Monday, February 29, 2016

US Elections: Super Tuesday

Before 1972, thousands of delegates were chosen to go to the party conventions every leap year (plus 1900, which was an election year but not a leap year), but only the state party leaders had a vote, and they cast all the votes for their state for whomever they chose. Once upon a time, they usually voted for a 'favourite son,' on the first vote, i.e., someone from their state who was more-or-less running for president, and after that, they got serious and haggled in smoke-filled rooms. But in '68, the Democrats chose the vice-president (the usual choice when the president was not running for re-election) AFTER the president had resigned since his presidency was NOT going well, and his doctors had diagnosed a fatal illness. The 'usual choice' proved a disaster for the Democrats. So in '72, they actually let the voters choose using the British algorithm, where the person supported by a plurality of the Democratic voters got all of the states' votes. Just 25% of Democrats managed to nominate a candidate who was not supported by many Democrats and almost no Republicans, and he lost almost every state.

This year, the Democrats pick more than 4,000 delegates who get to go to the party called the Democratic Convention, and the Republicans pick more than 2,000 delegates to go to their party's party. As before, the heads of the state party cast all the votes, but (on the first round) they must cast votes for the candidates to which their delegates have been pledged.

And today, 661 Republican delegates will be allocated, and 865 delegates for Democrats. Maybe. Different sites have different numbers. Another site counting delegates at stake today says that 632 Republican delegates … will be awarded…[and] 1,007 … Democratic delegates… are at stake. So it appears that no one is sure how to count the delegates at stake today.
But in any case, today the largest number of delegates will be pledged of any single day during the 2016 nomination process. Of course, the Democratic candidate needs more than 2,000 delegates to win, and the Republican needs more than 1,000, and the process is supposed to be proportional, but, with 30% of the vote, Trump has 64% of the delegates from the first four nomination contests. 

The Democrats are more proportional (to avoid another disaster like '72). After Obama pulled ahead (having counsellors who knew where the smallest amount of money and effort would produce the most delegates), even when Senator Clinton won a state, she only won a few more delegates than Obama, and could not close the gap.

So today, Secretary Clinton will get most of those 865 - 1,007 delegates, and Trump will get at least the plurality of those 632 - 661 delegates, if not the majority. Neither will have enough delegates to win, but Secretary Clinton will be far ahead of Senator Sanders.

Trump is harder to predict. If, after today, all but one anti-Trump Republican drop out, and that sole survivor runs against Trump, he'll probably win. But all four anti-Trump Republicans show no sign of quitting before the bitter end. And a recent poll says Trump's share of Republican voters has risen from a plurality of 30% to a majority.

Of course, that's only one poll, and it's an outlier.

Today's contest is much broader than any we've seen so far, and sometimes actual votes don't tally very well with polls at the state level. The Democratic contest is fairly easy to predict: Secretary Clinton should win almost everything except for Vermont. There will be no surprises.

The Republican contest is much harder to predict. Trump is almost certain to get a plurality of delegates, but is not so certain to get a majority, and he needs a majority to win. So the Republican contest could be very interesting today. If Trump gets more than 60% of the delegates today, he'll be very hard to stop. If he gets only a plurality that's not a majority, it means he will not be the nominee.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

23 Feb: Half-way though Nevada and South Carolina

There was always a good chance that Senator Sanders would win New Hampshire (national coverage0 and Vermont (mostly ignored), and the press were hoping for a New Hampshire win, since a race where Secretary Clinton is the obvious, foregone conclusion won't sell many newspapers pageviews. And so he did.

Next came Nevada, and Secretary Clinton won.

Bill (and the Secretary) have most of the African-American vote, and most of the non-Cuban Hispanic vote (not many of either one in New Hampshire or Vermont). Also most of the working-class Democratic vote. So Secretary Clinton is sure to win South Carolina. And most of Super Tuesday on 1 March. By the end of March, Secretary Clinton may have enough delegates to guarantee herself the nomination. Or Senator Sanders will see that it's hopeless and drop out.

The Republicans have dropped from 17 to 6 candidates. Normally, in a race without a president running for re-election, or a vice-president hoping to 'continue the good work', most of the candidates have almost zero name recognition as the campaign starts. Reagan had 100% name recognition from his film and TV career, and so was a sui generis. Reagan was also very popular with Republicans and many Democrats and quickly secured the nomination and then the election.

Trump is a very different sui generis. Again, 100% name recognition, but only 1/3 of Republicans like him, the other 2/3rds hate him, but the 2/3 were splitting their vote 16 then 12 and now 4 ways.

Trump has gotten less than 1/3 of the votes, but the weird way the Republicans assign electable delegates, he has 62.5% of them. (Of course, there are a LOT of Super Delegates who are appointed, not elected, and few of them support Trump.)

As of now, Senator Rubio and Governor Kasich are the last two mainstream, establishment Republicans. Senator Cruz, Mr Trump, and Dr Carson are single-player 'teams'. The Bush, jr votes will all accrue to Senator Rubio and Governor Kasich, but that's still not enough to give either of them a plurality. It's not clear how long both Senator Rubio and Governor Kasich will stay in the race, but as long as both are in, neither will come close to a plurality. If one drops, the other will probably acquire a permanent plurality and the plurality of the delegates, if not a majority. But neither has shown an inclination to drop out anytime soon. And if both remain until the bitter end, they could give Trump the election (not likely, but possible). Or they could prevent any candidate from having a majority of the Republican delegates, and the winner will get decided in a smoke-filled room (but vape now instead of cigars).

The other three are all different anti-establishment candidates, and it's not clear where their votes will go if any of them drop out.

So, at this point, the odds are very much against Trump, but it is impossible to say who is the most likely winner of the nomination.

(Not that it matters, barring an unforeseen obstacle, Ma Clinton will be the First* Woman President of the United States, and Bill will, once again, have full access to the White House interns, a privilege the US voters agree he's earned and deserves.)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

US Presidential Election 8 Feb 16 (the day before the New Hampshire Primary)

Senator Sanders might win New Hampshire. Every US news agency hopes so. To sell, news agencies need news, and if Secretary Clinton is sure to win, there's nothing worth writing about. So they want a contest. Most want Secretary Clinton to win, but all want a contest that will sell newspapers and ads on broadcast media (and web news sources).

Most African-Americans voted for Bill. If Bill had been able to run in '08, he would probably have lost. African-Americans like Bill. A lot. They liked Obama better. And so Hillary lost.

But there is no Obama in this race. The African-American turnout won't be a big as it was for Obama, who attracted African-American votes even more strongly than Bill, but it will be significant, enough to guarantee Secretary Clinton the nomination.

After which, both Trump and Bloomsberg have said they'll run as Perots to help Hillary win the election.

Senator Sanders is news, but I don't think he's a foil trying to make Hillary look better than she is. He's a pacifist who wants to really end 'enhanced interrogation' and US neo-imperialism.

Bush, jr bragged about what he was doing to the 'proven enemies of the US.' Proved because a) the US offered 100 years median income to anyone who would point out a terrorist; and b) those identified as terrorists all confessed under 'enhanced interrogation.'

Once upon a time, Americans were taught that confessions obtained under 'enhanced interrogation' were unAmerican and unreliable, that they belong to medieval times and the Inquisition. But that was then. Now, Americans are taught that Torquemada knew some of the most advanced forensic techniques, and used them to keep Spain safe from terrorists.

Obama said he ordered that all torture cease, and punished severely anyone who tried to reveal the current interrogation techniques used by the US against suspected terrorists. So we haven't heard much about 'enhanced interrogation' since Obama took office. Of course, most Americans agree that, when the US does it, it's not torture, it's legal 'enhanced interrogation' of heinous villains who would have otherwise set off thermonuclear devices in most American cities.

Secretary Clinton says Obama is a wimp, and she'll be much tougher. So Senator Sanders would be a MUCH better President of the US. Pity he doesn't have a chance.

Friday, February 5, 2016

US Presidential Election (pt 2)

The US press hates that Senator Sanders was close to Secretary Clinton in Iowa. They mostly want another 8 years of Clintons in the White House.

Actually, African-Americans love the Clintons. They liked Obama more, of course, and gave him the nomination in '08.

The Clintons wanted to avoid the Ma Ferguson effect. The Texas legislature voted that Pa Ferguson could never run again for governor of Texas. That only applied to Pa Ferguson. So Ma, his wife, ran on the platform, 'Two governors for the price of one.' She won, and she became the First* woman governor of Texas.

For the US, the Congress voted '47 not to let anyone serve more than two terms of office, and that was ratified in '51. Had Hillary run in 2000, she would have won, and would have been the First* woman president of the US, but the Clintons wanted her to be the First, not the First*. So she ran for Senator in 2000 and won, becoming the first First Lady to run in an election and win.

Then she ran for president in '08. African-American voters had almost all voted for Bill. But Hillary was running against Obama, and she lost the African-American bloc to Obama, and so she lost the nomination. Obama had a bunch of volunteers who understood the American election process. Hillary had a bunch of highly paid 'experts' who had no idea. So Obama spent his much smaller election fund very wisely, while Hillary squandered her huge election fund. This time, of course, she's paying the people who helped Obama win.

Now, almost all African-Americans will vote for Hillary in the primaries and caucuses and in the election. Iowa and New Hampshire have almost no African-Americans, so Senator Sanders came close in Iowa, and might win in New Hampshire. After which, he'll lose almost every other primary and caucus. The US pundits say Sanders could be another Obama. No, he can't. Hillary is a sure thing.

Bill and Trump spoke just before Trump declared. They figured the Republican leadership would block Trump from running, he'd go third party, and it would be like '92, when Bill won because of Perot. Google the '92 election, and the top 10 results are, 'Experts all wrong. Perot did not help Clinton win election.' The 'experts' do not show up anywhere in the first 10 results. But the people who voted for Perot were almost all white men, who usually vote Republican. And Perot got half as many votes in '96 as in '92, but Clinton didn't get any more votes. So the single exit poll that said voters who'd voted for Perot said their second choice was Clinton does not seem very reliable.

In any case, the Republicans weren't that stupid. They let Trump run, and he has held the plurality in the polls ever since he announced. But he still lost the Iowa caucuses. He might win in New Hampshire, but, as the field of Republican contenders gets winnowed, very few of those votes will accrue to Trump, so, by the end of March, he'll be far behind.

Of course, Trump said he really won in Iowa, and only lost because someone cheated. So he might still run as a third party to guarantee that Hillary wins. And Bloomberg is also threatening to run as a third party (and will get mostly Republican votes) to ensure a victory for Hillary.

So President Hillary looks like a certainty at this point.