What A Weird Day

I feel like a day as bizarre as today deserves a blog post.

First came the news that Former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert will be serving time for paying hush money to some of the boys he molested while serving as their wrestling coach prior to his time in office. Hastert, you might recall, became Speaker only because the previous two – Newt Gingrich and Bob Livigston – were forced to resign from the position after it was discovered that they were carrying on extramarital affairs while attempting to impeach Bill Clinton for actions related to his own affair. That whole sequence of events was the first time I realized I didn’t want to be a Republican, and good god is that whole mess much worse in hindsight.

Second came Donald Trump’s weird foreign policy speech. Despite the fact that this was billed as a “serious” speech – he was going to read prepared text from a TelePrompTer! – his people promised in advanced that it would include “no details.” But it would be serious, they said! Which, apparently, simply means taking all of his bizarre statements, running them through a speechwriter, having Trump rewrite and awkwardly deliver them in the way of an overconfident middle schooler presenting a history paper to the class. But let’s leave the delivery aside – the unifying theme was “America First,” but the various elements of it are so contradictory that I honestly don’t know what to say. Our allies can’t rely on us anymore, but under a Trump administration we’ll be a fantastic ally that a) is totally unpredictable, b) is totally reliable, c) doesn’t announce its attentions in advance, d) always keeps it promises, e) requires allies to pay up for their security or else, f) is willing to walk away from negotiations and deals whenever it serves our needs, f) leaves international organizations like NATO and the UN if they don’t do whatever we want. I could go on, but seriously, to say it was a mess of contradictions doesn’t do it justice. It is essentially narcissism as foreign policy doctrine – we will do what we want, when we want, how we want, and we expect everyone to organize themselves appropriately in response to our ever-changing actions, always with smiles on their faces while kneeling before us in supplication. Because we’re America, FUCK YEAH!

Third came the news that Ted Cruz, a man who has no chance of securing the nomination in a straightforward manner, has selected Carly Fiorina as his running-mate. So a guy no one likes picked a woman even fewer people like to be his running-mate should he be able to find a way to convince the convention to give him the nomination. She the proceeded to sing a song from the podium as part of her “acceptance speech.” As I said on Facebook, never underestimate the ability of Ted Cruz to make a strategic blunder. The only way this move makes any sense, so far as I can figure, is if they either plan to go all-in on  anti-abortion and anti-Planned Parenthood rhetoric or hope to provoke Trump into becoming even more openly misogynistic than he already is. Or perhaps both? Given that Trump was already moving in that direction as he prepares to run against Clinton – her voice is so loud! If she were a man, no one would care about her! – that might not be a horrible plan. But we’ll have to wait for the results from Indiana before we can really judge this move.

Fourth came news that oversimplifies into “a McCain fundraiser in Arizona was busted for running a meth lab in her house.” I’m gonna have to quote part of this story before I get to the one question I will ask in response:

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office told the Republic that they first learned of potential illegal activity at the home after a parcel containing over 250 grams of MDMA arrived there Tuesday from the Netherlands. Upon entering the residence with a search warrant, detectives discovered the meth lab, along with a cornucopia of other drugs including LSD, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, according to the Republic. Officials also found $7,000 in loose currency and counterfeit money.

250 grams of MDMA is….about enough for one dose for 1 1/2 people. What the hell is someone doing having that tiny amount sent from the Netherlands to a house filled with all that other stuff? That’s…gotta be a typo, right?!? [UPDATE: Or maybe I just can’t read. I thought it said 250mg. 250g is a small brick of the stuff. HAHAHA OOPS!]

Finally, fifth came news that Bernie Sanders was “right-sizing” campaign staff around the country. I thought he was building a movement? He’s raised more than $180 million dollars and cannot possibly have spent it all. Campaigning in California will be expensive, but…seriously? The dude railing again corporate power – and for the record, I do agree with much of what he says! – is “coming from a posture of reality” in putting people out of work? That’s precisely what the corporations he most hates say when they lay people off! Dude. DUDE!?!? ARE YOU LISTENING TO WHAT YOUR PEOPLE ARE SAYING?!?

I’d planned to spend the evening writing a post explaining how Trump had exceeded expectations last night, so much so that he now has a clear path to the convention, but then all this happened, and now I don’t have time for all the things I’d hoped to say. So just a few bullets:

  • Remember that delegates are people, that they are selected by state conventions and not voters, and that they have interests of their own that they might want to pursue at the convention.
  • Remember that even once all the primaries and caucuses are over, the delegate numbers are just estimates. We can’t know the real numbers until the first vote at the convention.
  • Remember that the Rules Committee will determine which delegates get credentialed and which get rejected and replaced, that the members of the Rules Committee are people who are not selected by voters and who have interests of their own they might want to pursue, and that both Trump and Cruz have promised to use the rules to challenge the delegates supporting their opponents.
  • Remember that Ted Cruz is precisely the sort of human being who will ignore what’s best for everyone else and do only what’s best for him. As is Donald Trump. So it’s not about what “the party” plans to do; all that matters is what these two men plan to do. And as I say, both have already announced their plans to vigorously pursue their personal interest.
  • Remember that the Rules Committee also determines whether or not the delegates are bound on the first or any other ballot.
  • Remember that the party platform is still very much TBD and will be determined by the interactions of all the aforementioned people.
  • Remember that the time between the convention is usually used by the presumptive nominee to raise funds for the campaign, the party, and all of its various candidates 
  • Remember the schedule at the convention is usually set my that same front-runner, and that in the absence of universally acknowledged nominee, no one right now has any idea what that convention will look like

I could go on, and I will in the coming weeks, but I think you’re starting to get the point. It doesn’t matter what the media says about the state of the race. Until and unless Ted Cruz announces he is formally standing down, the race goes on, right up until the vote is held at the convention. This isn’t ending in May nor in June – one way or another, there is going to be a nasty fight all the way up to the convention in mid-July. Bet on chaos, because it’s still coming.

Oh, and if you live in California, might I suggest that you register yourself as a Republican so that you can vote in their primary? The Democratic one really won’t matter by that point (would Bernie be right-sizing if he believed he could win?), but you can make one hell of an impact on the race if you happen to live in a Democratic district in…say…LA or SF. Given how few Republican voters there are likely to be in some of those districts, your vote in this one race might proportionally count for more than in any other election in your lifetime. And as long as you do it soon, it’s totally allowed under the rules!

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Weekly Delegate Updates

It’s Monday, so tomorrow’s another set of primaries. Won’t be any surprises on the Republican side, so much so that unless something wildly improbable happens we won’t have learned anything new about the eventual outcome. On the Democratic side, we are at long last going to see the end of any realistic shot the Sanders campaign has at the nomination. I had previously thought California might matter for the Democrats, but HIllary’s win last week in NY was so big and her current leads in PA so large that the race will essentially warp up tomorrow. Unless something epic happens! Which it might. Anyway….

None of that means that there aren’t planet of updates to be had, so let’s get to those bullets!

Republican

  • Let’s start with some high-level stuff. Matt Kerbel, my all-time favorite political scientist, has a great look at all of the things you’ll need to pay attention to between the end of the primaries and the beginning of the convention. I’ll of course be providing updates along the way, but for now, this is a really great look at the three keys to the race: How many pledged delegates does Trump have? Who are those delegates? And what is the composition of the Rules Committee?
  • Speaking of Rules Committee, last week I highlighted an effort by some delegates to change the rules in ways that would undermine the power of the Chair during the convention. That effort failed late last week, and in so doing the party dodged a potentially deadly bulletj. No matter what the outcome of the connection eventually is, the party wont be well served by chaos, and a set of rules that took power from the Chair and dispersed it to the delegates would’ve guaranteed chaos of some sort. No idea which candidate if any this benefits, but it’s at least one potential source of conflict we can strike from the list.
  • Trump’s people spent a few days at the end of last week trying to make nice with the RNC. Paul Manafort gave a presentation to more than 160 members of the party elite – you know, the ones that Trump spends his days complaining about? – who had gathered in Florida for their last pre-convention meeting. Both Manafort and Trump have signaled that they intend to pivot towards the center over the coming months, with Manafort ever going so far as to say that Trump has been “projecting an image” and doesn’t really mean a lot of the things he has said. This should be highly entertaining to watchJ. On the one hand, Trump has spent literally decades building a personal brand centered on embracing excess, so the idea that he could just flip a switch and become someone else entirely is truly hilarious to me – and to Josh Marshall and Ann Coulter and Ezra Klein! When you’ve gotten all of us to agree on something, damn… Anyway, I’d be willing to bet everything I own that once each week between now and the convention. I mean, c’mon…does adopting a fake Indian accent while complaining about call center staffing sound presidential to you? How about mocking Kasich’s name or complaining about the way Kasich eats his pancakes? Yeah, didn’t think so. So expect a lot more of these “Trump’s still got some evolving to do” stories in the coming weeks.
  • And look! Trump, this weekend, to a rally in Connecticut: “I’m not toning it down.” Dude is who he is. He’s made millions if not billions off that. He can’t change, he wont change, he don’t change, he shouldn’t change. And Manafort has since walked his comments back too, saying that the campaign would evolve, not Trump. So no more pivot to the center! Until next week, when I’m sure this will come up again.
  • Manafort’s presentation to the party actually had 10 major points. I’ll summarize for you: he doesn’t want to undermine elites; he’s just playing a crazy person on teevee; he’s like Reagan in several ways (that, for the record, match the myths but not realities of Reagan); they want the party to unify now and not later. It all sounds reasonable if you don’t know much about modern American politics and media, but if you do…well…I sure would’ve loved to have seen the looks on the faces of the people in that room.
  • You’ll be hearing a lot about Pennsylvania this week. It has a strange loophole primary system that will leave 54 of its delegates unbound. Some have promised to vote for whomever wins the state, others have pledged to individual candidates, and others have said they will make up their minds later. But no matter what they’ve said, they’re all free to do whatever they want at the convention itself, so it really doesn’t matter what they’ve promised. Particularly since voters will only see a list of names on the ballot, with no indication of who these people are or what they have promised to do. I’m sure the teevee people will say that “the pressure on these people will be intense, so surely they will all vote for Trump at the convention,” but that assumes that these people don’t have personal preferences that they are interested in preserving. Which of course they do, so no, you can’t assume that they will or won’t do anything in particular other than attend the convention should they become delegates. Much more here if you are curious.
  • Although Kasich is trailing badly in the polls, he could end up with some delegates in each of Maryland, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island because of the ways those states award delegates proportionally and by district. So once again, ignore the state-wide vote and focus on those districts! Oh, and Trump’s magic number on the day is about 185.
  • Cruz meanwhile has continued to maneuver behind the scenes to use the rules to pick up additional delegates, and by all accounts this weekend was as successful as his last
  • But wait! As the first bullet point reminded you, it’s not just how many delegates you’ve won but also who those delegates are. And even in NY, where Trump won in a blowout, there are signs that party elites are rapidly mobilizing to select anti-Trump delegates for their delegation. At the same time, both Cruz and Trump are rapidly drawing up plans for challenging the credentials of delegates at the convention, a highly contentious process that will likely have a huge outcome on even the first ballot. This is one of the main reasons why I keep insisting that Trump needs to secure well more than a majority of the available pledged delegates to be certain of the eventual outcome. I know that’s pretty much the opposite of what everyone else is saying – and hey, I could be wrong! – but if Madison has taught me anything, it’s that veto points matter. And boy are there a TON of veto points between Trump and the nomination! Trump is going to file protests; Cruz is going to file protests; Kasich is going to file protests; party regulars are going to file protests; party outsiders…well no, they wont file protests because outsiders can’t file protests. But that’s A LOT of protests, and it’s likely that at least some of each of them will be upheld, so…the outcome is at very best uncertain for everyone involved! Oh, and remember: some of these delegates have wanted to change the delegate rules for a LONG time, and they might mobilize for reasons that have nothing at all to do with any of the individual candidates. The kind of person who chooses to devote their life to the rules of the Republican Party is not like you or me, and they very well may choose to do things that make no sense to you, me, Cruz, or Trump. Another wild card in the mix!
  • Once we get past this week, it appears that Cruz and Kasich are sort-of coordinating in an attempt to deny Trump delegates. Cruz is focusing on Indiana, leaving Kasich to take the lead in New Mexico and Oregon. Problem is, Kasich isn’t very good at this game, and he immediately undermined the whole thing by saying that he wont ask his supporters to vote for Cruz in Indianaj. 
  • One thing Matt Kerbel didn’t mention in his three keys to the convention is the party platform. Like delegate selections and convention rules, party platforms tend to be ignored by the public, but it is seen as critically important by party regulars. And given the likelihood of chaos at this convention, some party activists are already maneuvering to add some pretty controversial items to the party’s official platform. Add this to the ever-growing list of things Republican candidates in swing states and close races are going to have to worry about in the fall.
  • And speaking of party activists, check out this report on how Trump has pissed of anti-abortion activists. Add this to the list of reason why a “move to the center” will never work. Party activists don’t trust Trump because Trump isn’t a party activist, likely doesn’t actually believe most of the things he has said, and has even now promised to “move to the center.” Given the imporance of abortion to the Reagan coalition, given how committed anti-abortion activists are, and given everything in the previous bullet, this is most defintiely something to watch. 
  • And the infamous Koch Brothers? They’re out on the convention too, and they think Hillary might not be all that bad compared to some of these Republicansj. Yup yup, they actualyl said that. Way to bury the lede Alex!
  • Some of the activists are increasingly worried about the safety and security of their families at the convention. Because there have apparently been threats of violence against delegates and their families from some pro-Trump people. 

Democratic

  • Here’s how the AP summarizes the delagate math on this side of the race: “Hillary Clinton can’t win enough delegates on Tuesday to officially knock Bernie Sanders out of the presidential race, but she can erase any lingering honest doubts about whether she’ll soon be the Democratic nominee.” Sorry California, but it looks like your Democratic Primary might not matter. Might I suggest that if you live there you re-register yourself as a Republican for this cycle so that you can weigh in on that race? 
  • Beanie on why he has struggled of late: “poor people don’t vote.” Well yeah, duh….this is not new, and until and unless that changes, movements like Bernie’s are almost certainly doomed to fail. No, scratch that. Campaigns like Bernies’s will fail, but movements might not. That’s why I was thankful when he got in, abut then wondered just waht the hell he was thinking when he started acting like he could win both the nomination and the general. Be ire certainly knows that “poor people don’t vote,” and that any movement aimed at the people from the middle down would have to be built over many cycles and not just one. So it’s good to hear him say it, but dude…why were you pretending like you didn’t know this for six weeks?
  • Given this, we’re moving into the part of the campaign where people consider what’s next for Sanders and his movement. I’ll post the most interesting ones I find here. Here’s a really high-level look at his optionsHere’s another one. Both are worth reading if you are into this sort of thing! And here’s a look at how Bernie may have impacted the views of Democratic-leaning millennials. [UPDATE: And if this polling is to be believed, Hillary’s “problem” with millennials goes away entirely in a race with Trump. Because of course it does.]
  • One more: Bernie is making young people like the Democratic Party better. Trump is making them like it less. That’s…gotten scare the hell out of you if you are a Republican. Because no, people don’t conservative as they age; all of the research shows that they tend to they stick with whatever party they chose when they were young.

And let’s end with a hopeful thought. From Trump. Yes, from Trump! “I don’t think I’m going to lose, but if I do, I don’t think you’re ever going to see me again, folks.” Yes!

Election Update (New York Primary Edition)

I’m compiling this as we await news from New York. The two questions for tonight – which I will hopefully answer by the end of this post – are: how big will Hillary’s win be? Will Trump clear 50%? And given how complex the rules for party registration are in NY, these questions aren’t as easy to answer in advance as they might seem, no matter how many polls you aggregate. But since we’ll know the answers in just a few hours, I’m just going to punt on that one and get straight to the bullets.

Republican Party

  • So as to not bury the lede here, Senat Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declared that he is “increasingly optimistic that there actually may be a second ballot.” That’s one of the most important Republican leaders in the country, on the record, saying that he is optimistic that his party is moving to a brokered convention. That’s…AMAZING.
  • Generally speaking, I find the idea that Roger Stone and I would agree on anything abhorrent. I like neither his tactics nor his causes, but I wouldn’t hate him as much as I do if he ain’t so successful. And that’s why when it comes to arguments about the rules and mechanics of democracy, when he and I agree, I actually take that as a good sign. Because the man really does know how to use the rules to benefit his clients. Thankfully, Trump wasn’t willing to listen to Stone’s advice, which is a good thing for all of us since it makes Trump much less likely to either become the nominee or the president. This entire interview is worth your time, but for the record, I’ll note here his explanation for how the party can use the rules to shape the nomination. Does this sound familiar? “They’ll do it in two ways: by planting their own people — what I call Trojan horse delegates — in the slots won by Trump, and by adopting rules for the convention that won’t favor Trump. The Republican National Convention is not ruled by state or federal law, or by the U.s Courts – it’s ruled by its own rules. It can do whatever it wants. And what we’ve found is that party bosses from a number of key states have been quietly planting establishment stooges in important slots. So the Rules Committee, which has the authority to change, rewrite or completely redo any rule previously adopted by the RNC, could pass a rule, just theoretically, that says that the delegate votes of non-Republicans [meaning Independents or Democrats who voted for Trump in open primaries] are thrown out. Now that has to go to the full convention for ratification. Trump doesn’t have a majority on the floor, because, for instance, the Texas delegates who are for Trump are really not Trump people — the party has filled those seats with their lackeys. This is precisely how the 1952 nomination was stolen from Robert Taft for Dwight Eisenhower.” Yes, it is. Yes it is.
  • In case you missed it, Trump has overhauled his campaign structure and staff, and now that we’ve had a bit of time to absorb the details, it looks like there are two main goals: to improve the campaign’s performance in state-level delegate selection, and to improve relations between Trump and Capitol Hill. It’s still early, but I see literally zero evidence of the first happening (see, for example, nearly every other bullet point in this list), and am really skeptical of the second. I’m sure part of that is due to the fact that every time I try to think about Trump delivering a serious policy speech I start laughing, but it isn’t only that. Republicans in Congress are “the establishment” that Trump needs to keep bashing to win, so I suspect he’ll have more luck squaring a circle than he will of convincing party leaders to let him lead them on policy. But we’ll see, right?
  • Wait…we’re already seeing. John McCain is now the third Republican Senator who has said he will not be attending the convention this summer. For better or for worse, he’s one of the party’s elder statesmen, and he’s spoken at each of the last eight conventions, so it’s a really big deal for him not to go, no matter what he might tell you. New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Illinois Senator Mark Kirk have both already indicated that they wont be going. Expect pretty much every other non-Southern Republican Senator up for re-election to follow suit. As I always say, ignore waht people say, focus on what they do. They might say they’ve got no problem with Trump, but if their actions indicate the opposite, then the opposite is true.
  • Not content to simply impugn the integrity of his rival and the party’s delegates, Trump’s own son is out saying that the delegate system is so corrupt, he feels like he’s living in Communist China. Look, this deserves a much longer post, but parties aren’t supposed to just be empty vehicles into which voters pour their momentary desires. Our parties are huge, durable institutions, and they each actualyl stand for something. Republicans aren’t the same as Democrats aren’t the same as Greens aren’t the same as Constitutionalists, nor should they be. Democracy would be essentially impossible without parties for a whole host of reasons. So no, the rules for our parties shouldn’t just allow for them to be taken over by anyone at any time. They might not be part of the formal structures established by our constitution, but they provide important checks and balances nonetheless, and we’d be much worse off as a people and a nation if we just chucked all of these rules. Improve them? Sure! Reform them? Yes! But open the party primaries wide to anyone and everyone? No, you will never convince me of that, and believe me, I’m not nearly the only one. More later, I hope… 
  • Meanwhile, Trump’s new top guy has announced that their campaign plans to file formal protests against a number of the state delegations, including Colorado and Missouri. This perfectly illustrates what I’ve been trying to convince you of. All that’s needed for chaos at the convention is for each campaign to pursue its own self-interests. That’s it. No conspiracy necessary!
  • It’s official: Cruz swept Wyoming. I’d expect Team Trump to file protests here too, if for no other reason than that they lost.
  • In Louisiana, Trump and Cruz appeared to tie in the delegate count on election night, while Rubio got five of his own. The pressure on those five is building, but I’d bet a house that they will end up going for Cruz. Much much more importantly, however, is the fact that Cruz’s delegates secure 5 of the state’s 6 spots on the rules, credentials, and platform committees. The ineptness of the Trump campaign is really something to behold.
  • Meanwhile, at the national level, there are increasing divisions there too. Check out this report on infighting among Rules Committee members – and then follow it with this report. The fight is whether the convention should adopt the rules of debate used by the House of Representatives, as it always has in the past, or whether it should adopt Roberts Rules, which allow for much more free-flowing debate. The outsiders seems to think that Roberts Rules would allow them to have more “Freedom”  at the convention, but…good lord would that be a collective action problem of historic proportions. Sure thing – a strong chairman has its own problems, but a weak on in this environment would absolutely guarantee internationally televised chaos. But leave all that aside – if members of the Rules Committee are already having a fight over what rules should be sued to interpret the rules, there’s literally no way that whatever rules the Committee adopts on July 18, a huge block of delegates will be unhappy. And since step one of any convention is the adoption of the rules, there’s going to be a huge fight even before we get around to the nomination itself. Good times!
  • In demographics news…Women, generally speaking, hate Trump. Except white married women. He narrowly beats Hillary in that group. But as Bloomberg says, Trump has “exploded the gap between them into something more like a canyon.”

Democratic Party

  • If you follow me on Facebook, then you surely know by now that I have two major concerns with Bernie. First, I don’t have a clue how he thinks he will get any of his proposals through congress. It’s as if the guy spent the last eight years sleeping, woke up to find that Obama wasn’t able to accomplish some of the things he set out to back in 2008, and concluded that the problem was the Democratic Party, rather than Republicans. That’s…I don’t understand that. Second, because he’s never been a Democrat, and because he’s running against pretty much every aspect of money in politics, I’ve worried that were he to become the nominee, he wouldn’t raise money for the party, leaving other Democrats down-ticket to suffer. Which then feedsback into my first concern, since it would almost certain all leave congress with fewer Democrats in office than would have otherwise been possible. So…when Bernie’s team starts alleging that both the Clinton Campaign and the party are engaged in illegal fundraising when the law quite clearly states that they are not…dude, you’re NOT helping with people like me.
  • Having never really been a member of the Democratic Party, Bernie is now complaining that the party rules have been set up to make certain that only Democrats can vote in Democratic primaries. It’s excluding independents, and he thinks that’s just so unfair. Dude, seriously…you’re REALLY not helping with people like me. You could’ve organized your own party, but you didn’t – you chose to join ours. And that decision means that you play by our rules! But let’s try this another way. Suppose the primaries were truly open: Would you be happy if Republicans crossed-over in huge numbers to make sure that a bad Democratic candidate got nominated, or vice versa? You would most likely see that as meddling, right? And we want our parties to stand for things and offer clear differences, right? Because if so, it’s going to be rules like closed primaries and in-advance party registration that prevent that from happening, which are exactly the rules he’s complaining about. Dude…STOP!
  • Just watched Jeff Weaver on MSNBC. I know that guy has been on Team Bernie since way back in the day, but good lord does he make some bad arguments on behalf of his guy. From start to finish, the case he made tonight was the antithesis of the core message of Bernie’s campaign. I really do hope that the reason Bernie went home to Vermont without the press corps and a huge chunk of his staff is to reassess the turns his campaign has taken over the past few weeks. He said he would run a positive campaign, and until recently he was. But then something changed, and it needs to change back. 
  • One last thing, this time a quote from Jonathan Chait: “The trouble is that Sanders and his supporters are not listening to Nate Silver. Instead the campaign is propounding all sorts of weird, quasi-mathematical approaches to the question of delegate math.” For the record, I’m really sympathetic to many Bernie’s arguments about public policy. I’ve spent years teaching the virtues of Social Democracy to college students, so if ever there was a persuadable Bernie voter, it’s me. But he’s the wrong guy for the right message. I’m eternally grateful for his fight to mainstream a lot of really important ideas, but the idea of him as president really worries me. We’re going to have to use our broken institutions to fix those institutions, and nowhere in his analysis does he seem to account for this. So no, I’m not hating on the ideas Bernie is advancing – just the opposite.

OK, so I finished these in time to see the networks call the races, but not nearly late enough for them to have the data necessary to determine delegate counts. Remember, if Trump is anything less than high 80’s he has failed tonight, no matter what the narrative might be yelling at you from your teevee. And Bernie’s people spent the day predicting a win, so his double-digit loss tonight wont help his cause. The Math? It was already impossible for him, now even more so.

Delegate Updates 

We’re in between major contests, but that doesn’t mean things have been quiet. Once again with the bullet points, this time all-GOP. Sorry Democrats, you’re boring me right now!

  • Bloomberg Politics has a great overview of the state of the delegate race. If you’ve only got time for one thing, read this. The bottom line is that while Cruz’s delegates tend to be seasoned activists who know the in’s and out’s of their party’s rules, Trump’s delegates tend like him to be outsiders who don’t seem to understand the rules at all.
  • That has led Trump and his surrogates to begin whining on Twitter and on teevee about how unfair the whole process is (more here!). I’m sorry, but that’s just pathetic. If you decide that you want to win a contest, it is incumbent upon you and whomever you hire to learn the rules of the game you are playing. It is no one’s fault but your own if it turns out that the rules aren’t what you assumed them to be. It also suggests you’d be a disastrous president, since so much of that job is managing the complex rules and regulations of the bureaucracy while also negotiating with a congress that is constrained by its own complex sets of rules.
  • And remember, it’s not just Colorado where Trump got schooled. Iowa, Michigan, South Carolina, and Indiana have also been disasters of his own making. And Indiana hasn’t even voted yet! Trump could’ve worked harder to make sure that some of the state’s delegates were people sympathetic to his cause, but they did nothing, and so instead the state has selected people who will almost certainly break with Trump on the second ballot even if he wins the state. I know this stuff is tedious and sometimes boring, but good god…has there ever been a front-runner this totally clueless about party politics? 
  • Republican officials are beginning to push back pretty hard. First it was Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner firing back on Twitter, but things escalated quickly. RNC Spokesman Sean Spicer then weighed in: “If you’re a campaign and you don’t understand the process that’s going on, then that’s bad on the staff. That’s bad on the campaign. Running for office entails putting together a campaign that understands the process. There’s nothing rigged.” Eventually even RNC Chair Reince Priebus had to weigh in, taking to Twitter to explain that the rules are the rules, and they’ve been in place for over a year. Which is true! They have! Trump’s big brain notwithstanding.
  • The delegate contest in the US Virgin Islands has become so heated that the territory might send two delegations to the convention. So we’re pretty much guaranteed at least one credentials fight!
  • But let’s get specific about this. How many delegates is Cruz picking up through his county and state-level maneuvers? The Washington Post took a look at it, and as of right now, he’s locked up an additional 130-170 delegates on the second ballot. As I’ve been trying to explain, that would be more than enough for Cruz to win on the second ballot, assuming that the remaining contests play out roughly as expected. A big if, of course, but still!
  • Want to know what it’s like to be a delegate right now? Aside from the death threats – and hello, what the f**k is wrong with some people?!? – it sounds like most of them don’t know what’s about to hit them. Although the death threats appear to be changing that.
  • Looks like lots of high profile Republicans, particularly those in blue states running for reelection, are planning on skipping the convention this time around. That’s…very not normal, and it’s one small sign among many of just how unusual this year really is. I have to wonder though – do they really think this is going to keep their names out of the news that week? National news, possibly, but local news? Really? I feel like they might want to rethink this plan.
  • Oh, and it looks like Trum’s campaign manager won’t face assault charges! 

OK wait… One Democratic bullet point:

The Big Picture – Republican Edition

I was in the middle of preparing my next big batch of bullet points when 538 dropped a comprehensive look at the state of the delegate race. You really should read the whole thing, but I know most of you either wont or don’t have time, so I’m going to do a short summary for you here. Once this is done, I’ll get back to those bullets, assuming that I don’t get sidetracked too much by the truly historic final games of the NBA season tonight. I’ll follow 538’s lead, going state by state, after a quick top line summary.

Findings: The most likely scenarios have Trump finishing at about 1,150 delegates, about 100 less than he needs to win on the first ballot. But the path to 1,237 isn’t closed – it would require him to sweep almost everything in the Northeast, win Indiana, and then win California by a solid margin. 

State-by-State Analysis: My understanding reading through their analysis is that they assume that the elections directly determine the delegate counts. Since that is likely to lead to the most favorable results for Trump, and since the purpose of the exercise is to come up with scenarios that allow us to investigate the likelihood of Trump getting the nomination, I think that decision makes sense. Also, given that this is meant to be comprehensive, I don’t think there’s any other alternative. But since it’s always worth clearly stating assumptions up front, there it is. Now, the states:

Wyoming(April 16): A convention-only process that already has Cruz racking up big wins. Expect a shutout here for Trump, with anything more than a single delegate being a big win.

New York (April 19): Most of the delegates are awarded at the congressional district-level, with three per district split proportionally. An additional 14 are awarded by the state-wide totals, with a winner-take-all scenario kicking in if the top finisher gets above 50%. Given that it’s going to take well more than one evening to do the delegate math, that top-line number really should be your focus on election night. If Trump can’t get to 50%+1 — and since this is a closed primary with a long lead-time for registrations, that isn’t a given — his path to 1,237 gets a lot more difficult. So watch that top-line number on election night, and I’ll do my best to figure out what’s happening at the district level as the results come in.

Connecticut (April 26): Very similar system to NY, except that the districts are winner-take-all. Expect very big things from Trump, but even 24 of 28 doesn’t get him closer to the nomination. He’ll really need a sweep here.

Maryland (April 26): Another district-by-district state that has a bonus for the winner, but unlike CT and NY, there’s no 50%+1 requirement for that bonus. Anything above 30 of the state’s 38 delegates would be a strong finish for Trump.

Delaware (April 26): A tiny winner-take-all state with no polling, and since it’s a closed primary, who the hell knows? The 538 model assumes a Trump sweep, so if those goes any other way it’s a really significant outcome. If he wins, not so much. 

Rhode Island (April 26): A tiny state that has apparently decided to minimize its influence by maximalizing the proportionality of its delegate distribution. Trump needs 10 or more of the 13 to move closer to the nomination. Trump needs to win more than half of the delegates here.

Pennsylvania (April 26): This state is so complicated it hurts my brain. The state has 71 delegates up for grabs, with 17 awarded to the state-wide winner. The reaming delegates are directly elected by voters but unbound, and the ballots don’t indicate who each of the delegates support. About half of the delegates on the ballots have said they will support the state-wide winner, but that’s a) totally non-binding, and b) not mentioned anywhere on the ballot, so who the hell knows? I’d be willing to bet that both Cruz and Kasich will manage to get some of their people elected in specific districts, but I’d expect Trump doesn’t have the knowledge, connections, or staff necessary for that task. No matter what happens, those 54 delegates are almost certainly going to be a huge wildcard heading into the convention. So on the one hand this state is the most important one going on April 26, but on the other there’s almost no way to know what the results mean until much, much later. For now, know that their model has 32 as Trump’s magic number.

Indiana (May 3): This is likely to be the make-or-break night for Trump, unless something truly unexpected happens between now and then. The state has 57 delegates, more than half of which go to the winner of the state-wide vote. And the district-based delegates are winner-take-all too, so if Trump has a big night here he very well may be on his way to the nomination. If he slips, it will probably slip from his read. The 538 models range from 9 to 48 delegates out of 57, and there’s no polling here yet, so…we’ll have to come back to this one the first few days of May, yeah? For now, know that Trump needs 48+ to head towards that magic number.

Nebraska (May 10): Winner-take-all with an expected Cruz win.

West Virginia (May 10): Total chaos here. The delegates are directly elected by voters, with some announcing in advance who they support and others who are running unbound. Although the ballots do indicate these preferences, there are so many different people running that it is totally impossible to predict anything about the state. Some of the districts have more than 200 delegates running for just three spots! Whoever thought this system up should be fired. Bottom line: Trump needs a total sweep to be on track for the nomination. 

Oregon (May 17): Proportional delegate of 28 delegates; Trump needs 12 or more to gain ground.

Washington (May 24): A pretty complex proportion system that’s too tedious to describe. Trump will need at least 18 of the state’s 44 to march towards the nomination.

New Jersey (June 7): 51 delegates awarded winner-take-all by the state vote, with the assumption of a big Trump win.

Montana (June 7): 27 delegates awarded winner-take-all by the state vote, with the assumption of a big Cruz win.

South Dakota (June 7): 29 delegates awarded winner-take-all by the state vote, with the assumption of a big Cruz win.

New Mexico (June 7): 24 delegates awarded proportionally based on the state-wide vote. If Trump wins 10 or more that would be big.

California (June 7): 172 delegates, so unless something crazy happens, this one will be for all the marbles. Only 13 are awarded to the state-wide winner; the rest are awarded on a congressional district-by-district basis, so as 538 says, in a state this sized it’s essentially 53 separate primaries. Given that, we should expect to see – in fact we are already seeing! – candidates strategically target and campaign in specific districts. This will be a serious test of campaign organization, and if Trump is seriously about winning this thing, he needs to get his act together and fast. Given the complexities here we’ll need to come back around to this state in late-Maym, but for now: Trump needs to clear 110 here as he heads off towards Cleveland.

OK, that’s a really brief summary of their findings, so if you want or need more details, you should go over there and check them out. Trump still has a path to 1,237, but it’s pretty narrow, and he can’t afford to slip up anywhere. More importantly, he has to do better in the upcoming contests than he has on the past ones.

Now…back to compiling that bullet-pointed update!

Mix of the Week: Sasha – Scene Delete

People are making all kinds of comparisons with this one, but I’m going to go with the legendary German producer Oliver Lieb. Along with Pete Namlook, he defined the German ambient sound in the 1990s, and this album is very much in line with that sound. Not surprising, since Sasha has played god know’s how many of Lieb’s progressive tracks over the years, right? Straight to headphones, this one is, and fantastic to work to. Because I’m old!