The State of Play is also a State of Confusion

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We don't always quote Karl Rove here at Pun Salad, but … well, here you go: Voters Want Anyone but Trump or Biden.

You might object: "But, Karl, it really looks as if the voters are gonna give us Trump or Biden."

I don't think he really deals with that real-life version of the Prisoner's Dilemma. But here's his bottom line, after analysis of a recent New York Times/Siena College poll:

This suggests Republicans could score a historic victory next year if they run a new face. Apparently voters like what they see as the GOP’s values on the economy, defense, immigration, crime and the national debt. Democratic messaging mavens can try casting a fresh Republican as a Jan. 6 insurrectionist, an election-denying fabulist, a demagogic white supremacist. But voters wouldn’t be responding so positively in polls if they thought “Republican” was synonymous with all that nonsense.

Democrats are right to be scared, but Republicans should be concerned, too. Both party’s front-runners have enormous weaknesses. Joe and Jill Biden are deluding themselves if they believe only he can defeat Mr. Trump. But the GOP leader could sink his own campaign with his constant trashing of his intra-party rivals and their supporters. Turned off, they could fail to turn out or even turn away from the GOP.

Neither party’s front-runner will be easily dislodged. But if no changes are made, Americans will get the worst dumpster fire of a campaign in history. It doesn’t have to be this way, and everyone but Messrs. Trump and Biden has good reason to try changing it. The party that picks a fresh face will likely win the White House.

Let's take a look at the only poll that matters: how people betting their own money think things will play out… well, Karl, it appears that "worst dumpster fire in history" is an odds-on favorite:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 36.3% +0.8%
Joe Biden 30.1% -1.5%
Gavin Newsom 10.4% +1.1%
Nikki Haley 5.7% +0.6%
Robert Kennedy Jr 3.7% -0.2%
Michelle Obama 3.2% +0.2%
Ron DeSantis 2.7% -0.4%
Other 7.9% +1.5%

So Kamala is gone, having dipped below our arbitrary 2% inclusion threshold. And (whoa), DeSantis is seen as having less of a chance than Michelle Obama.

As mentioned before: I can see a few nightmare scenarios that would put Michelle in the White House in 2025.

Also of note:

  • “Could be worse. Not sure how, but it could be.” Yes, that is an Official Eeyore Quote. (Number 20 on this list). Appropriate because Nick Catoggio titles his Dispatch column Full Eeyore.

    Classical liberals had two opportunities to prevent a Donald Trump restoration, one in the Republican primary and the other in the general election. The first opportunity collapsed months ago, the second is in the process of collapsing right now. Trump’s illiberal ambitions have never been more glaring, yet he’s never looked more likely to return to power.

    And if he does, chances are good that the left’s own illiberal wing will play an important part in making it happen.

    The man most likely to be president in 2025 is reportedly hatching fascist plots to persecute his enemies while the activist vanguard of the other party agitates remorselessly on behalf of fanatics in Gaza who want a Final Solution to the Jewish question in Israel.

    Illiberalism is on the march. We’re watching the newsreels every day.

    Eeyore quote #30: “I never get my hopes up, so I never get let down.”

  • Oh, right. There was a debate. My understanding, based on glancing at the 19 daily email messages that the Nikki Haley campaign sends me, is that Nikki Haley won big. But lets see what Jeff Maurer has to say in Part Three of My David Blaine-esque Stunt to Withstand All the Republican Debates. He analyzes all five of the debaters; here's his take on the Vivek/Nikki dustup:

    What [Vivek] did differently this time: He reassured people who were put off by his restrained performance in Debate Two that the raving lunatic who appeared in Debate One is the real Ramaswamy.

    How batshit is Ramaswamy? He’s batshit enough that he can call President Zelenskyy a Nazi and it doesn’t get mentioned in most debate recaps. But he did appear to call Zelenskyy a Nazi — is that not the only possible interpretation of this line?

    “[Ukraine] has threatened not to hold elections this year unless the US forks over more money — that is not democratic. It has celebrated a Nazi its ranks — the comedian in cargo pants, a man called Zelenskyy. Doing it in their own ranks — that is not democratic.”

    Ramaswamy possibly calling a Jewish leader a Nazi got buried largely because of an attention-getting exchange between him and Haley. Ramaswamy tried to make something out of Haley’s daughter being on Tik Tok, and Haley responded by saying “You’re just scum”.

    I think Ramaswamy was way out-of-bounds. And so did the crowd — they boo’d him, and I’ll remind you that in years past Republican crowds have cheered the concept of letting uninsured people die. Americans of all political stripes seem to be uniting behind the idea that Vivek Ramaswamy is a huge, gaping asshole.

    That being said, I don’t love the use of the word “scum”. In my mind, that word has dehumanizing connotations. Ramaswamy is not scum — he is a human. An incredibly obnoxious human. An overconfident, loudmouthed Harvard twit with all the appeal of a condom full of pus. He’s an uninformed, invective-spewing ass trying to win the allegiance of the dumbest Americans so that he can mobilize them in like the Wicked Witch Of The West controlled an army of flying monkeys. If Ramaswamy was a Dungeons and Dragons character, his “smarm” and “dickishness” characteristics would be maxed out, and he would vanquish foes by being such a prick that potential opponents would opt out of fighting him, choosing instead to walk away muttering “I just fucking can’t with this guy.” That’s Ramaswamy. But “scum”? Scum might be taking things a bit too far.

    I agree that calling someone "scum" is not nice. But I am not a mother of a daughter.

  • Why do I feel like I'm the one being hit? Jeffrey Blehar calls it The Hardest-Hitting Debate of the 1996 Campaign Season at National Review. Two of his "takeaways":

    (1) Haley had another solid night, firmly in command of her brief and more restrained in her aggression than last time. In the second debate, her major blemish was a seemingly needless catfight about hopeless inside-baseball South Carolina politics with Tim Scott. This time she avoided all serious entanglements while also quietly (and accurately) pointing out that Vivek Ramaswamy is “just scum” for randomly dragging Haley’s daughter (who, like most Zoomer kids, uses TikTok) into a debate about the platform.

    (2) Vivek Ramaswamy is just scum. He actually had a decent answer on abortion late in the evening, but it didn’t even come close to undoing the damage he otherwise did to himself. Aside from speaking like he had just earned a certificate from an enunciation seminar held at a local Ramada Inn, Ramaswamy’s shot at Haley’s daughter drew boos from the audience. He also, rather casually, accused Volodymyr Zelenskyy of being a Nazi, and I’m not kidding: Speaking of Ukraine as a non-paragon of democratic virtue, he said “it has celebrated a Nazi within its ranks, a comedian in cargo-pants, a man called Zelenskyy.” It was so randomly insane that nobody either on stage or in the audience seemed to have caught it. Ramaswamy’s team promised the media in advance that he would be “unhinged” tonight. Mission accomplished.

    I will (slightly) object that calling Rena Haley a kid… well, she's 25 and married.

  • Yeah, well, maybe. At Reason, Eric Boehm had a debate takeaway too, wondering Are Republicans Finally Getting Serious About Social Security?.

    Before this week's Republican presidential debate had even ended, President Joe Biden's reelection campaign had already jumped in to remind everyone that Biden has no plan for Social Security other than letting it plunge into insolvency.

    Republicans on the debate stage "explicitly talked about" possible cuts to Social Security, Biden campaign spokesman Seth Schuster wrote in a statement to the media. "If Trump returns to office, the benefits millions of America's seniors rely on—and spent their careers contributing to—will once again be on the chopping block."

    This has become a familiar tactic for Biden, one that he deployed most famously at this year's State of the Union address: Attack Republicans for supposedly trying to cut Social Security in order to deflect attention away from the fact that Social Security will cut itself in about a decade if nothing is done. When the old-age entitlement program hits insolvency in the early 2030s, it will be able to pay out only as much money as it collects each year. That will translate into an across-the-board cut of 23 percent for all beneficiaries, according to the latest projections from the trustees who run the program.

    Of the five candidates in the debate, Chris Christie and Nikki were strongest on this issue; Vivek more vague; Tim Scott and DeSantis were firmly in agreement with Biden, Trump, and all those other deniers of entitlement reality.

  • Let's say something nice about Vivek, though. Robby Soave throws him a life preserver: Vivek Ramaswamy Knows Republicans Who Embrace Cancel Culture Are Fools.

    The Republican presidential candidates who participated in Wednesday's debate spent significant time bashing pro-Palestinian student activists and threatening their free speech rights.

    The only notable exception was Vivek Ramaswamy, who criticized students for taking the side of Hamas over Israel but clarified that he would not restrict their right to do so.

    "We don't quash this with censorship because that creates a worse underbelly," said Ramaswamy. "We quell it through leadership by calling it out."

    I have to say that Hamas-cheering students are really testing my commitment to free expression. Is there a clear, bright line to be drawn here? Would a university have to accept (say) a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan? I shouldn't be confused about this, and yet I am.

Last Modified 2024-01-09 6:47 PM EDT