Sunday, April 24, 2016

The April 26 primaries

According to the polls, the states in the Northeast that will cast their ballots on Tuesday should not produce any surprises. In all the polls released this month in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton hold commanding leads. Rhode Island is also voting but there is no fresh data about how the voters feel. In such cases, the best indicator is what is happening in neighboring states, and the neighbors of Rhode Island favor Trump and Clinton as well.

As with all the races on the Democratic side, the delegate selection is proportional, which should mean Clinton will extend her lead. For all the fuss about super-delegates, it should be noted that Clinton has a commanding lead over Sanders in the popular vote count so far. A lot of Sanders fans are very passionate and will consider that shenanigans were the deciding factor in his loss. I sent money to Sanders, but I am not convinced of skulduggery. Hillary has amassed more votes.

On the other side, I am absolutely convinced of shenanigans and skulduggery, and there could easily be more on Tuesday. Of the five races, Delaware and Maryland are winner take all, but the big prize of Pennsylvania has some very arcane rules. Of the 71 delegates that will be apportioned, only 17 are bound to vote for the candidate who gets the most votes Tuesday and the other 54 are up for grabs. There is talk that his organization has finally figured out the game and will do whatever is necessary to nail down the majority of delegates in Pennsylvania, but I will wait to see what happens. Trump always talks a big game, but when all is said and done, his results are often not as yuge as he said they would be.

There are people doing more math than I am, and many of them say he will get to the magic number of1,237 delegates pledged before the convention starts in Cleveland. I am still in wait and see mode. No amount of poll aggregation can tell us what is happening in smoke-filled rooms in places like Pennsylvania.

The next big primary is Indiana a week from Tuesday. On the GOP side, it's winner take all and Trump leads, though only by single digits. I'll report on that next weekend.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

New York and beyond.

In my last post nearly three weeks ago, I finished with a promise to report before the New York primary, a promise which I have sadly broken. The polls clearly said Trump and Clinton were the favorites and the early results vindicate the opinion polls.  The races next week are in the Northeast and Trump looks like a prohibitive favorite in most of them, as does Clinton. I now promise a report before next Tuesday evening and I will feel like a heel if I break two promises in a row.

As for Trump's race to get 1,237 pledged delegates before the convention in Cleveland, I don't have confidence that my system can give an accurate read on that goal.

Currently, I'm reading The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin, a multiple person biography of Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, the publisher Sam McClure and several of his writers. I must admit that for all I have read, Trump is still a mystery to me and I am grasping for comparisons.

Is Trump like TR? The simplest answer is superficially yes and fundamentally no, but I am personally terrified about what a superficial age we live in.  Both Trump and Roosevelt are sons of successful New York families, but Roosevelt's family history crushes Trump's on every level. They both are at a level of celebrity that is hard to imagine. It's hard to pin down the date when it started, but Teddy Roosevelt is the most famous American of his era by a wide margin and the absolute latest date you can give for the beginning of this unparallelled fame is the charge up San Juan Hill. Trump is not the most famous American - fame is scattered in many more directions now than it was more than a century ago - but his fame was enough for him to far surpass the field of politicians and non-politicians who tried to become the Republican nominee for president this year.

After we concede the similar levels of fame, Roosevelt looks like a colossus and Trump a shrimp the size of his stubby little fingers.  Roosevelt measures his manhood in strenuous activity, personal relationships, physical bravery that borders on the clinically insane and the joy of being in the arena. Trump uses the Sam Malone yardstick, counting the number of fabulous babes he has bagged. Beyond the manliness differences, Roosevelt really did love reading and the world of ideas, where Trump appears to have coasted ever since doing very well at Wharton Business School. Let us remember the words of the governor in O Brother Where Art Thou?: "We MASS communicatin' now!" As a manipulator of media, Trump understands the game as played in the early 21st Century extremely well. Roosevelt had to do his campaigning retail, and the stories of him shaking the hands of railroad men and shipworkers and giving them stories they would tell their grandchildren brought tears to my eyes several times.

So Trump isn't Roosevelt, he can't even be found in the shadow of Roosevelt.  Is he possibly Reagan?

My best guess is no. Like Reagan, he does seem covered in Teflon, but given the demographics of the era, that shouldn't be nearly enough. Like Reagan, he has made statements that erase his more liberal past. Trump speaks to the core Republican voter because he truly does hate Obama, but that can backfire if Clinton is even slightly politically savvy, which she most certainly is.

I could go on and on, but this would just get closer to punditry and farther away from math every sentence I would write. I'll do my best to do something mathy before next Tuesday. If you want a "prediction", it's Hillary vs. The Donald barring some very nasty mess, and if that's the race, Trump has to Climb Everest without a guide or oxygen and with his stumpy little fingers trying to grip the crampons. The second President Clinton is the most likely result at this point.