Sunday, February 28, 2016

Previewing the 2016 Washington Nationals

As a born-and-bred Washingtonian, I have often remarked that the Redskins are like a first marriage that ends in divorce and the Nationals are a happy, second marriage. The former is wrapped up in a lot of conflicting emotions while the latter offers a purer, but mellower affection.

This has been true whether Livo was tossing out the first pitch at RFK in 2005 or the franchise was circling the drain in 2009 and 2010. Who cared? If you grew up without a baseball team, just being able to wear the “Curly W” cap with live human beings hitting and fielding at RFK was enough. By 2012, a new stadium had been broken in and a swarm of young talent resulted in a 98-win season and a National League East pennant. But is it possible that the franchise’s high water mark was reached over two nights in October of that year when Jayson Werth hit a walk-off home run to win Game 4 of the National League Divisional Series with the St. Louis Cardinals and the team ran out to a quick 6-0 lead at the end of the 3rd inning of Game 5 before melting down spectacularly in the top of the 9th inning?

At the time, losing to the Cardinals was brutal but did not seem history-changing. After all, the Nats went into 2013 with the same stacked line-up and their deep reserve of young talent appeared to have a several-year “window” of opportunity ahead of it. But even as the team has accumulated the fourth-most regular season wins in all of baseball over the past four seasons, success has been elusive. The 2013 team had major injuries and failed to make the playoffs. The 2014 team bounced back with 96 wins but lost a heartbreaking 18-inning playoff game to the San Francisco Giants (a questionable decision by then-skipper Matt Williams to pull Jordan Zimmermann in the top of the 9th will be endlessly debated) before being ousted in four games, and the 2015 squad was overtaken by the upstart Mets and their arsenal of flamethrowing young arms.

Entering the 2016 season, the Nats are at best a second-tier contender and a number of personnel decisions have eroded my once blissful feeling about the team. It was easy to root for the Nats when they sucked and it was exciting to watch the team blossom as young, homegrown talent like Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Ryan Zimmerman, Drew Storen, and Danny Espinosa blended with strategic pick-ups like Wilson Ramos and Gio Gonzalez and hotshot draft picks like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper to become a contender.

But the Nats got too cute by half and began toying with clubhouse chemistry and fan loyalty, making splashy signings (Rafael Soriano, 2 years, $28 million, Max Scherzer, 7 years, $210 million) and questionable trades (hi, Jonathan Papelbon!) while seeming not to value the importance of taking care of their own or investing in less costly, but important middle relievers and bench players. The huge contract handed to Scherzer could have been used to resign Zimmermann AND Desmond (and have some money to spare) and Papelbon literally strangled Bryce Harper in the clubhouse. Oddly, while Papelbon was not released, the shrapnel hit poor Drew Storen, who got dealt in the offseason after twice being demoted from his closer’s spot even though he had notched more than 40 saves in 2011 and was on pace for at least 40 in 2015 before the inexplicable acquisition of Papelbon at the trade deadline. That move only happened because the team had a lights out (and beloved fan favorite) setup man in Tyler Clippard, but dealt him before the 2015 season because they did not want to pay him $8 million (we’re on the hook for $11 million with Papelbon this season.)

This offseason, instead of resigning Zimmermann (who took a relatively modest $110 million from the Tigers), the Nats tried to throw money around wildly, at Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Yeonis Cespedes and anyone else (hi, Daniel Murphy!) who would take it. It is all of a piece with the seeming schizophrenic nature of team management. On the one hand, they will hand out a nine-figure contract to a free agent like Scherzer but refuse to eat the modest cost of releasing a clubhouse cancer like Papelbon or reward a team-drafted and cultivated pitcher like Zimmermann. While we may not miss shorter term pick-ups like Denard Span or Doug Fister, they too had ingratiated themselves with the fan base and those losses, coupled with the departures of Zimmermann and Desmond, will result in a much different team taking the field in April.

And the changes are not over. Looming at the end of this season are the potential departures of Stephen Strasburg and Wilson Ramos and two seasons later, reigning MVP Bryce Harper. Missing is the definition of the “Nationals Way.” Is it to cultivate a strong farm system that consistently stocks the team with young talent and is enhanced by strategic free agent signings and trades or is it a team that will dump that home grown talent when it gets too expensive while at the same time handing out enormous contracts to players with no ties to the organization whose contracts will weigh down the team’s future flexibility? 

Lastly, what message is the team sending when it fires a skipper a year removed from winning Manager of the Year but will keep a player who physically assaulted the team’s best player in the dugout?  The Nationals are now on their third manager in four seasons, reduced a lights-out starting pitching rotation into a mediocrity, and has been left scrambling to fill middle relief and infield positions that were either neglected or the team opted against resolving for years. Meanwhile, the Cubs are the new Nats, stockpiled top to bottom with young talent, the Mets have a starting rotation for the ages, and the Giants and Cardinals loom as perennial contenders because of enormously effective general and field management.

Perhaps this would matter less if the team had not tasted success or if the players we have bonded with were not so unceremoniously dumped. But the truth is the Nats are not nearly as likable as they once were and have become both underachieving and unwise in their decision making. I am not quite ready for another DC-sports team divorce, but then again, second marriages dissolve at even greater rates than first ones do. Stay tuned.

Follow me on Twitter - @scarylawyerguy

Sunday, February 21, 2016

State of the Race: And Then There Were Five

What was once described as the “deepest” bench of Republican candidates for President has been winnowed down to two political neophytes, two first-term U.S. Senators, and a two-term governor with almost no chance of winning. 

Eight months ago Donald Trump entered the race for President as a laughingstock and is now the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. In just the past week, he insulted the most recent Republican ex-President in front of more than 10 million debate viewers using talking points that sounded like they came from or Code Pink, got skewered by the Pope, and dismissed out of hand any changes to Social Security or Medicare. The end result? He won the South Carolina primary going away. The breadth and depth of Trump’s win was across the board - he won moderates and fought Ted Cruz to a tie among evangelicals. He also won the military vote even as he had questioned whether the Bush Administration had lied about WMD in Iraq.

Meanwhile, his closest two competitors are the most hated man in the Senate (Ted Cruz) and one of his colleagues (Marco Rubio) who has a penchant for giving victory speeches when he loses and had arguably the single worst debate meltdown since Lloyd Bentsen told Dan Quayle he was no Jack Kennedy. Lagging behind those two men are Ben Carson, whose entire campaign appears to have been an elaborate direct order mail fundraising scheme that collected money to pay for more direct mail fundraising (there is a less polite name for it, but I won’t go there), and John Kasich, the two-term Ohio Governor and former U.S. Congressman who had a brief moment in the New Hampshire sun (2nd place) that now seems like a hundred years ago. 

Where do we go from here? The Nevada caucuses are in two days and then seven days after that the so-called “SEC Primary” will hand out nearly a quarter of all primary delegates. Polling has been spotty in most places, but most show Trump ahead, with a few exceptions (Texas, where Cruz is narrowly winning and Minnesota, the one state Rubio may actually be able to win). Jeb Bush’s scant support can now be distributed, though polling suggests the impact will be negligible other than in the race for donor dollars (which have not moved the needle against Trump). 

In fact, while the conventional wisdom is that most deep-pocketed donors will move from Bush to Rubio based on amorphous “electability,” I would not be surprised if Kasich gets a second look, especially if Bush endorses him. While Rubio projects youth and vigor, he has also shown that when pressed, he will fold, not a comforting thought if Trump trains his rhetorical sights on the Florida Senator. Chris Christie’s exposure of Rubio’s soft underbelly would trouble me if I were a Republican bigwig, whereas Kasich’s blue collar roots, lengthy resume and residency in the Ohio Governor’s mansion would seem like the safer bet. Cruz is radioactive to D.C. Republicans and has not shown he can expand his base beyond very conservative and/or highly religious voters. 

Ultimately, it may not matter. Trump has a solid core of support that cannot be moved and the idea that as more people drop out their supporters will coalesce around a single alternative like Rubio is dubious. The key for Trump is whether he can continue “telling it like it is” while refining his message enough to give comfort that if he wins the nomination he will not blow up the country. The reality is that if anyone besides Trump had performed so strongly in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and likely Nevada, no one would question whether that person would win the nomination; but because Trump’s candidacy is so outside the box of conventional Beltway thinking, they *still* cannot get their heads around that idea. 

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul’s second season began this week and I am still trying to answer one simple question: why am I watching this show? The quick answer is that Saul Goodman was, at times, the best part of Breaking Bad and so, an “origin” story, in comic book parlance, of how Jimmy McGill, former con artist turned low rent attorney turned into a CRIM-IN-AL defense lawyer [1] is a logical hook.

Of course, the spin-off is not new; All in the Family begat both Maude and The Jeffersons. The Mary Tyler Moore Show birthed Rhoda and The Facts of Life was born from Diff’rent Strokes. More recently, Frasier was spun off from Cheers and the long-forgotten Joey was a half-hearted attempt to maintain the magic of Friends. But Saul’s conceit is different. Whereas most spin-offs pick up where the parent show ended, excepting a single “flash forward” in each of the two season’s first episodes, where Saul is now an anonymous Cinnabon store manager in Omaha [2], we assume BCS is just filling in Saul’s history until we meet him midway through season 2 of BB.

In doing so, the show’s creators and writers are setting fairly low stakes. The best parts of Season 1 were not in BCS’s “present” where Jimmy McGill tends to an older brother with severe agoraphobia and has an on-again/off-again girlfriend, but even further in Saul’s past, in Cicero, Illinois where “Slippin’ Jimmy” works his hustle. There, the silver tongue so many BB fans would come to know and love was immediately recognizable, rather than watching present-day Jimmy labor through the drudgery of being a solo practitioner operating out of the back of a nail salon.

But this is a limitation imposed by the writers, who could have chosen to fully explore Saul’s post-Breaking Bad life on the lam where he is always looking over his shoulder instead of simply providing a brief glimpse of that future. In doing so, the show could have mined more of the ominous energy generated in the latter stages of BB instead of watching the synthesis of Jimmy’s grifter tendencies with his hangdog decency. Perhaps because of that, the show has a mellow feel, like it is not in any particular rush to get to its destination. It does retain its predecessor’s ability to balance humor and peril, sometimes simultaneously, and of course, there are those quirky camera angles, but even as we watch Jimmy stumble a step forward to fall two steps back, we are left wondering whether it is necessary to comment on the pit stops when we know the final destination.

Vince Gilligan famously described Walter White’s narrative arc as turning Mr. Chips into Scarface, but that occurred with the steady erosion of Walt’s moral compass and increasing taste for murder and mayhem. He may have rubbed out Krazy-8 as a survival mechanism, but watching Jane choke to death or putting a bullet in Mike were the acts of a sociopath. Saul is not that guy and we know it because we know the person he becomes.

I generally like the show’s sometimes shabby feel as being of a piece with Saul’s low-rent vibe and the writers find a plucky underdog vein in Jimmy that leavens what could have been a more one-note lounge lizard act. That said, Bob Odenkirk’s reading of the pre-Saul Goodman persona sometimes feels off. Part of this is simply the tricky logistics. Odenkirk is now six years older than when he appeared on Breaking Bad but is being asked to play a younger version of that same character. Makeup and wigs can only do so much. By comparison, the other holdover from BB is the Mike Ehrmantraut character; however, his gruff look is, in its way, timeless. And therein lies the rub. Mike’s backstory was told start to finish in a single episode in Season 1 of BCS (it also happened to be the best episode). Do we really need twenty, or thirty for Saul Goodman?

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1. See, Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad Season 2, Episode 8.

2. This fate is a callback to the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad, where Saul tells Walt that having called in the favor of his fixer, who creates an entirely new identity for his customers, that Saul’s best case scenario is managing a Cinnabon in Omaha. See, Granite State, Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 15.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Book Review - The Confidence Game

Maria Konnikova’s fascinating new book, The Confidence Game, examines how (and why) people fall for con jobs - be it the proverbial Nigerian prince spamming our email inbox, the mysterious stranger offering us a sure fire way to double our money or the fortune teller who can see our future. Of course, *you* would never fall for it - you are too smart, would get out before it got really bad, or suss out the scam and call the police. What Konnikova details, richly, and in exhaustive detail, is that it is precisely because people have too much faith in their own intelligence, ability to walk away from a bad situation or report things that make the con work. 

Like a wrestler who uses his opponent’s leverage against them, the con man uses our own assuredness, our own desire to trust others, and our need to believe that we are entitled to good things to manipulate us so severely that many victims not only defend the person who steals from them, they often provide the ideas that slit their own financial throat. And when the moment arrives when you realize you have been had, the fear of public shaming stops many people from ever reporting their victimization. Worse still, even after the con artist has been caught, some of their victims will still refuse to believe this person who they trusted could have wronged them. 

How is this done? Konnikova takes us step-by-step through the process, from the moment a grifter sizes up his prey (“mark”) through other steps like the “play” (gaining the mark’s trust) the “rope” (the pitch a grifter uses to lure his victim) and the “tale” (the inflection point when the mark has internalized the story) all the way to the “blow off” when a con man disappears into the ether with his mark either none the wiser or reluctant to admit they have been had. At each point, like an expert puppeteer, the con man pulls at the dupe’s emotional strings, leading him down a path that will lead to his (voluntary) ruin. 

The tales in The Confidence Game have an accident-in-slow-motion quality. There is the story of the Wall Street investment banker who walks into a fortune teller’s office while nursing a bad break up and, little by little, sees her life’s savings evaporate and her life completely upended. The lonely heart 60something college professor who strikes up an online romance with a 20something European bikini model who ends up being arrested in South America after he picks up a piece of what he thinks is her luggage and turns out to have several kilos of cocaine in it. Willful blindness? A lack of credulity? Sure, both, to a certain extent, but these and other stories just underscore the insidious ability of a con artist to ingratiate themselves into our lives when we are at our most vulnerable - when emotion trumps logic and we are susceptible to suggestion that a simple solution can bring order to chaos or a long-overdue reward is finally ours. 

The true danger in confidence games is that they work because they rely, at their core, in very basic beliefs we all share - in the trustworthiness and goodness of others, in our own inherent right to happiness, and our innate ability to see right from wrong. The closest analogy I could think of to those who have been conned is to the experience of falling in love - both require a massive leap of faith where we place our trust, total and complete, in another person, and when it fails, the fall out is devastating, yet we often do not see the end coming or understand how it happened. And that is what makes the con so alluring and so dangerous. Who does not want to feel good or happy or rich or wanted? Who does not want to be told that if you just suspend logic and reason easy money, a beautiful woman, or a priceless painting can be yours. Satisfying these basic needs can lead the smartest, most rational people to make incredibly foolish mistakes.

Finally, a word about Konnikova. She is a master story teller. The Confidence Game is the natural companion to her prior work, Mastermind, which used the stories of Sherlock Holmes to examine how the rational mind solves mysteries. If the latter is about the head, the former is about the heart, and together, these two books provide deep insight into what makes us tick. The Confidence Game will not fill you with pride in your fellow man (or woman). Over and over, the reader is slapped in the face with the fact that people can be truly despicable. And don’t get me wrong, I am a cynic by nature, but the sociopathic behavior of the con artists Konnikova spotlights even made *me* depressed.  

Follow me on Twitter - @scarylawyerguy

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Picking Scalia's Successor

Justice Scalia’s death over the weekend has kicked off a huge political fight over whether President Obama should (or has the right!) to name his successor. The argument against his doing so appears to be the idea that a President should not appoint a Supreme Court justice this close to an election where his name is not on the ballot. Better to let the “will of the people” be heard and allow the next President to make the pick. On the other hand, Obama has 11 months left in office, Supreme Court nominees move, on average, in about 75 days and even contentious appointees, such as Clarence Thomas, were announced, vetted, and confirmed in less than 4 months. 

The Republican talking point about the unprecedented nature of having a President appoint a new Justice this close to an election is simply not true. This is a very rare situation, and there is little precedent, but what does exist weighs against the GOP’s point of view. Anthony Kennedy was confirmed in February 1988, Justices Powell and Rehnquist got through in early 1972 (when Nixon was up for re-election, but without guarantee of winning), and Eisenhower put through three Justices as recess appointments in 1956. The only recent election year nominee who did not get through was Abe Fortas, who was also under criminal investigation at the time of LBJ’s attempt to elevate him to Chief Justice in 1968. 

What this is really about is the Republicans’ fear of losing their decades-long majority on the Court. And this is understandable. After all, the Court is the final arbiter of the most important Constitutional and statutory questions our country struggles with - from Bush v. Gore to Obamacare, same sex marriage to immigration policy, the modern Court has played a massive role in our country’s fortunes. From the 1930s well into the 1980s, the Court leaned left and even as Republican Presidents made the overwhelming majority of picks in modern times (the Democrats went from 1967 until 1993 without one), the dam did not fully break until the early 1990s and since then, a body of law has been erected on everything from arcane issues like employment mediation clauses and Tenth Amendment states rights to more familiar questions of voting rights and affirmative action that have benefited the conservative view of the law. Republicans will not willingly let that go. 

While replacing a jurist with one kind of legal philosophy with one who has a different one may seem novel, it was not always so. Thurgood Marshall, arguably one of the most liberal Justices of the 20th Century, was replaced by Clarence Thomas, one of the most conservative Justices of any time. Hugo Black, a lion of the New Deal, was replaced by corporate lawyer Lewis Powell, and on and on. That is just the way the quirks and vagaries of death and retirement work. On Election Night 2000, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor famously bemoaned the fact she would have to stay on the Court when it appeared Gore was going to win because she would not allow her seat to be filled by a Democratic President, so the idea that the Court, or its members, is not “political” is nonsense.

The President is well within his rights to name a new Justice and nothing in the Constitution stops him from doing so. When he won re-election in 2012, it did not come with an expiration date on his ability to appoint judges to the federal bench. The shameful display of blind obstruction by Senator McConnell and Republicans running for President should be called out as such. If the Senate wants to take up the President’s nominee and vote him or her down, they have every right to do so, but to set a precedent that no nominee of an opposing party will be heard solely for political gain should not stand. 

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Leave Bernie Alone (& Let The Media Do Its Job)

If you are a Democrat of a certain age, that is, if you grew up before social media consumed our lives and the 24-hour news cycle, you have to feel for Hillary Clinton. Valedictorian at Wellesley, law degree from Yale, campaign staffer for George McGovern, staff attorney for the Watergate Committee, child and women’s rights advocate, First Lady of Arkansas and the United States, United States Senator, and Secretary of State, Hillary was Tracy Flick before anyone knew who that was. She has been a trailblazer and a pioneer, someone who was speaking truth to power on topics that are now de rigueur long before it was popular to do so.

But a funny thing happened on the way to an expected addition to her already pages-long CV – that of the first woman to ever receive a major party’s nomination for President of the United States – a self-proclaimed democratic socialist from Vermont has electrified a party he did not belong to a year ago and is threatening to snuff out Mrs. Clinton’s long-held dream of being the first woman President.

If you believe the media, there is no shortage of blame to go around, starting with (naturally) the candidate herself, but trickling down to her surrogates, campaign staff, message, questions about her honesty and trustworthiness, and on and on. That the media treats her differently is something they no longer deny and kvelling about “Hillary Fatigue” was openly spoken about in November … of 2014!

And it seems that the harder Clinton and her team push to “vet’ Senator Sanders, whether it is questioning how he will convince Congress to pass his agenda or what he knows (and does not know) about foreign policy, the more the media blanches at her tactics and the firmer his support among his true believers becomes. This is unsurprising both because of the aforementioned bias the media has for her and the fact that like Donald Trump, Sanders’s supporters are hard core – no amount of logic will get them to change their minds.

So what should Clinton do? Walk away. Cease and desist from going after Bernie Sanders - attacking the underdog, the authentic hippie from Vermont who wants nothing more than a socialist paradise is a losing argument because his supporters will not listen and the media will make you look bad for doing it. Flush all your opposition research down the toilet and focus solely on your own message. You have an amazing story to tell about what you have done and intend to do to help the American people fulfill their hopes and dreams. You served as our nation’s top diplomat for four years, traveling the globe to meet, build bonds and negotiate with almost every world leader. You served in the U.S. Senate for eight years and forged bipartisan agreement on key issues. You have survived every sling and arrow shot your way for 25 years, you do not have to apologize for who you are and what you have done.

By doing so, you will put your best, and most optimistic foot forward. Leave it to the media to do what it is paid to do – vet the candidate. Let the media pour over Sanders’s record in Congress, question him about his lack of foreign policy experience (not to mention advisors), ask him to explain how he will get Congress to work with him, who he would select for key roles, whether he supported a primary challenger to President Obama in 2012, why it is that he just became a Democrat, and all the other completely reasonable questions they have not (to date) bothered to delve as deeply into as whether you tipped properly at a Chipotle restaurant. To be sure, it is a leap of faith. In 1992, James Carville famously said that “speed kills” – the Clinton campaign’s rapid response steamrolled President George H.W. Bush’s slow moving operation and ushered in the modern political campaign apparatus that now dominates our Presidential races, but that playbook is no longer working.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The State of the Race For President

With one caucus and one primary under their collective belts, the Democrats and Republicans head west and south to Nevada and South Carolina before a spate of contests on March 1st dubbed the “SEC Primary.” So, where are we in the race to succeed President Obama?


The Democrats: What was already a small field is now down to two competitors – former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Clinton eked out a win in Iowa while Sanders romped in New Hampshire. While the delegate count from those two contests is close, Clinton also has more than 300 committed “super delegates” in her corner, while Sanders has fewer than ten. The conventional wisdom is that Clinton is failing to connect with the voters in the way Sanders is, and in particular, with young voters, who went for Sanders by massive margins in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Moreover, Sanders has mobilized a huge small donor fundraising effort that will allow him to match (if not exceed) Clinton’s advertising and other campaign outreach.


Analysis: Sanders’s popularity in two states with very liberal, almost exclusively white populations will be tested starting with Nevada and South Carolina and then, far more substantially throughout the Sun and Rust Belts. He has the benefit of making arguments for policies that promise things people like but have absolutely no chance of ever being enacted, while she is left with the pragmatic/practical argument of incremental change. In other words, he wants you to have your dessert before dinner, and she is telling you to eat your vegetables. In the debates, he is clearly out of his depth on foreign policy but the media has done little vetting of his policy positions, voting record, or anything else that ordinarily attends the coverage of a major party candidate for President – let’s hope that changes. In the meantime, Hillary would be best served by avoiding attacking him, the media clearly does not like it and it is not her best look. Better to focus on her lengthy record of achievement and advocacy and let that speak for itself. She is battling Sanders, Republicans, and the media, so she is best served by focusing on a positive message about herself because she is held, as none other than Mark Halperin has admitted, to a different standard than other candidates.


The Likely Outcome: Clinton rallies slowly in Nevada and South Carolina before winning decisive victories on March 1st and 15th that may not secure the nomination, but will make the math inevitable.


The Wild Card: Pent up frustration over Obama’s inability to pass progressive legislation (e.g., single payer health care), the media’s not-so-veiled loathing of Clinton, and a massive surge of young voters create a tsunami wave that crushes her and delivers the Democratic nomination to a 74 year old socialist who was not even a registered member of the party a year ago.


The Republicans: Allow me to pause and chuckle at the idea that when this cycle started the media claimed the Republicans boasted the “deepest field” in their history. The current front runner is a reality TV star and the guy running right behind him is the most hated man in Congress. Meanwhile, Jeb Bush has spent $100 million to finish sixth in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire and former “it” candidates Scott Walker and Chris Christie barely registered before bowing out.


Anyway, with that off my chest, we are down to five contenders – Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush. History tells us that in the modern era, the Republicans have picked the winner of either Iowa or New Hampshire, which would reduce the options to Trump or Cruz, but perhaps this year is the exception that proves the rule.


Analysis: The outsider/batshit crazy wing of the Republican Party commanded a majority of the vote in Iowa and New Hampshire (if you dump in the Fiorina and Carson crumbs), so the only hope for someone other than Trump or Cruz would be to get in a three way race (worst threesome ever?) where those two would split the “anti-establishment” vote and the rest of the party coalesced around this third person. The only problem? Well, two actually: first, there is no guarantee that such a coalescing would occur. Trump’s protectionist message may sell very well in Ohio or Michigan, so even if Kasich was left standing as the alternative to him and Cruz, there is no guarantee he would win that vote; second, if the Kasich/Bush/Rubio clustering continues, they may all stay in the race, leaving Trump or Cruz to rack up wins by collecting somewhere between 25-35 percent of the vote in each state.


The Likely Outcome: Again, history shows that even with all this uncertainty, the likelihood is that a winner will emerge and right now, that guy looks to be Donald J. Trump. That a political novice showed a better fingertip feel for the electorate than competitors with decades more experience and millions in consultants as well as the entire political journalist class is pretty remarkable. Cruz could try to monopolize the evangelical vote and win a narrow majority of delegates, but if the race is down to him and Trump, I suspect the powers that be will hold their nose and go with the businessman who does deals, not the kamikaze pilot who everyone hates.


The Wild Card: Trump melts down, Bush, Rubio or Kasich emerge as a consensus “establishment” pick and the party happily steps over Cruz’s political carcass as the GOP eyes a return to the White House in a race against a 74 year old socialist from Vermont.