Wednesday, October 7, 2015

This Time Is Different

In the "real world" here is what we ought to see: 15 candidates enter--but quickly a few flare and fade. Bush starts out with a deficit due to the family name--but due to his fundraising prowess (his family--his father, mother, and brother--can all raise big numbers)--and his record as a successful swing-state conservative governor win out.

Around Thanksgiving, he takes off, gaining most of the Republican endorsements. He and Rubio battle it out--but Bush wins New Hampshire. Ted Cruz wins Iowa and South Carolina. At that point it's a 3-way race. When Jeb pulls it out in Florida on March 15th, it's over. Winner Takes All.

Game Change 3 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann has a chapter on "The Summer of Trump" where they reminisce about the crazy, quixotic run of outsiders who briefly shot up in the polls before fading.

In the real world we see this:
Looking at this cut, Trump is going back up--he's supposed to fade. Carly's arc, however, looks familiar and Carson is going up and down--even more iffy than Trump. Is Trump over? It doesn't quite seem so--does it?

It Wasn't Supposed To Be This Way

Now, as Nate Silver will tell you, it isn't that way yet. Trump could still fade out by Thanksgiving, leaving Bush and Rubio to fight it out until Florida. They think Ted Cruz has about a 5% chance to win the nomination--but that's enough to take Iowa and North Carolina on a good day.

Assuming, say, Ben Carson isn't in the race.

Much less Donald Trump.

The question, though, is that if things are different this time, why are they different? The Omnivore thinks that everyone gets a sense that things are weird. The question is why--how? Well, let's look.

1. Trump is an Anomaly

The Omnivore asserts there has never been a candidate like Trump. For sure, there have been businessmen who won the presidency--but most people who were businessmen moreso than politicians or generals were bad presidents--but even more important--in modern history there just hasn't been one . . . the best fit is Herbert Hoover in 1929.

Whatever you may think of Herbert Hoover, he was not a TV star.

That may have something to do with this:

This is only for the first 30 or so days--but Trump has consistently gotten more time and attention from the media than anyone else. In many cases, more than everyone combined. He also spoke for the longest time in the two debates.

That translates to this:

Hillary, Cruz, and Carson--not to mention Jeb who has just started running ads--pay for their media. Trump . . . doesn't. Oh, he's about to--he just hired a media firm--but that's because he wants to crush this thing.

There has never been a candidate--not in modern times--who was self-funded and got so much free media attention--nor has had the experience of being on camera as much as Trump has.

2. The Right Wing Is Different

We're not just talking about "crazier"--although the guard being called out by the Texas governor to monitor Jade Helm might qualify here. No--the right wing, as organized in Congress is significantly more organized in Congress than ever before. Fiscal Note does some hard-core analysis and shows that the degree to which the Freedom Caucus has organized is new.

The article shows how the Congress has become more and more split--and the Freedom Caucus faction has become much "tighter" in behavior. They have a visual representation.

While the workings of the Freedom Caucus do not, themselves, bear directly on the campaign, the "shadow" they cast does. Firstly, the strong front is indicative of a position by conservative voters that the establishment is out and outsiders are in. This seems to bear out in the polling as well. Secondly the issues that the Freedom Caucus is championing are necessarily mirrored by the candidates. The Freedom Caucus represents a substantial primary-audience voting bloc: if you ignore them you have a lot of catching up to do (ask Jeb!).

So guys like Walker were forced into positions they were ill-able to support.

This is new.

3. The Polling Is Broken (Maybe)

Gallup, a firm that made its name in predicting presidential elections, came in poorly for 2012 and is now bowing out of the 2016 primary--and hasn't made a decision about the 2016 general. While Gallup doesn't come out and say it, the theory is that they looked at horse-race polling and concluded that it's broken. People don't answer phones. Certain demographics are hard to reach--others aren't--land lines are disappearing.

Could it be that polling--as a science--is broken? (this says nothing of things like herding where a legitimate poll is altered to look more mainstream out of fear of looking bad). The implications for bad polling are pretty serious. Firstly campaigns themselves use a lot of internal polling to drive behavior: if that's not working right it could steer an otherwise reasonable campaign "into a wall."

Secondly, donors--especially big money donors--see things like Jeb tanking in the polls and get scared. This is a personal human reaction--and in a (new) environment where one person can give 20 million dollars to a superPAC--or not--that's important. If they give the 20MM to Rubio--instead of Jeb--based on faulty polling? That's leaving a mark right there.

Gallup sitting out is new.


The presence of Donald Trump, the rise and solidification of the far right, and questions about polling make this environment unique. That has to have some bearing on the error-factor you assign to the "conventional wisdom." This isn't a conventional campaign. Now, that doesn't mean pre-existing power structures aren't in place--they are. But they're not as all powerful as they once were (donors would likely have fled Trump after his Mexican statements--the same way his business partners did--forcing a walk back and collapse).

The Omnivore thinks the "establishment" (both GOP and Democrats) is in for a rocky ride.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Facebook Barometer

Facebook and USA Today has launched the Facebook Candidate Barometer. This is a measure of how often a candidate is mentioned, liked, or otherwise interacted with on Facebook. Here's a look at Trump vs. Hillary (the two front-runners):

As you can see, Trump is getting more than 2x the Facebook chatter than Hillary is.

What Does This Mean?

Right now, frankly, as an outside observer, it's hard to say. Firstly the numbers don't seem to distinguish between positive and negative interaction (Twitter analysis has had a really hard time with that--and they only have 140 characters to deal with). Secondly, the population of Facebook is not the same as the population of the US. So it's not quite like "a poll."

Do people who "talk politics on social media" get out and vote more? Not really. A meta-analysis of several studies of social media engagement and voting behavior (or participating in campaigns) didn't find much:
The metadata suggest social media has a minimal impact on participation in election campaigns. Popular discourse has focused on the use of social media by the Obama campaigns (Carr, 2008; Lohr, 2012). While these campaigns may have revolutionized aspects of election campaigning online, such as gathering donations, the metadata provide little evidence that the social media aspects of the campaigns were successful in changing people’s levels of participation. In other words, the greater use of social media did not affect people’s likelihood of voting or participating in the campaign.
Of course that's measuring actual GetOutTheVote efforts by campaigns. What if it's your actual friends who are interacting with you? A Facebook study involving 61 million people showed the following:

  • Facebook social messaging turned out 60k voters directly and 280k through "contagion."
  • Strong friends were 4x as powerful as weak relationships.
  • The net-result, however, was very minimal: 60k voters out of millions wasn't that notable. While social media does, in fact, produce a turn-out improvement, it isn't especially significant.
So this whole thing is kind of bunk, right?

Maaaaaaaaybe. While voting may not be a strong effect of social media engagement, there is reason to think protesting might be:
Based on a random sample of the Chilean population, he finds that social media users, measured in terms of frequency of use of four different platforms, were 11 times more likely to engage in a street demonstration or march, compared to non-users
It should be noted that the rest of the meta-analysis was not this conclusive--but that may be due to the sampling technique used.

What if Trump is a Protest Candidate?

What if Trump, drawing more than double what Hillary is, is a protest candidate. In other words, what if social media is good for some types of candidates (non-establishment) and not so much others. How would we tell? Well, the top three protest candidates on the right are Carson, Fiorina, and Trump. On the left, it's Sanders.

The top four people on the social media barometer in the Facebook index are Trump, Sanders, Fiorina, and Carson. In that order. Is it possible that social media activity is fueling their rise moreso than, say, Rubio? The Omnivore thinks it's entirely possible.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Death-Watch: 2016 Candidates

Pew Polling Visualized, Courtesy of The Conservative Treehouse!
A Pew Poll, recently released, finds that Jeb Bush has fallen to 4% in national polling. People are starting to come around to the conclusion that The Omnivore reached a while back: While Romney and McCain weren't leading at this point in their races, they weren't collapsing either. There has been some speculation on Twitter that Scott Walker leaving the race might act like the plug being pulled on a bathtub and could lead to a sudden draining of a bunch of candidates (Jindal). Thus far? Not yet.

Also, let's be fair: Jindal dropping out would be top of a morning news cycle--if nothing else big was happening. Let's look at who's interesting on the Death Watch.

This is our battle-space, a slice of candidates taken from the more-recent (this year) polling. On our list is a custom slice of Trump, Carson, Fiorina, Rubio, Bush, and Cruz.
This is a Custom Chart with "Moderate Smoothing."
Each candidate will get a Watch-Date and a "Death Condition" attached to it. If they reach that date with that condition? The Omnivore assesses 'they're in trouble!'

First up: Donald Trump!

Huh?? You say. What the fuck?? You say? Trump's leading--everywhere. Well, yes--yes he is--but he's in decline, you know. The scary-accurate Princeton Election Consortium (which nailed the 2012 and 2008 electoral vote counts) notes Trump Declines In Time for the Autumn Equinox. Dr. Sam Wang, in the linked article, takes a snap-shot of the Huffington Post poll-average seen above and turns down the smoothing to see a more granular picture of the polling trend. Indeed, it looks like Trump is . . . . 'crest-fallen.' Indeed, Trump's curve has bent downwards of late. So the question is "How low can he go?"
From PEC
On the other hand, our battle-space chart above turns down the smoothing and we get:
That isn't quite the same picture.

Watch Date: Oct 31st - To lose the lead
Analysis: Trump just expanded his staff in 3 states. That doesn't sound like someone who's faltering. He released a gun and tax-plan, that, whatever you may think of them, were judged reasonably solid by Republicans. In short, he is becoming more serious as time goes on.

Worse (for the RNC) his fall has come from Fiorina (a lot) and Rubio (a little). This isn't the right proportion for a serious candidate to take his place.

Next: Carson and Fiorina

The other two "outsiders" you've been hearing so much (?) about. Actually, you heard a lot about Carly Fiorina and not that much about Ben Carson. Both are sort of counter-points: Fiorina is almost a serious candidate and Carson is almost a complete joke (and a swindle for donors). Why the 'almosts'? Well, Fiorina's rise comes from some very real domination in her debates. Record-breaking audiences watched her handle Trump (something no one else has managed yet) and that has yet to bring seriously damaging scrutiny. People, besides Trump, are probably afraid to attack her because of sexism--but also: despite her polling spike, she's very likely not a serious threat. She has no natural constituency  and her debates make her, at this point, more flavor-of-the-month than real front runner.

On the other hand, Carson just raised 20-fucking-million dollars. This is no joke and if that's a total in "hard money" (which The Omnivore thinks it is--but isn't certain) then it means that he's got gas in the tank through . . . March 2016 (this, in fact, is what the linked article says he is planning air-time buys for). Even if his ceiling is 15%, that's enough to leave a serious dent in the race.

Watch Date Fiorina: Oct 14 - To fall to 5% or below

Analysis: Using our less-smooth picture above, Carly's rise took off on Sept 9. She peaked at 11% and is now down at 8% (less-smooth) today. If her curve is like a Herman Cain, The Omnivore gives her six weeks to return to equilibrium (which was around 5% on Sept 13 when she passed Marco Rubio's 5%).

Watch Date Carson: Oct 23 - To fall to 8% or below

Analysis: On our less-smooth graph, Ben's journey has had two peaks--the most recent on Sept 23. The Omnivore looks ahead about 4 weeks to see if anyone can catch him (or if he catches/passes Trump). Carson was pulling 8% on August 9th when he was effectively tied with Rubio and Cruz (and beaten by Jeb).

Ted Cruz

The Cruz Missile has been more or less flat since July 20th. He's on this list not because of any great change in his fortunes but because he is the "real alternative" to the three Outsiders (and he knows it--his strategy is to get their supporters when they fade). As such, he, less than anyone is in danger of a decline--he can truck along at 5 or 6% and be considered a contender.

Watch Date: Oct 31 - Polling at 6%

Analysis: If Cruz doesn't improve his numbers by the end of October that means one of two things: either the race stays where it is today (more or less) or Cruz isn't benefiting from the flux. In the latter case, that means he's failing. Of course he has good fund raising so he won't be out--but if four more months of churn, someone like Jindal (or Rand Paul) dropping, and Fiorina either establishing herself . . . or bowing out . . . doesn't move his needle, it's a bad sign.

Marco Rubio

Rubio is surging--and he's gonna fight with Jeb (kinda). This is good news for Marco since he's not weaker than the wet-paper-bag Jeb Bush can't fight his way out of. 

Watch Date: Oct 14 - Polling Below 8%

Analysis: Yes, he can win the battle with Jeb--probably easily. On the other hand, if you look closely at the graph (click here to see the current conditions snap-shot) Rubio is more tracking Jeb's numbers rather than cannibalizing them. Jeb drops, Rubio drops. Jeb rises, Rubio rises. This suggests that Rubio is drawing from a different pool than Bush--or, namely, that they're drawing from the same pool (Huckabee, Rand Paul, Kiasch voters?).

Rubio's rise began on Sept 7th at 4.5% and he's pulling--in the less-smooth graph--7.8% now. The Omnivore will give him 2 weeks to get his polling consistently above 8% meaning that he is within reach of double-digits. Otherwise, he's leveling out--which he can survive--but it isn't good.

Jeb Bush

We now get to Bush. Bush just cratered in the Pew Poll--which is a bad sign--but it's not in the above chart yet--and he's pulling a respectable 8.75% from the last four polls. It could be an outlier. Then again, things are not going in his direction. He just got clobbered for saying "Stuff happens" in 'response' to the Oregon shooting. This is  . . . problematic. He was speaking, in context, about bad things happening and people responding poorly in a crisis--not talking specifically or dismissively about the shooting.

Still, it must be recognized that Bush has a submarine's screen-door when it comes to foot-in-mouth accusations. He's very, very vulnerable to this sort of thing and that is his own fault.

Watch Date: Oct 21 - Below 6% (or below everyone else here)

Analysis: Even if you factor in Jeb's abysmal 4% with his other numbers he just basically loses a point in aggregate. The Omnivore will count it as a crash-and-burn if Jeb drops below our other contenders. That would mean that (a) the Pew Poll isn't an outlier and (b) Jeb's huge-money donors need to start asking for their money-back.


These Watch-Dates are fun for the horse-race element--but The Omnivore believes that they also reflect some very real realities of the current state of campaigning. So long as Carson, Trump, and Fiorina dominate the landscape, the "real candidates" have to fight over scraps (scraps of polling-average, money, and press-attention). This leads to more and more extreme behavior and impacts donors and the party leads (endorsements). So long as Rubio and Jeb are at each other's throats--and down in the polls, any "concentrated attempt" to take on Trump is doomed to fail--everyone--everyone other than Jeb--currently benefits from Trump-at-the-top.

So the cycle goes on.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Events Happening Now DO Matter . . .

Anyone who thinks "what's happening in politics right now doesn't matter" (because it is so early) isn't paying attention. To whit:

  • Scott Walker, a primary contender on paper not just for the nomination--but for president crashed and burned.
  • Jeb Bush is having a donor revolt (panic level at 6 or 7) as Marco Rubio just passed Jeb in the PredictIt betting markets (note that Jeb leading was used as a Wisdom-Of-Crowds talking point to reassure donors).
  • Trump, who is the agent of much of this disruption, will move his dominance into October tomorrow. Yes, he may fade (PEC puts him hitting the floor at Oct 21--the equinox).
So, yes, what in happening now clearly matters. So let's look at what's happening now that'll pay off later.

Ted Cruz Made His Move

No--not getting slapped down for trying to disrupt the GOP leadership--he knew that was going to happen and it's part of his plan. This is about a 500k gift from one of Ted's SuperPACs to Carly Fiorina's superPAC. As notes, Ted Cruz's plan is to stalk other candidates so he can hoover up their support when they drop. To wit:
This is a long-game strategy that is unfolding now and will pay off as the field winnows.

Jeb Bush Is Maybe Done For

No, it's not his donor-panic (which may-or-may-not actually be happening). It's not his decline in the PredictIt betting market (he's still #1 across multiple markets--maybe Rubio guys bought up a big spike of PredictIt?). No, The Omnivore thinks Jeb has sealed his own fate . . . in the last debate.

The exchange that might prove fatal to Jeb--if something else doesn't get him first--was his exchange with Donald Trump over apologizing to Jeb's wife. David Frum dissects the psychology of it here:

Now we are viewing the biggest presidential field yet. Each debate to date has been a scramble for mastery. Who acts like a commander? Who submits to command?
Unfortunately things did not go all that well for Jeb. First, he hit Trump, correctly on blocking Trump's casino plans in Florida. Trump just flat out denied it. Then . . .
Bush was baffled again when he twice called on Trump to apologize to Bush’s wife. Trump not only refused, but changed the subject by offering a compliment to Bush’s wife. Bush accepted the compliment, seemingly oblivious that to compliment is just as much an act of dominance as to insult. Through the encounter, Trump interrupted Bush—and Bush allowed himself to be interrupted. Having interrupted, Trump—in an especially vicious masterstroke—then granted Bush permission to talk: “Go ahead.” Bush compliantly went ahead. 
Once Bush made the decision to fight Trump—probably a bad decision, and one wisely eschewed by Senator Marco Rubio and Governor John Kasich—but once he made that decision, he needed to win. He needed to hit as hard as Trump hit him. Trump has something to say about Bush’s immigrant wife? Say something about Trump’s two immigrant wives—one of whom accused Trump of violent physical abuse after he discarded her. Trump suggests he could have bought you? Don’t protest your innocence. Who gave him the right to judge you? Hit back with a fiercer allegation of your own. If you can’t think of one, buy a second-hand copy of Wayne Barrett’s book on Trump’s alleged Mafia connections—mine cost $20—and pluck one from those pages.

If you yield the floor, point out that you’ve said your piece. If granted permission to talk, don’t accept it. You’re applying for the job of boss. Act like the boss.
The Omnivore thinks this is cogent analysis: Trump is a much better alpha-dog than Jeb Bush--and that's a problem. The Omnivore thinks that if you play that clip over and over on TV (ad paid for by an anonymous superPAC, of course) and ask how Jeb will handle Putin, you could finish him.

The American people might elect a woman this time around--but it will be a hawkish Iron-Lady type from either the D or R side of the aisle. They will not elect someone who presents as weak.This has nothing specific to do with current affairs or geo-politics: it is about the national character. The taller candidate in presidential elections usually wins more of the popular vote and is more likely to be re-elected. Charisma, physicality, and most importantly, a sense of being in command is important.

Jeb ceded that with Trump on the most-watched debate in history. The Omnivore thinks that could be the end of him.

Rubio Maneuvers

The Omnivore saw someone on Twitter describe Marco Rubio's campaign as a "peloton campaign." The Omnivore had to look it up: it's the 'main pack' of riders in a bicycle race! This is a perfect description of what Rubio has been doing--staying under the radar but putting in strong performances. Unlike Carson or Trump, no one is writing "When will Rubio fade" stories. Instead, now, they're writing "When will Rubio rise."

The ground work for this, happening right now, is important: Rubio needs to beat Jeb Bush in Florida which is well into next year. Between now and then he doesn't need to spend money or make mistakes (apparently his campaign even has an app for big-money donors that will tell them what Rubio is doing at any given moment!).

This, like Ted Cruz's moves, is positioning for the battle around December. Presumably the Jindals and Patakis will be out by then. Probably Carson (not viable) will have decayed and perhaps Fiorina and even Trump will be languishing. That mass of support (over 50%) will have to go somewhere: Cruz, Rubio, and (to a lesser extent) Jeb are positioning themselves to fight over it.

This is happening now--and it's important.


Polls, right now, are meaningful: determining who got on the debate main-stage was probably hugely important (Fiorina managed to "win" her two debates, in part, because the first one was much smaller). While she may not be the candidate, her presence will shape things that will play out in February. Polling is important if people think it is--and they do. Seeing Trump top everyone for weeks on end raises questions about viability, the tennor of the electorate, and so on.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Congress Loses Its Boehner

They Said He Was Soft On Obama
Speaker of the House John Boehner has announced his resignation both from his speakership and from the House of Representatives at the end of October. This is a big deal. The take-aways:

  1. Boehner leaving means a gov't shutdown most likely will not happen (check the headline!). He now doesn't care about his political future and can do what he wants. This pushes the actual battle to close-to-the-election Dec 11 (assuming Boehner passes a Continuing Resolution before he goes) and fills some on Capitol Hill with dread.
  2. Marco Rubio announced the surprise resignation to a standing ovation at a Values Voter speech he was giving. Boehner leaving is seen by many as further signs that the conservative interests are "winning" the GOP civil war (which is bad for Jeb Bush).
  3. Kevin McCarthy (Majority Leader) is most-likely to succeed Boehner--but there are others who might get the nod. Popular conservative radio star Mark Levin has already come out against McCarthy as too squishy.

What To Make of This?

Eric Cantor was one of the first, real high-profile conservative-wing "scalps." Boehner is the next serious casualty (although The Omnivore thinks Walker and Perry count in here too--more on that in a second). Boehner tried to hold a leaky coalition together and it became clear that going into the next election cycle, something was going to break. It turned out it was Boehner.

This brings us to the level of a "shooting war" in the GOP schism. While The Omnivore has been of the "they'll muddle through" opinion of GOP leadership, it's possible this could actually splinter the party. Why?

The Whig Party split over the issue, basically, of slavery. The Northern Whigs became Republicans. The Southern Whigs became the Confederacy. Today that kind of split can't really happen--but a different one is. The rise of the outsiders have given the conservative wing a set of voting options that are directly aimed at the establishment. They're taking them.

Following the 2014 elections, republicans turned against Boehner when the gains in the House and Senate failed to materialize the changes they had been told would be achieved. The rise of the narrative that their congress had simply sold out set the stage for Trump, Carson, and Fiorina. It also made formerly acceptable strong conservative candidates like Walker and Perry less acceptable. They weren't Fuck-You enough.

Trump is definitely Fuck-You enough.

If you scoffed at the idea that Perry and Walker were strong, you were not reading conservative message-boards during 2012 and after. Perry's dismal performance was forgiven by a large portion of the conservative audience as the explanation that he had back-surgery and was on heavy medication was at least partially true (he did have back surgery and was probably on medication). His 2012 campaign was fairly gaffe free--but he didn't get a second look because of Trump.

If Jeb had been topping the polls you can bet Perry would've.

The same goes for Scott Walker. Walker certainly tanked his own run in a number of ways--but one of the key fundamental drivers of that behavior was that up against Donald Trump, Walker's attempt to dominate the right-hand lane just looked milquetoast.  When that wasn't selling, he slewed around unsure how to handle a challenger he couldn't out-conservative.

But let's contrast Perry and Walker to Ben Carson and Herman Cain. Perry and Walker are both reasonably successful governors with serious resumes. Of the three kinds of presidents (Governors/Senators, Military Heroes, and Business Men) guys like Walker and Perry do the best. For military heroes, it helps if you won WWII. We haven't elected a business man in modern history and even in the past they weren't generally good presidents.

The idea that Cain or Carson could win a general election is delusional. The idea that Perry or Walker couldn't win a general election is wishful thinking. In a different environment (that is: as an alternative to Bush instead of Trump) both of them could have unified the establishment and the conservative wings of the party. Walker, given time--and the support of the establishment--would have improved by August 2016.

Conversely, Carson's campaign is essentially "Vote for me, I'm a very conservative nice guy." Like Cain, that will get you somewhere right now--but it won't get you to the finish line.

Keep in mind that Carson has about double Jeb Bush's percent of the vote.

What Now?

Rather than being mollified, The Omnivore thinks that the conservative wing will want to go after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Bobby Jindal called on him to step down in his own speech at the Voter Values summit. While McConnell has fewer problems in the (generally saner) Senate, guys like Ted Cruz will be staking their campaign on picking the right fights--and the right fight, today, is with the GOP Establishment.

The coming likely failure to defund Planned Parenthood will just stoke the fires higher ("We elected a GOP House and Senate--and got nothing!" and "Now we got rid of John Boehner--and still got nothing!"). The feeling that daylight is "just around the corner" will be stoked by guys like Levin and Limbaugh (a guest host on Limbaugh noted that Boehner leaves with "one last betrayal"). In the end, of course, the way out is to elect a conservative president--but the guys who were most likely to fit that bill are out of the race early.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Should Jeb Drop Out For The Good of the Party?

"Why are people ASKING me this??"
As Walker exited the race, he gave advice to the remaining candidates:
"I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current frontrunner," Walker added.
Who was he telling to drop out? The answer is: Jeb, probably. Sure, he probably means the guys from the kid's-table debate--why not? And he likely means Chris Christie with a side of Huckabee too. The problem is that those guys, together, add up to about 7%. If you add that to Jeb's 8% it might not even get him into 2nd place (Carson polls just above 15%).

Of course Walker taking his 'asterisk' out of the race wasn't going to spread a bunch of voters around either. But the point remains: for the GOP establishment, the choices are now pretty much Rubio and Jeb. Sure, Kasich has his 2%. Chris Christie or Bobby Jindal would be reasonably acceptable candidates--if they were polling anywhere but 'life support'--but if you work down from Trump above Mike Huckabee are only Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush*.

Rubio, pulling 5.5%, is almost equal to all those guys combined. If Bush left Marco would also get almost all of his support . . . probably. If Rubio left? Maybe not.

Should Bush Drop?

Slate's token conservative asks the question "Could Walker have recovered?"
The short answer is probably not. If Walker believed that he was a man of destiny and that the future of the republic depended on his willingness to tough it out, perhaps he could have muddled through for a few more months, lying in wait as other candidates stumbled. To muddle through, however, he’d have to either radically trim the size of his quite big and expensive campaign staff or he’d have to raise more hard money. As Josh Kraushaar of National Journal notes, Walker managed to raise a handsome sum for his super PAC, but his super PAC could not pay for his staff or for his travel. Paying those bills meant attracting donors to Walker’s formal campaign apparatus, and it’s hard to attract donors when you’re in the low single digits in the polls and you’ve faded to the point of invisibility on the debate stage. Walker was faring so badly that had he limped to another debate, he might have been relegated to the kids table—which might not even be around next time. I’d say that Walker has spared himself and his family a lot of sleepless nights.
When we look at Bush, on the other hand, in August he had 8MM in the bank. At that time Walker wasn't registering anything on the charts (his super PACs had 26MM though). So while Bush's PAC's (over 100MM) are loaded, Bush, himself (in so-called "hard money") isn't about to tank either and in July, at least, Bush's burn-rate was pretty low.

Secondly, while Bush has also been under-whelming according to expectations, he hasn't been nearly as underwhelming as Walker. Walker was supposed to be the guy who could unite the party. Jeb is "running the general election in the primary" (basically NOT appealing to the base). Low scores are to be expected at this stage.

Thirdly, Walker had a must-win-Iowa strategy where he would take the first voting state by storm and use that victory to rocket-boost him ahead of his competition. Jeb's must-win State is Florida where he is running in 2nd place (although, yes, far behind Trump--and barely ahead of Carson). Comparatively, Rubio is a solid 5pts behind Bush.

This is good positioning for Jeb: the current thinking right now is that no one has to "kill" Trump--he'll just somehow fade as people get tired of his act. Then Carson will Herman Cain right into the ground and Jeb will break away as the remaining vote splits between Huckabee, Fiorina, and Ted Cruz--or something. Whatever. Right now Jeb's Florida position is enviable to everyone not named "Donald."

Finally? Bush is winning right now. Huh? Well, polling isn't the only--or even the best--measure of power in the campaign. Betting markets are another "poll"--this one with actual money behind it. Endorsements are, historically, the best predictors of who will win the nomination. Money raised, as noted, is a key element too. Bush is winning all of these.


Stories about how badly Jeb is doing are likely to continue to float around--but The Omnivore doesn't see any reason for him to clear the field for Marco Rubio. If Jeb suffered a polling collapse like Walker did? That's one thing--but we need to wait for the next fund-raising announcements to come out to know if Bush's money sources are drying up.

* John Ellis Bush. Jeb Bush is like "ATM Machine"

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Long Walk(er)

And Now Outta The Campaign

Walker is officially out:
Mr. Walker’s intended withdrawal is a humiliating climb down for a Republican governor once seen as all but politically invincible. He started the year at the top of the polls but has seen his position gradually deteriorate, amid the rise of Donald J. Trump’s populist campaign and repeated missteps by Mr. Walker himself.
Here are the hot-takes:
This is where he was supposed to be tonight:
:: SNIFF ::

Indeed, Walker goes down with about 26 million in super-pac's money. What happens to it isn't clear. Donors can get their money back--or it could be used to back another candidate. Which one? Probably? Yeah: Rubio.

Rubio vs. Jeb: It's On

The exit of Walker means that one of the maybe 4 top-tier guys is gone. The remaining three are Rubio, Jeb, and Ted Cruz or Kaisch. If Kaisch continues to climb, he might overtake someone--but right now he's polling 2.3%.  Matt Yglesias of Vox plays devil's advocate and says what everyone is thinking: Jeb should drop out for the good of the party. The argument is straightforward:
  1. Rubio is exactly like Jeb--except good at politics.
  2. The conventional candidates (he includes Christie and Jindal) split the conventional vote (although to be honest, Christie and Jindal are not splitting much of anything right now).
Walker himself was holding a measly 1.8 polling points in the RCP average at last check--so it's not like him getting out throws the voters to Rubio in some kind of landslide (Rubio pulls a 7.3--a half point behind Bush and about a point ahead of Cruz). On the other hand, the dynamic changes. Walker leaving means that even well funded guys are now looking over their shoulders. Donors are seeing that just giving someone 26MM doesn't mean they'll have staying power.

Walker reminds us (these candidates) of our mortality in a way that Rick Perry did not.

Next To Fall?

If The Omnivore had to guess, he would pick the bottom of the pack. The Pataki's, the Jindals--those guys. In the top-slots? Chris Christie? Probably.

What About Trump, Carson, and Fiorina?

Trump might already be declining (we don't know yet--he's taken a hit--but does he have a floor? It's unclear). Carson is also declining--this is more meaningful since, as Ross Douthat notes, Carson's campaign is pretty empty--even moreso than Trump's. If he isn't electrifying the evangelicals or the outsiders-but-not-Trumps, he doesn't have much. Carly Fiorina is a real candidate with real positions. She may have staying power but right now she's in 6th and it's not exactly clear who she cannibalizes support from (it appears Carson, Trump, and Walker--but she seems too conventional to get that much more out of Carson and Trump--Jeb was unchanged after the debate, for example).

What Now?

The key takeaway from the fall of Walker is this: guys who looked like the chosen ones to unite the Tea Party and the Establishment have, twice--well, two and a half times (since you count Perry for 1.5), been a disaster. The idea of a sane, smart, Tea Party governor seems elusive--out of reach. Whether this is something endemic to the positions (Perry succeeded in a very good local economy, Walker was able to pull off some good moves with an electorate that favored him) or just bad luck, we don't know.

We do know that the remaining candidates are substantially more polarized: Cruz is a real politician--but he is seriously disliked by the establishment and is looking for a shutdown that will make him less popular. If Trump were to vanish (and Carson simply isn't electable) Cruz would still be vulnerable to things that mere mortal politicians are: the party establishment influencing the donor-class. In other words, without a Walker (or a Perry), the conservative wing of the party doesn't have a lot to go on. 

This should make the decisions about who to back even more critical and fraught. Walker's exit doesn't just kill his candidacy--it kills the dream of a great-white-hope uniter (and, let's be real, there's no one in the race whiter than Walker).
It's A Nice Day For A White Walker :: Rockin' Guitar Solo ::