The Phony Campaign

2024 Kickoff

[phony baloney]

The famed New Hampshire Presidential Primary is (probably) about a year away, although (you may have heard) the Democratic National Committee really, really, really doesn't want it to be FITN (first in the nation). Reporting on the latest DNC "OK, New Hampshire, we'll give you one more chance" effort contains pass-the-popcorn gold:

Several members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee voiced frustration with some New Hampshire Democrats during the meeting, arguing that some comments being made publicly are harmful to the party.

Leah Daughtry, a panel member representing New York, said it was incumbent on the committee to “set up a calendar that reflects a 21st-century voting reality, as opposed to something that happened 100 years ago.”

Daughtry said she was “taken aback and quite frankly shocked” by some New Hampshire Democrats saying they were surprised by the panel’s decision to re-work the order of states that get waivers to hold their primary elections early in the process.

“Hanging their argument on this 100-year-old privilege is really, for me as an African American woman, quite disturbing in as much as this law that they passed was passed even before Black people had the right to vote,” Daughtry said, adding it was also before women had the right to vote.

For the record, Black people have been voting in New Hampshire even before the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870; women have been voting since 1920 (19th Amendment). The applicable law governing our primary timing is right here; it was enacted in 1975, and famously states that the primary must be held at least seven days ahead of any other state’s primary.

Like Robert Hoover said in Animal House, the FITN tradition has a long-standing tradition of existence to its citizens and the country at large.

But… um… where was I? Oh yeah: like the primary, Pun Salad has its own quadrennial tradition of looking at the phoniness of the weed-infested crop of presidential candidates. We've performed this unremunerated service for the 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2020 campaigns. Our current guidelines:

  • To start, we build our candidate list from Election Betting Odds (EBO), a site established in 2015 by Maxim Lott and John Stossel; it agglomerates actual data from a number of betting sites to come up with the probabilities for each candidate's success. Our inclusion criterion: if EBO shows someone with a 2% chance or greater to win the presidency, he or she is 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.
  • Ah, 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 3, 2024, weather/health/etc. permitting. 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.
  • And we reserve the right to change the rules as we go for good reasons, bad reasons, or no reasons at all.

Without further ado, our initial results, sorted into descending order of phoniness. We show a solid lead for an upstart:

Candidate EBO Win
Hit Count
Ron DeSantis 23.2% 4,760,000
Pete Buttigieg 2.1% 1,460,000
Nikki Haley 3.3% 1,130,000
Donald Trump 17.0% 939,000
Joe Biden 23.1% 382,000
Kamala Harris 4.1% 95,400
Gavin Newsom 3.9% 41,700

Trump and Biden in fourth and fifth places?! I demand a recount!

In the name of fairness, let's see if we can come up with something phony for each of our seven contenders:

  • Ah, I know why Governor DeSanctimonious is in the lead! Here's the top link as I type, from Politico: Trump hits DeSantis: He's a Covid skeptic phony.

    On Saturday, Trump took his sharpest swings at DeSantis to date, accusing the governor of “trying to rewrite history” over his response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Trump said DeSantis, who has been openly skeptical about government efforts to vaccinate people against the virus, “promoted the vaccine as much as anyone.” He praised governors who did not close down their states, noting that DeSantis ordered the closure of beaches and business in some parts of the state.

    “When I hear that he might [run] I think it’s very disloyal,” Trump said.

    “He won’t be leading, I got him elected,” he said. “I’m the one that chose him.”

    The word "phony" does not appear in Politico's article other than in the headline, and (specifically) not in Trump's quotes. Still, I suppose it's implied. And, for Trump, the sin of disloyalty (to him) far outweighs phoniness.

  • First up for Mayor Secretary Pete is an oldie, from the NYPost back in 2021:

    He’s the Buttigieg of jokes.

    Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was mocked by conservative critics online after a video appeared to show security staffers unloading his bike from the back of an SUV so that he could “ride” to an April 1 Cabinet meeting.

    Two SUVs then followed the millennial Cabinet secretary to his meeting as he pedaled off. Full video was posted online by local WFMZ-TV.

    Fact-checkers, it should be noted, pounced to Pete's defense. Here's PolitiFact:

    We reached out to Buttigieg’s office at the Department of Transportation but didn’t hear back. However, an agency spokesperson told Snopes and Lead Stories that the clip shows part of what was a round trip for Buttigieg. "He rode his bike to the White House Cabinet meeting and he rode his bike back to DOT after the meeting," the spokesperson was quoted by Snopes as saying.

    The ride from the White House to DOT headquarters is more than 3 miles one-way — roughly 20 minutes by bike, according to Google Maps.

    OK, let's give him his "round trip" from the DOT to the White House and back.

    Not discussed by Politifact: was it a transparently phony staged gimmick? You bet.

  • I confess I really like Nikki Haley. But fair's fair. Here's Nick Catoggio at the Dispatch:

    If you want to know whether Donald Trump’s political stock is up or down within the Republican establishment, watch Nikki Haley.

    She’s my favorite weathervane. Not a well calibrated weathervane, as we’re about to see. But if the slightest breeze is blowing against him among the institutional party, the Haley-o-meter will detect it and start to whirl.

    She began as an adversary. In January 2016, with Trump leading GOP primary polls, Haley delivered the party’s rebuttal to the State of the Union with a shot at its anti-immigration presidential frontrunner. “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices,” she said. “We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”

    Ten months after warning about “the siren call” of his angry voice, Haley agreed to join Trump’s new administration. The weathervane had spun for the first time.

    And it went through a few more whirls since then.

  • Hey, how about that Donald? The Hill reports:

    Former President Trump called for school principals to be elected by students’ parents in a new campaign video released on Thursday.

    “More than anyone else, parents know what their children need,” Trump said. “If any principal is not getting the job done, the parents should be able to vote to fire them and select someone who will. This will be the ultimate form of local control.”

    Glad to see he's discovered another clause in Article II, giving the President the power to micromanage the administrator hiring/firing policies of local government schools.

    Just kidding. The mechanism he's proposing is the usual Federal carrot, making funding dependent on local schools implementing his desired policy. Still, a stupid idea.

  • Eric Boehm reported on President Wheezy for Reason back in May: Joe Biden's Phony Fiscal Responsibility.

    The national debt is at an all-time high and this year's budget deficit is forecasted to be the third or fourth-largest in American history—but President Joe Biden claims these are signs that his administration is overseeing a period of fiscal austerity.

    Really! Here are some words that actually tumbled out of the president's mouth at a press conference on Wednesday morning: "We're on track to cut the federal deficit by another $1.5 trillion by the end of this fiscal year. The biggest decline ever in a single year, ever, in American history."

    "And the biggest decline on top of us having a $350 billion drop in the deficit last year, my first year as president," Biden continued. "The bottom line is that the deficit went up every year under my predecessor—before the pandemic and during the pandemic—and it's gone down both years since I've been here. Period. They're the facts."

    Those facts, however, exclude a few key details. Like the fact that Biden took office the year after the budget deficit hit previously unimaginable highs due to a completely unprecedented spending binge triggered by a once-in-a-generation public health disaster.

    Duh, right. Still I suppose there are some easily-impressed folks out there.

  • I think our method significantly underestimates the manifest phoniness of Kamala Harris. For her, let's dig out this old campaign video:

    Never hurts to be reminded.

  • And finally, Campus Reform claims Pro-life student misrepresented in Gavin Newsom pro-abortion ad…again

    For the second time, California Governor Gavin Newsom is under fire for misrepresenting a pro-life student in a pro-abortion video released by the Office of the Governor.

    “Our basic rights are being stripped away. It's not just reproductive rights. The @GOP are fighting to take away fundamental freedoms -- the freedom of speech. To vote. To live without gun violence,” Newsom’s tweet reads.

    Lee University student Macy Petty, the victim of Newsom’s political ad, is portrayed as a crying pro-abortion protestor the day of the overturn of Roe v. Wade, as the words “I would say panic is the primary reaction” are spoken.

    Although Petty was emotional the day Roe was overturned, the true reason she was shedding tears was different than what is portrayed in the video.

    Gavin, you're in California. You can't hire an aspiring actress to pretend to be a weeping college student?

That's it for now. See you next week!

Last Modified 2023-01-29 1:13 PM EDT