Live Blogging Election Night 2020

I’ve had my head in data most of the day. There are some things I wanted to lead with, but we’re about to hit the big poll closings.

7:00

The first returns are in. Trump wins Indiana. No surprise. Everything else is too early to call. Trump looks like he’s leading in Florida, because of two, R leaning counties. So far he’s short of his 2016 totals, but it’s too early for that to mean anything.

Here’s something to start with. These are the states where the Candidates have an 80% or better chance of winning with the darker colors representing a probability of better than 90%. If Biden can merely hold these states, he wins.

Looking at what’s left here Biden has tons of paths to victory. Trump has but a few. That said, this could be very wrong.

7:18

MSNBC just called Vermont for Biden. No surprise. It looks like Biden is under-performing in Miami-Dade County. That’s not good, but maybe there’s something else that is going on there.

If you’re looking for bellwethers, if Trump wins NC or Maine 2, it’s going to be a long night. If Biden takes Florida or NC or Georgia, he probably has a clear path.

7:30

WV is too early to call. That may be a bad sign for Trump. Biden may be over-performing in a lot of Florida. In fact, (7:33) he just took the lead.

7:47

Florida doesn’t look good. It’s still early but my prediction that there’s a big shift toward Biden may be a bunch of crap.

17 states have poll closings at 8.

NYTimes has Trump with a 95% chance to win Florida.

Trump wins in Kentucky.

The New York Times has great tools and lots more results.

That’s 85 to 55 Biden. Things look surprisingly good in Texas though. Interesting.

McConnell wins in Kentucky. Not surprising, but disappointing.

More NYTimes. This is an awesome graphic.

8:33

Someone who supports QAnon won a House seat in Georgia. Things are going to get weird. These are the unintended consequences of gerrymandering.

8:39

Here’s a look at the Senate.

9:40

It’s going to come down to the same three states. Damn it.

12:52 PM Thursday

Well, that kind of went off the rails there; lots of things kept me from posting, sorry about that. So, where are we? Let’s start by updating the map at the top of the page

We’ve added the states that have been called. The lighter colors are states from our original map where either Trump or Biden had at least an 80% chance of winning in 538’s last projection. Nothing from that original map has changed hands. It’s still the case that if Biden holds these states, he will win the election.

Biden leads in Nevada and Arizona, which would put him at exactly 270. Trump is likely to win in Alaska and North Carolina. Georgia could go either way. Trump has a dwindling lead in Pennsylvania, but the remaining votes are likely to favor Biden.

The president, meanwhile, is doing what he claimed he would do for weeks or months. Declare victory on election night claiming to be ahead, presume that the states that went against him were rigged, and try to manufacture a victory through lawsuits.

You can’t declare victory until the votes have been counted. Part of the delay in getting the results is due to elections officials in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania being barred from counting early ballots before election day. They asked for relief on this, but they were rebuffed by republican state legislatures. This was part of the plan from the beginning, to give the president the illusion of leading in these states and the ability to create an atmosphere where he could claim that the election was being “stolen.” That isn’t true. What we’re seeing here is the inverse of what we saw on election night. Biden started with unrealistically large leads when the only votes that had been counted were early ones. As election night went on, we got more realistic results as the same-day votes were counted. We’re seeing the same thing in reverse now except that it’s the Biden-leading votes that are being counted last instead of the Trump-leaning ones.

Trump’s strategy here reminds me of G. W. Bush’s playbook from the 2000 recount. Turns out it’s even more offensive as a deliberate strategy than it was as an ad hoc response.

9:27 PM Thursday

The atmosphere is palpably energized. Trump’s lead in Georgia is below 2500 and the gap between the candidates is below 50,000 in Pennsylvania. It seems like we’re on the cusp of Biden pulling ahead in one of these states. Will we get a quick call after that? Don’t know.

Meanwhile, the president seems to be flailing. Claire McCaskill called the president’s speech a low point in American history. A presidential candidate calling an election into question is unprecedented. There’s a lot to unpack there; it was strange and troubling. He clearly thinks Red Ballots Matter More. But that isn’t true. All Ballots Matter.

9:40 pm

Now Georgia is within 2000 votes.

9:49 pm

Here’s another nice graphic from the NYTimes.

10:00 pm

What’s the state of the race? Trump leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia, but those leads are evaporating. Biden leads in Nevada and Arizona. The lead-in Arizona is shrinking, but the Biden campaign is confident it will hold. Trump will almost certainly win Alaska and looks safe in North Carolina.

10:28 pm

The palpable excitement had dissipated.

10:43 pm

The gap in PA is down to 26,000. According to MSNBC, It looks like Biden will overtake Trump at 4 or 5 am. I think earlier.

11:00 pm

I’m holding on for a bit to see if we get an update on Georgia. If Biden wins Georgia, that will put him up to 269 electoral votes, 1 vote away from victory. In the unlikely event that Trump wins everything else, that would be a 269-269 tie.

In that case, after the Electoral College votes, the election is decided by the House of Representatives. The democrats control the house, so you might think that would be good news for Biden. It isn’t. It’s a Trump victory. Why? The representatives don’t vote for President, the states do. Currently, the Republicans control 26 state delegations which would be enough for him to win. That’s unlikely to change after the election.

11:18

That’s enough for tonight. I’ll be back when there’s something to report.

11:22 am Friday

Good Morning! A lot has happened overnight. Biden pulled ahead in Pennsylvania and Georgia of all places. Here’s an appropriate song for this morning! I give you “Better Things” by the Kinks.

This means that Biden is leading in four of the six uncalled states with a total of 306 electoral votes. His lead in Pennsylvania is growing. Meanwhile, the latest results from Maricopa county make it unlikely that the president will be able to pull ahead in Arizona. In Nevada the latest votes being reported had Biden’s lead at about 22,000. At least one outfit has called the election for Biden.

11:00 pm

Back at it again. The last update from Pennsylvania put Biden’s lead at more than 0.5%. [Edit: It only looked that way with the rounded numbers the networks were using, this didn’t actually happen until a bit later.] That’s out of automatic recount territory. I think that will impel a call for Biden in the Pennsylvania race and then consequently the presidency.

Nothing looks especially different on the teevee at this point.

As an aside, on the news this (Friday) afternoon I saw a group of voters in Maricopa County AZ who were in line at the elections office in order to “cure” their ballots.

What is ballot ‘curing?’

Evidently, in Arizona, if there’s an error on your ballot the Board of Election will contact you and allow you to come in and fix the discrepancy. This startles me and it’s an important statement about the importance of the franchise. Everyone’s vote is important and everyone’s vote should count. That’s a welcome and stark contrast to the politicians who are seeking to prevent votes from being counted, merely because they don’t think they’ll like the outcome.

8:34 am Saturday

I’ve been watching elections coverage for about an hour now. MSNBC seems to think that a call in the election is imminent. More data is on the horizon, probably at 9:00 am.

Joe Scarborough started his show by calling the 1976 Republican nomination for Gerald Ford. There’s a lot reasonable takes on Scarborough, but it seems certain that he should not do comedy.

These folks made an excellent point on the timing of the vote count. We know that the Governors of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania tried to allow their elections officials to start processing the early and mail-in ballots before the elections, but were stopped by the republican state legislatures. That led to a night that looked really good for the president. That was by design. Trump was planning to use the good coverage to try and force an early end to the counting and create an illusion of malfeasance. It’s an amazing disconnect on the order of the notion that we only have cases of coronavirus because we’re testing for it.

To America’s credit, by and large the president’s rhetoric was ignored and we continued to count the votes in a dignified and orderly manner. I’ve seen a number of secretaries of state being interviewed and doing news conferences and that’s dong nothing but increase my confidence in the system.

If these states had counted the mail-in ballots early, the focus on election night, the focus would have been on these states. If would have been clear from the start that Biden had a commending lead in Pennsylvania at least. The character of the coverage would have been fundamentally different and there would have nothing that even seemed suspicious.

9:10 am

From the Biden campaign. “Today seems to be the day.”

11:08 am

Another update from Maricopa County, Arizona. Trump won these votes with about 58%, cutting Biden’s lead to 20,500. If Trump does as well with the rest of the Maricopa County, that will cut Biden’s statewide lead to about 15,000. If I’m not mistaken, everything else in AZ is small.

11:30 am

That’s it! NBC is calling it for Biden!

11:35 am

Almost everyone’s on board pretty quickly. And it’s a little funny to see who the one holdout is.

11:40 am

This is a great moment. Here’s a song for today.

7:23 pm

We might be nearing the end of our Election Night Live Blog, but we’re here until after the President-Elect’s speech tonight.

It’s been genuinely moving to see all the people who are absolutely jubilant about the results of the election. It might be a function of the call being made on a Saturday morning, but I don’t remember ever seeing this kind of reaction to an election with the possible exception of 2008. The sense of relief in the crowds is palpable. The people partying talked about feeling hopeful, safer, and represented in ways that they haven’t for the last four years. In 1920 Warren Harding promised us a return to normalcy and one hundred years later we may actually have one.

And speaking of 100 years ago, it’s been a century since the passing of the 19th Amendment which didn’t give women the vote, but recognized that they should have had the franchise all along. There can be no more fitting commemoration of that anniversary than electing our first female vice-president.

8:28 pm

“The people have chosen empathy.” Nice.

8:58 pm

You can watch the both speeches here.

Great remarks from both Harris and Biden. I liked the homages to both Obama and MLK. This is what a president is supposed to sound like and the commitment to be the President of all America is as welcome as it had been sorely missed. “Now let’s give each other a chance… this is a time to heal.”

Here’s the song (although not the version) that was playing when Biden concluded his remarks.

Election Day Reruns

“If you haven’t read it, it’s new to you” to paraphrase an old NBC slogan that really seemed to piss people off at the time.

I hope you’re enjoying Election Day, especially geeking out on the politics if that’s your thing.

While I finish up my last projection and final prediction, here are some old election related blog posts you might like. They’re pretty good if I do say so myself. I really wanted to update “Vote Anyway” for 2020 but sadly, time got away from me.

Enjoy!

Two Flags for Election Day

Happy Election Day 2020! I hope every one who hasn’t is planning to vote. More on that later. Here are two flag related things about this year’s elections.

48 Star American Flag 3x5 Feet 1912-1959 Old Glory US USA for sale online |  eBay

We’ve decided to fly a 48-Star American Flag to mark the day of one of our most important patriotic duties. Why the 48-star flag? Well, the 48-star flag had the second-longest tenure as the nation’s official flag, from 1912 to 1959, and not once in that time did we suffer an electoral inversion where the Electoral College failed to elect the winner of the popular vote.

The 48-star flag was also the flag for the 1936 Election which is notable for two reasons. It’s the election where Literary Digest predicted a landslide victory for Republican Alf Landon. Don’t recall President Landon? There’s a good reason for that. The Literary Digest poll is literally a textbook example of how not to predict the winner of an election. Predicting that Landon would win 57% to 43%, they were off by a whopping 19 points! That’s the largest error ever in an important opinion poll. Don’t worry though, we’re a lot better at it now.

File:ElectoralCollege1936.svg

The other reason that the 1936 election is noteworthy is that it holds the record for the largest electoral-vote landslide in American History. President Roosevelt won 527 electoral-votes to Landon’s 8. That, to borrow a joke from Barbara Holland, was the start of that old saying, “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont.”

There’s one other flag with a connection to Election Day this year because Joanne and I actually cast our ballots on the 24th of October, the first day of early voting. It took us just over an hour standing in line and chatting with some friendly people. Toward the front of the line, in front of the Board of elections, I finally got a good look at a Chemung County flag. It’s the only one I’ve ever seen in the wild and it’s pretty good. It’s got an eagle and a wreath and some stars and it only uses three colors. It ticks off some of the NAVA standards. It could do without all the text and I have no clue about the symbolism but as a municipal flag, it’s above average.

Have a great day and don’t forget to vote!

Stop Top-Two in Florida

I’ve been trying to find time to write about the election, but that seems more impossible by the day. On the other hand, I already have friends and family who are voting in Florida and the top-two primary system is on the ballot there. This one is time-sensitive.

Top-two simply isn’t a good idea. Our country desperately needs voting reform, but top-two isn’t voting reform, it’s doubling down on all the inherent problems of the plurality vote and making them a bit worse. Do you want real voting reform? Look for a group promoting instant run-off voting like they do in Maine, even better IMO, approval voting. The links take you to organizations doing just that.

But first, do no harm. Here’s an opinion piece I wrote ten(!) years ago about the so-called “Jungle Primary.” It ran in the Star-Gazette, our local Elmira paper and the Binghamton paper and possibly one or two others across the state.

Super Tuesday, Live.

It’s like a regular Tuesday except from Krypton. Well, not really. Actually, it’s like a regular Tuesday except with a genuinely life-threatening number of fries.

I published these predictions a few minutes ago on Facebook and it looks fairly even. There’s not a whole lot of analysis there on my part; I mostly just took the 538.com favorite. Thus, this is as much of a benchmark as anything else. We can use this to look for surprises.

The exception is Texas. Sanders had a pretty big lead there before South Carolina, but Biden seems to be getting a boost of his big win last Saturday. He was gaining fast; that one could really go either way.

What’s the status quo? Biden has Momentum, which changes things dramatically. Klobuchar, Buttigieg, and Steyer have dropped out of the race in the last few days which is good news for Biden.

Warren is still in. It’s perplexing that she hasn’t caught on more than she did. I still think that she would have been the Democrats best bet against Trump. She is the Quintessential anti-Trump and that contrast would have been her best argument. Sadly, if the predictions above are correct, this might be her campaign’s last gasp.

7:08 pm. I’ll be switching over to coverage soon.

7:30 pm. It’s a big win for Biden in VA. That sounds good for him. His bounce must be pretty big. NC is called for Biden at the moment the polls closed. Sanders wins in Vermont. No surprise there.

Tom Perez was just talking about the Jones election as a sign of Democratic Party strength, That’s a real misread of the situation.

And Bloomberg wins American Samoa. Did not see that coming. Is the tide turning? No.

7:55 pm. Five Poll closings coming up at 8. Alabama, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee. That’s probably 3 for Biden and 2 for Sanders.

8:00 pm. Alabama is called for Biden. Oklahoma, Maine, Massachusetts are all to early to call. All the early calls for Biden should help him. Arkansas will go his way as well.

8:10 pm. Biden is competitive in Massachusetts. That’s a sign that he could run the table. And yeah, that’s ignoring a lot of voting theory vote-splitting arguments.

8:40 pm. No call in Arkansas yet (did I miss it?). Texas is closing soon. There’s a huge line of college students in Austin still waiting to vote. I hope they’re all able to stick it out.

8:57 pm. Watching how everything else is going tonight, I think Texas is going to go to Biden.

9:00 pm. “To early to call” is not a call. “To close to call” is not a call.

9:21 pm. AL SC NC TN OK. Biden is running up a big delegate lead, mostly in states that Democrats won’t win in November.

9:40 pm. NBC’s finally caught up and called Colorado for Sanders.

9:45 pm. James Clybern is on MSNBC right now. Damn, that guy is good. He might be the MVP of the entire 2020 election for better or for worse.

9:47 pm. If Biden’s “officially leading” in Minnesota, that’s devastating for Sanders if it holds up.

10:14 pm. It looks like Biden wins Massachusetts. This is officially a rout.

10:19 pm. And now Minnesota. Crap.

11:40 pm. California is called for Sanders. Too little too late.

12:13 am. So much for Super Tuesday; it’s now Fatigued Wednesday. There’s got to be a better name for it than that. It looks at this point that Biden will win both Texas and Maine. I thought I saw an official call on Texas, but I can’t verify that. What’s the headline for the evening? Biden Wins Big. Biden won everywhere he was supposed to and a lot of places that Bernie was supposed to.

What’s the Matter with Iowa

This was initially published yesterday as part of Prelude to Iowa. It looks like this scenario is playing out in real time so it deserves to be out on its own.

Beware of Paradoxical Results

You might think that first-past-the-post or the plurality vote is the worst voting system ever. You’d be wrong. In 2017, my student, Brandon Payne studied the Iowa Caucuses. He determined that the caucuses violate all sorts of mathematical “fairness criteria.” One example is the Condorcet criterion which states that if one candidate beats every other candidate in head-to-head match-ups, that candidate should be the overall winner. Such a candidate might not win the Iowa Caucuses.

Turns out, the viability constraint can also lead to seemingly contradictory results, which I’ll call the “viability paradox.” As a quick example, suppose that in some state, the voters have the following preferences.

Candidate A35%
Candidate B30%
Candidate C12%
Candidate D12%
Candidate E11%

In a primary election, this would be a clear victory for candidate A.

Now let’s divide our state into five precincts of 100 voters each and let’s assign each precinct 10 delegates. We’ll conduct a caucus to allocate the delegates.

Suppose that the voters are arranged within the caucuses according to the graphic below.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png

Notice that there are non-viable candidate preference groups in each precinct. These voters will have to join a viable group in order to participate. They may reorganize themselves as shown below.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-1.png

And so, in this case, Candidate B actually wins pretty decisively, probably 23 delegates to 15 delegates for A. Candidates C, D and E should get 4 delegates each.

There might be good reasons to decide that either candidate A or B is the rightful winner here, but one point is that there is a significant difference. Systems like this can lead to chaotic or paradoxical results. One important take away is that, right or wrong, geography can have a lot of influence on who the victor will be. Even if a candidate seems to be ahead in the polls, they can lose without any shenanigans going on, simply because how their voters are distributed across the state. Surprising results aren’t necessarily nefarious or even necessarily surprising.

You might even want to argue that results like this are a good thing because a lot of voters got to express their second choices. Here’s why you’d be wrong. It’s not systematic. In Instant Run-Off voting, for example, everybody’s second choice is counted unless their first choice is. In the caucus exactly whose second choices are counted is determined by an accident of geography. In deciding a winner between candidates A and B above, should the second choices of voters who picked candidate C in precinct 1 be less important than those in precinct 3? They shouldn’t be but in the current system they are. This is worse than a plurality vote because this could be taking us even farther away from a good collective decision.

In fact, it’s a bit worse than that. Apparently, the state weighs the delegate counts in rural counties a bit more heavily than their urban counties. If the Democrats who think we should dump the Electoral College are to have any intellectual consistency, they should reject these results and work to reform this process.

References

  • Payne, B., The Iowa Democratic Caucuses: A Mathematical Analysis of the “Vote,” Unpublished Manuscript.

Prelude to Iowa

These things happen on Tuesdays, right? Nope. Turns out it’s tonight. The democratic caucus was quite the roller coaster ride four years ago, perhaps we can hope for a more definitive result this time around. I plan to live blog the caucus and the results from my comfy couch in upstate New York. Results will be coming in shortly, which you can keep up with here: Iowa Results, Live.

How do the Caucuses Work?

Primaries are pretty straightforward; party members come out and vote for their preferred candidate, the votes are tallied and delegates are assigned based on the vote counts. There’s a certain amount to unpack there, but if you believe in the assumptions of first-past-the-post voting, primaries should make sense to you.

Caucuses on the other hand, can be kind of weird and I’m sure that most people don’t know what will happens at a caucus site in Iowa Tonight. Here’s what is scheduled to happen.

  1. Caucus-goers will arrive at the site. Those who are not registered have the opportunity to do so, including people who want to change their party registrations and 17-year-olds who will turn 18 before Election Day in November. Only registered democrats are allowed to participate. The number of caucus-goers is established.
  2. At 7:00 pm CST the Caucus is called to order. Representatives of campaigns may speak and caucus-goers may talk among themselves. After 30 minutes, every participant will join a “presidential preference group” or an “undecided” group. Volunteers will determine how many caucus-goers are in each group.
  3. Each preference group’s viability is determined. If a candidate has the support of fewer than 15% of the participants at a caucus location, that group is considered non-viable. Members of that preference group will not be permitted to support that candidate without additional voters. If every candidate is viable, the caucus can proceed to step 5.
  4. If one or more groups are non-viable, the members of those groups have four options. They can:
    1. join a viable group,
    2. merge with another non-viable group to form a viable group,
    3. attempt to recruit members from a viable group to become viable or
    4. leave the caucus. Every group must be viable before the caucus can end.
  5. The size of each preference group is determined. Once every group is viable, the results can be officially recorded and released to the Iowa Democratic Party and the media. The caucus is declared closed.

Conventional Wisdom

This is all over the place. Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com last time I looked, had Biden as the favorite to win the caucus. Meanwhile the betting sites are giving the advantage to Sanders, who has led in the most recent polls. The very last, important poll will not be released. Still, it seems likely that one of these two men will wind up the victor. If I had to bet, I’d bet it will be Sanders. I still think he has enough of an enthusiasm gap on Biden to make the difference. But it’s a very different situation than it was 4 years ago. He isn’t the only challenger left standing.

If either Biden or Sanders wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, I think there’s a good chance that that person will go on to win the nomination.

Inherent in this relatively genteel tone is the belief that the candidates have time to sharpen the distinctions among them. But recent Democratic primaries indicate that they might not. In the past four contested Democratic primaries—2000, 2004, 2008, and 2016—the winner in Iowa has gone on to capture the nomination each time. The winnowing process has been swift and merciless: As I’ve calculated, in these four races combined, Democratic candidates who did not first win either Iowa or New Hampshire have won a total of just five states—and of those, three were the home or neighboring states of the candidates who won them. Not since 1992 have Democrats had a primary race in which more than two candidates won multiple states well into the process.

Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic

The next tier of candidates seem to be betting on the race lasting long enough to make a mark. That may or may not be the case.

Beware of Paradoxical Results

This section was expanded a bit and moved here: What’s the Matter with Iowa.

If you’re interested in the original version, it’s not very different, but it’s preserved here: Paradoxical Results

References

Iowa Results, Live

3:52 pm: You know what happens when you assume; I thought the Caucus was tomorrow, but as I was working on a companion piece, Prelude to Iowa I discovered that results were already coming in. So I’ll jump back and forth between the two posts. Prelude to Iowa will be published when there’s something complete enough to share.

Early Lead for Sanders: We already have some results as the good folks in Ottumwa caucused earlier today. The final tally was 9 for Bernie Sanders, 6 for Elizabeth Warren and 3 for Pete Buttigeig. Klobuchar and Yang had some support in the first alignment but neither was viable. M*A*S*H fans will remember Ottumwa as the home town of Radar O’Reilly. I’m sure Walter would be proud.

6:08 pm: It sounds like Amy Klobuchar has won a satellite caucus somewhere in Florida. If there’s a surprise tonight, it will be her beating expectations, but I don’t think she’ll break into the top tier, NY Times endorsement or no.

7:00 pm: Prelude to Iowa is now live. More to come, only “How do the Caucuses Work?” is done for now.

7:53 pm: “Beware of Paradoxical Results” has been added to Prelude to Iowa. The caucuses are set to start any minute, I’m going to start paying attention to the news coverage.

8:00 pm: Turnout sounds high, possibly 15% over last year? That would be good news for Sanders.

8:03 pm: Biden group looks tiny in Iowa City. Entrance polls indicate a 4 way race, Biden, Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg.

8:16 pm: Nicole Wallace just claimed that traditionally Democrats are married to substance over elect-ability. That seems wrong. Lots of candidates look strong in Des Moines. MSNBC is promising full first and final alignment results.

8:33 pm: In Debuque, Warren and Klobuchar missed viability at least on the first alignment. Buttigeig is ahead of everybody there.

8:50 pm: Klobuchar will probably beat expectations. Based on the buzz the surprise might be bigger than I thought.

There’s a woman on the tv now making a strong case for Warren.

Record turnout on a number of different places. Oldest group is looking smaller while the youngest group is getting bigger. All good news for Sanders.


The difference between the under 30 and over 65 groups is stunning.

9:18 pm: There seems to be a lot of Amy/Pete synergy.

9:23 pm: Pete looks like he’s a lot of people’s #2. Could that be enough to push him to the top?

9:31 pm: Pete and Amy kill it in Clive, IA. Biden and Warren still viable. Bernie didn’t make viability there.

9:50 pm: There’s very little data being released. In Cedar Falls only Sanders, Warren and Buttgeig are viable. The formula for assigning delegates appears to be really complicated.

This lack of data is getting kind of tedious. I wonder if they’re worried about the different narratives the three different sets of numbers will tell.

11:20 pm: Finally something is happening. Klobuchar took the stage. This is smart. If no one else does, it will get tons of airplay.

11:30 pm: The secretary from Iowa Precinct 1-1 could not get his smart phone app to work and has been on hold to the “hotline” for over two hours.

12:19 pm: It’s a shame that Elizabeth Warren’s speech was tape delayed; it’s probably the strongest one of the night.

It doesn’t look like we’ll be getting any results tonight. That’s not a good look for the Iowa Caucus; there’s already talk about whether on not there will even be a Caucus in four years. If the nomination comes down to delegates from Iowa, we’ll all be up to our asses in conspiracy theories.

It could be doubly delayed, Biden’s lawyer sent the Iowa Democratic Party a letter wanting to see the results before they are released. That’s not a good look for the Biden campaign, although without any data what-so-ever it may tell us all we need to know about how he did tonight.

Pete: “Iowa you have shocked the nation!” That made me laugh really hard. He’s the last major candidate to speak I think, and they all did okay, but Warren still wins.

Good night!

Image Credits:

  • Featured Image: Citizensharp [Public domain]

Adventures in Punditry

I like trying things I haven’t done before. A few years ago I got my one and only speeding ticket and I attended the court date. I’d never been to court before and it was interesting.

About two weeks ago, Steve Coleman, who was a Vice-President at Elmira College, invited me to be a guest on his local public affairs program. Steve’s been doing this sort of thing for years as a self-styled “Ph. D. of Politics.” Coleman and Company is now a weekly half-hour webcast that appears on Sunday evenings on MyTwinTiers.com, the website for the local WETM-18 news. Steve puts together an interesting show and it’s worth checking out.

And this isn’t just something new, this is something I’ve always wanted to try. I’m a politics junkie and I’ve been watching things like the McLaughlin Group or Face the Nation or The Rachel Maddow Show for years. I’ve done my share of groaning at the teevee and doing arm chair punditry inside my own brain (“Eleanor! Pat’s just trying to wind you up! Don’t take the bait!!”). I always thought it looked like fun.

If you’re at all curious, the process was straightforward. Steve e-mailed his plan for the show to us on Sunday with an update on Tuesday so we’d know what to expect: presidential politics, impeachment, Iran and then our own chance to sound off on something.

Over-Preparation

I probably over prepared. Then Joanne and I showed up at the studio about a half hour before we were set to tape on Thursday. We got to meet Denis Kingsley, the other guest, who is a real gentleman. Seeing the inside of the studio reminded me of my trip to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The tour took us through Mission Control and standing in these spaces is utterly unlike what you’d expect.

We took our places and started the taping; taped, incidentally, “before a live studio audience” thanks to Joanne.

I probably should have cut Eleanor some slack. A lot of the stuff I’d thought about beforehand got left on the table because it was nowhere in my brain to be found when I needed it. I think my biggest missed opportunity was after Denis asserted that Elizabeth Warren would be unelectable if she got the nomination. I should have pointed out that the person the democrats really wanted to run against in 1980 was Ronald Reagan; they thought he’d be easy to beat. And no one seemed to honestly believe that Donald Trump could get the Republican nomination much less win the presidency in 2016. Some folks remained in denial until the electoral college actually voted. That, too, is why we have elections.

But this was a lovely experience. It was great fun and I really have to thank Steve for the opportunity. Unlike traffic court, I’d happily do this again.

So now I’m a bona fide “political analyst and commentator.” Coleman and Company featuring yours truly in the role of “company” will be available Sunday the 22nd between 4:30 and 5:00 pm here.

The 2020 Democratic Debate Round 3

This isn’t a live reaction to the third debate. Life happened. But I do want to look at the debate and have my own reactions before I really dive into the coverage. Thanks to the magic of TiVo, I can watch this debate today, or any day. Now where’s that damn remote? Here we go!

This debate was sponsored by ABC News and the moderators are George Stephanopoulos, Linsey Davis, David Muir and Jorge Ramos.

Who was in round 3? The contestants… er… candidates on the stage are:

  • Former Vice-President Joe Biden
  • Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
  • California Senator Kamala Harris
  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigeig
  • Entrepreneur Andrew Yang
  • Former Representative Beto O’Rourke
  • New Jersey Senator Cory Booker
  • Former Cabinet Secretary Julián Castro, and
  • Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

That should be close to ABC’s (or the DNC’s?) perceived ranking of the candidates with the more prominent candidates taking center stage. We know that the “big ticket” tonight is Warren vs. Biden. Biden is the ostensible front runner while Warren seems to be the challenger who is gaining ground the quickest. Those two haven’t been on a stage together yet and folks are curious how the encounter will play out.

Booker came out strong and Yang is going to give $1000/month to 12 families for 12 months. Buttigeig seemed taken aback by that before regaining his footing. I can’t put my finger on why, but I’m not impressed by Harris. Bernie sounds like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, at the end of the famous filibuster. He must be working hard; he’s lost his voice. Warren’s opening was excellent and got a good response from the audience. Biden is in good form, but the “we refuse to postpone” riff was a little flat.

Early on, Warren is better on the will-you-raise-taxes question this time. The only relevant question is: taxes + premiums, will the total be more? Will the average family be paying less? Biden is doing well so far, but I don’t know if he will be able to stand up to the tag team of Sanders and Warren. Klobuchar gets the first word aside from the Biden/Sanders/Warren center stage. I don’t feel like she’d playing at the same level. Warren is making the argument that people will keep their current doctors in a more efficient system.

Buttigeig weighs in. “I trust the American People to choose what’s best for them.” He’s got a progressive idea expressed in terms that should ring true for conservatives. He does that alot and it’s pretty good.

And here’s the sort of thing that makes me uncomfortable about Harris. A Medicare-For-All Plan that’s part public and part private fundamentally isn’t Medicare-For-All. She either doesn’t understand that or she wants to have her cake and eat it too.

Biden’s definitely doing better this time around, but he looks like a muppet nodding along with O’Rourke.

Castro’s going after Biden pretty hard. It seems desperate and the crowd doesn’t like it. And Buttigeig is right; Castro’s coming across like a jackass and its going to turn people off.

Yang: “I am asian, so I know a lot of doctors.” Hilarious.

Booker’s pretty good making the “don’t let the best be the enemy of the good” argument and later on racism. He’d clearly thought that through. Buttigeig is strong there as well; I want to know more about his Douglas Plan. Castro, Harris, O’Rourke all pretty good here.

But unlike in his Senate run, Beto always seems to be trying too hard.

This debate seems pretty friendly; there are some squabbles and there are folks promoting themselves, but it’s cordial.

I would have expected these guys to be reflexively anti-tariff but it’s more nuanced than that. Buttigeig is again performing much better than you’d expect based on his office.

Wait! Did Harris just make a dick joke? Backing up… well, no but “that guy in the Wizard of Oz” who turned out to be “a really small dude” was the actual Wizard of Oz. If you’re going to evoke the movie, watch the damn thing. Also, turning the moment into an implied short joke aimed at the moderator is not smart. Also also, that’s kind of a Trump move and he’s much better at that than she is.

OTOH, if you’re going to sneak in a dick joke, trade policy might be the safest spot.

Everybody sounded pretty good on Trade, National Security, Education. Nothing seemed particularly surprising.

Biden got a question on reparations. It sounded pretty tone deaf to me. Using social workers “to confront the problems that come from home.” Might have been meant innocently, but doesn’t come across that way in context. It reminds me of when he called Barack Obama an “African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy .”

Protesters. What are they yelling about? I want to know!

Boy, hearing Biden talk about losing family members was both gut wrenching and compelling.

Analysis:

This was, for the most part another respectful cordial debate. It was palpable from the audience and the other candidates that wanted it that way when Castro tried to go after Biden. That did not go the way Castro thought it would.

So, no real fireworks and I think, again, this debate is unlikely to shake things up much. The “top 5” in the polling, Biden, Warren, Sanders, Harris and Buttigeig, will probably remain the top five. If anyone is likely to drop in the polls based on this debate, I think it would be Harris; this might have been her weakest performance so far. Of the remaining five candidates on the stage, I think Booker is the most likely to break out of the pack.

I might have more to add after I absorb some of the coverage.

Picture Credits:

  • Featured Image: TampaBay.com
  • Biden and Warren: LA Times