Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rigged game.

Conservative talk radio icon Mark Levin screamed it out last week, to all who would listen: Donald Trump is taking conservatives for a ride. And this week, GOP voter screamed back: We don't care! The New York billionaire, whose political philosophy can best be summed up as narcissistic pragmatism, cleaned up in the five states that voted this week, winning 54 to 63% of the vote in the three-way contests. Ted Cruz, the movement conservative that more closely shares Levin's worldview, barely broke out of the teens.

Lest one write off the results to the liberal northeast, Trump initially turned heads in this year's contest when he swept South Carolina and unexpectedly bested Cruz across the fertile conservative heartland of the deep south. Levin was not saying anything that we have not heard before, but at some point conservatives are going to have to look in the mirror and consider that their electorate might not be who they thought they were. Trump is on the verge of seizing the GOP presidential nomination, and it is about time that people stop suggesting that he is little more than a blowhard and consider that he might have some serious political chops.

Trump is, after all, about to win the Republican nomination, and only in the past few weeks has the man assembled anything resembling a professional political staff. He has taken on and systematically disposed of fourteen rivals, from a group that included nine state governors and four U.S. Senators and was decreed early on in the process to constitute the most formidable slate of Republican contenders for the presidency ever assembled. It goes without question that almost every one of those who he defeated had a greater claim on the nomination--in terms of substance and credentials--than he did. Seriously. Rick Santorum turned out to be an afterthought in this year's Republican field and never moved from the JV debate table to the main stage, but he was a Senator from a major industrial state who won eleven states in the GOP primaries just four years ago. For his part, Jim Gilmore was a successful Attorney General and Governor of a major state, and he was never even invited to the JV debates. Yet while Santorum and Gilmore were each serious public figures with solid political bona fides, neither were more than an afterthought in this race.

People mock candidate Trump at their peril. Jeb Bush tried to dismiss Trump's methods as the taunts of a child in a sandbox, but Trump's attacks, however childish they might have seem in the moment, resonate because they strike a nerve. Jeb did lack a sense of energy and passion for the job. Marco Rubio was too young and inexperienced. Similarly, Trump's "lyin' Ted" barbs at Cruz for mixing his religion in with political rhetoric touches on many people's distrust of candidates who intermingle the two.

Trump's most recent narrative, however, has been inspired. The game is rigged. As of this week, Donald Trump has won 52% of the delegates that have been awarded through primaries and caucuses while winning only 42% of the votes cast, yet he has successfully attacked the Republican National Committee for rigging the rules of the game. Against him. Perhaps even more to the point, he painted Ted Cruz--whose share of the delegate count was roughly equal to his popular vote share--as the establishment insider on whose behalf the game has been rigged.

Few may recall--the dynamics of the campaign have evolved so quickly--but Trump launched the rigged game narrative at the moment of his greatest weakness. He had just lost the Wisconsin primary and been shut out by Cruz in caucuses and state conventions in North Dakota, Wyoming and Utah. Trump, the man who touted himself as a can-do CEO, was caught flatfooted, standing helplessly in the klieg lights as Ted Cruz wrested delegate majorities away from him in Louisiana and Colorado. Nothing was rigged, Trump was simply being pummeled by a Cruz political organization that understood the rules of the game and had built an organization--including over 280,000 volunteers across the country--designed to fight and win the battle for delegates on a state by state basis, exactly it has been done from time immemorial. Trump, as best one could tell, had no organization, he had no volunteers on the ground of any note. He had his family, and not a whole lot else.

Yet out of lemons, Trump made lemonade. It is all a rigged game, he pronounced. And this time it was the Cruz team that looked on helplessly, as the media bought Trump's rigged game narrative, hook, line and sinker. Like Trump's attacks on Jeb Bush and others, the rigged game narrative worked because it resonates with the underlying anti-establishment anger that has been the subtext of this year's presidential cycle. Trump's slogan may be Make America Great Again, but from the day he joined the race last June, Trump has fed off of the anger and resentments of a large share of the Republican electorate who believe that our economy and political system are rigged against them and their families. Forget the fact that Trump has actually benefitted from the primary rules, and has won a greater share of delegates than his share of the votes that had been cast, Trump's supporters easily embraced his cri de guerre that the nomination process was rigged against him--and against them.

Three graphs help explain the anger of the Republican base voters that have cast aside traditional conservative shibboleths in favor of Trump's economic populist rhetoric. First, there is the oft-mentioned statistic that American worker wages are the same today in real terms as they were four decades ago. As presented here, while US gross domestic product (GDP) per capita and world GDP per capita have both grown steadily in real terms (adjusted for inflation) since 1973, American worker earnings have not. Stated more simply, the era of globalization, free trade and technological change have benefitted billions around the world, just not the American family.

A second graph, below, illustrates how even the flat worker earnings illustrated above masks differences across the population over time. Illustrated here are the changes in real family incomes over time, aggregated by the level of education of the head of the family household. As shown here, over the past quarter century--a period during which American workers have found themselves increasingly in competition with lower cost workers across the globe, in the wake of the globalization of corporate supply chains and free trade agreements that give foreign made industrial and consumer goods relatively unfettered access to US markets--educational attainment has become essential for families wanting to sustain their incomes in real terms, and to prosper. As this shows, particularly since the financial collapse in 2008, families with heads of households with less than a college degree have seen substantial declines in family incomes.

Finally, while both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have tapped into voter resentments toward a Washington establishment that is seen as doing the bidding of donors and lobbyists, often at the expense of working Americans, Bernie Sanders has added a sharp anti-corporate rhetoric. This third chart illustrates the 17% decline in wages and salaries as a percentage of GDP since the 1970s, as compared with near doubling of after-tax corporate profits over the same period, to current historically high levels.

Those who continue to be puzzled by Donald Trump's appeal should take heed. As suggested by the data summarized in these three graphs, the system has been rigged. Rigged may be a harsh term, as United States globalization and free trade policies have engendered the steady growth in global GDP per capita that has lifted economies around the world and reduced the share of the world population living in extreme poverty by over 50%. But from the standpoint of domestic politics, our economic and trade policies have been pro-trade, have been pro-capital, and have punished labor. Stated another way, they have been pro-donor, anti-voter. Forty years ago, Howard Beale screamed out, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore.' Perhaps we should only be surprised that it took this long.

The Cruz strategists were caught off guard by Trump's pivot and the power of his rigged game gambit. After all, it was Trump who had benefitted disproportionately by the rules--who had received more delegates than votes--yet he was the one whining. It was Cruz who was following the rules, yet it was the Cruz campaign that was being pilloried for stealing delegates, for undemocratic practices, and--in the greatest irony of all--for being the point person of an establishment plot to steal the nomination. Ted Cruz, after all, is the movement conservative who has little or no following among the establishment cabal of DC donors and lobbyists. But for the emergence of Donald Trump, this might have been Ted Cruz's year. Cruz was supposed to be the outsider in the race in an outsider's year. Trump, as Mark Levin tried to convince primary voters in advance of Tuesday's vote, is a fraud.

Donald Trump might be a fraud, and he certainly is no movement conservative. But he has proven to be a dexterous politician who continues to grow and adapt. In the wake of his loss in Wisconsin, Trump hit bottom. Paul Ryan emerged as the insider white knight that might save the party from implosion, while Ted Cruz became the favorite in the eyes of many to win a contested convention. Trump's response was swift. He sacked his political team, replaced them with long-time Republican insiders, and launched his rigged game attack on the Republican National Committee. Three weeks ago, many across the GOP pronounced Trump's demise in the face of Cruz's Wisconsin victory and deft political moves at state delegate conventions. Now, less than three weeks later, the campaign conventional wisdom has been upended again. Where just weeks ago Ted Cruz was on the cusp of being anointed as the front-runner for a nomination that Trump was seen as sure to lose on the first ballot, today Trump has reestablished his dominant position as the presumptive Republican nominee.

Hillary Clinton is the next person up against Donald Trump, and she had best bring her "A" game. For months now, she has found herself playing defense against Bernie Sanders, whose attacks mirror Trump's rigged game narrative, and as of yet she has not figured out an effective response. This week, with an eye to the fall campaign, Hillary tested out a mocking attack on Donald Trump. Donald Trump does not know the American people, she suggested. He needs to stop flying around in that big jet, going from his palatial home in Florida and his penthouse in New York, and get to know the American people.

Sixteen Republicans who took their best shot against Trump can tell Hillary that mocking him as an out-of-touch plutocrat is a non-starter. If he has done nothing else over the past nine months, Donald Trump has proven that he has his finger on the pulse of a large swath of the electorate. He may be rich, but voters don't care about that. Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were rich. And so, incidentally, are Bill and Hillary Clinton.

When Donald Trump says it is a rigged game, it resonates with voters because that is what they experience in their daily life. And they are not just making it up, it is all there in the data. For decades now, American policies have helped the rest of the world grow and prosper--to lift all boats as it were--while little of it trickled down to the average American family. As sixteen candidates before Hillary have already learned, when you make fun of Trump, it only alienates you from voters who have come to believe that he is the one who--as Bill Clinton would say--feels their pain. He will be a tougher foe that polls suggest, and Hillary and her advisors should learn from those who went up against him and failed. He is no fool, and did not get as far as he has by accident.

Artwork by Jay Duret. Find him at

Friday, April 15, 2016

Be careful what you wish for.

The Emerson College poll released this week confirmed once again why the Republican Party is so eager to topple the Donald Trump bandwagon. Among the poll sampling of 1,043 likely voters that mirrored the turnout profile from the 2012 general election, the New York billionaire and reality TV star was viewed unfavorably by more than 60% of the electorate. Matched against his favorable rating of 34.5%, the Emerson College poll suggested that Trump has a "fav-unfav" rating of negative 26.1.

The fav-unfav rating, like the right track-wrong track rating, has long been a key metric in political polling. A high net favorable rating is a strong indicator of electoral performance, a high net negative bodes the opposite. Opposition research is critical in politics for the simple reason that it is often easier to increase the negative perception of your opponent than to increase the positive perception of yourself.

Over the past month, the Never Trump movement has catalyzed around Ted Cruz as its knight in shining armor to take down the Donald, or at least to keep him from winning a first ballot nomination in Cleveland. The motivations behind the Never Trump movement are myriad; its coalition partners begin with establishment Republicans and major donors and extends in any and all directions from there. There are those who simply believe that if nominated, Trump will be pummeled in the fall by Hillary. There are those who dread the down ballot impact, the prospect of losing the Senate, and--God forbid--the House. There are the movement conservatives who decry the fact that Trump is not a conservative in good standing, or perhaps not even a Republican at all. There are the neoconservatives who fear Trump's appeal to isolationism and apparent willingness to cede regional hegemony to Russia and China. And then there are those who simply believe that, on his own merits, Donald Trump is an odious candidate.

With Trump's loss to Cruz in Wisconsin, the Never Trump movement had come close to accomplishing its purposes. In the intervening days, it has become the new conventional wisdom that even with strong performances in New York and states across the northeast over the next several weeks, Donald Trump cannot achieve a first ballot victory in Cleveland, and that if he fails to win on the first ballot, he has no prospect of winning the Republican nomination.

Just as it is on the cusp of achieving its goal, participants in the Never Trump movement are about to come face to face with its unintended consequences. And thus will be born the Never Cruz movement. Even as the GOP establishment moved against Trump, the fear of an empowered Ted Cruz must have loomed in the darkest reaches of their fevered imaginations. Never Trump was a practical imperative, but Never Cruz remains the deeper, far more personal passion. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for example prefers not to have Trump on the ticket--he wants to hold onto his job, after all, and losing the Senate would cost him dearly. But President Ted Cruz? Dante Alighieri could have imagined no greater torment for McConnell and his caucus.

The irony buried in the cross tabs of the Emerson College poll is that in Ted Cruz, the GOP may have turned to a candidate that may yet make Donald Trump look like the safer choice. While the Emerson College poll suggests that Trump is viewed unfavorably by 60.6% of the likely voters, Cruz is viewed unfavorably by 70.3%. Where Trump is viewed favorably by 34.5% of the likely voters, Cruz is viewed favorably by only 22.3%. Trump's fav-unfav rating of negative 26.1 looks positively sunny compared to Ted Cruz's rating of negative 48.0. 

RealClear Politics, which tracks these things over time, Donald Trump's average favorable/unfavorable rating is –35.1, or somewhat worse than the Emerson College rating. If you look back over the nine month arc of the primary season, Trump's rating has been consistently negative. When he first announced his candidacy, he came out of the gate at a negative 49, and since then hast tended to hover in the range of –15 to –35.
According to

Not so with Ted Cruz. He started out the gate in slightly positive territory, and over the ensuing months hovered in slightly negative terrain, –5 to –15, for most of the campaign. This seemed to be a remarkably positive rating for a man who was uniquely reviled among his peers in the U.S Senate. As one Republican commentator suggested when asked about Cruz's relatively sanguine net unfavorability rating, give it time, voters just haven't gotten to know him yet. Indeed, over the past month or so, as Cruz has moved to center stage, his net negative rating has steadily declined into the –25 to –35 range. At –48, the Emerson College rating could be an outlier, or it could be a signal of worse things to come for the Texas senator.

Even as they have endured the turmoil of their own nomination fight, Republicans have been salivating at the prospect of running against Hillary Clinton in the fall. Clinton is widely viewed as a weak general election candidate, for reasons that have become evident in Bernie Sanders' successful challenge. She has problems with trust and honesty--two factors reflected in the fav/unfav metric--and, like Cruz, her standing in the public eye has deteriorated over the course of the campaign. A year ago, Clinton's fav/unfav ratings were consistently strong, in the range of positive 15 to positive 35. Then, in the face of continued attacks from the GOP over her email and Benghazi, and not doubt in large measure due to Sanders' (+5.3 fav/unfav, btw) unrelenting assault on her character, her fav/unfav rating as gone south, and now has settled into solidly negative terrain, in the range of –10 to –15.

But, notwithstanding Hillary's problems, the success of Never Trump and the rise of Cruz appear to have distinctly benefited Democrat prospects in the fall, if prediction betting sites are to be believed. For months, predication sites held steady at giving the Democrats a 60-65% chance of winning in the fall. With the advent of Never Trump and the rise of Ted Cruz, even as Hillary's negative rating settled into negative territory, the odds turned steadily stronger in Democrats favor. Since the beginning of March, the odds of a Democrat victory in the fall have increased steadily to nearly 75%. It should be small comfort to Democrats, however, that they appear to have the upper hand while their candidate is viewed increasingly unfavorably across the voting public.

Over the past several months, the focus of the GOP establishment has been on stopping Donald Trump. Those efforts bolstered Ted Cruz's prospects of winning the nomination, and since the beginning of March, the likelihood of Cruz winning the nomination, as measured by online prediction sites, rose from 15% to over 40%. But as the stop Trump phase of the primary campaign comes to an end, a new story line will likely emerge. It has been barely a month since the Never Trump forces coalesced, and yet very soon many of those who joined the fray under the banner of Ted Cruz to stop Donald Trump will turn against their white knight. This is the fairy tail scenario that John Kasich--with his +10.8 fav/unfav rating--believes will carry him to the nomination. A Kasich victory in Cleveland seems unlikely, but so does the prospect of anyone but Trump or Cruz winning the nomination, lest total havoc ensue.

Over the past week or so, the prospects of Ted Cruz winning the nomination, as measured by online prediction sites, soured a bit, falling to 31%. Donald Trump, meanwhile, got some of his mojo back. After falling to below 50% in the wake of his Wisconsin defeat, the likelihood of a Trump nomination as suggested by prediction sites is back up to 60%. For his part, Kasich is at 8%, while Paul Ryan, who tried best this week at a Shermanesque disavowal of his interest in the nomination, is at 83 to 1, or barely 1%. Marco Rubio is hanging in there at less than 1%, or 166-1 odds. Mitt Romney, for those who care, is at 250-1.

While Donald Trump's high negatives have been a continuing topic of conversation over the course of this election season, fav/unfav ratings have not been discussed as a determinative factor as much as they were earlier on in the campaign. Perhaps that is because the focus on Trump and his remarkably high negatives distracted attention from the strongly negative fav/unfav ratings garnered by other candidates. But as the spotlight has swung to Ted Cruz, his net negative fav/unfav rating has crept up into Trumpian territory.

In contrast with her prospective GOP rivals, Hillary Clinton's negative fav/unfav rating, as bad as it is, just doesn't yet seem to be as much of a factor. It is an odd way to view a campaign, but as the online prediction sites seem to suggest, Hillary's prospects of winning in the fall can remain high even as her fav/unfav rating remains negative, as long as the candidates that she is prospectively running against are viewed more negatively by the voting public than she is.

Artwork by Jay Duret. Find him at

Friday, April 01, 2016

Slip sliding away.

This weekend marks the halfway point in the presidential primary season. It began with the Iowa caucuses on February 1st and ends when California and four other states weigh in on June 7th, when one-eighth of the total number of delegates will be awarded. In most presidential years, states clamor to move to the front to the pack, where Iowa and New Hampshire garner all the media attention and seem to be the most important states in the nominating process. But this time around states at the end might turn out to be the pivotal ones. Two weeks ago, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump seemed on the verge of locking up their respective party nominations, but now appears that we may not going to know who the winners are until all the voters have had a chance to weigh in, or even until the party conventions in July.

At the halfway point in the primary season, both political parties are in uncharted territory. Four of the five remaining candidates have significant flaws. Donald Trump's negatives are off the charts. Based upon the most recent Bloomberg Politics poll, he is viewed unfavorably by 68% of the national electorate, against favorable rating of 29%. Ted Cruz is not far behind, with an unfavorable/favorable rating of 55% to 32%. On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton's failure to put away a 74 year-old socialist Jew from Vermont is manifest in her own unfavorable/favorable rating of 53% to 44%, in contrast with Bernie Sanders' standing as the only remaining candidate viewed positively by the American electorate with ratings of 52% favorable vs. 41% unfavorable.

After putting together a winning streak, winning or tying six primaries in a row in mid-March, Hillary has lost the last five contests, and now looks to be pummeled by Bernie Sanders in Wisconsin this Tuesday. The polling there is ominous. According to the most recent Fox Business poll of Wisconsin voters, Sanders leads Clinton by almost 50 points among voters 45 years old and younger. She might remain the presumptive Democrat nominee, but her lead is getting smaller and smaller in the voted delegate column, and she knows better than anyone else that the Superdelegate count--where she holds a commanding lead--is ephemeral. She had the Superdelegates eight years ago. Until she didn't.

Part of Sanders' success rests on the simplicity of his message: the political and economic system is rigged in favor of the wealthy, and it is time that we did something about it. As the certainty of her winning the nomination has faded, Clinton has become increasingly tetchy in the face of Sanders' narrative that she has been corrupted by Wall Street and corporate money. But railing against Bernie's "lies" as she did this week will only exacerbate her problem. The simple truth is that luring big money has been an essential element of Clintonism--think Johnny Chung, Mark Rich and the Lincoln Bedroom--and Bill Clinton boasted that winning over Wall Street to the Democratic Party was a major success of his New Democrat movement, even if the price paid was Wall Street deregulation and the 2008 financial collapse. The money, for better or worse, is part of the Clinton brand.

It has become conventional wisdom to suggest that Hillary Clinton does best when her back is against the wall, but another way of saying that is that she does best when she is losing. Suffice it to say, that is a risky strategy. If she loses big in Wisconsin, and her poll numbers continue to erode in New York as they have been, by the end of the month her lead in the voted delegate count could shrink to the point where California will actually matter. And no one should be fooled by the notion that the Superdelegates provide a buffer. At the end of the day, it will be next to impossible for Hillary to win the nomination if she loses the voted delegate count. It would be just too un-democratic.

At the midpoint in a movie script, the plot takes a major turn, and this appears to be the case as we reach the halfway point in the Republican race. For the better part of the past year, it has become a routine media riff to predict why the [fill in the blank] comment by Donald Trump will be his undoing. He insulted Megan Kelly. He insulted John McCain. He insulted Mexico. He insulted the entire Muslim world. Yet time and time again, the New York businessman turned reality TV star proved his resilience as his poll numbers rose each time the media predicted his demise.

But the man who has single handedly turned an entire primary season into a reality show may have finally succumbed to reality. This week, he may have finally done it. He may have finally made enough missteps that even his loyal base may begin to see through the facade of a man who has no earthly business being President of the United States. First, he had an interview with the Washington Post. It was a banal non-event, and certainly nothing that on its own would have a material impact on the race. He said nothing that he had not said at his rallies. But that was the point. Given the chance to pivot, to begin to demonstrate in front of the mavens of modern journalism that he is a serious man, he could not rise to the occasion. Behind closed doors he doubled down on why it mattered what size his hands are. He could not say what he would do about ISIS, only that it was critically important that when faced with Marco Rubio's genitalia innuendo, he had to strike back.

Then there was an interview with the New York Times. Perhaps chastened by his performance days earlier with the Post, Trump stayed on message and his foreign policy answers were actually interesting. He makes a strong case for the value of strategic unpredictability in international affairs, but what was evident once again was that every response was off the cuff. Given the opportunity to demonstrate the sound gravitas of his realpolitik worldview, it was just Donald Trump, riffing with the media as he has been riffing for the past nine months.

Then it all came to a head in a town hall interview with Chris Matthews. Faced with the question from Matthews as to whether a woman who has an abortion should be punished in the event that abortion was made illegal, Donald Trump looked visibly perplexed. He stumbled for an answer, before finally concluding that if abortion is murder, the woman who conspires in that murder must face punishment. It was not the successive days of cleaning up his answer that was notable, but rather the fact that after nearly a year running for president, as in his interviews with the Post and the Times, Donald Trump was still making up his answers as he went along.

Over the past week, the price of Trump's lazy, extemporaneous approach to politics started to become more tangible. The Republican primary season has been a riveting reality show, and as such it should have been no surprise that a reality star might excel at the give and take, the punch and counterpunch. But the truth is that the primary season that we follow every day is just one step in how the delegate selection process works. There are, as it turns out, each state holds its own convention, or similar process, to select the actual delegates that will attend the national party conventions, and each of these delegates are individuals whose political views and commitments may not reflect the will of the primary or caucus voters in that state. But even more to the point, the Democratic and Republican Parties are private organizations that make their own rules, and as in any game, the rules are important.

Last week, Ted Cruz schooled Donald Trump on the real world of Republican Party politics. Trump won the Louisiana primary back on March 5th, but last week Cruz emerged from the Louisiana delegate selection process with the largest share of the actual delegates. Perhaps most important, Cruz won five of the six seats assigned to Louisiana on the important rules committee for the national convention. Each state, as it turns out, has its own convention and own rules around delegate selection. Delegates who may be bound to Trump on the first ballot will quickly abandon him on subsequent ballots. And, perhaps most important, the rules will not be established until the first days of the convention, by a rules committee to be determined through actions at each state convention, and unsullied by the results of the primaries and caucuses earlier on in the process.

And it gets worse. This week, in the face of a concerted "No Trump" backlash, Donald Trump appeared to retreat from his vow to support the ultimate Republican nominee, if it is not him. Trump's words threw into doubt the status of the 50 delegates Trump won when he swept the South Carolina primary in February. South Carolina rules require a party loyalty pledge and Trump's petulance could cost him those critical 50 delegates and move his first ballot delegate count in the wrong direction.

At the midpoint in this saga, Donald Trump appears to be suffering what could be a cataclysmic reversal, one that could rewrite the direction of a drama that has kept us glued for so many months. The reversals in delegate commitments that Trump has experienced were not accidental. The campaigns that are being run by Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are complete opposites. Ted Cruz is a dedicated and cunning politician who understands that victory in politics is about blocking and tackling. It is more about work that goes on behind the scenes involving thousands of people than it is how one man performs in front of a camera. The Cruz team has spent more than a year paying painstaking detail to the rules of the game in every state and the critical players in every county. They know exactly what they are doing, and they know that Donald Trump does not.

The irony is that Donald Trump is supposed to be the businessman. It is the cornerstone of his campaign narrative. He will fix America, he will make America great again, because he can set goals, define a strategy, build a team and execute a plan--in short do all those things that people in business do that people in government do not. But this week it has all been laid bare. As it turns out, there is no strategy. There is no team. And there is no plan. There is just Donald Trump, riffing away as the cameras roll. And as we learned this week, the more serious the issues get, the more specific the questions, the more he is adrift.

Time will tell if Trump can recover, one more time, and, perhaps more important, if he has the potential to be more than he has demonstrated to date. But we have reached the midpoint in the script, and this is where the protagonist is supposed to suffer a reversal, and on the Republican side it appears that he has.

For both the Democrats and Republicans, Wisconsin will be a pivotal day. As we pass the halfway point, both party frontrunners are struggling to sustain their advantage, both are vulnerable. As much as people have been girding themselves for a Clinton vs. Trump matchup--in particular the candidates themselves--it is still possible that the candidates in the fall will be Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. That would be an unbelievable outcome. Unbelievable, but not beyond the realm of possibility.

 Artwork by Jay Duret. Find him at