News from the Votemaster
• SuperPAC in Utah is Nakedly Anti-Trump
• Sanders Beats Clinton Among Democrats Abroad
• Clinton's Answer to Young People: Old People
• Can Trump Hit 1,237 Delegates Before the Convention?
• What a Brokered Convention Might Look Like from Ground Level
• Debunking Some of the Myths of the 2016 Campaign
• Why Clinton Won't Be Indicted
• Bill Clinton Puts Foot in Mouth
• Automated Politics Is Already Here
Arizona holds a primary for both Democrats and Republicans today and Utah holds a caucus for both parties as well. In addition, American Samoa has a Republican convention and Idaho has a Democratic caucus. Polling has been scarce, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is probably the favorite in Utah. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is the favorite in both caucuses. Arizona is tougher to call. (V)
Donald Trump's current wife, a former supermodel, has posed nude in the past. Mormons tend to frown on that sort of thing. And so, it should come as no surprise that a SuperPAC has put two and two together in advance of Tuesday's caucus in Utah.
The SuperPAC, which has the name "Make America Awesome," is primarily advertising online. One ad, meant to be posted/shared on Facebook and Twitter, features a nude photo of Mrs. Trump with the caption, "Meet Melania Trump, your next first lady ... Or you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday." Another features Mitt Romney (fully clothed) lambasting Trump. And a third highlights Trump's past pro-choice statements. The SuperPAC is specifically trying to target accounts that appear to belong to Mormon women. One can only imagine what kind of filters it takes to narrow things down in that particular way. (Z)
Democrats Abroad, which the Democratic Party considers a "state," just like Guam and the Northern Marianas, held a 2-week-long global primary where Democrats could vote in person in many countries as well as by email, post, and fax. Bernie Sanders won a decisive victory, 69% to 31%, taking nine delegates to Hillary Clinton's four. Sanders beat Clinton in almost every country where Democrats voted, sometimes by large margins, such as 1178 votes to 176 votes in Japan. Votes were cast by Americans in 170 countries. The only countries Clinton won were Singapore, Nigeria, and the Dominican Republic. Sanders took all the others. The estimated 7 million Americans living abroad can vote in the general election by absentee ballot in the state they last lived in. (V)
While a great deal has been written about how Bernie Sanders is attracting large numbers of young people to his rallies and caucuses, this gives the impression that Hillary Clinton's goose is cooked. But she has found a secret weapon to counter all the young people moving his campaign forward: old people. In all the states she won, she captured the Social Security crowd by large margins. Last week it was 39 points in Missouri and 65 points in Ohio, for example. The 18-29 cohort that is enamored of Sanders is about the same size as the 65+ group that likes Clinton, but there is an important difference: turnout. Older voters are much more reliable voters than younger ones. In 2012, for example, 72% of the oldsters voted compared to 45% of the youngsters.
Sanders is popular with younger voters because the economy is bad for them and they have never known a time when it was good. They also see inequality and agree with Sanders that things have to change. The older people have often fought this fight before (Howard Dean's 2004 slogan was: "Take our Country Back") and know how powerful the forces are that want to maintain the inequality, and are thus more willing to accept the small steps Clinton wants. They also know of the battles she fought on the health care front in the 1990s. Young people aren't aware of that and just see her as a corporate stooge. (V)
The big question for Republicans is whether Donald Trump will get 1,237 delegates before the convention and thus be in a position to win on the first ballot. If he doesn't, all kinds of shenanigans are possible at the convention, with the intention of denying him the nomination. FiveThirtyEight has looked at the possibilities and concluded that anyone who claims to know the answer is full of it. Harry Enten and Nate Silver have crunched the numbers and expect Trump to be a bit shy of 1,237 after California and several other states vote on June 7.
However, there aren't a lot of truly proportional states left. Many of the remaining states have some delegates running statewide winner-take-all and also winner-take-all in each of the congressional districts. Thus, very small shifts in the votes can have large consequences for the delegate totals. This is why it is so hard to predict. Their best estimate, based on input from multiple experts, is that Trump will have 1,208 delegates going into Cleveland. That might be enough, or maybe not. The confusion comes from the fact that some delegates are unbound. Pennsylvania will send 54 unbound delegates to the convention and some of Marco Rubio's delegates will be unbound. These ladies and gentlemen will be up for grabs between June 8 and the start of the convention five weeks later. Since the Republican Party is a private, nongovernmental organization, actually buying delegates' votes is not illegal, although the publicity wouldn't be good if it came out. Trump will undoubtedly try to lock down as many of the unbound delegates as possible, while at the same time the Republican leadership will be trying to keep him from doing so. Thus the period between California and the convention could be critical. (V)
Tanya Melich was in attendance at 11 of the 12 Republican National Conventions between 1952 and 1996. She has seen it all, including three conventions that were at least partly contested (1952, 1964, and 1976). Drawing on that experience, she has taken a stab at what a brokered convention might look like in 2016.
Her account of past conventions is full of detail, and worth a read. She makes two major points that are particularly salient to 2016. The first is that it is difficult for a party to heal the rifts from a contested convention, even if the eventual nominee is calm and statesmanlike (a la Dwight D. Eisenhower). With a candidate who is not Ike-like, the odds of the various factions moving past their differences are very long, indeed. The second important point is that a convention is a fast-moving, "in the moment" event. As a consequence, delegates who fail to vote for their pledged candidate are not likely to be noticed, much less prosecuted.
Melich's prediction is that Trump will ultimately get the nomination but lose the election badly. Her conclusion:
After nearly a year of listening to candidate Trump, we know the quality of his character. His expected efforts to move away from bigotry and nastiness if he is nominated will not fool us. When the November election is over, he will be known as the Republican presidential candidate who suffered the greatest defeat in his party's history.
If anyone is in a position to hazard a guess like this, it's presumably someone who has been actively involved in the political process for the last 66 years. (Z)
David Lauter, from the Los Angeles Times' Washington bureau, has written a piece dismantling four "myths" of the 2016 campaign cycle. They are:
- "Donald Trump has drawn 'millions' of Democrats, independents and previously
disengaged citizens into the GOP." Lauter agrees that turnout is up, but
argues—backed by substantial evidence—that it is driven almost entirely by
Republicans who usually stay home in primary season choosing to vote. Very few
of the voters are "new" Republicans.
- "A drop in turnout in Democratic primaries means trouble in November." There
have been six elections in the past 40 years where both parties had a contested
primary. Three times, the party with higher primary turnout won the election.
Three times, they lost. Ergo, primary turnout has as much predictive value in
2016 as flipping a coin.
- "The Hispanics love me." This is a quote from Donald Trump, of course, and
it rests on a very small bit of very unreliable data from the Nevada caucuses.
At best, he did well among Latino Republicans, but even that is not entirely clear.
Meanwhile, the great majority of Latinos are Democrats, and those individuals,
on the whole, most certainly do not "love" Trump.
- "The Democrats' so-called superdelegates have stacked the deck against
Sanders." The superdelegates may have helped, but the fact is that Hillary
Clinton also leads Bernie Sanders by about 300 delegates among the regular,
old-fashioned, non-super type. By way of contrast, Barack Obama had a lead over Hillary Clinton of about 125 delegates on March 22, 2008.
If we were to boil them down to their essence, the facts that give lie to these four myths suggest that Donald Trump is not as strong as he seems, Hillary Clinton is not as weak as she seems, and maybe the media is fooling themselves into thinking that the election will be close. (Z)
Beyond a health crisis or a terrorist attack, the biggest potential game changer on the Democratic side of the contest would be the indictment of Hillary Clinton. Richard O. Lempert, an emeritus faculty member from the University of Michigan Law School who also worked for the Department of Homeland Security, has written a thorough analysis of the question (with the caveat that there is some information that he, as someone who is no longer a government employee, cannot know). He is nonetheless quite confident that Clinton will not be indicted over her emails.
The article takes readers through nearly every aspect of the situation, with enough detail to be thorough, but not enough to be ponderous. As Lempert answers his main question, he brings up some very interesting points that don't generally appear in less knowledgeable narratives. Among them:
- The bar that a prosecutor would have to clear is extremely high; Clinton's
actions would have to knowingly and willfully expose classified information.
- As Secretary, Clinton had wide latitude to decide what was and was not
classified within the State Department. For her to have broken the law would
almost necessarily require exposing information classified by the President, or
by another department/agency (such as the CIA).
- It is very easy for someone to be unaware that information was/is classified
or that it should be classified. Lempert uses, as an example, information that
Iran had received a ton of apricots from Turkey. This would appear innocuous to
most readers, except the one or two who know that the information came from a
compromised trade network.
- It is also common for information to become worthy of classification months
or years after it is first produced. Lempert uses the example of a message
written about Marine Le Pen in 2010, who was a far-right lunatic then, but is
now a serious player in French politics.
- Ironically, Clinton's private email server may have been more secure than a
government-run server. It is true that State Department servers are much better
protected, but they are also targeted regularly by cybercrooks. By contrast,
Clinton's server was unknown to most of the world.
Given the significance of this subject to the current campaign, as well as the fact that it tends to be reduced down to nothing more than a sound bite these days, it is well worth reading the whole essay. (Z)
The good thing about Bill Clinton's ability to go off-script and speak extemporaneously is that it makes him seem more authentic and spontaneous. The bad thing is that, despite his generally excellent political instincts, he sometimes steps in it. It was the latter tendency that grabbed all the headlines on Monday.
Clinton was campaigning for his wife in the state of Washington, and at the end of a speech he offered this pronouncement:
If you believe we can rise together, if you believe we've finally come to the point where we can put the awful legacy of the last eight years behind us and the seven years before that where we were practicing trickle-down economics, then you should vote for [Hillary].
The "awful legacy" portion was presumably an allusion to the divisiveness of the last eight years, but it's easy enough to read it as a rebuke of President Obama. That's certainly how the RNC sees it—they fired off an email about the speech less than an hour after it was completed.
Clinton has not yet clarified his remarks, but he better come up with something good. Both he and his wife have regularly lauded Obama on the campaign trail, and if it appears that their true feelings are much less positive, it will serve to affirm the sense that the Clintons aren't honest, and will also hurt Hillary with the black voters that have been the backbone of her base. (Z)
Social media is playing an ever larger role in campaigns, but things aren't always what they seem. One measure commonly cited as an indication of a politician's popularity is the number of followers he or she has on Twitter and similar metrics. But many campaigns are now using techniques from the field of artificial intelligence to have some of these followers be computer programs rather than actual people, thus (greatly) distorting the statistics. These Twitterbots can also post their own tweets to give the (false) impression that there is an actual person there. Candidates are also using bots to post a steady stream of tweets, to keep their followers engaged. We are not far from a situation in which a large number of computer programs are sending out tweets that are being consumed by other computer programs, with no people at all in the loop. But if the media keep reporting on how many tweets were sent out and how many followers the tweeter has, the situation is only going to get worse. (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
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