Archive for the ‘United States’ Category

Trump wins – Cruz drops out

May 4th, 2016 at 12:40 pm by David Farrar

Politico reports:

Ted Cruz is quitting the presidential race, according to campaign manager Jeff Roe, ending one of the best-organized campaigns of 2016 after a series of stinging defeats left Donald Trump as the only candidate capable of clinching the nomination outright.

Cruz had appeared likely to go all the way to the Republican convention, but a string of massive losses in the Northeast, and his subsequent defeat in Indiana, appear to have convinced him there’s no way forward.

Trump has done it. He has won the nomination despite Kasich still being in the race.

Almost every pundit got it wrong. We all wrote Trump off as a joke, yet he has just become the de facto Republican nominee.

Can he beat Clinton. She is at $1.33 to win and he is $3.50. I doubt it, but he has proven people wrong before.

What will be interesting is if there is a third party candidate campaiging as a true conservative?

Trump may have a point on NATO

May 2nd, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Trump said that as president he would call a Nato summit to pressure allies who had failed to hit spending targets and move the focus of the bloc away from Russia and on to terrorism and migration. Calling both the mission and structure of Nato “outdated”, the property mogul noted that just four of 28 countries were spending the required 2 per cent of GDP on defence – “our allies are not paying their fair share”.

Most of what he says on foreign policy is nonsense (such as having Japan and South Korea develop nuclear weapons) but he may have a point on NATO countries.

The country with the biggest spend on defence is Saudi Arabia at 12.9% of GDP. Russia spends 4.1% and the US 3.3%.

The UK is 2.0%, France 1.9% but Germany just 1.1%. Italy 1.5%, Spain 1.2%, Austria 0.8% etc. They all pledged in 2014 to increase their commitment to 2% but most are well off.

Obama at his final WHC Dinner

May 2nd, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Obama may not have been a great President, but he does perform well at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. His jokes manage to be funny, but not nasty. A good mix of self-deprecating humour and humour at other politicians.

Trump can take a joke also. He actually took part in a Comedy Central Roast which is exceptionally brutal.

Anti-Trump protester uses pepper spray on young kids

May 1st, 2016 at 7:39 am by David Farrar reports:

FIVE people, including two little girls, were pepper-sprayed during a heated clash between Trump demonstrators in California on Tuesday.

Backers waving US flags and pro-Trump signs were met by opponents leading to a shouting match between about 50 people outside City Hall in the Orange County community.

At one point, an opponent unleashed a handheld pepper-spray device on the pro-Trump crowd.

Five people, including two girls ages eight and 11, were exposed to the eye-stinging spray, police Sgt. Daron Wyatt said. Three were treated at the scene by paramedics.

How disgusting.  No doubt the person is against Donald Trump because he is not as kind and caring as the activist who thinks pepper spraying five year olds is freedom of speech.

No tag for this post.

A Darwin nominee?

April 29th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A US mother has been shot by her toddler while driving on a highway in Wisconsin.

The two-year-old boy was in the back seat when he accidentally fired the weapon, reported NY Daily News.

His mother, identified by WISN-TV to be 26-year-old Patrice Price, was struck in the back and found unresponsive at the wheel, the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office said.

Medical officials began CPR but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Initial witness accounts indicate that a child in the back seat of the vehicle got a hold of a gun and discharged the firearm, sending a single bullet into the driver’s back,” the office sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Putting a two year old in a back seat of a car with a loaded gun surely qualifies for a Darwin Award?

Cruz picks Fiorina as VP candidate

April 28th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A smart pick by Ted Cruz. If he gets the nomination (which is unlikely) this will help in the general in two ways:

  1. Voters are guaranteed a historic first either way – either the first female VP or the first female President
  2. Fiorina can attack Clinton more aggressively than Cruz can, without being called sexist etc

Her business record would be more of an issue if she was the presidential candidate, but I don’t think it will be an issue as VP.

I actually said a few months ago I think she’d be a good VP choice.

But of course it is more likely Trump will be the nominee. Will be interesting which poor sucker he picks to be his VP candidate. He has said it will not be an outsider like him, but someone with political experience.

Trump getting closer

April 27th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

After easily winning five further states Trump now has 927 delegates, needing just 310 of the remaining 651.

He’s won 50.9% of pledged delegates and needs just 47.6% of the remaining delegates.

It is now mathematically impossible for Cruz to win prior to the convention. It is Trump or a contested convention and the odds are looking good for Trump.

On the Democratic side Clinton has 62% of the delegates to date and needs just 286 more of the 1,397 left. That’s only 20.5%.

If you ignore superdelegates, Clinton has 56% to 44% for Sanders. To beat her on pledged delegates Sanders would need to win 59% of remaining delegates.

Fracking great for the environment

April 19th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Real Clear Politics reports:

The U.S. Department of Energy published data last week with some amazing revelations — so amazing that most Americans will find them hard to believe. As a nation, the United States reduced its carbon emissions by 2 percent from last year. Over the past 14 years, our carbon emissions are down more than 10 percent. On a per-unit-of-GDP basis, U.S. carbon emissions are down by closer to 20 percent.

A fracking great result.

Even more stunning: We’ve reduced our carbon emissions more than virtually any other nation in the world, including most of Europe.

 How can this be? We never ratified the Kyoto Treaty. We never adopted a national cap-and-trade system, or a carbon tax, as so many of the sanctimonious Europeans have done.

The answer isn’t that the EPA has regulated CO2 out of the economy. With strict emission standards, the EPA surely has started to strangle our domestic industries, such as coal, and our electric utilities. But that’s not the big story here.

The primary reason carbon emissions are falling is because of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking.

This is where the Greens fall down. They say time and time again that climate change is the most vital issue of all time, yet they refuse to have anything to do with other energy sources with lower greenhouse gas emissions such as fracking and nuclear energy.

Fracking is simply a new way to get at America’s vast storehouse of tens of trillions of dollars worth of shale oil and gas that lies beneath us, coast to coast — from California to upstate New York. Fracking produces massive amounts of natural gas, and, as a consequence, natural gas prices have fallen in the past decade from above $8 per million BTUs to closer to $2 this year — a 75 percent reduction — due to the spike in domestic supplies.

This free fall in prices means that America is using far more natural gas for heating and electricity and much less coal. Here is how the International Energy Agency put it: “In the United States, (carbon) emissions declined by 2 percent, as a large switch from coal to natural gas use in electricity generation took place.”

The problem with many in the Greens and environment lobby groups is they don’t care about facts or science. They have a quasi-religious view that anything extractive is unnatural and hence should be banned. So even though fracking has seen the US decrease their greenhouse gas emissions, they still want it banned.

Sanders says no trade with poorer countries

April 14th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Vox reports:

In a new interview with the New York Daily News, Bernie Sanders said something striking — he basically doesn’t think the US should be trading very much at all with countries where wages are much lower than its own.

“You have to have standards,” the senator said. “And what fair trade means to say that it is fair. It is roughly equivalent to the wages and environmental standards in the United States.”

From Sanders’s point of view, this makes sense. He has recognized, correctly, that freer trade with countries like China has hurt a subset of American workers (while benefiting others).

But there’s one big problem, according to development economists I spoke to: Limiting trade with low-wage countries as severely as Sanders wants to would hurt the very poorest people on Earth. A lot.

Free trade is one of the best tools we have for fighting extreme poverty. If Sanders wins, and is serious about implementing his trade agenda as outlined in the NYDN interview and elsewhere, he will impoverish millions of already-poor people.

Yep. Also it won’t really help the US. A few workers in inefficient industries will stay in those industries instead of retraining. And US consumers would be massively less well off and relatively poorer.

At least we’re beating Mississippi!

April 8th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar


From The American Catholic.

North Dakota looks nice. You can pop over the border to Canada. It has low population density and low unemployment.

Nice weather in summer but very cold in winter.

The US races tighten up

April 6th, 2016 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

Strong wins by Cruz and Sanders in Wisconsin make both races a lot more interesting.

Cruz has beaten Trump by 18% (at 59% reported). This is well beyond recent polls.

What will be key is if he wins every congressional district. Trump leads in some rural areas. But if Cruz gains a relative 30+ delegates to Trump, it makes Trump getting a majority a lot harder, and equally he loses momentum. A contested convention is much more likely after today. Trump needs 59% of remaining delegates to get a majority – not impossible with some winner take all states.

Sanders is 12% ahead, which is again more than the polls.

It is still very hard to not see Clinton get a majority of delegates before the democratic convention, but the Sanders camp is arguing super delegates may change their minds. If they can stop her from getting a majority just from pledged delegates, they they may refuse to concede until a vote at the convention. You could have two contested conventions.

The problem with large increases in the minimum wage

April 4th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Charles Lane writes at the Washington Post:

Meanwhile, in California, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and the state’s labor leaders have announced legislationto raise the state’s minimum wage from $10 to $15 per hour; it’s likely to pass the Democratic-majority legislature.

Whatever else might be said about this plan, it does not represent an exercise in evidence-based policymaking.

To the contrary: There’s a total lack of evidence that the potential benefits would outweigh potential costs — and ample reason to worry they would not.

 The basic trade-off, per Economics 101, is that the increased earnings that a higher minimum wage gives workers at the low end of the income scale might be offset by pricing those workers out of jobs they could have had at less than the new, higher minimum wage.

If this was not true, you’d simply set the minimum wage at $100 an hour.

That view has been modified, a bit, in recent years to reflect research by Alan Krueger and David Card suggesting that employment effects of moderate increases in the minimum wage — the kind typically enacted by Congress — can be neutral or slightly positive, due in part to greater employee retention and higher productivity.

The key word there is “moderate.” California’s increase is huge, or, in the Brooklynese of that proponent of “15 bucks an hour,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), “Yuuuge.”

So yes moderate increases can be done without a large impact on jobs.

By 2022, when fully phased in (small firms with fewer than 25 workers would have until 2023 to comply), the California minimum wage would represent 69 percent of the median hourly wage in the state, assuming 2.2 percent annual growth from the current median of roughly $19 per hour.

That 69 percent ratio would be all but unprecedented, in U.S. terms and internationally.

That 69% is very close to what we have in NZ – 67%.

Other industrial democracies with statutory minimum wages typically set theirs at half the national median wage, too.

Dube, generally a supporter of minimum wages, recommended that states use 50 percent of the median as their benchmark in the United States.

So the NZ minimum wage is already considerably more than most countries.

Best analysis of Trump’s women problem

April 2nd, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

From 538:

micah: So Trump does really poorly with women — it hasn’t stopped him in the Republican primary, why will it stop him in the general?

natesilver: Because winning 51 percent of 100 percent is way harder than winning 35 percent of 35 percent?

Silver nails it.

Trump will lose them the presidency, the Supreme Court and quite possibly the Senate.

Trump in his own words

April 1st, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

“Another radical Islamic attack, this time in Pakistan, targeting Christian women and children. I alone can solve.”

He sounds like a reverse Yoda!

Obama says no great difference between communism and capitalism!

March 30th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Infowars reports:

President Obama has stoked controversy after he suggested to an audience of Argentinian youth that there was no great difference between communism and capitalism and that they should just “choose from what works”.

Obama responded to a question about nonprofit community organizations and the necessity of attracting funding from both the public and private sectors.

“So often in the past there has been a division between left and right, between capitalists and communists or socialists, and especially in the Americas, that’s been a big debate,” Obama said.

“Those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works. You don’t have to worry about whether it really fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory. You should just decide what works,” he added.


What works?

You’d hope the President of the US would be slightly more positive on capitalism.

Since China and India embraced capitalism around 400 million people have been lifted out of poverty.

While under communism tens of millions died in famines and the like.

South Korea and West Germany chose capitalism. East Germany and North Korea “chose” communism. The results speak for themselves.

Trump’s women problems

March 29th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Polling shows Trump sliding sharply among women in recent months, hurting the GOP’s already shaky position with that demographic. Trump’s favorability numbers have decreased 10 points among women nationwide since November, to 23 percent, while his unfavorable number among women has jumped from 64 percent to 75 percent, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll taken earlier this month.

They’re appalling numbers.

Clinton is going to win massively with women, Latinos and African-Americans. Trump’s only demographic looks to be white men.

You can’t win when 75% of half the population don’t like you.

Trump getting closer

March 24th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

After three more primaries, victory is getting closer for Trump.

On the less interesting Democratic side, Clinton has 1690 delegates (64%) and Sanders 946 (36%).

Of the remaining 2,129 delegates Clinton needs to win only 33% and Sanders would need to win over 67%. Not going to happen.

On the Republican side the count is:

  • Trump 739 (48.8%)
  • Cruz 465 (30.7%)
  • Rubio 166 (11.0%)
  • Kasich 143 (9.5%)

To win Trump needs 51.9% of remaining delegates – not a huge amount more than he has been averaging.

Cruz can’t get a majority – he would need 80.5% of the remaining delegates. Kasich would need 114.1%, which is impossible.

So again it is either a contested convention or Trump.

If Trump is short of a majority by a decent amount (say 100+) then it may not go to him. But if he is only say a dozen short, hard to see him not getting it.

If he maintains his 48.8% he will get 1,207 delegates, just 30 short of the 1,237 he needs.

Why Sanders and Trump are wrong on trade

March 23rd, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Former deputy United States trade representative Miriam Sapiro writes in the NYT:

Here are some facts lost in the heat of primary season. Excluding oil, the United States actually has a trade surplus in manufactured goods (you read that right) with the 20 countries with which it has trade agreements (although that does not include China). Over all, the United States enjoys an annual trade surplus in services, driven by financial services and intellectual-property licensing, of more than $200 billion.

Trade agreements support these trends by prying open foreign markets for American goods and services. Without greater access, the United States will have a difficult time creating more jobs: Nearly all of the world’s population lives outside its borders.

The Department of Commerce estimates that every increase of $1 billion in exports sustains nearly 6,000 jobs, and that export-related jobs pay on average 18 percent more than jobs focused on the domestic market. We’d be foolish to start a trade war by imposing tariffs on products from China, Mexico or other countries, which would increase prices and invite retaliation that would hurt American exports.

Tariffs damage both countries. They damage exporters, they damage consumers and they also damage the overall economy by protecting selected industries and not having investment flow to the areas where a country has the best competitive advantage.

To understand how dismantling trade barriers helps the country, we also need to take a broader view of the American economy, and not focus solely on disruptions and lost jobs in particular sectors.

There are many things economists disagree on. But there is a near universal (over 85%) view that reducing trade barriers helps the economy of all countries. The political problem is that the sectors that lose jobs are specific and known and can be blamed on the loss of protection, while the job gains are more widespread and not associated with the removal of barriers.

For example, while the North American Free Trade Agreement is routinely criticized as sending American jobs abroad, data from the Peterson Institute shows that in the seven years after the pact’s passage, nearly 17 million jobs were added in this country and unemployment fell to 4.0 percent, from 6.9 percent.

The rhetoric against NAFTA is false.

The appeal of Trump

March 21st, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Like most of the world, I’ve been wrong at almost every stage about Trump in terms of public support. He has broken all the rules and is on track to win a clear plurality of Republican delegates, maybe even a majority.

He has attacked pretty much every senior figure in the Republican Party, is campaigning against free trade, and says appalling things, yet his support continues, and even grows.


This post is an attempt to answer that question. There is no one answer, but multiple factors. First, and maybe the most important.

  1. Americans are very unhappy with the direction of their country

When I say Americans, I don’t just mean Republicans and I don’t mean angry (that is a subset). Americans have been unhappy with the direction of America for around 12 years, and in fact for most of the last 35 years.

Gallup direction

This shows the percentage of Americans who say they are happy with the way things are going in the US. If it is over 50% then most Americans are happy. At present it is just over one quarter.

Under Carter satisfaction dropped to 12%.  In Reagan’s first term it improved to 20s, then 30s and in 1984 it hit 50%. Reagan was re-elected and in his second term it got to a high of 69%. Under Bush 41 it was in the 40s and 50s. It his 66% after the first Gulf War but dropped to 14% by mid 1992 as the economic recession hit.

Clinton’s first term saw it in the 20s and 30s only but in 1996 got up to 45%. Clinton was re-elected and it kept increasing to a high of 71% in Feb 1999. Remained in the 60s for the rest of his term.

Bush 43 was in the 50s and high 40s until 9/11. Just after that rose to 70%. 2002 to 2004 saw it in the 50s and 40s.

Around 2005 it went back into the 30s and 40s. Then in 2007 it went into the 20s and in 2008 hit a lot of 7%.

Obama’s election saw it hit a high 36% in August 2009 and then a low of 11% in 2011. Obama’s reelection saw it go up to just 33% and at the end of last year was just 20%.

The last time satisfaction hit 40% was in 2005 and 50% in 2004.

country direction

This malaise is not shared in other countries. This graph compares the net (positive less negative) direction in the US and New Zealand.

NZ has never had negative net approval since 2008 and the US has never had positive net approval since 2004.

So for well over a decade Americans think their country is heading in the wrong direction. In that time there has been a Republican and a Democratic President, a Republican and a Democratic Senate, and a Republican and a Democratic House.

So Americans are disillusioned with the country, politicians and the parties. Up to three quarters of Americans think their country is heading in the wrong direction, and they are looking for a way to change that.

This explains some of the appeal of Trump (and Sanders).

2. Make America Great Again

Trump’s slogan of Make American Great Again is very appealing to many Americans. They want to be proud of their country. They think the US is an exceptional country. They feel let down. Trump is no Reagan but he is tapping into the same vein.

Key even tapped into this somewhat in 2008. He never did an Angry Andy and said NZ is an awful place due to the Government.  Key said NZ is a great country but can be even better. Trump’s tactics are different (he blames stupid politicians) but he is appealing to people’s pride in the country (even if unhappy with the direction).

Politicians on the left struggle with this. How does Obama make people think America is a great country, when he hand wrings about Guantanamo Bay, racism and the like. This isn’t saying Obama is wrong, just that getting the tone right is a challenge.

3, A backlash against political correctness

Trump’s statements banning all Muslims from migrating to, or even visiting, the United States are deplorable. But they have struck a chord, Why? Because people feel they can’t even discuss the problems of Islam and extreme Islam.

When there is a terrorist attack, the President can’t even call it Islamic terrorism. They laughable “Islam is a religion of peace” line is trotted out in all the media. People feel they can’t have an honest and open debate about the serious problems within Islam (such as over 30% of Muslims worldwide support executing people for apostasy).

So when Trump comes out and says “Ban all Muslims”, people feel that it liberates them to at least be able to say what they think. You saw this in a different way with Brash’s Orewa speech. Brash’s speech was nothing like what Trump has said, but it struck a chord as the political elite had ruled such conversations off topic for so long.

So at one extreme you have Obama unwilling to even use the term “Islamic terrorism” and at the other Trump saying “Ban Muslims from crossing the border’. It is one extreme that creates the other. This is not to say anyone but Trump is to blame for what Trump says – he is. But the reason he has found such support, has been the politically correct climate where politicians and others have to measure every word they say.

4. Blaming someone for all the problems

Winston is the master at this. For decades he has done well in saying that everything would be like it used to be (he thinks the 70s were a golden age). if it were not for some group to blame. That group for Winston has ranged from Asian immigrants to Big businesses.

Trump has made it simpler. He blames stupid politicians. Everyone but him is stupid, and all will be well if he is President. He will negotiate better deals, scare all the enemies, and get Mexico to pay for a wall – because he is super smart and everyone else is dumb.

Politicians are a good target for blaming everything on. Their approval rating (generically) is normally below 20%.

5. Non-politicians appeal

Tied to the above, there is a long history of non-politicians appealing. In NZ both Brash and Key did very well because they were not seen as career politicians, but people who have succeeded outside of politics.

6. People don’t expect Trump to do exactly what he says

Many of us have gone wrong thinking that people won’t support Trump because his so called policies are impossible to achieve and implement. Take these three:

  1. Build a wall with Mexcio and get them to pay for it – of course they won’t
  2. Ban Muslims from travelling to the US – every court in America would strike it down as unconstitutional even if it passed Congress
  3. Impose huge tariffs on imports(against WTO rules)
  4. I will target and kill families of terrorists – US military would refuse to do

But Americans may be smarter than we give them credit. I suspect few of his supporters expect him to do exactly what he says. But what they like is what he is effectively saying, which is:

  1. I will be much much tougher on illegal immigration
  2. I will battle radical Islam
  3. I will get better deals for the US from other countries
  4. I will be hard arse in batting terrorism

So they are responding to his direction rather than his specific policies.

7. Trump doesn’t have to worry about relationships

Trump is the insulter in chief. It gets him great air time, and his supporters love it. He can do it, because he is not a politician. He is not even that interested in whether the Republican Party does well. He just wants to be President. Other candidates have political careers and need to work with others. They have to be restrained in what they say.

8. There is no effective Republican establishment leadership

Us parties are very different to NZ parties. The US parties are more brands than unified parties. This is why Trump and Sanders can come in and be viable. Unless you hold the Oval Office, then your party has no clear leadership. The RNC Chair is not very powerful.

So when people say the establishment is failing to stop Trump, that is partly because there is no single establishment figure who can bring everyone together and say “This is what we are doing”

9. Trump never backs down

Trump has said more false things than any other candidate in recent history. But he never ever admits he was wrong. While this is off putting to some voters, he has shown that you can brazen things out. This may probe to set a very bad incentive for future candidates.

10. Free media

Trump doesn’t need to spend money for publicity. One tweet from him generates 200 stories. This has helped him dominate the media.

Trumps threatens Republicans with riots

March 20th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Fresh off three more primary victories, Donald Trump said he’ll blow off the next Republican presidential debate and warned of “riots” if power-brokers deny him the nomination at the convention even if he’s leading in the delegate count.

The billionaire New York developer, who held a narrow lead in Missouri and lost Ohio on Tuesday (Wednesday NZ time), is faced with the prospect of a floor fight at the party convention in July if he’s leading in delegates but falls short of a majority, 1,237.

“I think we’ll win before getting to the convention, but I can tell you, if we didn’t and if we’re 20 votes short or if we’re 100 short and we’re at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400 cause we’re way ahead of everybody, I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically,” Trump said on CNN on Wednesday. “I think you’d have riots.”

So trump is threatening the Republican Party with riots if they don’t nominate him, even if he doesn’t get a majority of delegates- as required by their rules.

Trump claimed to have been caught off guard by the next televised debate, set for Monday in Salt Lake City hosted by Fox News. “We’ve had enough debates,” he said on the network Wednesday. “Nobody told me about it and I won’t be there.”

And now refusing debates previously agreed to. He’s scared to go one on one.

If Trump does not have a majority of delegates, it is quite legitimate for Rubio and Kasich delegates to give their second preferences to Cruz over Trump.

US Presidential primaries – FAQs after Super Tuesday III

March 17th, 2016 at 8:52 am by kiwi in america

The biggest question on the minds of almost everyone following the US Presidential election race is: can Donald Trump be stopped? I will cover that question last as it is the most consequential but there are a number of other questions that Kiwi followers of the race might have. Let’s cover off the Democrats side first as things are more clear cut there.

Can Sanders beat Clinton?
No. Even if he was coming close to Clinton in the recent Democrat primaries (thus garnering only slightly less delegates proportionally as all Democrat primaries/caucuses award delegates proportionally), the presence of the so-called super delegates (who are pretty much all pledged to support Hillary-the current super delegate split is 467 to 26) would ensure he’d lose the nomination. However, last night on Super Tuesday 3, despite Clinton’s shock lost last week in Michigan, Clinton bested Sanders by substantial margins and in a series of delegate rich states such as Florida and Illinois. The delegate count stands at 1,599 vs 844 or almost 2:1.

Will Sanders drop out soon?
Unlikely. He has plenty of money; actually more than any other candidate running for either party and he has captured the activist base of the Democrat party and enjoys an almost iconic status among the young and idealist more left leaning voters. Sanders will continue to pick off the odd state with favourable demographics (such as his narrow win in Missouri last night) but it will be impossible for him to overhaul Clinton’s lead. Sanders will be secretly hoping that Clinton will be forced to drop out of the race if indicted for breaches of intelligence secrecy laws with her use of an external private email server to transmit top secret material during her tenure as Secretary of State.

Will Clinton be indicted?
A $64,000 question. In terms of the sheer volume of secret material that was transmitted via her unsecured home brew email server (over 2,000 emails marked secret and 22 marked with the very highest designation: Top Secret/Special Access Programs), the answer should be yes. The 22 SAP emails had material so sensitive to national security that they could not be released by the State Department (under the court ordered release) even in redacted form. General Petraeus was indicted for passing a smaller amount of less secret material to his girlfriend who was writing his memoirs. If Clinton was an employee at an intelligence agency, she’d be in jail already but Clinton is no ordinary person. The FBI seems to be playing a straight bat with their investigation but the granting of immunity from prosecution to the man tasked by Clinton to set the whole separate email system up is an ominous sign for her. The FBI Director James Comey is known to be independent and unswayed by political machinations but the decisions to prosecute will not be his – that will be made by the Department of Justice and by three layers of Obama political appointees including the Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Will Obama throw Clinton under the bus? Given the detrimental effect of an indictment then leading to a Republican win, not likely. But any decision not to indict runs the risk of mass leaking of the facts by the FBI investigators of Clinton’s reckless disregard for national security that even the Democrat leaning media would find hard to ignore.

If she’s indicted, what might happen?
Democrat insiders are reportedly very nervous about Clinton and not just because of the vulnerability over the email server issue. Plan B however is to not let Sanders prevail at the Convention as he is deemed to be too left wing to be electable even against a flawed candidate like Trump. Most likely they will parachute Vice President Joe Biden into the Convention as a ‘salvation’ candidate whom the delegates will rally around to win in the November General Election. There is no other option as the Democrats’ front bench is so devoid of talent.

Switching now to the Republican side which is where all the drama is!

Can Trump still win a majority of delegates?
Yes, but he would have to win the remaining primary races by a margin of 53% or more which is doable but above the average of the mid 40’s he has been achieving in recent primaries. Trump is still going to face Cruz and Kasich whose combined vote will likely deny Trump the majority he seeks. If all remaining contests were winner-take-all this wouldn’t matter but they aren’t and there are still states where Cruz will likely win (e.g. Utah). Most intelligent analysts of the race are picking the race will go to what is called an open or contested Convention.

What is an open (or contested) Convention?
The US political parties formally nominate their Presidential flag bearer at their quadrennial conventions held in the mid/late summer of the Presidential election year. Most conventions are a carefully staged managed coronation as the party’s preferred nominee has emerged from the primary election season with a majority of delegates. In the case of the Republican Party, it has 2,472 delegates from each of the states with delegates proportionate to each state’s population. The GOP nominee has to win a majority of the delegates or 1,273 [edit 1,237]. Delegates arrive at the 2016 Republican Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on July 18th nominally bound to their candidate (and some are more bound than others as each states’ electoral laws and thus internal party primary/caucus/nominating procedures differ). If no candidate comes with a majority of the delegates, then no candidate can win the first round of voting. Depending on governing state election laws and internal state GOP procedures, most of the delegates become unbound in the second round leaving them free to support a different candidate than the one they came to represent. The outcome will depend on a myriad of factors but most heavily on the respective strengths of the 2nd and 3rd ranked candidates and the on the horse trading and enticements that can be made. Abraham Lincoln for instance arrived at the 1860 Republican Convention in 4th place and after 4 rounds of voting, emerged as the victor due to the shifting allegiances to his three higher polling rivals as each failed to win an outright majority with each voting round.

Could Ted Cruz ever manage to win a majority of delegates before the Convention?
Cruz currently holds 397 delegates to Trump’s 646 (the remaining delegates are distributed: Rubio 169 Kasich 142  Carson 8 Bush 4 Fiorina, Paul and Huckabee 1 each). For Cruz to win outright, he’d need to win the remaining races by a margin of around 70%. Based on current trends, that’s a near impossibility. Cruz’s only pathway to the nomination is to deny Trump his majority and secure nomination on a second or subsequent ballot at the Convention.

But won’t it be easier for Cruz if Rubio and Kasich both drop out leaving it as a one on one race?
First off whilst Rubio has suspended his campaign yesterday after his heavy loss to Trump in his home state of Florida, Kasich’s clear win in Ohio (his home state where he has had some success as Governor) will buoy him to continue. Some of the establishment donors that initially funded Bush, then switched to Rubio for a time, will donate to Kasich enabling him to keep running. He will fancy his chances in Wisconsin (a winner take all primary where Kasich enjoys the support of Governor Walker who remains popular amongst WI GOP voters). Kasich cannot win (indeed his pathway to a majority is he’d have to win 90% of votes in the remaining primaries) but he will stay in to bolster his bargaining power at the Convention.

Primary voters don’t move in simple binary ways so to assume that everyone not voting for Trump is vehemently anti Trump is a mistake. Let’s assume Kasich did drop out, it is wrong for Cruz’s campaign to assume that all of the Rubio and Kasich voters would come to him. A majority would but not all of them. Cruz is banking on that happening and that Trump is stuck at 45%. The other thing is that not all the remaining primaries are winner take all and so even if Cruz was to consolidate the anti-Trump vote behind him, Trump would still win enough delegates to deny Cruz a majority. California is the biggest prize awarding a whopping 341 delegates (172 from the primary then 169 alternates) but it awards delegates incrementally to the candidate who wins a plurality in each of the 51 Congressional districts making it very costly and complicated for one candidate to prevail. Its primary isn’t until June 2nd making it the first time in living memory that a California primary has any influence on a nomination race. For those who want to stop Trump reaching 1,271 [edit 1,237] then the longer it is a three-man race, the greater the likelihood of a contested Convention. Thus the Cruz v Trump head to head race that Cruz so desires, will not be happening until Kasich runs out of money and starts to poll so low that he can’t cross minimum vote thresholds in proportional states to be awarded delegates.

If he wins 1,271 [edit 1,237]delegates before the Convention, no – he will be the nominee. But if he doesn’t, then look to the party establishment to use a variety of tactics to deny him the nomination. The playbook to do this is detailed by Sasha Issenberg of Bloomberg. Reader Digest version: the selection of GOP delegates to the Convention is a shadow hidden primary campaign of back room deals, arm twisting, granting of favours and controlled by state and local level Republicans who are much more likely to support a mainstream candidate. Whilst a few states force their delegates to stay bound to their candidate throughout, almost all states allow their delegates to be unbound after the first ballot. The race is on to fill these delegate slots across the country with anti-Trump people who can be counted on to desert Trump after the first ballot. Arcane rules will be used to challenge any questionable primary or caucus results (e.g. the known chaos at the Nevada caucus and the public role of Trump supporters in dominating enrollment procedures at key caucus sites). Some states control the delegate appointment process in the hands of very few. For example, in South Carolina you can only be a delegate if you attended the 2015 State GOP Convention and that was held before Trump even announced his candidacy. The delegate appointments are controlled by Governor Nicki Hayley known to be anti-Trump and will be supported by both SC Senators Graham and Scott who both supported candidates other than Trump. Because Trump won every SC congressional district, he was awarded all of its 50 delegates but he could find come July that none of the 50 will support him in the second round.

Stage 2 of secret campaign to deny Trump the nomination would occur at the Convention. Senior party officials will control the all-important Rules Committee and we know that this has been used to control convention floor activities before. Fearing a Ron Paul revolution in 2012, Romney ensured that the Rules Committee imposed Rule 40 requiring that a candidate can only receive votes at the convention if they had won a majority in 8 states effectively shutting down Paul’s potentially rowdy and disruptive delegates. Control of convention floor procedures down to who is the Sargent at Arms and can legally eject querulous delegates, will be how the establishment will handle the likely uproar from delegates who are loyal to Trump if he cannot win in subsequent voting rounds.

If Trump does not get to 1,271 [edit 1,237] and the Convention is contested, we’re going to see rambunctious political theatre not seen since the infamous Democrat Convention in 1968. Buckle up people – we’re going to be in for a rough ride. There are lots of other questions such as: if Trump is denied the nomination won’t he and his supporters get ugly and won’t he run as a third party candidate? If it is Hillary v Trump, is the conventional wisdom that Hillary will easily beat him true? Could the GOP establishment parachute in someone like Mitt Romney into the Convention (IMO a silly idea despite my support for Romney in 08 and 12) and could Trump continue to defy all political conventions (as he has to date) and still win the nomination and the Presidency? These questions will need to wait – there is still some water to go under the exciting and chaotic bridge that is the 2016 GOP Primary!

[Disclaimer: I supported Rubio from the earliest beginnings of the campaign but will vote for Cruz in the upcoming Arizona primary next week and then for whoever is the Republican nominee in the November election even if it is Trump or some mainstream candidate like Jeb Bush foisted on the party at the convention. Either is preferable to Clinton.]

Trump wins Florida

March 16th, 2016 at 1:18 pm by David Farrar

Trump has easily won Florida. At 57% of the vote he has 45% to 28% for Rubio and 17% for Cruz.

This will see Rubio pull out leaving Trump, Kasich and Cruz.

Kasich may win Ohio and get 66 delegates there. Let’s assume he does. Where does that leave things.

  1. Trump 568
  2. Cruz 370
  3. Rubio 163
  4. Kasich 129
  5. Carson 8

So if they need 1,237 to win, and there are 1,237 delegates to go, what percentage do they need to win.

  1. Trump 54%
  2. Cruz 70%
  3. Rubio 87%
  4. Kasich 90%

There is no way Rubio or Kasich can win that many and get a majority.

It is near impossible for Cruz to get 70% of the remaining delegates, unless Trump imploded.

So the reality is either Trump will be the nominee, or it will be a contested convention.

I’m both appalled and excited!

UPDATE: Rubio suspends his campaign

Trump against TPP as NZ wishes to rip heart of US out!

March 16th, 2016 at 10:19 am by David Farrar

NBR reports:

Republican front-runner Donald Trump used an overnight rally to sharpen his attacks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). US ratification is needed for the trade deal to come into effect, with a vote expected in December at the earliest.

“It’s a horrible trade agreement,” Trump told a rally in Ohio, which will hold its primary on Wednesday NZ Time.

“You have 12 countries – all of whom want to rip our heart out.

So the hard left in NZ is now allied with Donald Trump. But for very different reasons. The hard left insist that NZ got a bad deal and that we are conceding too much to US corporates.

But Trump (and some others in the Republican Party) say it is a bad deal because the US didn’t get enough in it.

Trump romped home in Michigan by going in the exact opposite direction to the TPP, promising to slap huge tariffs on cars assembled by US automakers at plants in Mexico. The Republican establishment fretted it was essentially a Democrat policy, but it proved hugely popular.

Trump, like Labour, is against free trade.  Because industries that were formerly protected go through painful adjustments when faced with competition, free trade always has a proportion of the population who are against it – especially when combined with nationalism.

During the candidates’ debate on Friday NZ time, Cruz said, “I opposed TPP, and have always opposed TPP. We’re getting killed in international trade right now.”

Earlier, the arch social conservative said the trade deal would undermine US sovereignty.

Labour and Ted Cruz also agreeing! Both using phony arguments.

Playing into Trump’s hands

March 13th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The last-minute cancellation of a major Chicago rally by Donald Trump on safety grounds has pivoted the attention from Republican party infighting to the increasingly violent tone at his rallies and the extent to which Trump encourages it.

Scuffles and fights broke out between pro- and anti-Trump protesters as thousands waited in a stadium at the University of Illinois at Chicago for the candidate, who was a no-show. Instead columns of police filed into the stadium, attempting to separate the factions as announcements were made that Trump had cancelled.

Amidst chaos, it became clear that unlike the usual mix of a dozen or so protesters among Trump’s thousands of rally attendees, as much as half of the crowd crammed into the UIC stadium were there to protest against Trump.

Trump blamed on Saturday organised “thugs” for the protests that shut down his Chicago rally and said the incident had “energised America.”

“The organised group of people, many of them thugs, who shut down our First Amendment rights in Chicago, have totally energised America!” Trump said on Twitter.

Sadly he’s right. This will play to his base and energise them. I suspect this is exactly what he wanted. He is provocative for a reason.

Speculation on Obama visit

March 10th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

One of the United States top law officers is in New Zealand.

FBI head James Comey slipped into the country and has been meeting with the Attorney General Chris Finlayson and with the Commissioner of Police.

American sources say he’s here as part of ongoing meetings over security in the region.

Mr Comey was appointed to the job by President Obama late in 2013.

The Trans Tasman political alert reports he’s been laying the ground work for a visit by President Barack Obama.

I’m not so sure about the reasoning.

I think Trans Tasman may well be right that Obama will visit this year. I’ve heard this is reasonably likely (not from NZG people, but others). But I am unsure the presence of the FBI Director is a sign of this. Security checks for a presidential visit would not be done by an agency head, and it is more a secret service function.

Time will tell.

UPDATE: A funny story about the last US presidential visit:

Any presidential trip was likely to be a costly and complex exercise, Mr Key said.

He recalled that during Clinton’s Apec visit, the former president was prevented by his security from going on the Shotover Jet in Queenstown.

Mr Key: “And the reason he wasn’t allowed was nothing to do with whether it was safe or not – obviously it is – but because the Americans didn’t have enough snipers to put on every half a kilometre of the ridge up the top.

“And people were apparently saying, look, this is New Zealand, you don’t need 200 snipers on the ridge over the Shotover River.

“And they said ‘Tough luck, sunshine, that’s the way we roll. We don’t have the snipers so he ain’t going on it’.”