Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Cruising the Web

Well, that was a disappointing night. I'm glad that Cruz won Texas, Oklahoma, and Alaska (I guess that Palin endorsement didn't do enough there) but I don't see a way for him going forward as the primaries move out of the South. Rubio can't be anything but disappointed. Sure, he came close in Virginia and won Minnesota so at least he can say that he's won somewhere.

By the way, I find it a hilarious indication of the vagaries of our politics that we all wait breathlessly for the results of caucuses in Iowa and pore over those numbers as if they were the entrails of a sacrificed animal, but shrug off caucus results from neighboring Minnesota which is a larger state by over 2 million people.

But, besides Minnesota and Virginia, Rubio was third everywhere else but Georgia and there he ended up with three fewer delegates than Cruz who was in third place. Such are the wacky rules of delegate allocation which are often awarded on a congressional district level except when they aren't. But, as things stand now, he has a little more than half the delegates (87) that Cruz (161) who is also way behind Trump (285). And we're going to be moving into the winner-take-all states soon.

The only bright spot might be the indication that late-deciders went heavily for Rubio. Apparently, his recent aggressive stand against Trump including ridicule and exposing Trump's records paid off. Considering that he only started that tactic on Thursday, it does indeed seem that it was too little, too late. There is another debate this week and maybe #Marcomentum can take off at some point, but we keep waiting for that to kick off.

One highlight from these results is that the polling was often off. We can wait for the data geeks to do an in-depth analysis, but several of the most recent polls from Super Tuesday states overestimated Trump's vote. For example, polls from Texas had him up by 11 or 13 when Cruz won by 17. In Virginia, he was up by 13 and won by 2.8. In Oklahoma he was up by 13 and Cruz won by 6. Massachusetts' poll was pretty close but missed Kasich's rise into second place. Alabama and Georgia seem to have been polled rather close in some of the polls. I'll be interested to see more of a breakdown of which polling firms did well and which did not. As it is now, it seems to be a toss-up as to whether we should look to polls with any confidence or not. So that means, going into the remaining races, we might have to...gasp!...wait for actual people to vote.

Tom Bevan sums up Rubio's disappointing night.
What started as a promising night with strong early returns in Virginia quickly turned into a bad dream for Florida’s freshman senator. His near miss in Virginia – losing by 30,000 votes, probably because John Kasich siphoned off 96,000 votes while finishing fourth – was followed by a string of third-place finishes. Most disappointing among them was Rubio’s failure to reach the 20 percent threshold in Texas, leaving him empty-handed in the most delegate-rich state on Tuesday’s map. Rubio’s night was salvaged with a victory in the Minnesota caucuses, sparing him the indignity of going winless in the first 15 contests of the primary. Regardless, his date with destiny remains in his home state on March 15.
And Kasich did well enough to stumble on until Ohio siphoning votes away from candidates who have more likelihood of winning.

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Sean Trende and David Byler examine the past
few months to explain how we got to this pass. Trump is winning for more reasons than he's tapped into resentments of foreigners and minorities. He has been able to milk the anti-elite feelings that many have. As several analysts have pointed out, there are similarities between Trump and Sanders' appeal. but there are other factors. Foremost of those, is the free media that Trump has gotten ever since he declared. They give an example from one week at the end of August where he got over 77% of the CNN's coverage of the Republican race.
Note that Trump was doing well in the polls at this point, but was not yet the clear front-runner. Obviously he deserved quite a bit of coverage, especially given some of the things he was saying. But Trump received three times as much coverage as the other candidates combined! If we look only at Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Marco Rubio – the candidates who made it to the late winter – Trump received 12 times as much coverage. Subtract Carson, and we wind up with 64 times as much news coverage for Trump as for Cruz, Kasich and Rubio combined. You get the picture.
In many ways he is the candidate that the media gave us. They did the same for Obama in 2008, but their coverage of Trump goes way beyond the favoritism they showed Obama. Even when they were criticizing him, they were giving him free time.
But Trump, rather expertly, kept sucking the oxygen out of the room for other Republicans and feeding the media frenzy. In other words, the media were so obsessed by his antics that they never discovered other candidates. More importantly, they never really moved on to some of the more substantive scrutiny of Trump – his business dealings, Trump University, his run for the Reform Party nomination, his use of eminent domain – that would probably have more impact on voters than the reality TV show of the past eight months. It’s all buried in the noise.
The other factor that they mention that I think has played and is still playing a major factor is the fracturing of the field into so many candidates. There was no one candidate to stand out and absorb the anti-Trump vote, just as there isn't today. They have a "demographic machine" that can be used to predict which counties each candidate has done well in and what its demographic make-up is.

As they conclude, it's been a perfect storm of factors to help Trump do well.

John Fund looks at the advantage
the media have given Trump.
If Barack Obama benefited in 2008 from the media’s fascination with him, Trump benefits today from the media’s enthrallment with his antics. “Trump isn’t the first rich guy to run for office,” Matt Taibbi wrote last week in Rolling Stone. “But he is the first to realize the weakness in the system, which is that the watchdogs in the political media can’t resist a car wreck. . . . Trump found the flaw in the American Death Star. It doesn’t know how to turn the cameras off, even when it’s filming its own demise.”

And because all eyes are turned on Trump, he doesn’t have to spend anything close to what his rivals do. His mix of outrage, bluster, and insults has brought him 6.5 million Twitter followers, and he is a master of social media. He has effectively drafted broadcast news to amplify his campaign. Carrying Trump’s 40-minute news conference live on February 15 was the equivalent of $2.8 million in cable-news coverage, according to the data analytics firm Optimus, which does some work with the Marco Rubio campaign.

Then there are his logistical advantages. Presidential candidates aren’t normally allowed to phone in their interviews with news shows, but Trump’s ratings power have induced anchors to make an exception for him. Betsy Fischer Martin, a former executive producer of Meet the Press, told the Huffington Post last year that call-ins are normally used for breaking news or overseas reports where a guest can’t appear on camera. With the advent of Skype, even those exceptions are becoming rarer.
It's because they allow him to do this all the time that he can blame a "bad earpiece" for three times refusing to disavow David Duke and the KKK even though he repeated their names in his answers.

Fund also blames Trump's opponents for not going after his record until really just this past week. He points to a July 10 column by Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter David Cay Johnson with "21 Questions for Donald Trump." Read over that list. All the questions that have arisen plus some other stories about such topics as his lack of philanthropy, Trump U fraud, questions about how inflated his self-assessments of his fortune is, his connections to mob families, his employment of illegal immigrants whom he then cheated, plus a lot more I hadn't heard of. How come we've gone since June without hearing these stories. And then there is this for all those who think he would be able to run the government just like he runs his businesses.
You say that your experience as a manager will allow you to run the federal government much better than President Obama or Hillary Clinton. On Fortune Magazine’s 1999 list of the 496 most admired companies, your casino company ranked at the bottom – worst or almost worst in management, use of assets, employee talent, long-term investment value, and social responsibility. Your casino company later went bankrupt.

Why should voters believe your claims that you are a competent manager?

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It's so ironic that Trump has become the candidate of those who resent the elites. As Kimberley Strassel has written, "Trump is the ultimate insider."
And therein lies Mr. Trump’s vulnerability. Because, you see, Donald Trump is the man. An outsider to the elite society that Washington inhabits? An avenging angel of a faltering working class? Laugh. Out. Loud. This is the man who was born to a silver spoon, who self-selected a life strictly in the company of the rich and powerful, and who built a fortune by using his connections and sticking it to the little guy.

Of all the Republicans on the stage, he is the only insider. Ted Cruz is not to be seen regularly in the company of hotel and casino magnates, movie producers, celebrity athletes and others with privileged access to Washington brokers. Marco Rubio did not have Bill and Hillary Clinton at his wedding. John Kasich would have to beg for an audience with people who jump to return Mr. Trump’s calls.

It was amusing in the CBS debate on Feb. 13 to hear the titan complain that the audience was stacked with “special interest” donors. He’d know. He likely recognized them from lunches at his golf clubs. This is a guy so disconnected from and uninterested in the average American that he refers to his voters in generic stereotypes. “I love the poorly educated,” he gushed after the Nevada caucuses. You can almost picture him, like Felonius Gru in “Despicable Me,” surveying his crowds of identical Minions. Though at least Gru knew that one is named Kevin.

Nor is Mr. Trump outside of, or even slightly opposed to, Washington business as usual. It’s how he does business. Americans are angry at Beltway back-scratching, logrolling and backroom agreements. This is the art of the deal. In explaining his $100,000 contribution to the Clinton Foundation, Mr. Trump bragged: “When they call, I give. And you know what, when I need something from them . . . I call them. They are there for me.”

Where are the ads playing that tape? Where are the ads questioning whether a President Trump would turn down that buddy who asked to keep his federal Nascar-track-owner tax break? Or asking what he’d barter away in an ObamaCare “reform” deal? Mr. Trump will get stuff “done” in Washington, all right. He’d put today’s backroom Beltway culture on steroids....

In the rural America in which I grew up, conservatives like to apply a basic candidate test: Would I want to have a beer with that dude? ( Barack Obama: No. Harry Reid: Ew. Hillary Clinton: Please.) Right now, a lot are thinking they’d enjoy knocking back a brewski with someone as colorful as Mr. Trump. What they seem not to have realized is this: Mr. Trump would never, ever have a beer with them. He’s never been interested in people who can’t help him—99% of America. And Coors Light doesn’t come in gold cans.
But it doesn't matter because people like his persona as someone who is strong and is going to come in and shake things up. They don't understand that getting things done in Washington requires the president to work with Congress. He has to, you know, make deals. Either that or behave in authoritarian fashion as Obama has tried to do since the GOP took over Congress. Does anyone think that Trump would be more circumspect in exercising executive power? Are people really choosing him because they like that vision of Trump in Washington bragging about using his pen for whatever policy he is following that day?

It makes my head hurt. I have to go to school now and teach my students about the 1920s and 1930s today and the rise of Mussolini and Hitler. It's a depressing juxtaposition.