 623,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 369,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 301,000
"Rand Paul" phony 167,000
"Elizabeth Warren" phony 97,200
"Marco Rubio" phony 90,100
"Scott Walker" phony 81,100

Our chosen site is listing Joe Biden with 16-to-1 odds, and Chris Christie at 11-to-1. Sorry, guys, try harder.

Jeb and Hillary are—gulp!—the current favorites. (3.9-to-1 and 1.41-to-1, respectively.) Pun Salad finds itself in strong agreement with (of all people) Maureen Dowd: "Before these two families release their death grip on the American electoral system, we’re going to have to watch Chelsea’s granddaughter try to knock off George P.’s grandson, Prescott Walker Bush II." (See below for more on Ms. Dowd.)

  • The biggest shocker to Pun Salad is the relative poor showing of Elizabeth Warren, aka Fauxcahontas. Although she's facing stiff phony competition, none has seen fit to lie about their race/ethnicity for professional benefit. And while she's self-allegedly the champion of the downtrodden, Andrea Cohen noted:

    While U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren sleeps in her $5 million mansion in Cambridge, and got paid $350,000 to teach just one class at Harvard, she had the audacity to say in an interview with Jon Stewart this week that “the system is rigged to benefit the rich.”

    Making predictions about this stuff is perilous, but Liz's phony hit count has to increase as the campaign wears on.

  • Also surprising is Jeb Bush's solid phony lead. More than Hillary? More than Mitt? Please. Jeb's real problem is his positions on Common Core and immigration, which are anathema to a lot of the GOP base. And yet:

    Bush, who earlier declared that a Republican must be willing to “lose the primary” in order to win the general election, announced this week that he is “actively exploring” a potential presidential campaign. Aware that his positions on immigration and Common Core will be significant hurdles, Bush seems intent on doubling down on his moderate positions instead of flip-flopping and coming off as a phony.

  • One problem with our methodology is that certain things are so obviously true that nobody bothers to point them out. To a certain extent, for example, calling Hillary a phony is akin to calling water wet. This may explain her low numbers. Still, we have the Clinton-loving website Media Matters for America pointing out:

    For more than twenty years, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has been attacking Hillary Clinton from a shallow well of insults, routinely portraying the former secretary of state and first lady as an unlikeable, power-hungry phony.

    MMfA portrays this history as some sort of deranged obsession on Dowd's part. Hillary non-fans will find it a fascinating summary of why they never liked her.

  • All the Republican candidates and their entourages could stand to read and memorize Jonah Goldberg's recent column "Dear GOP: Show, Don’t Tell". Key paragraph:

    The GOP is infested with anonymous flacks and hacks who get a buzz from talking strategy with the New York Times. They admit they might have to “play the race card” or “go negative.” I don’t even know what the race card means any more, but if you’re going to play it, play it. I’ve never met a poker player who said, “I’m going for an inside straight.” And if you’re going to go negative, by all means go negative. Don’t telegraph to all the world, “This is just a cynical gambit we don’t really believe.” Outrage is so much more believable if you don’t wink to the audience in advance. Don’t worry, plenty of voters, never mind pundits, will catch your phony outrage without the advanced warning.

Last Modified 2014-12-29 6:36 AM EDT