NY Times:

We Checked the Iowa Caucus Math. Here’s Where It Didn’t Add Up.

What’s wrong The Iowa caucuses happen over two rounds of voting. People may leave after the first round, but there should not be more people voting in the final round than in the first.

In more than 600 precincts, the vote totals did not match perfectly, and in 79 the final round votes were higher.

What it means When the totals don’t match up, it is difficult to determine which count is accurate.

Get rid of the caucuses.

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Jonathan Weiler/Indy Week:

After Iowa: The Challenges, Opportunities, and the Paradox Awaiting Democrats in November

While there is a convergence around notably progressive positions, the nomination fight is playing out against the backdrop of a basic political reality: that the most reliable models for predicting presidential election outcomes usually include variables about the short-term health of the macroeconomy.

Here we’re not arguing about whether millions of Americans are still in poverty or whether inequality remains at historic highs and major changes are needed to address these ills. The fact is that the indicators of economic well-being most predictive of election outcomes currently bode well for Trump. One consequence for the Democratic field is that the candidates pushing further-reaching programs—especially Senators Sanders and Warren—might gain less traction with the general electorate than they would under different circumstances.

That doesn’t mean their long-term solutions are wrong. (I’m partial to them.) But they may be, if nothing else, victims of bad timing.

On the other hand, the political scientist Rachel Bitecofer—who, in 2018, more accurately predicted the midterm elections than anyone else did—believes that 2020 will be a Democratic year. The basis of her argument is there will be maximum anti-Trump turnout almost regardless of who the Democratic nominee is. If true, this thinking obviates one of Sanders’s core propositions—that he is uniquely positioned to turn out voters no other candidate could. In hindsight, Sanders might have had a better case in 2016 than he does this year.

Regardless, one of the challenging and disorienting features of the 2020 race is that we face both profound long-term problems—including the climate crisis—and the urgency of beating Trump. Many on the left will argue that, in every election, more moderate Democrats insist that we must beat fill-in-the-blank, and, therefore, pie-in-the-sky schemes will just have to wait. Meanwhile, we just keep kicking the can down the road.

They’re not wrong. But the paradox of this moment is that the short-term conditions necessary to get the attention of the electorate in order to sell it on long-term change may not be in place. And the far-reaching consequences of ignoring the menace in the White House may motivate more people to vote Democratic than might bolder plans for deep-seated transformation.  

Think NV and TX. But then there is SC.

Seth Masket/FiveThirtyEight:

Democratic Activists Seem Out Of Step With Voters So Far

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg didn’t pick up any new backers, but they were both able to hold onto their two supporters from previous waves of the survey, and Sen. Michael Bennet was also able to retain his one supporter. No other candidate [after reviewing the leaders] had any committed supporters.

This still left a dozen activists uncommitted, however. So as in previous rounds of interviews, I also asked those who were uncommitted to tell me who they were considering supporting.4

Here we see some considerable changes from previous waves. Warren, who has been at the top of this measure in the past couple rounds, slipped. Only 11 of 31 activists (35 percent) were supporting her or considering supporting her, down from 42 percent (13 of 31) in December. And for the first time, Biden moved into the top position, with 14 of 31 activists (45 percent) supporting him or considering him, up from 12 of 31 (39 percent) in the previous wave. In third place was Sanders, with 10 of 31 activists (32 percent), then Klobuchar with 9 activists (29 percent) and Buttigieg with 8 (26 percent). (In the table below, I combined the number of respondents considering each candidate with the number committed to each candidate to show their total support.)

This suggests waiting for SC to vote before writing any obits.

I love the dataviz> Follow the lines form left to right to see where 2016 votes went in NH (estimates, but revealing). Who brought in non-voters? Not who you might think. And in the model little to none of Sanders ‘16 voters went to Biden, they went to Mayor Pete (his age?) and Elizabeth Warren (policy?):

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Choose your adventure below…. 

Door #1:

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Door #2:

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Door #3:

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Some people say that‘s what they’re looking for.  ¯_(ツ)_/¯

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Jonathan Bernstein/Bloomberg:

An Unrestrained Trump May End Up Trapping Himself

The Senate pushes back on war powers and a Fed nominee, while a White House purge might undercut the president’s clout.

It’s not just Congress that presents a challenge to the president. He’s so worried about people in the executive branch — within the White House — who are out to get him that he’s systematically undermining his own ability to do his job.

Consider foreign policy and national security. Trump was already stripping his National Security Council of expert staff. Now, as Justin Sink of Bloomberg News reports, he’s considering banning the standard practice of having professional staff monitor his calls to foreign leaders.

This is an excellent plan if he’s planning to commit crimes in future calls, and not a terrible idea if he embarrasses himself and doesn’t want it to be known within the government or leaked to the media. But if he wants to use those calls to actually govern, it’s a disaster.

Not only will it make it easy for foreign nations to invent their own version of what was said without fear of being corrected; it will also make it almost impossible for the U.S. to follow through on Trump’s decisions. After all, in many cases the people who have to carry out the policies won’t know what commitments the president has made. He may think that he speaks and things happen all by themselves, but that’s not how the U.S. government works.

In coronavirus news, NY Times:

Coronavirus ‘Hits All the Hot Buttons’ for How We Misjudge Risk

Psychologists say that differing responses to coronavirus and the flu illustrate our shortcomings when it comes to evaluating danger.

When you encounter a potential risk, your brain does a quick search for past experiences with it. If it can easily pull up multiple alarming memories, then your brain concludes the danger is high. But it often fails to assess whether those memories are truly representative.

A classic example is airplane crashes.

If two happen in quick succession, flying suddenly feels scarier — even if your conscious mind knows that those crashes are a statistical aberration with little bearing on the safety of your next flight. But if you then take a few flights and nothing goes wrong, your brain will most likely start telling you again that flying is safe.

Daniel Summers/WaPo:

Buttigieg isn’t my candidate. But anti-gay slurs against him still hurt me.

As a gay man, I find the attacks on his sexuality nauseating

No matter the progress we have made as a society, homophobia lingers near the candidacy of the first openly gay presidential candidate to win a state contest. Whether from the left or the right, it springs so effortlessly to hand when Buttigieg’s critics come to attack him.

Someone was going to be the first person as a candidate to stand up and face attacks of that kind against people like us. That time is now, and that person is Buttigieg. Like him or not, his campaign matters.

There are many reasons to question whether Buttigieg is the best person for the Democratic Party to nominate, from his experience to his record to his policies. He is not the person I most hope to see take the oath of office in January. But when his sexuality is weaponized against him, it’s not just an attack on him; it’s a reminder of how tenuous our acceptance is.

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