Fear & Loathing 2020: Take The Iowa Challenge

Nate Silver is trying to get us to commit before Iowa.  I’m willing.

The following is a transcript of my live Twitter rant, fresh off the Mojo Wire. It’s edited slightly for format purposes and to remove potentially libelous content about Betsy Warren’s dog, who when all is said and done has done nothing to deserve that sort of treatment.  Besides, I love Bailey; he’s a Good Boy, isn’t he?  Yes he is!  (Follow @FirstDogBailey on Twitter!)

*ahem*  Where was I?  Oh, yes:  Showing up Nate Silver.  Let’s start with Iowa, like everyone else:

Bernie has made a deal with Yang; the Warren-Klobuchar-Gabbard bloc is attempting the same. They’ll share somewhat equitably to get their 15%. Meanwhile, Biden and Mayor Pete are each being standoffish in general. Local bosses, however, are making deals of their own, and on a caucus-by-caucus level everything’s pretty chaotic.

Plus, Gabbard-the-candidate is fighting with her campaign over some of the deals; she’s meddling rather than helping, because she’s Gabbard. Klobuchar’s got a solid ground game, and she may well cheat Warren. And people are, for some reason obscure to me, ignoring John Delaney just because his numbers are (adjusting for error) actually below 0%. He’s spent years in Iowa; he must have met every voter by now. Perhaps he’s just polling badly because they honestly know the man (and hate him). Anyway.

Add to this the massive billionaire ad buy-in and we’ll be seeing some last-minute swings in the polls. A successful candidate would be busy playing their ground game right now, rushing for those last few yards. But the three most important names are stuck in D.C. on this misbegotten sham of an impeachment trial, straining mightily to escape, and despairing in the knowledge that The Fix Is In and has been for months now.

Bernie’s got killer surrogates and Klobuchar’s from next door. (So’s Mayor Pete, but that won’t help him much.) But Warren is tanking and knows it — and won’t back down. Meanwhile, the billions are busy buying PAC attack ads to unseat Bernie from his hard-earned place at the front of the pack in a misguided effort to McGovern him. Those will start to hit tomorrow, and he’ll feel them — giving Yang and perhaps (if Tulsi has her way) Gabbard a needed boost.

Bottom line in Iowa: Bloomberg isn’t in this to win so he won’t be disappointed. Steyer’s a joke (unjustly!) and so’s his campaign. Biden and Bernie, the expectations are so high they can only lose here, not win. Mayor Pete will place to mild applause and Klobuchar will do amazingly well, and we’ll see Iowa split four ways and maybe five as either Yang or Gabbard (probably Yang) pulls off an unexpected last-minute surge and Warren implodes.

Odds right now are 8-7-7-7-5 and pick ’em. I’m going with Sanders, then Biden, Pete, and Amy in a rough equivalence, and then -maybe- Yang in a surprise fifth place.

Right: Now, to extrapolate after Iowa. This will take some time.

It’s important to remember that bit of Battlestar wisdom:
“All this has happened before.”

Bernie Sanders is McGovern from ’72. Biden of course is Hubert, and George Wallace is playing for the other team. If you want to extend the metaphor, we’ve got a rough approximation of Patsy Mink and Shirley Chisolm’s “Unbought and Unbossed” campaigns; crazy Sam Yorty and John Lindsay each have their analogues, as do Scoop Jackson and Ed Muskie. I’ll let you do the casting yourself. But Andrew Yang is Gene McCarthy here, and he’s the real wild card.

And bear in mind: Anyone can have an Eagleton moment, even today. Anyone can keel over and die on us unexpectedly.

The billionaires are just spoilers. They exist to try to force a contested convention, and they’ve got the resources to do it. But Bernie’s got game. So in the early races we’ll see some movement, and mostly scattered results. Sanders will maintain momentum into March 3rd, but Biden will win a ton there. Warren will peak around then and never recover; meanwhile, Klobuchar will be rising.

I expect Yang and Tulsi to stay in past the point where it’s profitable (though Tulsi might fold early; she’s clever that way), but eventually they’ll fold and stump for Sanders, who by that point will have such a massive following he’ll seem unbeatable. Uncle Joe, meanwhile, will continue to disappoint, but he’ll hang on grim as death hoping to flood the Bernie Boat and swamp it before things get too far.

Eventually, though, Mayor Pete and Betsy Warren will both realize that they’re just being used as shills, meaningless spoilers to derail Bernie. Midpoint will be make or break for Pete; Indiana comes too late to save him. I’m guessing he folds up around the end of March or early April, but pledges his support to the winner, just like Genghis Khan on his deathbed. Warren might actually stick around doggedly until mid-April, racking up odd victories and continuing to spoil, unable to comprehend the awful truth that she’s been irrelevant since her sidelining during the impeachment.

Finally, as the survivors race to stump for the Guam vote in early May, fatigue will set in as the money will have long since dried up. Staffs will be cut to the bone, and the Sanders campaign will finally begin to flag. In the final trench warfare around the ruins of DC on June 2, the battle will finish as a draw and the unstoppable zombified remains of Bernie Sanders will lurch forward to the convention hoping to win on the third ballot.

But little do they know, the fix is already in — again. The Old Guard has the all-powerful Credentials Committee sewn up, and they will fall in line before a [trumpets] Compromise Candidate. Pray God it’s not Hillary Clinton. If we’re merely horrifically unlucky it’ll be Uncle Joe. Mayor Pete of Stepford, Indiana could perform a signal service at this point, but he won’t; the Secret Service is already onto him and he knows it.

I predict blood on the floor of the Convention Hall, widespread rioting, and an inevitable Republican win in 2020. Why? Because there’s nobody in the Political Oligarchy who has learned one single damned thing since 1972.

“Now, with another one of these big bogus showdowns looming down on us, I can already pick up the stench of another bummer. I understand, along with a lot of other people, that the big thing, this year, is Beating Nixon. But that was also the big thing, as I recall, twelve years ago in 1960 — and as far as I can tell, we’ve gone from bad to worse to rotten since then, and the outlook is for more of the same.”
Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing ’72”, writing from New Hampshire before the primary

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