Primary Sources: Breaking Down the Democratic Field

An analysis of the candidates, ranked by the bookmakers' odds of winning.

I AM OFTEN asked which candidate I’m now backing for president. (On Twitter, not in the real world; in the real world, no one cares what I think). As a vocal and enthusiastic supporter of Kamala Harris, I no longer have a horse in the Democratic primary race. While I will obviously vote for whatever candidate appears in the proper column on the ballot box in November—assuming said candidate is not a Useful Idiot for Russia, of course—I am flexible.

Last week’s debate was the first that I watched since Harris bowed out. Ahead of tomorrow’s New Hampshire primary—another contest in another state with very little diversity, which results the media will blow out of proportion anyway—I’d like to take a closer look at the candidates.

They are ranked here according to their odds of becoming the nominee, per BookMaker, which I am told is the most reliable of the offshore betting sites. (A “plus” means you have to bet $100 to win that number, so +500 means you’d win $500 on a $100 bet.) To be clear: Real people are gambling real money here, and the lines shift according to the action. Incidentally, Donald John Trump is now at -180 to be re-elected—he remains the favorite. With that said, the gambling community is better at picking horses and football teams than candidates.

The national polling average listed for each candidate is courtesy of the aggregator at Real Clear Politics, as of Sunday morning.

The “presidency enthusiasm ranking” is my own invention. This indicates, on a scale of one to ten, how psyched I’d be if the person actually became president. Not if Trump lost, because that’s always a ten—if the candidate actually took the White House.


Bernie Sanders

Bio: Independent Senator from Vermont. Runner-up 2016 Democratic candidate for President.

Odds: +145

National polling average: 21.8

Presidency Enthusiasm Ranking (PER): 1

Strengths: Lovely if unattainable progressive ideas. Gravitas. Charisma. When he talks, even though he’s repeating the same tired crap over and over, he has a way of getting you to listen.

Weaknesses: More than I can fit here. Read this, please. Also this. Bernie is the choice of Trump, Putin, Kevin McCarthy, Joe Rogan, Michael Moore…the list goes on. Ask yourself why.

Analysis: Bottom line: he cannot win the general. “But if he’s the nominee, you’ll vote for Bernie, right? You’ll pledge to vote for Bernie, right? Vote blue no matter who, right?” As Nancy Pelosi remarked when asked about Trump winning re-election: “Let’s not even contemplate that.”


Michael Bloomberg

Bio: Two-term mayor of New York, a city with a larger population than many of these United States. Billionaire. Media mogul.

Odds: +310

National polling average: 10.6

Presidency Enthusiasm Ranking (PER): 8

Strengths: Unlimited funds. Trolls Trump like a champ. Stop and frisk notwithstanding, was a pretty good mayor in a city not known for being easy to govern.

Weaknesses: Stop and frisk was atrocious, and may turn people of color against him. He’s basically the presidential equivalent of the rich kid who bought the special pass at Disney World that lets you cut the lines. Will Southern and Midwest voters elect a Jewish billionaire from New York? His bedside manner is meh.

Analysis: Mike is here for three reasons: to spend unlimited funds on ads attacking Trump, freeing other candidates from having to do so; to help fund down-ticket races; and to swoop in if need be and be the nominee. He’s the in-case-of-emergency-break-class candidate. We could do worse.


Pete Buttigieg

Bio: Mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Odds: +560

National polling average: 7.0

Presidency Enthusiasm Ranking (PER): 6

Strengths: Is he a Cylon? Dude can do almost anything, it seems. He’s smart as all get-out, handsome, articulate, speaks a bunch of languages, served in Afghanistan so understands foreign policy. Also: he’s young, and he’s gay.

Weaknesses: He’s young, and he’s gay, plus his last name is silly-looking and hard to pronounce. These things will not play well in the more benighted sections of the country. Buttigieg hasn’t been properly vetted (is that why Devin Nunes was in South Bend?). His polling among Black voters is abysmal, and is unlikely to get better, given his controversial tenure as mayor.

Analysis: Mayor Pete is a meteor on the national scene, which is always a red flag. He is chummy with (lawful evil) Mark Zuckerberg from their Harvard days, and he was Facebook user #287. Is this the source of his funding? Also: If he becomes president, will the press still call him “Mayor Pete?”


Joe Biden

Bio: Vice President. Longtime Senator from Delaware. Hunter Biden’s dad.

Odds: +603

National polling average: 27.0

Presidency Enthusiasm Ranking (PER): 8

Strengths: Woody Harrelson’s Biden put it best on SNL: “I’m like plastic straws. I’ve been around forever, I always work…and now you don’t like me?” He is the safest candidate, for sure, not least because of the Obama imprimatur. People like him. He seems “real.”

Weaknesses: He’s old and looks it. He’s never been particularly articulate, and his gaffes are getting worse. He’s fond of adult beverages, from what I hear, which may explain his handsiness (which will come up more in the general). His campaign has not been particularly inspired; “coronation” is the word pundits like to use. And the Ukraine business involving his son Hunter, while not unlawful, is nevertheless shady, and will hurt him (just as Trump/Putin intended).

Analysis: Trump fears him for a reason. All the national security folks I know have supported him from the gate. He is absolutely, positively anti-Putin—much more so than Obama, for what it’s worth. If he picks Kamala as his VP, wins, and steps down in two years—that would be the best case scenario for me.


Elizabeth Warren

Bio: Senator from Massachusetts by way of Oklahoma. Not actually Native American. Ballers fan somehow.

Odds: +1735

National polling average: 14.4

Presidency Enthusiasm Ranking (PER): 8

Strengths: If she was a basketball player, we’d say she has a “great motor.” Her energy and enthusiasm are boundless. “I’ve got a plan for that” is cringe, as the kids say, but it’s grounded in truth. Liz would get shit done. She comes across as a decent person, if a bit dull—the exact opposite of what we now have in the Oval Office.

Weaknesses: She was a Republican until she was, what, 40? She worked as a corporate attorney, which is the opposite of what she’s now doing. She’s terrible under pressure. She falls apart when she’s questioned. The “Pocahontas” thing is still bizarre. Black voters don’t seem to trust her. GOP ratfuckers would beat her like a pinata, making her into a Bernie-style pinko commie—but one with a vagina (gasp!). As my man Fred Harding quipped (I can’t find the tweet now, sorry!): “Why don’t we just run the reanimated corpse of George McGovern?”

Analysis: I’m not so sure about the consensus opinion that Warren can’t beat Trump. She is progressive, sure, but not in a crazy, snake-oil Bernie way. Most of her ideas are good, and are things people want: affordable healthcare, less corruption, and so on. Can’t she tack right in the general, extolling her time as a Republican? One more note: if she wins, we lose a Senate seat, as Massachusetts has [checks notes] a Republican governor?


Hillary Clinton

Bio: Secretary of State, Senator from New York, First Lady, decisive winner of the 2016 popular vote

Odds: +4000

National polling average: n/a

Presidency Enthusiasm Ranking (PER): This one goes to 11.

Strengths: After a semester of reading the lackluster work of other students in your creative nonfiction-writing class, she is Joan Fucking Didion.

Weaknesses: Not running.

Analysis: HRC would have been the best president of my lifetime, and probably one of the best ever. We’ve been so busy resisting Trump, we haven’t really processed what we lost, as a nation, when she was denied the White House.


Andrew Yang

Bio: Tech guy with money.

Odds: +4800

National polling average: 3

Presidency Enthusiasm Ranking (PER): 2

Strengths: He’s a smart guy. He has a house in the town where I live. His social media supporters are legion, and good at what they do. His ideas are interesting. He appeals to an interesting cross-section of the population.

Weaknesses: Yang looks like a Ron Paul of the left—a sort-of Democrat who commands an army of ideologues who will vote however he says. He brings everything back to his basic income idea, which smacks of “Hey, I’ll pay you to vote for me!” He’s like Oprah giving audience members a new car.

Analysis: Yang has said several times now he will turn the page on the Trumpist corruption, and would consider a pardon. That is disqualifying. He employs Tad Devine, Paul Manafort’s old colleague from the Ukraine days. Too much Russia for me. Hard no.


Amy Klobuchar

Bio: Senator from Minnesota.

Odds: +7000

National polling average: 9

Presidency Enthusiasm Ranking (PER): 9

Strengths: Smart, no-nonsense. She, Bloomberg, and Biden are the only centrists left in the race, and we need a centrist. Has won tough elections before by enticing voters from the other side. Is gaining ground after the debate.

Weaknesses: Lack of name recognition. Low Q rating. Not flashy. Said to treat her staffers badly (boo fucking hoo).

Analysis: If I had to choose one of the remaining candidates to actually be president, I’d pick her without thinking twice. Can she stay in the race long enough to steal the nomination? In a perfect world, she’d win this thing.


Kamala Harris

Bio: Senator from California. Attorney General of California. Destroyer of Sessions, Kavanaugh, and Barr.

Odds: +9000 (now off the board)

National polling average: n/a

Presidency Enthusiasm Ranking (PER): 10+

Strengths: Smart, polished, capable, incorruptible, charismatic, experienced.

Weaknesses: Suspended her campaign.

Analysis: Within 24 hours of Harris pulling the plug, supposedly for financial reasons although it remains murky, most of the K-Hive jumped en masse—some more reluctantly than others—into the Biden camp. There must have been a secret deal, we all collectively decided, where Joe promised Kamala the VP spot. Was this wishful thinking? I don’t know. But a Vice President Harris would have a decent chance of taking over for an aging President Biden before 2024, and would certainly be in the driver’s seat for the next cycle in four years. Thus, a vote for Biden/Harris would be a vote for the frontrunner best equipped to beat Trump and the ticket most likely to put Harris in the White House, where she belongs.


Tom Steyer

Bio: Extremely rich white man.

Odds: +23500

National polling average: 2

Presidency Enthusiasm Ranking (PER): 3

Strengths: Money. Seems sincere.

Weaknesses: When he spoke during the debate right after we’d switched on the TV, my wife asked, “Wait—who’s that again?” It took me a full minute to answer. We are not alone.

Analysis: Short of a meteor hitting the next debate stage and wiping out the rest of the field, I cannot envision a scenario in which Steyer could be the nominee. He has no “path,” as the pundits like to say.


Tulsi Gabbard

Bio: House member from Hawaii. Cult member. Third party spoiler candidate?

Odds: +28500

National polling average: 2

Presidency Enthusiasm Ranking (PER): -666

Strengths: She’s a veteran, and she’s easy on the eyes.

Weaknesses: She’s in a cult led by a virulent homophobe named Chris Butler, whom she has yet to disavow. So are most of her campaign staff. I’ve heard tapes of this guy riffing on gay people. It’s bat-shit insane. Also, all the stuff Hillary said.

Analysis: HRC ended her already—and she didn’t even have to speak her name.


Final Analysis

Yes please: Amy; any scenario (brokered convention?) in which Kamala or HRC become president

Good with: Biden or Bloomberg, provided Harris is the running mate

Will warm up to: Warren, Buttigieg, Steyer

No effing way, comrade: Bernie, Yang, Tulsi



Photo is from the Twitter feed of Lily Adams.