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Real Winners And Losers: Winner-Take-All Edition

Marco Rubio gets to take all the loser awards tonight


Hillary Clinton

Yummmmm, those delegates taste good. This primary might still go on forever, but your lead is big enough that something would have to go really wrong on your end for you not to win the nomination. (See: Hillary Clinton As a Manager.)

John Kasich

Yay, you won a state! Your state! Good for you.

PS You’re still not going to be president. Have a nice day!

Donald Trump

A few months back, when you were giving a speech in front of the Capitol, you said that you might be so much of a winner that we “may get bored with the winning.” And then you said, “you'll never get bored with winning. We never get bored.”

Your supporters clearly aren’t bored, as they keep handing you W’s. The rest of us, on the other hand, are a bit frightened. The primaries are only halfway over; if your rallies are already ending with people bloodied, what’s going to happen next?

Florida Man

Wow, you guys really turned out last night, unlike Ohio Man. Donald Trump had a double-digit lead in your state! This is a great way to change the narrative; thanks to Tuesday’s results, everyone is talking about your influence in politics instead of the fact that one of you got arrested for speeding while zooming to the bathroom, and then pooped all over the police car.

Game Theorists

The failure of the Republican candidates to form a coherent strategy to get between Donald Trump and the nomination might seem a bit surprising, but it’s actually not if you know a bit of game theory. Collectively, the best possible world for the non-Trump candidates would be one in which they all cooperated: asking their supporters to vote for the non-Trump candidate that was the strongest in each state, thus denying Trump victories and preventing him from winning the nomination outright. The worst possible world is one in which they all try to win every state, siphoning votes from each other and letting Trump rack up delegates that could give him the nomination outright.

Problem is, it’s in each individual candidate’s best interest NOT to do this. If I’m one of the candidates and all the other candidates are cooperating, then the best strategy for me is to not do so, stealing votes from them. If all the other candidates aren’t cooperating, then there’s obviously no reason for me to be magnanimous. That means that each person’s pursuit of their own ends leads to the worst possible world for everyone.

This is a real game theory thought experiment called the prisoner’s dilemma, and once you know about it, you can see it in lots of places (for example, this is why group projects so often go poorly). The Republicans are getting game theory’d to death.

Here’s the really funny part — the prisoner’s dilemma's ironclad cage of logic has a trapdoor. If people think they’ll wind up in a strategic situation (doesn’t necessarily have to be the same situation) with the same people again in the future, and they care about that future, collaboration to avoid that bleak worst-case scenario is possible. The failure of the candidates to collaborate could mean that they either believe that there’s no future, or that there is and it doesn’t matter.

It’s an encouraging thought ... if you’re a game theory professor, because it both validates your work and gives you a handy object lesson for your students. For everyone else, it kinda sucks.

The Reanimated Corpse of Ronald Reagan

Speculation is running rampant that power brokers, influence peddlers, and, uhh — favormongers? I don’t know, we need three of these things here to give it gravitas — in the conservative movement are preparing to deploy a third-party candidate should Trump win the Republican nomination. And there’s plenty of appetite for this kind of stunt from Republican voters. The preliminary results from exit polls in Ohio and Florida showed that more than a third of Republican primary voters would consider a third-party nominee if it were Trump versus Clinton in November. Here’s the trouble, though: Who would they draft to run? Almost all of the candidates are either unknown quantities as politicians (Condoleezza Rice), or would have already been rejected by voters (Mitt Romney, the rest of the Republican presidential hopefuls).

Fortunately, there’s an obvious if unconventional solution: the reanimated corpse of Ronald Reagan. His reputation is unimpeachable with the party establishment, the base adores him, and elites respect and admire him. He’s still incredibly popular among the public at large, and (not to be cold, but we’re analysts here) the recent passing of his wife will engender sympathy with voters. Plus, his various apostasies and ways in which the Actual Ronald Reagan deviates from the Image of Ronald Reagan are no real obstacles — he can be controlled by electrodes in his brain installed before his reanimation by GOP scientists. Sure, he has already served his two terms, but it could definitely be argued that a candidate who has returned from beyond the veil of death isn't really the same person as the one who died. The people want Reagan. The Republicans should give him to them.

The Zodiac Killer

The Zodiac Killer is still at large. Evil waits, ready to debate. Despite the fact that his murder spree happened almost 40 years ago, the memory of those crimes still looms large in the public consciousness. Catching the Zodiac Killer is an obsession of many, and so speculation as to his identity is always rampant. Really, this has nothing to do with the election, so we’re not sure why people talk about it so much. Unless the Zodiac Killer is a presidential candidate, we doubt that this is going to affect the primaries, but we figured we’d mention it here. Zodiac.

The Warlords Who Will Rule the Fiefdoms of Our Postapocalyptic Future According to Their Own Arbitrary Whims

Have you ever realized that the people who will constitute our ruling class in the new order that rises from the still-smoldering ruins of our society are probably already living among us, and we have no idea who they are? They could be just ordinary folks, waiting for the right environment in which to emerge from their li'l civilizational chrysalises as petty dictators. Amy from accounting could really find herself after the apocalypse happens, discovering that she has an unslakable thirst for raw power; or Steve from down the street could realize that he has a matchless willingness to shed the blood of innocents to consolidate his territory. Food for thought!

Whoever Can Figure Out What’s Going On in This Picture

We’re thinking that Hillary’s telling a story about how when she was young she wanted to be a pirate with a toothache when she grew up, but she realized she wasn’t any good at that and was like, “OK then, guess I’ll try politics.” Yeah, I guess winking could be an option, too? But the guy she’s talking to looks a tad too entranced for that.

Justin Sullivan/Getty


Donald Trump

The more delegates Donald Trump amasses, the closer he comes to actually having to serve as the chief administrator of an enormous, labyrinthine bureaucracy, every minute of his time carefully rationed and regimented by his staff, charged with making hundreds of small, critical decisions for which nobody will ever praise him or even know about, all the while hamstrung by a slow-moving, recalcitrant legislature. The public moments of glamour — the photo ops, the speeches — are completely swallowed up in the suffocating workaday grind. Just a guess, but to me that doesn’t sound like something Trump’s actually interested in doing.

Hillary Clinton As a Manager

It has been another banner week (the bad kind) for Clinton’s campaign staff, full of easily preventable mistakes that cut against the image of preparedness and competence she’s aiming to project, and which is probably her greatest asset. Last week, at Nancy Reagan’s funeral, she gave a lengthy statement about the work Nancy had done in starting a “national conversation” about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Problem was, this wasn’t just false, it was exactly the opposite of the truth. She then compounded this mistake by issuing a statement that said she’d “misspoke,” like she’d made a verbal typo or something. Except, you know, a typo is a word, not an entire argument.

Several days later, at a campaign rally, Clinton mockingly said that she had to chuckle at Sanders saying he wanted to reform health care, saying “I don’t know, where was he when I was trying to get health care in ‘93 and ‘94?” This was a funny applause line that was immediately contradicted when the Sanders campaign produced video of Hillary Clinton thanking Bernie Sanders for his leadership on health-care issues as he stands directly behind her. When confronted with this, Hillary’s spokesman said, “Exactly, he was standing behind her. She was out in front.” Right.

These unforced, completely avoidable screw-ups are on Clinton directly, because she’s the one who said stuff that she has to have known wasn’t true. And they are also on her indirectly, because her campaign staff should never have allowed her to go out in public with lines like this. They should have prepared her, and they didn’t. But that’s also on Clinton: She hired these people. Surrounding yourself with competent staffers and finding a way to get rid of the incompetent ones is part of the job as president.

Coastal Florida

During last week’s Republican debate, Marco Rubio was asked about climate change in Florida — an issue that worries most local members of his party. Maybe Rubio would have done better in the state if he'd acknowledged that a sinking Miami is something that the government should try to prevent (probably not, but he did say in his concession speech last night that Republicans should be thinking about trying to solve problems more than trying to get elected). Instead, he said that the climate has always changed, and “as far as a law that we can pass in Washington to change the weather, there’s no such thing.” Twenty-one mayors sent a letter to the moderators of both party’s debates last week begging them to ask about climate change in Miami. “Our city is really ground zero for rising sea levels, so it’s frustrating to see this,” one mayor told the Guardian. “I mean, I’d love there to be as much discussion about climate change as there is about Donald Trump’s hands. If they aren’t going to talk about it in Florida, when will they?”

Only one Republican left in the primary race has said that climate change has been made worse by humans — but none of the candidates support doing much at the federal level to address it. Not that a Democratic candidate will be able to do much more, even if they want to (see: the legal battles being fought against some of Obama’s attempts to deal with climate change).

Anyway. Waiting until Miami starts floating away before we do anything probably isn’t a good option!

Anyone Who Ever Endorsed Donald Trump

Warning to all soon-to-be-former presidential candidates. Don’t do it. You’ll regret it. They did.

These Folks


Marco Rubio

Remember when you said, "I believe with all my heart that the winner of the Florida primary next Tuesday will be the nominee of the Republican Party"? Or when you said, “And after we win the Florida primary, the map, the momentum, and the money is going to be on our side”? We didn’t want to tell you, because we don’t like hurting your feelings, but we never believed you. So you went off, like those poor people who have been told all of their lives that they are great singers, and then Simon Cowell has to be the one to break it to them on live TV. Florida was your Simon Cowell, Marco. And you’re not going to Hollywood.

But you already know that, as you suspended your campaign Tuesday night. We can’t blame you for thinking that your nightmare would end; few people doubted that Trump would eventually fade away. Fortunately for us, the moment when we realized that wasn’t going to happen didn’t get saved for posterity.

In one respect, however, you’re a winner. You finally get to stop caring about politics, something you don’t appear to enjoy very much, at the end of the year! That is, unless you run for governor in two years.

Sigh. You’re going to do that, aren’t you?

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