Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ted Cruz Demands The Media Discuss His Mistresses

Ted Cruz gives yet another lesson on how to turn a non-story into a story.

The Daily Mail asked Cruz to put the National Enquirer sex scandal story to rest and state specifically that he'd 'always been faithful' to his wife Heidi. Instead of saying that simple statement, allowed surrogate Carly Fiorina to rail at the putative injustice of "dancing to Donald Trump's tune."

Can there be a more bizarre, cringeworthy, and thus newsworthy response to what should be a simple straightforward question?

No matter the journalistic ethics (or lack thereof) of the National Enquirer, Ted Cruz has been accused by that publication of multiple adulterous affairs and sexual liasons. Instead of rebutting the charges simply and directly, Ted Cruz has

  • Denounced the story as "garbage".
  • Said the story was an attack on his wife, Heidi.
  • Attacked Donald Trump and his "henchmen" (despite the media reporting the likely origin of the story was the Rubio camp).
At no time has he said whether or not he has been unfaithful to his wife.

As Rick Sanchez of Fox News notes, the National Enquirer story is not an attack on Heidi Cruz or their daughters, but on Ted Cruz himself. Calling the story an attack on his wife is a bit of disingenuous distraction. 

Moreover, it is not Donald Trump accusing Ted Cruz of multiple infidelities (one hopes Donald, whose marital track record is hardly perfect, would know better than to commit that particular hypocrisy), but the National Enquirer. Other than calling the story garbage, Ted Cruz has said very little about the tabloid directly, preferring to go after Trump in each response to the story's allegations. Calling such behavior bizarre is an understatement to say the very least. Were this unfolding in a courtroom, with Cruz testifying from the witness stand, one can almost hear the attorneys lambasting his diatribes as non-responsive and asking the judge to direct Cruz to answer the question.

In an equally bizarre episode, when one of Cruz' alleged mistresses, CNN contributor (and former Cruz staffer) Amanda Carpenter, was challenged directly on live television by pro-Trump Boston Herald columnist Adriana Cohen about the allegations, her response was to "lawyer up":
What’s out there is tabloid trash. If someone wants to comment on it, they can talk to my lawyer. It’s categorically false. You should be ashamed for spreading this kind of smut. Donald Trump supporters should be held to account for it.
What Ms. Carpenter, who is married, did not say, is that she had not had an affair with Ted Cruz. The lawyerly parsing of words certainly gives the appearance of the spirited denunciation sought by Ms. Cohen, but closer scrutiny shows considerable wiggle room with regards to the specifics.

As Rick Sanchez succinctly said at the beginning of his op-ed column on the l'affaire Cruz:
If the National Enquirer wrote a story about me cheating on my wife with five women, I had better be extremely definitive in my response; because if I’m not, my wife –smelling the guilt – would kick my ass.
Both Ted Cruz and Amanda Carpenter have spouses. Neither has been "extremely definitive" in their responses. Rather, both Cruz and Carpenter have, at every turn, sought to turn the story onto Trump. Thus a story that Cruz does not want discussed remains legitimate material for the media to discuss.

In 2008, the New York Times published an article alluding to an affair between Senator John McCain and lobbyist Vicki Iseman. Both McCain and Iseman denied the allegations, and thereafter refused to discuss the matter. The story died out soon after, and the New York Times had its own ethics questioned for the way it sourced and presented the story. Cruz and Carpenter have done the exact opposite.

Bizarrely, and probably suicidally, Cruz demands the media discuss his mistresses. For whatever reason, he deems this a more meaningful and relevant story for the campaign trail than his stances on the various issues.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Hillary Clinton's Inevitable Victory? Election returns say otherwise.

Edward Luce, of the Financial Times, has declared the 2016 Presidential election over except for the shouting, and declared Hillary Clinton the winner in a blowout victory--an amazing feat, given that the actual election itself is still six months away.

Luce' argument is that Donald Trump is the odds-on favorite to be the Republican nominee, that Hillary Clinton is assured of being the Democratic nominee, and that Donald Trump cannot help but lose horribly to Hillary Clinton in the general election. 

The first leg of his thesis is admittedly fairly sound. Donald Trump leads the Republican field, and is the only candidate with a plausible chance of securing a majority of delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot. 

The second leg of his thesis is slightly less certain, given that Bernie Sanders swept the 25 March primary contests in Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii by huge margins (his narrowest victory was in Hawaii, where he won over 69% of the popular vote), and has now bested Hillary Clinton in the last 5 of 6 state contests. Hillary remains in the lead in both overall popular vote and in overall delegates, but in terms of the number of states each candidate has won, the race is far more balanced. Thanks to the Democratic party's large number (712) of so-called "superdelegates"--delegates not bound to any candidate but free to vote however they choose--the nomination remains within the grasp of either candidate. 

The third leg of his thesis, however, suffers from some rather significant cognitive dissonance. While innumerable polls point to a myriad of problems Donald Trump presumably will encounter with various voter demographics, all polling is at best a projection of future behavior--respondents are telling pollsters how they will vote, not how they actually have voted. Actual vote totals in the Democratic and Republican primary contests thus far paint a far different picture of how the as-yet hypothetical Clinton-Trump matchup would go.

Here are the actual numbers. These are the total votes cast in both the Democratic and Republican primaries through 25 March 2016.

  • Hillary Clinton has received 8,924,920 votes out of 15,323,340 Democratic votes cast.
  • Donald Trump has received 7,811,245 votes out of 19,783,685 Republican votes cast. (Actually, the total Republican vote is underreported as Real Clear Politics, my source for these figures, is no longer reporting vote totals for candidates who have dropped out after the primaries began: Ben Carson, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush).
  • Ted Cruz has received 5,732,220 Republican votes.
  • Donald Trump has received more votes than Hillary Clinton in the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont.
These are raw numbers, without any filtering, editing, or normalizations applied. They do not take into account, for example, that up until the most recent primaries, Donald Trump has led the field in a four-way race while Hillary Clinton has only had to run against Bernie Sanders. There is no weighting given to the argument that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are fairly close in terms of policy proposals and ideology, and are jointly grouped by the commentariat as "insurgent" candidates. There is no prognostication of the impact of the "Bernie or Bust" movement among Democrats, asserting that if Bernie Sanders is not the nominee his supporters will not vote in November (or possibly might defect to likely GOP nominee Donald Trump).

With the primaries a little more than halfway done, Republicans have convinced over 4.4 million more voters to the polls and caucuses than the Democrats. The Republican turnout edge is equal to just under half of Hillary Clinton's vote total.

On the raw numbers alone, Donald Trump trails Hillary Clinton only by 1.1 million votes overall, although he outpolls her in twelve states.

On the raw numbers alone, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz combined outpoll Clinton in all but four states (Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Minnesota), and their combined vote total exceeds that of Hillary Clinton by in excess of 4.6 million votes--a vote margin that exceeds the Republican turnout margin. If only half of Ted Cruz voters are added to Donald Trump's total, Hillary Clinton prevails in only two more states, Louisiana and Virginia.

If one follows the commentariat model of counting Trump and Cruz as insurgent candidates, it is not unreasonable to presume that, come the general election, supporters of whomever of the two is not the nominee will support the other. Certainly the two are not far apart on such matters as immigration, healthcare reform, and confronting terrorism and radical Islamic jihad.

Regardless of what polling prognosticators predict, based solely on votes cast thus far, the most optimistic scenario for Hillary Clinton is a close race and likely a photo finish in the popular vote, with maybe a slightly larger edge in the Electoral College. But scenarios where Donald Trump wins convincingly in both the popular vote and the Electoral College are not at all unreasonable.

Hillary Clinton might win in November. So might Donald Trump. Neither candidate is assured of victory, and it is foolish of the commentariat to suggest otherwise.