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Trump Has Driven Away New Hampshire Republicans

Trump Has Driven Away New Hampshire Republicans →

From Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni, at the New York Times, on how Mr. Trump has affected the party.

Yet if the New Hampshire Republican Party now belongs to the president, it has also seen a significant decline in enrollment.

“New Hampshire is going to be a challenge for him to win in November,” said Jennifer Horn, the former New Hampshire Republican chairman and a staunch critic of Mr. Trump. “A week ago, we had more than 20,000 fewer registered Republicans than there were Election Day in 2016.”

Ms. Horn noted that Republican candidates lost large, consistently red areas in the 2018 midterm elections, and that the same thing could happen here to Mr. Trump. While other state Republicans played down concerns about the drop in party members on the voter rolls as the natural ebb and flow that happens in a state with same-day voter registration, Ms. Horn said 20,000 was “way outside the norm.”

And the state’s demographics reflect the type of place where Mr. Trump will face challenges: concentrations of working-class whites, but multitudes of college-educated voters, who polls show have been abandoning the Republican Party.

Many Errors Are Evident in Iowa Caucus Results

Many Errors Are Evident in Iowa Caucus Results →

Nate Cohn, Josh Katz, Denise Lu, Charlie Smart, Ben Smithgall and Andrew Fischer analyzed the reliability of the caucus results, for the New York Times. My takeaway is that the caucuses are far too complex for providing an accurate distillation of voter preferences. They're fine for selecting county delegates, who then select state delegates, who then vote on who to support at the national convention. There's a certain elasticity to results when preferences are being filtered through that many levels of trust and reasoned judgment. That may have been the world we lived in 100 years ago, but it's not today's world, when voters expect their caucus alignment to directly support a given candidate.

You should read the entire article to see all of the different ways that the results got fouled up. Here's a sample.

The results released by the Iowa Democratic Party on Wednesday were riddled with inconsistencies and other flaws. According to a New York Times analysis, more than 100 precincts reported results that were internally inconsistent, that were missing data or that were not possible under the complex rules of the Iowa caucuses.

In some cases, vote tallies do not add up. In others, precincts are shown allotting the wrong number of delegates to certain candidates. And in at least a few cases, the Iowa Democratic Party’s reported results do not match those reported by the precincts.

“The caucus math work sheet is the official report on caucus night to the I.D.P., and the I.D.P. reports the results as delivered by the precinct chair,” [Mandy McClure, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Democratic Party (I.D.P.)] said. “This form must be signed by the caucus chair, the caucus secretary and representatives from each campaign in the room who attest to its accuracy. Under the rules of the delegate selection process, delegates are awarded based off the record of results as provided by each precinct caucus chair.”

To emphasize: the Iowa Democratic Party collates the results and publishes them, but isn't actually responsible for validating the data coming from the precincts. If it's calculated wrong at the precinct level, it'll stay that way.

The errors are detectable because of changes to the way the Iowa Democratic Party reports its results, put in place after the Sanders campaign criticized the caucus results in 2016. This cycle, and for the first time, the party released three sets of results corresponding to different steps in the caucus process. The rules are complex and thorough, and they create conditions in which the results can be obviously inaccurate or inconsistent within a precinct.

That these errors are only detectible now, after the Sanders campaign insisted on collecting and reporting more data, makes me wonder how often the numbers have been wrong before.

The Iowa Democratic Party has corrected some errors, but the errors became far more frequent on Wednesday as the count dragged on.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Iowa Democratic Party released a wave of results showing Deval Patrick sweeping central Des Moines. That was incorrect. Mr. Sanders’s votes had been reported as being for Mr. Patrick, while Elizabeth Warren’s tallies went to Tom Steyer.

A plausible explanation is that an Iowa Democratic Party staff member accidentally copied the results of one column too far to the left in a spreadsheet for some precincts. Such errors inevitably occur in manual data entry, but the Iowa Democratic Party does not appear to have enough quality checks to assure that it reports accurate results.

​What's the point of having a state-level political party if it's not setup to do the work of actually collecting and disseminating reliable information about what its members want? It sounds like a debate club with delusions of grandeur.

This entry was tagged. President2020

An ‘Off-the-Shelf, Skeleton Project’

An ‘Off-the-Shelf, Skeleton Project’ →

Jason Koebler, Joseph Cox, and Emanuel Maiberg, writing for Vice, provide a look at the app that was supposed to make it easy for volunteers to report the results of the Iowa caucuses.

Motherboard asked six cybersecurity and app development experts we trust to analyze the app. The app was built on top of React Native, an open-source app development package released by Facebook that can be used for both Android and iOS apps, according to Kasra Rahjerdi, who has been an Android developer since the original Android project was launched, and Robert Baptise, a white-hat hacker who has exposed security flaws in many popular apps and reviewed the code. Rahjerdi said that the app contains default React Native metadata and that it comes off as a "very very off the shelf skeleton project plus add your own code kind of thing."

"Honestly, the biggest thing is—I don’t want to throw it under the bus—but the app was clearly done by someone following a tutorial. It’s similar to projects I do with my mentees who are learning how to code," Rahjerdi said. "They started with a starter package and they just added things on top of it. I get deja vu from my classes because the code looks like someone Googled things like 'how to add authentication to React Native App' and followed the instructions," Rahjerdi said.

"The mobile app looks hastily thrown together," Dan Guido, CEO of cybersecurity consulting firm Trail of Bits, told Motherboard.

So the app has the look of something that was written by someone who's a newcomer to programming, rather than someone experienced.​

To properly login and submit results, caucus chairs had to enter a precinct ID number, a PIN code, and a two-factor identification code, each of which were six-digits long. "We saw a lot of people entering their precinct ID instead of their PIN in the PIN spot. There were some issues with not knowing where to put what credential, which is a difficult thing to design around,” Niemira said. “Having to sign in with three different six-digit numbers is confusing on the best day, but it was a call that was made in order to help keep this process as secure as possible.”

The app required users to keep track of 3 different 6-digit codes and enter them in the correct fields, during a confusing, high-pressure event. And those users are all volunteers, from a demographic that's not known for its fluency with technology. That's a complete failure of user-experience design.

According to state records, the app was built in several months at a cost of $63,182.

"We started our engagement with the IDP in August and began requirement gatherings and beginning to develop the app at that point, so we basically had the month of August, September, October, November, and December to do it, though requirements gathering takes a long time, so we didn’t have a final production version of this until pretty close to caucus time," Niemira said.

​The app was done in a rush, with no time to think through the requirements and create a design that would be usable, secure, and fault tolerant. Let alone to create code that was well-tested and robust. Or time to adequately train users and ensure that they had the app installed and working several weeks before the caucuses.

Election security experts have been saying for years that we should not put election systems online, and that we shouldn't be using apps to transmit results. And, if U.S. election officials are going to use apps like this, that they should be open to scrutiny and independent security audits.

“We were really concerned about the fact there was so much opacity. I said over and over again trust is the product of transparency times communication. The DNC steadfastly refused to offer any transparency. It was hard to know what to expect except the worst,” Greg Miller, cofounder of the Open Source Election Technology Institute, which publicly warned the IDP against using the app weeks ago, told Motherboard.

Stamos echoed that sentiment. "Our message is that apps like this should be developed in the sunlight,” he said, “and part of an open bug bounty."

Politicians seems to be allergic to doing things out in the open, with the full scrutiny and criticism that comes with transparency. This debacle is the inevitable result of secrecy, penny-pinching, tight timelines, and hubris.

Bernie Sanders Raised More in January Than Any Rival in Any Quarter

Bernie Sanders Raised More in January Than Any Rival in Any Quarter →

Some good news for fans of Senator Sanders, from Shane Goldmacher. If I'm going to point out why I think Sanders is a risky candidate (and I am), then it's only fair to point out one of the reasons why he's a strong candidate.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont raised $25 million in January, his campaign said on Thursday, a staggering sum that gives him an enviable financial advantage at an crucial moment in the Democratic primary race.

The $25 million haul is more money than any other candidate raised in any full quarter during 2019, including several presidential hopefuls who hold the big-dollar fund-raisers that Mr. Sanders forgoes. The announcement is the latest sign of an epochal change in money in politics, with candidates now able to finance a top-tier national campaign fueled by masses of donors giving a steady stream of small amounts.

The Sanders campaign also announced that it had received 1.3 million donations in January, and that more than 1.5 million different individuals had donated over the course of the campaign.

“Working-class Americans giving $18 at a time are putting our campaign in a strong position to compete in states all over the map,” said Faiz Shakir, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager, in a statement.

Snail Mail and Nuisance Calls: New Details on the Iowa Caucus Problems

Snail Mail and Nuisance Calls: New Details on the Iowa Caucus Problems →

I've seen the Berners claiming that the chaos coming out of Iowa is an attempt to stop Bernie Sanders by denying him a clear cut win. I like to go with Hanlon's Razor instead: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity". I don't think the people that go into politics and become leaders of state or national parties are actually smart enough to be running complex one-day-only events like primaries and caucuses. Nothing I've heard out of Iowa has changed my mind.

Trip Gabriel and Reid J. Epstein, for the New York Times.

Iowa Democratic officials said on a private conference call on Wednesday night that nearly all the much-delayed results of Monday’s caucuses would be released by Thursday, although a few precincts might remain outstanding.

The reason? Tally sheets had been dropped into snail mail.

Besides an untested, buggy smartphone app that was used for the first time, a backup hotline number for caucus organizers to call in results was flooded with nuisance calls after the number was disseminated on social media, party leaders said.

“All the Trump people from around the country started calling and tearing everybody a new one,” Ken Sager, the Iowa Democratic Party treasurer, told members of the party’s central committee on the 1 hour 20 minute call.

There were 85 phone lines to take calls at the party headquarters in Des Moines, said Kevin Geiken, the party’s executive director. But caucus chairs faced long wait times “because of the excessive calls we were getting” and because the legitimate calls to report results each took about five minutes, twice as long as in a dry run.

As he has said publicly, Mr. Price repeated that Monday night’s problems began when a coding error was discovered in a back-end computer that received the results sent in by volunteer leaders of each caucus via the app.

“We moved to Plan B, which was to ask precinct captains to call us with their results,” he said.

After the phone lines became swamped, with some precinct leaders giving up and going to bed without reporting results, the party moved essentially to Plan C, a manual examination of the worksheets from each caucus.

“We’re using the caucus math worksheets to report the results, and that takes time," Mr. Price said.

Because a few precinct chairs dropped their worksheets into traditional mailboxes, they would not be counted until they were delivered. “We are in the process of waiting for the mail to arrive,” Mr. Price said. “Those final precincts may take a little bit for us to get those sheets.”

One caucus chairman not on the call, Tom Courtney, said on Wednesday that he had been taken aback by what happened. After hours of being unable to get through to party headquarters on Monday night, Mr. Courtney gave up and went to bed. “I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “At 3 in the morning, I emailed everything to the guy I was trying to call, then I texted it.”

The next day, he said, he received a call from state headquarters that it hadn’t seen his results. “I gave them to him over the phone, again,” Mr. Courtney said.

Then someone from the state party drove the 2 hours 40 minutes from Des Moines to Burlington, where Mr. Courtney lives, to pick up the paper worksheets from his county.

State Demographics Matter

State Demographics Matter →

Mara Liasson, writing for NPR on what matters in the election.

Also, while the electorate continues to get younger, browner and more female, a lot of those voters live in the wrong states as far as Democratic hopes at winning go. In other words, it doesn't matter as much if there's a huge surge in turnout in California and New York (two states where Hillary Clinton got one-fifth of all her votes from); it matters who shows up in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In Michigan and Pennsylvania, white, working-class voters make up 56% of eligible voters; in Wisconsin, it's 61%.

I'm less interested in a candidate's national numbers than I am in their state-by-state numbers and how their positions poll in each battleground state. You can run up the score quite a bit in California and New York and still lose because voters in Pennsylvania don't like your plan to ban fracking and because white moderates in Wisconsin think your policies too radical.

Socialism Is Underwater Among Independents

Socialism Is Underwater Among Independents →

Mark Murray, writing for NBC News:

Finally, the NBC/WSJ poll finds differing public attitudes about capitalism and socialism, especially with Sanders running for president in 2020 as a democratic socialist.

Fifty-two percent of all voters say they have a positive view of capitalism, versus 18 percent who have a negative opinion.

The numbers are reversed for socialism, with 53 percent having a negative view and 19 percent a positive one.

Yet there’s a striking difference by party and age.

Democratic primary voters have a net-positive impression of socialism (40 percent positive, 23 percent negative), and Dem voters ages 18-34 view it even more favorably (51 percent to 14 percent).

But key general-election groups like independents (-45 net rating), suburban voters and swing-state voters have a much more negative impression of socialism.

Again, I'm worried about overestimating how much attention voters are really paying to the Democrat primary and to Sanders' positions and his embrace of (Democratic) Socialism. Once we get to the summer and Trump starts hammering him over socialism, what's going to happen to his poll numbers?

Running Bernie Sanders Risks Losing Moderates

Running Bernie Sanders Risks Losing Moderates →

Jonathan Chait's piece has already gotten a lot of attention. But I'd like to draw my own attention to a few of the points that he made. (Full disclosure: If I could vote in Arizona's Democrat primary, I would vote for someone other than Bernie Sanders.)

Nobody “cared” how Michael Dukakis looked in a tank, and probably not many voters cared about Mitt Romney’s dismissive remarks about the 47 percent, but both reinforced larger attack narratives. Vintage video of Bernie palling around with Soviet communists will make for an almost insultingly easy way for Republicans to communicate the idea that his plans to expand government are radical.

Sanders has never faced an electorate where these vulnerabilities could be used against him. Nor, for that matter, has he had to defend some of his bizarre youthful musings (such as his theory that sexual repression causes breast cancer) or the suspicious finances surrounding his wife’s college. Democrats are rightfully concerned about attacks on Hunter Biden’s nepotistic role at Burisma, but Sanders is going to have to defend equally questionable deals, like the $500,000 his wife’s university paid for a woodworking program run by his stepdaughter.

Let's set aside Sanders' current proposals and the merits of them. His past is a rich treasure trove of attack ads waiting to happen. This election will be fought in the suburbs. And Trump's team doesn't need to convince suburban moderates to vote for him. He just needs to convince them that Bernie is just as bad and that they should stay home on Election Day. Ads depicting Sanders as a nepotistic communist will certainly do that. When it happens, Sanders will need a surge of new voters to power him to victory. And any campaign that starts out saying "we'll win because the non-voters will vote for us" is already losing.

For obvious reasons, the Democratic Party’s left wing has always resisted this conclusion (as has the Republican Party’s right wing.) But Hillary Clinton’s surprising defeat created an opportunity for the party’s left to promote an alternative theory for how the party could and should compete. It deemed Donald Trump’s win a sign that capitalism had created such distress that voters were now rejecting conventional politicians altogether and open to radical alternatives who might promise to smash the failing system. Indeed, by this reasoning, Democrats would do better, not worse, by nominating more left-wing candidates, who could distance themselves more credibly from the discredited Establishment.

​This is not a bad assumption. If American Carnage taught me anything, it's that there are far more voters willing to burn down the system and elect the craziest person possible than I had ever believed. So Progressives ran a lot of Progressive candidates, while the party establishment ran a lot of moderate candidates. It was a good experiment to see who was right. And it turned out to be the party establishment.

As we now know, it was a good strategy to win the House. Democrats flipped 40 seats. Tellingly, while progressives managed to nominate several candidates in red districts — Kara Eastman in Nebraska, Richard Ojeda in West Virginia, and many others — any one of whose victory they would have cited as proof that left-wing candidates can win Trump districts, not a single one of them prevailed in November. Our Revolution went 0–27, Justice Democrats went 0–18, and Brand New Congress went 0–6. The failed technocratic 26-year-old bourgeoise shills who were doing it wrong somehow accounted for 100 percent of the party’s House gains.

Progressives went a combined 0–51 in their house races.​

The leftists chose to focus on a handful of left-wing candidates, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated center-left Democrats in deep-blue districts. The conservative media strategically elevated her in a bid to make AOC and her squad the party’s face. The mutual interest of the two sides made AOC the narrative center of the election. The fact that the party had just run a field experiment between two factions, and the moderate faction prevailed conclusively, was forgotten.

​And I think this is worth emphasizing too. Progressives won running Progressive candidates against moderate Democrats, in Democrat districts. They didn't win running Progressive candidates in moderate or Republican districts. And winning the Presidency will require them to win moderate and Republican districts.

Public satisfaction with the economy is now at its highest point since the peak of the dot-com boom two decades ago. Trump has serious weaknesses of issues like health care, corruption, taxes, and the environment, and a majority of the public disapproves of Trump’s performance, but he does enjoy broad approval of his economic management. Therefore, his reelection strategy revolves around painting his opponents as radical and dangerous. You may not like me, he will argue, but my opponents are going to turn over the apple cart. A Sanders campaign seems almost designed to play directly into Trump’s message.

Whatever evidence might have supported a Sanders-esque populist strategy for Democrats after the 2016 election, it has since collapsed. But in the ideological hothouse of the Sanders world, no setbacks have been acknowledged, no rethinking has taken place, and the skeptics are dismissed as elitist neoliberal corporate shills, as ever. The project moves forward even as the key tests of its viability have all failed. Once enough energy has been invested in a cause, it has too much momentum to be abandoned. For the socialist left, which has no other standard-bearer to choose from, Bernie is too big to fail.

​I will vote for anyone against Trump—even Bernie Sanders. But I feel that I'm distinctly in the minority on that viewpoint. I think Sanders is going to be a hard sell for many Americans and that he's polling well right now because Republicans have not yet begun to run ads attacking him as a godless Commie.