The Phony Campaign

2020 Kickoff

[phony baloney]

With the 2020 New Hampshire Presidential Primary only (approximately) 450 days away, we once again fire up our quadrennial analysis of the relative authenticity of the crop of candidates for the office of President of the United States.

Or: how phony are these people, anyway?

Our guidelines:

  • To start, we build our candidate list from PredictWise, David Rothschild's site that aggregates data from betting markets. (Currently it appears he's only looking at Betfair.) Our inclusion criterion: if Predictwise shows someone with a 3% chance or greater to win their party's nomination, they are included in the polling.

  • We then Google each candidate's name (in quotes), adding the word "phony" to the search string.

  • And we scrape off Google's result count at the top of the first page of search results. And that tells us the current level of perceived phoniness for each candidate.

  • We hear you screaming: No, it doesn't! And you're right. We were kidding just then. This is a totally unscientific, meaningless, invalid metric. You might get different results. You probably will get different results.

  • It is kind of fun, through.

  • We will attempt to tabulate and post our results every Sunday from now until November 1, 2020. We'll append a few observations on the pages we find by following the Google links. Probably mostly snark, but there have been grazes with profound insights in past elections.

Without further ado, our initial results, fourteen(!) candidates, sorted in order of decreasing phoniness:

Candidate Nomination
Result Count
Donald Trump 73% 2,070,000
Nikki Haley 5% 1,490,000
Bernie Sanders 7% 776,000
Caroline Kennedy 13% 633,000
Kamala Harris 16% 506,000
Michelle Obama 3% 242,000
Joe Biden 9% 206,000
Paul Ryan 3% 202,000
Mike Pence 7% 197,000
Elizabeth Warren 10% 179,000
Kirsten Gillibrand 5% 179,000
Sherrod Brown 3% 125,000
Amy Klobuchar 5% 101,000
Cory Booker 4% 63,700

  • Okay, first: Caroline Kennedy?! A 13% shot at the Democratic nomination?! Are you kidding?

    I think things are a little hinky there. A delusional bettor at Betfair, maybe.

  • Donald Trump is, of course, the undisputed phony leader. A lot of the recent phony news also involves Senator-elect Mitt Romney. Example, from the New York Post:

    Romney during the 2016 presidential campaign called Trump “a phony, a fraud,” but appeared to moderate his view after Trump became president.

    “President Trump was not the person I wanted to become the nominee of our party, but he’s president now. The policies he’s promoted have been pretty effective. And I support a lot of those policies,” he said during an October Republican rally in Arizona, adding that he would disagree when he felt there was a need.

    Mitt is not (yet) on our candidate list, but I'll dust off (one more time) Jonah Goldberg's quip about what Mitt Romney seems to be saying if you hit the mute button while watching him on TV: What do I have to do to put you in this BMW today?

  • We have a Kamala/Spartacus phony twofer from Matt Lewis at the Daily Beast: Liberals Are Now in Love With Cory Booker and Kamala Harris? That’s What’s Wrong With Liberalism. Matt was unimpressed with their performances at the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings:

    They’re both auditioning of course, but are they auditioning well? In attempting to learn the lessons of Trump’s victory, Democrats are missing some key ingredients. Trump’s appeal wasn’t (solely) about his status as a fighter. It also had to do with the fact that he was (a) authentic and (b) an outsider. Harris and Booker, conversely, are demonstrating the exact opposite attributes. Simply put, they look like phony politicians. (Another thing about Trump is that he is utterly shameless. You can’t fake that, either.)

    When Donald Trump looks more authentic than you, Senators, you've got a phony problem.

  • In second place, Nikki Haley scores … higher than Biden? Higher than Warren? Come on, people. But she recently got a phony bump from the New York Times: Nikki Haley Pokes Fun at Trump, and Herself, at Al Smith Dinner. And here's a good one:

    When the president first learned of her Indian heritage, she said, “He asked me if I was from the same tribe as Elizabeth Warren,” the Democratic senator from Massachusetts who may challenge Mr. Trump in 2020. He has ridiculed Ms. Warren’s claims of Native American ancestry.

    And (remember this is an article from the NYT):

    Ms. Haley also chided The New York Times for an article last month that left the misimpression that the Trump administration had spent more than $52,000 on curtains for her diplomatic residence. The curtains had been ordered by the Obama administration. (The Times corrected the article to make that clear.)

    But Ms. Haley wasn’t satisfied. She joked that the newspaper had merely “changed the headline to ‘Obama Creates High-Paying Jobs in the Curtain Industry.”

    Ms. Haley also complained about other fake headlines, including one that said the rapper Kanye West had been sworn in as her replacement. “Oh wait, that could really happen,” she said.

    I confess I love Nikki Haley. And when I say "love", I mean in a way that's completely inappropriate, given our age difference, our respective marital statuses, our incompatible social circles, geographical separation, and a host of additional irreconcilable differences.

  • I am also unsure that Senator Bernie (who would be 79 on Inauguration Day, 2021) is a viable candidate, but Betsy McCaughey does a phony number on his "Medicare for All" legislation, deeming it a prescription for failure:

    Sen. Bernie Sanders says that because Medicare is “the most popular, successful and cost-effective health insurance in the country,” everyone should have it, regardless of age.

    But watch out for the bait-and-switch. Truth is, Sanders’ “Medicare for All” legislation actually abolishes Medicare and Medicare Advantage, as well as employer-provided coverage, union plans and plans people buy for themselves. Every person, whether they want to or not, would be forced into a government-run system with the phony name “Medicare for All.” The quality of your medical care would plummet.

    Wait, let me finish my thought… our so-far oldest president, Ronald Reagan, was 77 when he left office. Bernie starting when he's 79? I don't think so.