A Tale of Four Shortages

We all want to know when things are getting back to normal. Or failing at that, a new acceptable reality. I strongly believe there are four, and only four measures that truly matter. It’s not the amount of cases, or increase/decrease. Nor is it the death rate, or amount of total deaths. That’s not to minimize these things. A death is a huge deal. Even more so if you know the person who passed. I’ve read many obituaries of COVID-19 victims, and it’s hard not to feel a real sense of loss.

But cases and deaths are outcomes, not causes. And even if those numbers improve dramatically, we can’t be sure there won’t be a resurgence of doom in the fall/winter. By most estimates, a reliable, tested vaccine is 12 to 18 months away. Should things in America, Western Europe, and other currently afflicted regions return mostly to normal over the summer, we’ll still have a strong sense of unease. Unless we solve three shortages. Fixing these will then cure the fourth.

Masks/other PPEs

Ventilators

Tests

Toilet Paper

Fixing the mask (and when I refer to mask, I really mean all of the commonly used Personal Protective Equipment pieces) shortage is both really easy and really hard. Ramping up is far easier than we’re making it look. There’s a good argument that part of the problem is how many ways more could get manufactured. There’s a whole industrial base that’s otherwise shut down or immobilized right now. There’s 3D printing. There’s the thousands of people who are already crafting masks at home. Continue reading “A Tale of Four Shortages”

So Now What?

I’m back. And while I’m grateful to have (for now) avoided being a COVID-19 victim, writing about the next step in the Democratic primary seems pretty darn inane right now. Somehow, just one month ago, the virus was a semi-threatening thing on the horizon, Bernie Sanders was the Democratic front-runner, and most of us left our homes every day without thinking much of it. We had a long decade in March.

But what now? There’s so much we don’t know. When will most Americans (or Italians, or Britons, or Indians, etc., etc. ) be able to move about freely? How many will suffer and die before we get a handle on this damn virus? Will the economy recover soon, or is total financial doom just around the corner. If anyone claims to know the answers to these items, you can start ignoring them. They might have a reasonable suspicion, but it’s impossible to know for sure.

Any political implications need to wait. Yes, what’s happening will clearly effect the results in November. But there are a million scenarios. Some where Trump is routed, some where he wins. The remainder of the Democratic primary is in a state of suspension. Theoretically, Bernie can’t catch Joe. And it wouldn’t seem like the Republic is ready for a political revolution on top of the current upheaval.

You may not have seen this, but there’s a charge of sexual assault from 1993 that Biden will need to deal with at some point. Sure, that would make the score Trump many accusers, Biden one, but it’s still not a positive development for Joe. And he doesn’t have the nomination won just yet. No, I’m not betting on this to shake up the race. It’s still a thing that will resurface eventually. And we know Trump won’t let his own rap sheet get in the way of attacking his opponent on this.

Speaking of the president, he’s already re-framing the debate in a way he does best. From saying only a few people would get the Rona, he’s on to making it a victory if he can prevent 200,000 plus Americans from perishing. From bragging about record Dow results and fifty year unemployment lows, you can bet he’ll call any amount of recovery before November a Trump-induced miracle. His approval numbers are up. At the very top of his established range. And then some.

It could be a “rally around the flag” moment. Bush the Elder and the Younger each saw 90% approval ratings, during Iraq War 1.0 and the immediate 9/11 aftermath respectively. Jimmy Carter actually saw his numbers rocket up after the embassy hostages were taken in Iran. The ongoing crisis wouldn’t become a liability for him until months later.

However, it also shows it’s possible for Trump to get about half of the country to say he’s ok. Given he’s got a built-in Electoral College advantage, any world where he can get almost half of the voting public on board is one where he’s getting sworn back in next January. It’s also, short of Bush the Younger–Katrina Edition, about the worst any president has done in polling during an immediate crisis. He trails the numbers posted by his international peers.

As you can see, it’s possible to make a case for anything. A good case. We know Rona has changed America, and impacted much of the world at a minimum. How we’re changed, what’s temporary, what’s permanent, what will evolve, yeah, not so easy. Starting tomorrow, we’ll start looking at possibilities. These aren’t predictions. They’re maybes. I’ll try to keep a balance between “hey, this really sucks, but there are all sorts of tremendous silver linings,” “we were screwed before, now it’s worse,” and “eh, regardless of what happens, we’re sorta stuck in the same place anyway.”

One does wonder what would have happened if Rona had visited us a few weeks sooner. Would Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, or Amy Klobuchar seemed more suited to the moment than Biden (I think so, but who knows?) What would a social distancing debate with 7 contestants have looked like? Are there any camera angles wide enough? Or would they have jousted via Zoom? Oh well, no going back.

Time to look forward. And now, we will.

To Linger, or Not to Linger?

Bernie Sanders is done. Cooked. Flambeed. Fricasseed. Idaho was his fifth best 2016 state. Yesterday he lost it. Washington was #6. If he manages a narrow escape, it’s only because many ballots were mailed in before his non-Biden opponents dropped out. He almost won Missouri last time. This time, he lost every county. As he did in Michigan, a state where he won 73 of 83 counties in 2016. I can go on, but you get the point. A candidate who lost by an average of 10 points nationwide in 2016 is performing worse in 2020.

If Joe Biden can get through Sunday’s debate with nothing worse than a minor stroke, he’ll win Arizona, Illinois, and Ohio next Tuesday, while decimating Bernie in Florida. Then on the 24th, Biden will prove more successful in Georgia than General Sherman. It’s questionable at this point whether Bernie can win any normal primary in any state where voters didn’t begin voting until March. Yes, he took North Dakota yesterday. A state that had 14 polling places. Total. Bernie’s 5 million most committed supporters are way more in to him than Biden’s top 5 million. If there were as many caucuses as four years ago, Sanders would still have nomination math against him, but would have several opportunities for victory.

So far, the only 2016 loss to 2020 win after South Carolina voted is California. Maine, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Idaho, Michigan, and probably Washington were wins that became defeats four years later. The remaining March contests are 2016 losses. Today, Sanders declared his intention to participate in the debate and see what happens on the 17th. At which point he’ll have another decision to make. Should next week go as expected, and should Bernie continue to linger, he’ll be making an unprecedented decision. Continue reading “To Linger, or Not to Linger?”

Heat Check: Who Lost Best?

We’re down to two. Plus Tulsi lol. A week ago, there were seven. A lot can happen in a few days. This seems like a good time to look back on the almost thirty candidates who are no longer with us and ask ourselves: Who Lost Best?

To answer, we need to think about what qualifies as a good defeat. I think there are two important measures.

First: Did the candidate improve their position. Are they a bigger deal because they did this? Do they have more opportunities in the political world, to cash in financially, or both? Are they better positioned for a cabinet job, another office, or to run in 2024 than if they’d sat this one out?

Second: Did they beat or fall short of expectations? Raise your hand if you thought Andrew Yang would start out-raising Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke.

Running for president is one of those things that you can only find out if someone can handle when they do it. No, it wasn’t self-evident that Pete Buttigieg was more ready than John Hickenlooper. You know someone is a good NFL quarterback when they play well as an NFL quarterback. A good classroom teacher is revealed when they’re good in front of a classroom. This is no different.

The Best Losers:

1. Andrew Yang

Quick. Name another person who nobody had ever heard of, had never held or even run for elective office, who both made a serious presidential run and left the race very well thought of. And then please tell me to close the gap in my knowledge. Your definition of serious might be different than mine, but the man raised $16 million from small donors in a single quarter. Yang qualified for all but one debate, and outpolled three quarters of the field. Continue reading “Heat Check: Who Lost Best?”

Super Tuesday Watch: Bernie vs. Bernie

Greetings, and happy Super Tuesday! As I type this, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Massachusetts are in Joe Biden’s column. Vermont, Colorado, and Utah are going to Bernie Sanders. Maine is separated by like three votes. Texas is showing a Sanders lead, but it’s still very much a toss-up. The biggest prize, California, just closed its polls (not counting the people who are still in line.) Bernie is a solid favorite there, though Biden might make it interesting.

We may not know everything. California won’t issue official results for days. But we know a lot. Enough to start taking a serious look at how 2020 Bernie stacks up against the 2016 version. Though the contours are a bit different, and we can’t be sure how long Elizabeth Warren or Mike Bloomberg, neither of whom are enjoying their evening, will stick around, this is mostly Bernie versus an establishment candidate. We’ve seen this show before. Is it likely to go any differently this time?

Three things are clearly different and three things are very similar. Let’s start with the new. On the bright side for Team Bern, his four years of effort in the Latino community, endorsement from AOC, and the absence of Hillary Clinton, who along with her husband, built deep ties over a quarter century, has brought the improvement he sought. I just saw a CNN exit poll that indicated Bernie led Biden 55/21 among Latino voters in California. That’s similar to his result in Nevada. Continue reading “Super Tuesday Watch: Bernie vs. Bernie”

Super Tuesday Update: CA, MA, MN, TX—Not So Fast

Yesterday, I innocently thought it was safe to start writing Super Tuesday previews. And posting them. First Pete Buttigieg said goodbye. Ok, update the first one, edit the second. Wait to do anything else. Then Amy Klobuchar exited. Both are endorsing Joe Biden tonight. Which means a good amount of what was said yesterday needs review.

Original MA, MN, VT Preview

Original CA, TX Preview

Let’s take a look:

California

My previous assumption was that Biden could not catch Bernie Sanders. There was a big polling gap, and even if Joe closed incredibly well, there were still too many early votes already in. While typing that, Buttigieg dropped out. But it still didn’t seem like enough. It did mean Biden would likely avoid an insurmountable delegate gap. With Klobuchar leaving, and both endorsing Biden, his odds improve further. Now we have yet another item to consider. A new survey from AtlasIntel has Bernie leading Biden 34-26.

On the surface, that squares with the idea that Biden won’t lose badly, but won’t catch up. And there’s another piece of bad news for him. Buttigieg was at 3% and Klobuchar 1%, so it’s not like picking up their voters would erase the whole deficit. The thing is, AtlasIntel has polled the last three states in the few days leading up to the vote. Here’s what happened if you compare the gap between Bernie/Biden: Continue reading “Super Tuesday Update: CA, MA, MN, TX—Not So Fast”

Warren Manifests an Opportunity

Pete Buttigieg finished ahead of Elizabeth Warren in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. He has more than three times as many delegates. He’s gone. Amy Klobuchar got double the support Warren did in New Hampshire, a state bordering Massachusetts, not Minnesota. Klobuchar was favored to win her home state tomorrow, Warren is not. Amy is done. Tom Steyer has a bottomless bank account, finished ahead of Warren in South Carolina, and has outperformed her among voters of color. He quit before South Carolina finished counting.

While it was time for Steyer to turn back in to a pumpkin, and Mayor Pete and Klobuchar both made smart strategic decisions, it’s telling that they’re all gone while Warren persists. I’ll admit, as recently as Saturday afternoon, I didn’t see a path for her. She’s not likely to win a single state. She was at extreme risk of being embarrassed at home (still possible.) Despite any and all evidence or results, Warren continued insisting she would both stay in the race and be a potential consensus nominee. Even if she loses Massachusetts.

Candidates say all sorts of things. Usually they’re bluffing. Klobuchar was “focused on Super Tuesday.” Buttigieg was going to “shock the world” with all of his Super Tuesday delegates. They’re both endorsing Joe Biden in Dallas tonight. When they run out of money and/or they run out of real hope, they exit. Each 2020 ex-candidate, except for future third party participant Tulsi Gabbard, has done this. None have continued once it was clear they couldn’t make a positive impact toward their goals.

What a difference a couple days and a couple departures can make. There’s a more than decent chance Elizabeth Warren is the most important person in the Democratic nomination contest. Continue reading “Warren Manifests an Opportunity”

Super Tuesday Preview: CA, TX—There’s Delegates in Them Thar Hills

Between them, California and Texas have 643 delegates to assign. That’s more than 15% of the total. In a world where the same candidate won all of the delegates from both states, it would give them about a third of what they need to get nominated. Super Tuesday has a lot to pay attention to, but from a pure math standpoint, these two matter more than the rest. These two mega states will likely determine whether Bernie Sanders has a good chance at winning a delegate majority before the convention. They’ll also decide if there’s a way Joe Biden can catch up to Sanders before Milwaukee. For good measure, they’ll weigh in on whether Mike Bloomberg is a factor, and whether Elizabeth Warren can continue trying to earn delegates, or needs to slink away sooner than later.

In California, it’s a margin thing, not who will win. Bernie has this. He’s favored in Texas, and early voting might make it impossible for Biden to catch him, but there’s at least a little drama about the winner. Again though, it’s by how much, more than who wins. Let’s take a closer look:

California:

2016 Results: Hillary Clinton won by a few points. It was close, but in a state this big, we’re talking about a few hundred thousand votes. The margin was similar to Nevada. As we saw this year, Bernie has made progress out West, particularly with Latino voters. His California poll average (33%) is close to his first alignment caucus results in Nevada (35%.) His formula is simple. Increase the age range of Latino voters from his 2016 results, while monopolizing the youngest and most progressive voters of any ethnicity. Appeal to a wider range of African American voters than he does in the South. None of the first four states have large Asian-Pacific Islander populations like California does. Bernie is polling competitively, though not overwhelmingly with them so far. His results will influence his prospects in Washington on March 10.

For Biden, his key opportunity is to consolidate as much as he possibly can from the Clinton 2016 supporters. He has some cross-over with Warren here. Along with more moderate voters who thought Sanders was too far left then, and still do. If he were to take some late-deciding Warren supporters who are not part of the base that won’t abandon her, along with taking back Bloomberg supporters who were originally Biden’s, plus getting those who preferred Buttigieg before he dropped out, or Klobuchar but know she can’t win here, it adds up to a lot.

Early Voting: Californians are notorious early voters. All residents can request mail ballots. They began casting them on February 3, the same date as the Iowa caucus. Bernie started surging in polls here a few weeks ago, so he likely didn’t miss out on any potential early votes. Biden’s position today is the best it’s been since the beginning of the process, so he stands to lose the most from early decision making. However, maybe not as much as we’d think. An elections expert who has tracked vote-by-mail returns is claiming a smaller than normal percentage of frequent primary voters have sent theirs in. It’s particularly concentrated among those who have participated in the last five presidential primaries.

Rather than the normal 60-65%, only 47% are in so far. Anecdotally, the frequent Democratic voters I know in California have delayed to the last minute too. This is great news for Biden. I’d be extremely surprised if it’s enough for him to catch Sanders. But it will be enough to ensure he reaches the 15% delegate threshold statewide, and in most/all of the 53 congressional districts.

Warren is right on the precipice. Overall, this probably isn’t great news for her, and could be enough to deny her the necessary 15% in most places. It’s distinctly bad news for Bloomberg and Buttigieg. Especially Mayor Pete. His results with voters of color in Nevada and South Carolina were disappointing. And that was after significant outreach efforts and a good amount of advertising. He hasn’t had time/money to do either in California. That leaves him with the type of white voters who were most likely to stall. Amy Klobuchar can similarly expect a problem. She’s not finished ahead of Pete yet, and won’t here.

NOTE: Above paragraph was written before Pete dropped out. And it’s part of why he dropped out. It’s also why early voting a month ahead of the primary is a bad idea. I’d imagine his early voters would like to have the chance to pick Biden, Bloomberg, or Warren right now.

Delegates: With Pete out, the odds of Bloomberg and/or Warren qualifying decently often have increased. Biden will do even better. The best outcome for Joe is having Bloomberg fall short in most districts, but Warren just clear the barrier. No matter how you slice it, this doesn’t help Sanders. Ex-Buttigieg supporters are less likely to pick him than his competitors. Between this and Biden’s recovery, his dream scenario of having everyone else fall below 15% in most places is off the table.

Current Polls: Buttigieg was dipping below 10% in most California polls, hence his withdrawal. Klobuchar really isn’t registering. She’s not a factor. Neither was Steyer, so his withdrawal won’t move enough votes to concern ourselves with. Biden, Bloomberg, and Warren were all close to the line. I’m comfortable assuming Biden will exceed the pre-South Carolina polling, which had him a little ahead of the other two anyway. Very curious to see if we get any data between now and Tuesday that would give a clearer idea of where Bloomberg and Warren will land.

Texas:

2016 Results: Hillary clobbered Bernie here in 2016, winning by a 2:1 margin in both popular votes and delegate allocation. His current polls have him with about the same support he had in a one-on-one race last time. That’s not absurd. While he lost badly to Biden in South Carolina yesterday, Bernie did get about 80% of the support he had in a two-person contest. If you add him and Warren together (which you probably shouldn’t), it adds to more than he got in 2016.

Texans weren’t ready for him yet four years ago. Clinton had already won Texas in 2008. It wasn’t a great combination. Tejanos particularly, and Texas Latinos in general, are more conservative than Latinos in places like California and Nevada. The Latin community skews a little older in Texas too.

Early Voting: A lot of Texans participate. Unlike California, they only got started on February 18, which means almost entirely after Bloomberg bombed his first debate. I’m tempted to suggest he was more impacted by that in Texas than many other places. He’d reached 20% in selected polls, and unlike Florida, where he can rebound for March 17 if Biden doesn’t knock him out on Tuesday, the one-two punch of struggling and then having Biden jump forward, is almost guaranteed to keep him in third at best.

I think it was probably a neutral factor for Warren. Her ability to reach 15% has gone up with Mayor Pete’s abdication, but he booked a few votes in early voting. Clearly Biden would have been better served if nobody voted before Tuesday. We’ll see if Bernie’s head start makes it impossible for Joe to close the gap.

Delegates: Very similar story to California. We know Sanders will get a lot of delegates, even if he doesn’t win. We can now assume the same for Biden. Buttigieg’s absence drops the odds of Sanders having a big delegate gap in Texas. You can see either or both of Bloomberg/Warren rallying a little and staying above the line in many places, or center-leaning voters abandoning Bloomberg for Biden, while progressives pull the plug on Warren for Bernie.

If both California and Texas delegates are almost entirely Bernie or Biden, it greatly improves the odds that one could get to a majority, or close enough to end debate, in time for the convention.

Current Polls: If you believe NBC/Marist, this is over. They showed Sanders up 15 points on Biden, which, accounting for early voting, would make his lead insurmountable. A YouGov poll from a similar time period had Biden within four points. If that’s true, Biden is likely to catch or surpass Bernie. NBC/Marist doesn’t tend to favor Sanders, and YouGov doesn’t favor Biden, so there’s no reason to believe one while rejecting the other.

If you prefer averaging and figuring the truth is somewhere in the middle, Bernie has a clear advantage, but one that Biden could make up if the cards fall correctly for him. Texas is distinctly more in doubt than California. Biden has polled well in general election surveys here, finishing within the margin of error against Donald Trump on a regular basis. He also led here when he was leading nationally. That wasn’t always true in California.

A week ago, it looked like Sanders could use California and Texas to create a delegate gap Biden wouldn’t surmount, regardless of how well he did later. Once Barack Obama got an early lead on Hillary, she couldn’t catch up, regardless of how many important states she won later. Thanks to the voters of South Carolina, Jim Clyburn, and Pete Buttigieg, the odds have shifted tremendously. Now it’s possible Biden could win more Super Tuesday delegates than Sanders. If this happens, a late recovery in Texas, and to a lesser extent California, will make it possible. At the same time, early voting has made it very difficult for Biden to create a lot of space ahead of Sanders.

Super Tuesday Preview: MA, MN, VT—Favorite Daughters (and a Son)

Once upon a time, in a nomination system far, far away, there was something called a favorite son. Nominations were decided at party conventions. Some states did have primaries, but many didn’t. Often, even when there was a primary, the active candidates wouldn’t contest it. The state party would put up a popular governor or senator. Someone who wasn’t truly running for president, but was strong enough at home to scare off the leading candidates from out of state. The Favorite Son would then win the primary and delegates attached.

When the convention rolled around, the state party would have full control of the delegation, and negotiate accordingly with the contenders to see what platform and other concessions they could get if they chose a particular horse on the first ballot. For example, in 1960, California Governor Pat Brown ran as the favorite son in the Democratic primary, while JFK, Hubert Humphrey, and the other contenders stayed away. Kennedy then needed to bargain with the California delegation before and at the convention to win their support. His first ballot victory would not have happened without it, as he barely cleared a delegate majority.

When the system changed for 1972, with most states holding primaries or caucuses open to the public, and most serious candidates contesting most of them, the gambit fell out of favor. We think of candidates having an edge in general elections because they can win a key home state, but usually ignore it during primary season. This created a different primary season element. Avoiding embarrassment. Continue reading “Super Tuesday Preview: MA, MN, VT—Favorite Daughters (and a Son)”

The Biden Resurrection

Joe Biden is back. A couple days ago it became clear South Carolina would revive him, but the did more than that. He won by almost 30 points. His victory was almost a mirror image of what Bernie Sanders did in Nevada a week ago. Almost. Both fell just short of 50%. But Biden did that on raw popular votes. While Sanders has nothing to be ashamed of, he only pulled 35% on the first alignment in Nevada, the closest thing a caucus has to a popular vote.

Any and all Biden alternatives gave up ground over the final week. Tom Steyer went from close to 20% to just over 10% to out of the race. Pete Buttigieg was never going to win South Carolina. But a decent amount of polls had him in double digits. Had he closed the way he did previously, he’d have wound up somewhere near 15%. It didn’t happen. He barely cleared 8%. That was more than double Amy Klobuchar’s result. She only got 3%. Even in Nevada, those two combined for a little more than 25% on the first alignment. In New Hampshire, they got 45%. Continue reading “The Biden Resurrection”