2016 Election Preview Part 3: The Three (Maybe Four) States That Matter For Senate Control

Submitted by Charlie on Thu 14 Jul 2016 - 08:09
Scalia's Dead, We Need a New Justice

"Oh, Bart, I'm not sure random locker searches are permitted by the Supreme Court." - Principal Skinner
"Pfft, Supreme Court? What have they done for us lately?" - Bart Simpson

NOTE: This is the third of three articles about the 2016 U.S. federal election. The first was about Trump's misadventures and the second dealt with the terrible way the Republicans mutilated the House of Representatives. Today we're moving on to the point of greatest uncertainty about this year: can the Democrats regain control of the Senate?

The 2010 election may have been an unmitigated disaster that haunts us still, but it was a full Senate term ago, and all those seats the Republicans took in Blue states are back in the mix, which means the good guys are in the luxurious position of playing on a very friendly map. They need 4 seats to tie and 5 seats for a majority. There are seven Republicans running for re-election in states that Obama carried twice, plus possible pickups in North Carolina and Arizona.

Control of the Senate will be tremendously consequential for Hillary Clinton's Administration, even more than the Republican margin in the House. Without Senate control, not only can you forget about any kind of major legislation getting passed, but every nominee she appoints will be turned into some kind of bomb throwing anarchist before they get to committee hearings. And that doesn't even include any Supreme Court nominations she makes.

A Democratic Senate means that Clinton will be able to confirm not only a new justice (or justices), but whole slates of federal judges and commissioners on the FCC, FEC, SEC, and all those other important sounding acronyms. (Fergawdsakes, put people on the Postal Board!) It also means that whatever ten cent cronies she nominates as ambassadors to Ghana, Fiji, and the Republic of Kraplakistan will sail through against little more than a few outraged op-eds in the Wall Street Journal.

For a Presidential term that is likely to be hobbled legislatively from before it even begins, a friendly Senate majority is the biggest single factor in whether or not she'll be able to govern effectively and, as they say, "get things done". So let's take a look at the big board!

(The obvious way to divvy these up is geographically, but that's hardly any fun. So let's look at these Republican seats in terms of oldness of the incumbents.)

 

Tier 1 - *Really* Old White Guys

Iowa - Charles Grassley (b. 1933) - Since getting elected with an 8-point margin the same year Reagan won the White House, Grassley has been re-elected five times. The closest shave he had was in 2010, when he got 64% and won by 31-points. On the surface there wouldn't appear to be much hope, except for two wrinkles. First, Grassley has a real opponent on his hands in Patty Judge, a former Lieutenant Governor who has actually won statewide office. Second, those good government Iowans are none too pleased that their longtime senator, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has refused to so much as grant a hearing to Merrick Garland. Unfortunately, Judge is only ten years younger than he is, and that election she won was in the wave of 2006, so the sharks don't see much chance for her.

Cook: Likely-Republican
Sabato: Likely-Republican
Rothenberg & Gonzalez: Safe-Republican

 

Arizona - John McCain (b. 1936) - Obama never won Arizona, but polls have Clinton up there because Trump gonna Trump. McCain has a credible challenger this year, Ann Kirkpatrick, a three time Democratic House rep. But however much fun it would be to see McCain go down, if he does it probably means most if not all of the races below went Democratic as well, so control of the Senate is unlikely to hinge on Arizona.

Cook: Likely-Republican
Sabato: Leans-Republican
Rothenberg & Gonzalez: Favored-Republican

 

Tier 2 - Moderately Old White Guys

Wisconsin - Ron Johnson (b. 1955) - Johnson is a Tea Party nutbar from Wisconsin who was one of those rich guys who'd never held office before deciding he wanted to be a Senator. He's among the richest men in the Senate, and spent millions of his own money to take Saint Russell Feingold's seat. He has tip-top ratings from a whole horrorhouse of conservative asylums: he's got an "A" rating from the micro-penises down at the NRA, a perfect 100% from the anti-women Bible thumpers at National Right to Life, and he got an "All Charges Dropped" from the Domestic Violence League. I made that last one up, but you had to think about it, and he really did vote "No" on the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013.

Now Feingold is back, and since he was Elizabeth Warren before it was cool, returning him to the Senate would not only help Clinton, but also make America a non-trivially less shitty place.

Cook: Toss-Up
Sabato: Leans-Democratic
Rothenberg & Gonzalez: Tilt-Democratic


Ohio - Rob Portman - (b. 1955) - Portman was a longtime Republican Congressman who decided - in 2005! - that he wanted to work for the plainly hapless and dysfunctional Bush Administration. Then he took over an already Republican Senate seat in Ohio in 2010. All you need to know about him is that the "Issues" page on his campaign site has six categories, and three of them are "2nd Amendment", "Obamacare", and "Protect Life". That certainly seems like a list of half of America's problems to me. His opponent is former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, who is even older than Portman but isn't a right wing kook.

Cook: Toss-Up
Sabato: Toss Up
Rothenberg & Gonzalez: Tilt-Republican

 

North Carolina - Richard Burr (b. 1955*) - Obama narrowly won North Carolina in 2008 and then narrowly lost it in 2012. Like McCain in Arizona, if Burr goes down it will probably won't matter for control of the chamber. But North Carolina has been trending Blue of late, and locking in a Senate seat from there throughout Clinton's first term would be a big win, now and in 2022. His opponent is Deborah Ross, a longtime state legislator.

Cook: Leans-Republican
Sabato: Leans-Republican
Rothenberg & Gonzalez: Lean-Republican

(*Jebus, '55 must've been a vintage year for wingnuts. Possibly unrelated note: that was the peak of atmospheric nuclear testing.)

 

Tier 3 - Regular Old White Guys

Illinois - Mark Kirk (b. 1959) - Mark Kirk is doomed. He knows it. His opponent, two-time Democratic House rep Tammy Duckworth, knows it. Even the National Republican Senatorial Committee knows it. They're barely even bothering with this race and they're supposed to help everybody.

Cook: Toss-Up
Sabato: Leans-D
Rothenberg & Gonzalez: Lean-D   

 

Pennsylvania - Pat Toomey (b. 1961) - The Club for Growth is one of those marvelously misnamed Washington influence outfits. The only thing they care about is cutting taxes, preferably on rich people. To that end, they believe in both the flat tax and the Balanced Budget Amendment, either of which would cast America into a 19th Century dark age where rich men hunt the rest of us for sport. Before he became a Senator, Pat Toomey was their president. His opponent is a longtime Democratic functionary named Kathleen "Katie" McGinty. If she wins, she would be the first female Senator from Pennsylvania, so that'd be a nice cherry on top of that whole first woman President thing.

Cook: Toss-Up
Sabato: Toss-Up
Rothenberg & Gonzalez: Tilt-Republican

 

Tier 4 - The Non-Old People: Kelly Ayotte and possibly Marco Rubio

New Hampshire - Kelly Ayotte (b. 1968) - There aren't a lot of Republicans in New England, and there's a reason. Ayotte won office in the 2010 wave, and knew from the get go that she couldn't vote straight ticket wingnut if she wanted a second term. So she's voted for things like immigration reform and accepts that climate change isn't a hoax cooked up by greedy scientists. After Trump clinched the nomination, her semi-non-endorsement of him didn't even include his name.

However, she's still a wingnut at heart: anti-choice, deep in the pocket of Big Gun, and cheerfully breaking with centuries of tradition by studiously ignoring a pending Supreme Court nominee. Her opponent, New Hampshire governor Maggie Hassan, is none of those things and would happily vote for a Democratic Supreme Court justice.

Cook: Toss-Up
Sabato: Toss-Up
Rothenberg & Gonzalez: Toss-Up

 

Florida - Marco Rubio (b. 1971) - Befitting Florida, this entire race is a shitshow. Marco Rubio was going to vacate the seat, but then he realized [circle one: he wasn't going to get a good lobbying job / his 2020 presidential bid looks better if he's still in office]. So now, after denying all last year that he was running, he's running. Since nobody thought he was running, he actually has a serious primary opponent who is still being backed by the governor, so whether or not he'll even get the chance to defend his seat is an open question.

On the Democratic side, things are possibly even worse. The state party establishment is backing Patrick Murphy, the idiot son of a very rich Republican who lied about his professional past and flirted with switching parties. The insurgent is Alan Grayson, an enjoyably lunatic left wing firebrand who is nevertheless the kind of loose cannon no one can trust. Why? Well, the already 8-figures wealthy Grayson decided it would be a good idea to run a Cayman Islands hedge fun while he was in office. That's ten times as dumb as Hillary Clinton giving speeches to Wall Street when she a) didn't need the money and b) knew she was running for President.

The primary is on August 30th, so maybe the entire state will vanish into the sea before then and the rest of us will be spared this horror.

Cook: Toss-Up
Sabato: Toss-Up
Rothenberg & Gonzalez: Toss-Up

 

Tier Sleazy Bastard - Is Evan Bayh Running?

Earlier this week, word broke that the presumed - and presumably doomed - Democratic nominee in Indiana dropped out. This was followed by a bunch of repetitive clickbait stories about former Democratic Senator, No Labels fraud, and Indiana heavyweight Evan Bayh running instead. Befitting a man who keeps his options relentlessly open, Bayh hasn't actually said he's running yet. If he runs, the Indiana seat goes into play. (The Republican incumbent isn't running.) If Bayh doesn't run, it probably stays Red and doesn't affect the analysis below.

2016DemocraticSenateTargetMap

 

The map above shows all seven Senate races in states with a Republican incumbent that were also twice won by Obama, plus North Carolina and Arizona, both of which Clinton looks likely to carry this November. Of those, Illinois is the only one that's a foregone conclusion. Wisconsin is close, however, with polling there showing Feingold well ahead. The Real Clear Politics average has him up by 8-points, and Pollster has him at 9-points. Given that Feingold was a popular and long serving Senator before Johnson edged him in the 2010 wave, we can safely put that one in the Democratic column.

 

With those in the bag, that leaves 2 more seats for a tie, 3 more for a majority, and the rest is gravy. Of the 7 remaining, Iowa (due to Grassley's durable popularity), Arizona (same with McCain), and North Carolina (it's in the South and hates Clinton) are the heaviest lifts. If the Democrats get even one of those, it probably means they already got all the ones below and are just adding to their majority. Not bad, but not decisive.

Florida is a gigantic unknown and, if Murphy ends up winning, probably can't be counted on that much anyway. Democratic Senators who are closet Republicans are better than plain old Republican Senators, but that's a low bar.

That leaves New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. If the Democrats are going to regain a Senate majority - and put Hillary Clinton's Administration on a solid footing - they need to sweep those three races. Unfortunately, there isn't much in the way of polling yet. Toomey is ahead in Pennsylvania, but he's the incumbent and better known, so that isn't surprising in July. Ohio appears to be a dead heat. And in New Hampshire, RCP has Ayotte ahead, while Pollster likes Hassan, but both margins are small.

In these contested states (as elsewhere in the country), Democrats are going to do everything they can to tie Republicans to Donald Trump and all the evil for which he stands. The Republican incumbents, if they have even the least bit of sense, are going to ignore Trump and run hard against that reviled and corrupt socialist, Hillary Clinton. The absolute best pitch someone like Ayotte or Portman can make is: send me to stop Hillary. You don't have to vote Trump, but you don't want that radical [locally appropriate female slur] running the whole government, do you?

That kind of ticket splitting used to be common, but has declined almost to nothing in recent years. If it stays dead, the Democrats will take the Senate and ease Hillary's troubles considerably. If it revives, if lots of people vote Republican in Senate races while ignoring Trump or even voting for Clinton at the Presidential level, the Republicans may be able to hang on to the upper chamber and gum up the works like we've never seen before. The last time a Democratic President took office with a Senate minority in place was Grover Cleveland in 1885. If Hillary becomes the next, expect 2017 to be a nightmare of confirmation hearings.

So this election season, as your brain goes numb from the latest Trump outrage, soothe yourself by remembering that he's going to lose in humiliating fashion. He'll never live it down, which for him is worse than death. Unfortunately, and despite his embarrassment, he probably isn't going to take the Republican House majority down with him. The tightest action this year is in the Senate, and when you break it all down it's really only three states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. Keep an eye on those, everything else is noise. 

2016 Election Preview Part 2: Anti-Public Housing

Submitted by Charlie on Wed 13 Jul 2016 - 08:18
2012 House Election Results, Only One Of These Numbers Should Be Bigger Than The Other

 

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: democracy simply doesn't work." - Kent Brockman

 

NOTE: This is the second of three articles about the 2016 U.S. federal election. The first bathed in the schadenfreude created by Donald Trump's win on America's Next Top Republican Nominee. Today's is about the House of Representatives, which is considerably less fun to talk about. The third article will return things to happier ground by discussing the Senate.

On election night 2012, Obama won by 5% overall and racked up 332 Electoral Votes. He could've lost Virginia, Ohio, and Florida and still stayed President. It wasn't as big a blowout as 2008 had been, but the networks all called the election shortly after 11:00pm Eastern, and could've done so much earlier if they weren't unofficially required to wait for polls to close on the West Coast. (Screw you, Alaska and Hawaii!) The House, which has no such restriction, was called for the Republicans almost three hours earlier, as soon as polls closed on the East Coast. 

Sadly, just as that early House call was a turd in 2012's punchbowl, it's likely going to be repeated this November. Yes, it's possible that a truly yuge Trump defeat could flip the House, but - for extremely depressing reasons that will shortly be clear - for that to happen Clinton would have to win not just by more than Obama did in 2012, she would need more (a lot more, in fact) than even his historic blowout in 2008.

To understand why, allow me to take you on a brief tour of my home state of Michigan. After the 2000 election, Republicans controlled both houses of the legislature and the governor's office, so they got to draw the next decade's maps all by themselves. This was especially bad because Michigan lost a Congressional seat to reapportionment after that year's census, dropping us from 16 to 15.

The effect on both the state and federal levels was profound. With the Republicans in complete control of redistricting and a new map of only 15 U.S. House seats, losing at least one Democratic seat in 2002 was a foregone conclusion. But the lines had been so finely drawn that the Democrats lost 3 seats, despite winning a narrow (30,000 vote) majority of the popular House vote. It was the first time Michigan had a majority Republican House delegation since Watergate.

Four years later, the 2006 wave in which the Democrats picked up a whopping thirty-one (31!) House seats nationwide saw precisely zero change in Michigan's delegation, it remained 9-6 Republican despite the fact that Democratic candidates won 300,000 more votes overall (an 8-point win).* Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm romped to re-election by 14-points and the State House flipped from Republican to Democratic control.

(*One Republican lost a primary, but the seat itself stayed Red.)

But that otherwise fine election was tainted by a disappointment with which Democrats here in Michigan are long accustomed: the State Senate stayed Red. Michiganders cast 350,000 more votes (a 10-point margin) for Democratic State Senators than Republican ones, but it didn't matter. In fact, it barely even budged. The nationwide Democratic wave that swept away six U.S. Senators and those thirty-one U.S. House reps managed to sink just a single Michigan state senator. The chamber itself went from a 22-15 Republican majority to a 21-17 Republican majority. Hooray.

The post-2000 lines had been so well drawn that the 2008 Obama election, which saw a further 21 Democratic gains overall, produced a mere 2 pickups in Michigan. A nearly 9-point win and a margin of 400,000 votes got the Democrats just over the hump to an 8-7 majority, which was swiftly reversed back to 9-6 Republican in 2010.

The Great Mid-Term Disaster was also the next time the State Senate was up, and you don't need me to tell you how that went. Along the way, the Democrats lost the State House and the governor's office (Granholm was term limited), meaning the Republicans regained unified control just in time to redistrict themselves twice in a row. Once again, Michigan lost a House seat to reapportionment, and the Republicans made sure it didn't come out of their column.* In 2012, the first year on the new maps, the Democrats lost a U.S. House seat in Michigan despite earning 240,000 more votes and a 5-point margin.

(*Yeah, flee to warmer climates now. Your kids will all be back here in twenty years when Florida's underwater and Arizona's dry as a bone.)

Of the fourteen remaining districts left in 2012, only a single one was close. Michigan's 1st (mostly the Upper Peninsula) elected Republican Dan Benishek by just 0.5%. Only two other Republican winners were even in single digits, the closer of which was Kerry Bentivolio in the 11th. Thanks to unfettered control of redistricting, that seat is one of the most absurdly gerrymandered in the country. To see how, check out the .gif below:

Michigan's heavily weird 11th Congressional District

That is the Census Racial Dot Map overlaid with the 11th District in red. The blue dots are white people and the green dots are black people (Asians are in red, Hispanics in yellow). Note the way it artfully curves around the largely black city of Pontiac while managing to include predominantly white Bloomfield Hills. (That sea of green in the lower right is Detroit.) The little carve out for Farmington is even more ridiculous.

Now, the 11th isn't quite a must win for a Democratic House, but since 2014 blasted them into an historic hole, it's close. And winning it (even with Trump at the top of the ticket) is going to be very tough. In 2012, Romney went down by nearly 10-points statewide, but the 11th went for Romney by 5.4 points (52.3-46.9) while Bentivolio defeated the Democratic hopeful by 6.4 points (50.8-46.4). Bentivolio lost a primary challenge in 2014, but his successor, Dave Trott, scorched the Democratic challenger by 15.4% (55.9-40.5). Cook Political rates the race as "Likely Republican" and has the district as a whole at R+5, but that doesn't tell the whole tale.

The 2016 electorate is going to be the most diverse in history, with white people (the only ethnic group that goes Republican) making up just 69% of eligible voters nationwide. But in Michigan's 11th, it's a lot less 2016 than it is 1980. White people make up 83% of the total population, or roughly 3% more than the country as a whole that year. So even though Trump is deeply unpopular, Dave Trott will be competing in a district that looks the way America did when Il Duche still had most of his original hair.

Since the Republicans have a 59 seat advantage in the U.S. House, the Democrats need to pick up 30 seats to get to a bare majority. To do that, they're going to need seats like Michigan's 11th, plus equally gerrymandered ones in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. That's a very tall order because the 11th, and there are a lot of districts like it nationwide, was drawn specifically to withstand not just Romney's 2012 drubbing, but a 2008 level meteor strike.

With their unified control of the 2010 redistricting, Republicans "ratfucked" the 11th so exquisitely that even in Obama's crowning moment of 2008, it still would've had a Republican House rep. Which means that if Clinton somehow equals Obama's almost unfathomable 17-point statewide win in 2008, it won't be enough.

And that, sports fans, is why the House is almost certainly going to stay Red: Clinton doesn't just need to equal 2008, she needs 2008+. Is it possible? No votes have yet been cast, so anything's possible. But unless Trump starts actually wearing a Nazi armband, or lots of dyed in the wool Republicans suddenly stop hating Hillary Clinton, it's hard to see how.

Even lacking a majority, however, margins still matter. A Democratic gain of 15 seats would be okay, but a gain of 20 or 25 would mean that Nancy Pelosi, and her hapless sidekick Paul Ryan, would only need to pick off a handful of Republicans to pass everything from spending bills to big ticket items like immigration reform. A Republican majority of ~10, all of whom will have just eked out wins by a couple of points, is going to be a lot more useful to the country than a majority of 20 or more, most of whom cruised to easy victories.

Right now, Cook Political sees a likely net gain of 4 seats for the Democrats, with 17 Republican seats rated as tossups. Larry Sabato thinks the Democrats can count on 6 likely pickups, with 15 Republican tossups. Rothenberg & Gonzalez have 3 likely Democratic pickups, with 10 Republican coin flips. Add those up, and (assuming the Democrats can hold their tossup seats) the maximum number of Democratic pickups each rating house currently predicts is:

Cook: 21
Sabato: 21
Rothenberg & Gonzalez: 13

All of those numbers are smaller than the 30 needed for control, and of the three predictions, only Cook even lists Michigan's 11th, and it's "Likely Republican". The other two consider it a sure thing. Welcome to the gerrymander.

Previous article: The Humiliation of Donald Trump by a Woman

2016 Election Preview Part 1: The Humiliation of Donald Trump by a Woman

Submitted by Charlie on Tue 12 Jul 2016 - 08:11

Projections from FiveThirtyEight, Princeton Electoral Consortium, and 270ToWin

"As you know, we've inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump..." - President Lisa Simpson

NOTE: This is the first of three articles about the 2016 U.S. federal election. This one is about the deceptively humdrum Presidential contest. The next is about the grim realities of the House of Representatives. And the last one will deal with the Senate, which is by far the most interesting and uncertain part of this year's dog and pony show.

Donald Trump is going to lose. You already know this. His poll numbers are historically awful. His campaign infrastructure is largely imaginary. And he himself is an incompetent, fascist buffoon who is loathed by large chunks of his own party. (Good job, Republicans!) Media outlets desperate for ratings and pageviews will continue to hype outlier polls and useless horse race analogies to make it seem close, but it isn't. And while the Clinton campaign has to take him seriously, the rest of us sure don't.

All through 2015, I had terrible visions in my head of Ted Cruz campaigning circles around Hillary Clinton as the economy slowly got worse and Obama's approval rating hovered five-ish points below 50%. Happily, Cruz lost, Obama's above water, and the economy, though *still* not recovered from the crash, doesn't completely suck.

And then there's Trump, whose rise to the nomination was so wildly out of the blue that I'm still not entirely sure we aren't living in an alternate timeline. Maybe someone actually did try to kill baby Hitler, a butterfly saw it, and now we're all here wondering why nothing makes sense and nobody can remember the reason? Except for violating fundamental tenets of physics, that almost makes more sense than none of his Republican opponents bothering to do basic opposition research.

Then again, these are Republicans we're talking about. Their reputation for even minimal competence is long past its sell by date. It's anyone's guess as to why, but it certainly doesn't help that most of the party's higher ups have had so much of their lives handed to them on silver platters. There's a distinctly aristocratic cluelessness to those Gulfstream flights into Boston on Election Night 2012, when all available polling, plus the early ballot numbers, said Romney was going to lose decisively.

Willard, himself the son of a rich governor, was so convinced of his own impending victory that he spent the Sunday before the election in Pennsylvania, trying to run up the score in a state he would lose by five and a half points. The supposedly numerate Karl Rove then humiliated himself on national television because he couldn't understand that one number was bigger than another number. That level of willful denial and outright incompetence is as staggering as it is undeniable.

When Trump's nomination is seen in that light, it makes a little more sense. Sure, he's even more incompetent than they are, but not by nearly as much as the likes of Messrs. Priebus, Koch(s), et al. would care to believe.

The extra kick in the balls for the collection of donors, moguls, lackeys, and elected officials that gets referred to as the Republican Establishment is that, on paper, 2016 looked promising. First, the 22nd Amendment (curse its oily hide!) did its job and got rid of Obama for them. Since World War II, just two incumbents (Carter & Bush the Elder) have lost re-election bids, but only once has the same party won three Presidential contests in a row (1980-1984-1988*). Plus, key states necessary to a Republican victory, notably Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina, have all come under unified Republican control and enacted new voting restrictions since 2010.

(*Yes, Gore should have and basically did win in 2000, but high ranking Republicans certainly don't consider it the semi-rigged shambles it was.)

Best of all, from their point of view, Clinton was going to be a uniquely vulnerable nominee. She is loathed by the press and knows it, yet persists in constantly giving them molehill scandals they can effortlessly turn into mountains. She is easy to publicly link to evil Wall Street bankers. And they could blunt the historic nature of her candidacy by putting a woman of their own on the ticket. For chrissake, she would've been the most unpopular nominee in the history of polling! . . . if not for their nominee.

That's got to be frustrating for them. And while I don't doubt that there are still plots being hatched to steal or buy the nomination back from Trump, if they were actually competent enough to stop him they would've done so by now. It's difficult to see how anyone that vainglorious would let anything get between him and a four day media orgy with his name all over it. I don't know if Trump actually wants to be President, but I do know that he wants to win gold at what is essentially the Olympics of reality TV. (Shame it had to be in Cleveland instead of someplace classy, but you can't win them all.)

This has all worked out so fantastically well for Hillary Clinton that the great Billmon used it to create this election's best running joke so far:

https://twitter.com/billmon1/status/730602303674298368

https://twitter.com/billmon1/status/728360748867563520

https://twitter.com/billmon1/status/743084606665166848

These kinds of fractured takes on modern life and Trump's clownball antics are going to have to amuse us, because they're basically all we have. The actual outcome is so overdetermined as to be boring.

Our first woman President is a going to be a former First Lady who's an unmitigated war enthusiast disliked by a majority of Americans. But weirder things have happened, one of which was her falling backwards into an opponent who is grotesquely misogynistic, Patient Zero for foot-in-mouth disease, has never held elective office, isn't nearly as rich as he says he is, looks like . . . well, you know the rest. If Obama was Constitutionally eligible, he might break 400 electoral votes against Trump; Clinton will probably end up somewhere in the 350 range.

For example, if she carried every state Obama did in 2012 plus Arizona (with its very anti-Trump demographics), that would be 343. If she got all those plus North Carolina (which Obama won in 2008 and lost by only 2 points in 2012), she'd get 358. Here in July, either of those maps is very plausible, and who knows how bad things might get with Trump come November? The Electoral College is going to be a slaughterhouse.

The only downside is that we won't get to soak in the spectacle of First Citizen Trump's inauguration. I can't pretend to know what fantasies are already running around inside that hair, but my guess is that they involve a chariot ride from the Capitol to the White House, with two dozen white horses in the lead and dazed prisoners being dragged behind him in chains. Whether the scantily clad Angels of Liberty will be flogging his enemies or merely taunting them would presumably depend on the weather.

Instead, we're all going to have to get used to hearing the words "President Clinton" again. "President Clinton traveled to Country X", "President Clinton used her weekly radio address to discuss Y", "President Clinton ordered airstrikes against Scary Bad Guys Z". Phrases like those will be coming at us a lot. It's going to be weird at first, and kids too young to remember the 90s will probably wonder why the rest of us are staring vacantly at stuff, but it'll pass.

The problem with all of this is that no matter how high her mountain of Electoral Votes, they're not going to do the newly minted President Clinton any good come January, when she is almost as certain to be facing a Republican House as she is to be the President.