Sunday, April 3, 2016

Eenie Meenie Miney Blow (TWD Season Six Finale Reaction)

First of all, I hate this gimmick.  It's an insult to the audience. Who shot J.R. was a great gimmick. That was 30 years ago.  Now we expect a story to be told.  And who the hell wants to spend the summer watching trailers of Father Gabriel talking to Spencer. There are three huge problems with this cliff-hanger. One is that it's absurd to think that Negan could resp ond to the loss of 50 of his men by only killing one person.  Secondly, people will leak who was spotted on the set during the summer. And the biggest problem is that  by process of elimination, there's not a lot of suspense in who Negan picked.

My premise is simple. Negan needs to show the group and the audience that he is a bad ass. That leaves women and children out.  So Carl, Maggie, Michonne, Sasha and Rosita are out. That leaves six possibilities.  Eugene and Aaron just don't look that scary so I'll leave them out.  That leaves 4 possibilities:

1.  Rick.  He is safe. Not because he's the lead character but because if I'm Negan, I absolutely want this imbecile to be in charge of  my biggest threat.  I thought he was dumb all season but tonight he really outdid himself. He managed to look genuinely surprised that the Saviors kept turning up at all the dead ends.  And then he really seemed to think he could carry Maggie through those woods without getting caught.  Dumbass.

2.  Darryl.  Also safe. AMC gave him a reality show which is probably there way to pay him what he's worth to the network while locking down the female demographic over the summer.

3.  Glenn.  Well if they were going to repeat the comic story, then they probably would have told us that tonight.

4. Abraham.  He looks and is tough. He was present for almost all of the Savior deaths and he puffed out his chest as if to volunteer for the task.  The death of any of the other three characters would have been a big deal.  People would have talked about it more than the cliffhanger. Abraham? Not so much.

So I think Abraham is the victim.  But don't worry about waiting six months to find out.  Someone will spot him with or without that mustache by then.  Which is why this cliff hanger was dumb.

Another Complaint.

The Morgan and Carol story line was not well managed this season.  Tonight it became obvious that they were building to put Morgan in a situation where he has to kill someone.  It was a cop out to make the choice so simple.  Of course he shot the man who was about to shoot an innocent woman laying on the floor defenseless.  If they wanted to make this a bigger deal for Morgan, they should have made it a closer call. Even Eastman the cheesemaker told Morgan that he would not let Morgan kill him.  So yes, killing to prevent a different killing is moral. That's the first day of Intro to Moral philosophy. This show really should be more complex by now.

One Silver Lining.

But first, one more complaint. ;-)  Think about the last 2 episodes.  What was advanced in terms of story?  I guess Carol and Morgan had some resolution. But apart from that all we built up to was seeing Negan. Everyone knew that Negan was coming. So this was 2 and a half hours of air time to tell us nothing we didn't already know.

But what an entrance! Jeffrey Dean Morgan was great.  Ten minutes of monologue building to a bullshit cliffhanger.  But he kept it all fresh, fascinating and terrifying.  This peace of casting might even be the makeup we need for the Governor.  So as mad as I am by the finale, I'm already looking forward to Season Seven.  So my protests are meaningless in the marketplace.

Early Thoughts on Season 7.

The creators have put themselves in a bind for how to promote this season.  I think Morgan and Carol will wing up in a place called the Kingdom which will probably take up an episode or two but it's hard to say for sure what the central conflict will be.   I think the season will be political.  Rick will be plotting a war to kill Negan but he won't have the manpower to make that happen. Maggie and Michonne will be instrumental in that political process, as will Jesus and the people at the Kingdom.

But I really hope we get some good deaths. It's crazy that we went an entire season without losing anyone that we really care about. Doctor Denise had potential but she didn't get to make much of an impression. I could care less about Jesse and her idiot children.

So next year I'm hoping there's death and a tiger.   Google it.

Oh yeah...Zombies (The Walking Dead Season Six Finale.)

I used to post about The Walking Dead with some frequency.  I still watch and enjoy the show but I haven't taken the tie to write a post since November when only a few hours of the current season had aired. That post was called "All Tactics, No Strategy" and lamented the short-sighted nature of Rick's leadership.  This season has done nothing to change my mind on that point.

I'm writing this with just over one hour to go before the season six finale begins. This episode is the most highly anticipated because it is expected to mirror the events of the 100th episode of the Comic Book.  (Comic Spoilers ahead....)  In that issue, Negan arrives and beats Glenn to death with a baseball bat.  Ever since Glenn's bogus near-death experience in the beginning of this season a lot of folks have wondered if the TV show would match that story line exactly.  It certainly might.  But I hope it doesn't because I have come to conclude that for the good of the group, and the show, Rick should die tonight.

Let me state upfront that I think this is very unlikely.  The show is still a hero's journey and Rick is the hero.  He is who we met in the first cold open. This is a Western and he is the sheriff.  Killing him would be a monumental leap of storytelling that probably means the actor made unreasonable salary demands to go forward.  But if they go this route, then our merry band of survivors will be better off.

This season has been entertaining.  The production values are still remarkable for a cable TV show and the acting is fine even when the writing is uneven.  But this is the first season where it felt like the producers were hoarding the characters we care about.  No one of importance has died.  (Sorry Jesse and Dr. Denise, but you know it's true. The coolest character to die was probably the leader of the Wolves and I wouldn't put him in the Top 25 of characters the show has given us.)

So tonight they either go big or leave the audience feeling gypped. I think one of 4 major characters has to die tonight or else the show will feel lost its ability to make us feel like everyone is vulnerable. Those 4 characters are the only adults left from the first season: Rick, Darryl, Carol and Glenn. I will consider each in turn.

1.  Rick is an imbecile.  Don't believe me?  Let's review ever decision he has made since smoking the cannibals in Father Gabriel's church.

a.  Treat the Alexandrians like idiots.  What did that gain anyone?
b.  Lead 30,000 Walkers past the gates of Alexandria on foot.  What could possibly go wrong?
c.  Decide to walk a baby through a giant herd of zombies only to remember halfway through that babies cry.  How did that work out for Jesse?
d.  Kill 50 of Negna's men in return for a few weeks of rations from the Hilltop.
e.  Kill the guy claiming to be Negan before Carol and Maggie can tell him that the guy is lying. Gee, maybe that guy had some valuable intel on the Saviors.  But we'll never know, will we?
f.  Lounge around eating apples while bragging about how easy it will be to kill whoever is left of the group you have violently attacked on three separate occasions.
g.  Let 7 of your best fighters go chase Carol while Negan is preparing to storm your gates.  Tonight we'll find out just how expensive that stupidity was.

2.  Darryl would hurt the show too much.  If he dies it is because the actor got tired of the terrible plot lines and I will wish him well.   Also, the ratings will drop like a rock next season.

3. Carol is the obvious favorite of the writers. She is the best actress in the company and her story line has been compelling.  I think she escaped for a reason last week and I don't expect her to return in time to save anyone tonight.  We'll see her, but it will be next year and I think her story will take a big new turn that we don't see coming.

4.  Glenn.  Well, they are relying on the Comic Books more and more.  He is a fan favorite and his death would shock the audience, even those who expect it to come.  It is the safe choice in some ways but I think he will leave a hole in the show that won't be easily plugged.

One long shot possibility is killing Michonne or Maggie.  The audience cares enough about them but I don't think either character is ready to go.  The cruel thing to do to Maggie would be to kill Glenn and have her miscarry.  That seems to cruel.  Little Herschel ought to be here next year.

Death Probabilities tonight:  Glenn 60%, Darryl 25%, Rick 10%, Carol 3%.  Maggie & Michoone 1% each

Minor Deaths.

I think we'll get at least one B player death tonight.  Abraham would be the obvious choice. (In the comics he died 2 issues before tonight.)  Tara and/or Heath might get killed.  (Apparently the actor who plays Heath is on a different show starting this fall.)   Rosita, Sasha and Aaron would all be losses worth mentioning.

They will probably throw in a 3rd rate player too.  Tobin, Spencer, etc.  Someone that people will say "Oh that guy too, huh?"  Look for this in the 2nd act.

The biggest storytelling challenge is to make Negan the bad guy.  Consider the death toll so far:

Darryl killed 9 guys with the grenade launcher. Rick murdered 25 people in their sleep at the satellite compound.  Carol and Maggie killed 4 more at the slaughterhouse, then lured another 10 to join them in death. And Darryl, Abraham and Rosita killed at least 2 more by the rail road tracks.  That's 50 dead against only poor Doctor Denise.

Negan's going to have to make quite an impression tonight to make us feel bad about whatever it is he does to Rick's group.  Maybe killing Rick is the wrong way to go, thematically.  After all, Rick deserves to die.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Duper Tuesday (What to Expect)

There are 2,473 delegates this year.  The magic number to have a majority is 1,237.  After tonight we will have a much better idea of whether or not Donald Trump can get to that number.  And we will know for sure that no other candidate has a realistic chance of getting a majority.  This is my attempt to lay out the math so you can understand the significance of the results as they roll in.There are six Republican Primarires today.

1.  What we already know.
The Northern Mariana Islands have already spoken, awarding all nine delegates to Donald Trump.  That means the up to the minute Delegate Count is this:  Trump 472, Cruz 371, Rubio 166, Kasich 63, Others 21.  (Most of the "Others" delegates are uncommitted, either because the candidate who won them will not be put in nomination as the convention or because people voted to send uncommitted delegates to Cleveland.)

2.  Safe Estimates.
Most of the attention on today's primaries has been given to Ohio and Florida because they are big states that award all of their delegates to the state-wide winner. There are actually more delegates available in the other three contests, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina. Here's how the delegates are likely to break down there.

A. Illinois 69 Delegates.  Fifty-four of the delegates are award to the winner of each congressional district in the state.  That's 18 separate battles for three delegates apiece.  The state wide winner will get 12 bonus delegates and three are for state party officials.  Trump is heavily favored to win the state and is likely to win about 12 of the districts.  A reasonable assumption would be he gets 48 delegates while Cruz wins 4 downstate districts to get 12 and Kasich or possibly Rubio might win 2 districts in or near Chicago.  That breaks down to Trump 48, Cruz 12 and Kasich 9.

B. Missouri has similar rules to Illinois but fewer congressional districts.  The The statewide winner will get 28 delegates and there will be eight congressional district levels for three delegates each.  This race is very close but I expect that Cruz will win because he has been able to focus his efforts there while Trump fights for Ohio and Florida.  The math there could be something like Cruz 43, Trump 9.

C. North Carolina.  Simplest math of the night.  Every 1.43% of the vote gets you a delegate.  Trump has commanding leads in all the polls but these rules will prevent him from running up the score. If he wins with 45% of the vote to 35% for Cruz and 10% each for Rubio and Kasich, the numbers will look something like Trump 34, Cruz 25, Rubio 7, Kasich 6.

So my combined estimate for the proportional states totals up to this: Trump 91, Cruz 80, Kasich 15, Rubio 7.  That sets the stage for one of three scenarios at the end of the night.

3. The Possible Scenarios After Tonight.

Trump will almost certainly win Florida, but we have to consider that Rubio has a chance of pulling the upset.  Kasich is more likely than not to win Ohio, but it's far from guaranteed. So let's look at where the math will stand in a few hours time, depending on which winner take all states Trump wins.

Trump has 472 delegates.  If he gets 91 from the proportional states, he will have 562. Add Ohio he has 623. Add just Florida but not Ohio and he has 661.  Add moth and he has  722.

Cruz has 362 Delegates. He can't win OH or FL but I estimate he will have 442 at the end of the night.

Rubio has 166 and should win a handful in NC.  If he also wins Florida he will have about 270 delegates and will stay in the fight.  If he lose Florida, he will leave the race with about 172 delegates.

Kasich has 63 delegates. He'll win about a dozen in the small states and needs to win Ohio's 66 to stay in the race.  If he does he'll have around 240 delegates and can be the establishment choice going forward.

If Trump has a big night, winning OH and FL, he will be on pace for well over 1,300 delegates.  He will be the nominee.  Even with a split he will be the heavy favorite.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Republicans Have Two Options

Donald Trump under performed slightly yesterday.  He was expected to win three races but only won two.  He lost Kansas by a two to one margin and Maine by a lot more than I thought possible. My prediction was that Trump would be at 77% in the Prediction markets today and he is only at 64%. Cruz, Kasich and Rubio are all slightly higher, although at least I got the order right.

I think we learned three things  yesterday:

1. Marco Rubio will not be the Republican nominee.  He finished last in Maine and a distant third everywhere else.  He is almost certain to win Puerto Rico's primary today, but that is the last contest he will win this year.  He is done.
2. Ted Cruz will stick around until June but he can't get to 1,237 delegates.  He has done well so far but there are very few states that he can win that have not yet voted. A bigger problem for him is that almost none of the states he's likely to win have Winnter Take All rules.  He could get all 32 of Idaho's delegates if he manages to get over 50% of the vote, and he might win all 27 of Montan's delegates  but he has no chance of winning Ohio, Florida,  or Arizona or New Jersey.
3. Donald Trump will get at least a plurality of the delegates and has a good chance of winning a majority. The media narrative of elections is almost always about "momentum" and who beat expectations. Yesterday Cruz took back the momentum and exceeded expectations. But he didn't win enough delegates to match what would be his target to get a majority. Trump is ahead of that pace and he has his best states to look forward to later in the calendar.

This leaves the Republicans Two Options: they can nominate Trump or they can screw him out of the nomination. I'm not sure which option is worse for them, but neither is good.

Votes and Dlegates Math

Popular Vote Percentage Raw Vote
Trump 34.6%      3,603,656
Cruz 28.8%      3,002,218
Rubio 21.3%      2,221,276
Kasih 6.9%          714,355

Trump is winning the vote by six percent and over 600,000 votes. Through 19 states, Trump has won 12, Cruz has won six contests and Rubio only one. One interesting metric is how often a candidate finished first or second.  Trump has done so 18 times, Cruz 12, Rubio 5 and Kasich only three times.

The Delegate Math also favors Trump.  He currently has 391 delegates, to 248 for Cruz, 176 for Rubio and just 37 for Kasich.  As of this writing 18 delegates from Louisiana have not been allocated and Rubio is likely to win all or most of the 23 delegates from Puerto Rico. 

There are about 35 contests left. I played with the delegate allocations for each and came up with the following final projections:

Trump; 1,250 (51%)
Cruz:      732 (30%)
Kasich   286 (12%)
Rubio    178    (7%)

The biggest variables are the Winner Take All states.  I have Trump winning Florida, Arizona and New Jersey but Kasich winning Ohio. My numbers are predicated on Rubio dropping out after losing Florida and Kasich staying in after winning Ohio.

Cruz had a good day but I don't see the delegate math working out for him getting to 1,237. I think his ceiling is about 900.  He also seems to be determined to knock Rubio out by campaigning hard in Florida. That probably guarantees 99 delegates to Trump.  If Trump manages to win Ohio (he led by five in the most recent poll), then his path to 1,237 seems very likely. 

The outcome of the nomination will probably be determined by California on June 7th. The state wide winner gets 10 delegates for winning the state and then each of California's 53 congressional districts have 3 delegates that are awarded to whoever wins that district and three are reserved for party officials.  If Trump wins the state, he'll probably need wins in 17 or 18 California congressional districts to cross the line to 1,237.  Maybe by then the party will have rallied around Cruz or Kasich or decided to make Trump fight a bunch of two-front wars against one or the other throughout the Golden State.  

My math has Trump winning California and 23 of its congressional races. Cruz wins 22 and Kasich wins 8. My methods are far from exact. But that might not even matter. If Trump wins Ohio and Florida on March 15th, he might not need any of California's delegates. And unless Cruz can carry his "momentum" to the big states of the Northeast, he won't be able to prevent Trump from being nominated on the first ballot.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Super Saturday Expectations

There were a few interesting developments this week on the predictions markets for the Republican nomination.  Donald Trump fell by more than10 points despite having won 7 of the 11 contests on Super Tuesday.  He went from a peak of 83 percent down to a bottom of just below 70 percent before rebounding up to 73% as I write this.

What's most interesting about this is that none of that advantage went to Marco! Rubio.   He won Minnesota on Tuesday but finished third almost everywhere else. (Behind Kasich in New England and Cruz and Trump everywhere else.) The gains went to Ted Cruz, who went from a low of 2% back to nearly double digits, to John Kasich who bounced up from 1% to 5% after looking like the only adult in Thursday night's debate in Detroit. And last but not least both sides of the 2012 ticket, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan entered the market at 1% and have stayed there since.

But now we're back to a voting day. Four states weigh in on Saturday, with a primary in Lousiana and caucuses set for Maine, Kentucky and Kansas.  The delegate math won't move much today. None of these states are winner-take-all and all four candidates can expect to win at least some in one or more states.  The real test today is whether an intense week of anti-Tump effort can anyone slow his momentum.  Here are a few good things to watch for:

1. How many states does Trump win?  He's a heavy favorite in Maine, Louisiana and Kentucky.  Cruz should win Kansas, but Trump was leading in the most recent poll.  If Trump gets four wins today, that's a pretty resounding rejection of the #NeverTrump movement by the base.

2. Can Kasich win Maine?  John Kasich is the only candidate still running without benefit of having won a contest yet.  But he has done well in New England so far, having finished in 2nd place in New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. If Thursday's debate has really created a groundswell for a candidate more mature than the shrieking babies he has shared this stage with, then he just might be competitive in Maine. A victory will help him enormously going forward, especially in Michigan.

3. Can Cruz pull an upset somewhere?  Cruz should win Kansas.  It's a closed caucus and it's right in the alley of the other states he's won (OK and TX to the south, Iowa to the Northeast.) Winning there is expected. But if he pulls off an upset in KY or LA, then he can make an undisputed claim as the most viable alternative to Donald Trump.

4. Will Rubio even get a 2nd place?  Marco Rubio has been abandoned by the establishment and by Fox News in particular.  In between Nevada and Super Tuesday, Marco got on the gutter with Trump and came out of it looking worse for wear.  It's not hart to imagine him finishing 3rd in all four places and he might be 4th in Maine.  That will hurt his images very much and I don't think a likely win in Puerto Rico on Sunday will do him any particular favors going forward in the GOP.

5. How big of a number can Trump put up in Louisiana.  It's the only primary today and it's in the deep south, where Trump has done especially well so far.  If he gets over 40% he starts to look like a presumptive nominee rather than just a front runner. Rubio could also miss the 20% mark here which would mean he gets no delegates from another sizable state.  He can't let happen.


1.  Louisiana: Trump 43%, Cruz 27%, Rubio 19%, Kasich 10%.
2. Kentucky:  Trump 34%, Cruz 30%, Rubio 27%, Kasich 9%
3. Kansas      Cruz 37%, Trump 32%, Rubio 22%, Kaich 9%
4. Maine     Trump 28%, Kasich 27%, Cruz 26%, Rubio 19%

So rough night for Rubio, again.  I think at noon on Sunday the Predictwise market will look like this:

Trump 77%
Cruz 12%
Kasich 5%
Rubio  4%
Ryan 1%
Romney 1%

By the way I think Ryan is the best buy in this market.  He's a much more logical consensus pick at a brokered convention than Romney. If the establishment is out to get Trump, then he's well positioned. But I think their opportunity to do that depends on Trump losing both Ohio and Florida and I don't think that is likely.  After March 15th the GOP will have two choices: nominate Trump or screw him out of the nomination.  I'm really not sure which is worse for them in the long term.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What to Watch For

So tonight is probably the night that Trump goes from front-runner to all but certain nominee. I do not think it will be possible for another candidate to get a delegate majority but after today, even if Trump romps, it will still be possible to deny him an outright majority of delegates.

He is heavily favored to win 10 of the 12 GOP contests being held today and he also leads in Minnesota by a closer margin. Ted Cruz is likely to win Texas but probably won't do well in other places.

Here are the most important things to watch for tonight.

1. Can Rubio salvage a win?  There are at least two states where he has a more than theoretical chance of winning-Minnesota and Virginia. If he wins both we can expect an avalanche of endorsements running towards him the rest of this week. If he gets a split, he at least avoids the talking point that he can't win anywhere.  If he loses everywhere than he is probably doomed.

2. Can Rubio get 20% in Texas?  Texas' delegates are awarded proportionally unless the winner exceeds 50% of the vote. I don't think Cruz will get to that number. In order get a share of the delegates a candidate must receive at least 20% of the vote. If Rubio doesn't hit that number, than Trump and Cruz will split all 155 of those delegates. That's 31 delegates that Rubio could lose by a very close margin. He can not let that happen.

3. Can Rubio keep it close in Georgia?  Trump broke out the heavy guns in Georgia yesterday: Bill France the head of NASCAR.  Most recent polls have Trump with a big lead but with Rubio pulling head of Cruz in second place.  If he has a prayer of being the nominee, this is a state where he will close well.

4. Can Bernie win anywhere other than Vermont?  Minnesota, Colorado, Oklahoma and Massachusetts should all be competitive for the Democrats tonight. Hillary will roll to big victories everywhere else.

5. Will Kasich show any signs of live?  He should compete in Vermont and Massachusetts. I don't think he will win either but his path to the nomination involves denying Trump a majority, winning some big northern states and then hoping to be the consensus grown up choice at the convention.

6. Can Trump get to 50.1% in Alabama? If so he wins all 50 delegates there. That's when the math really starts to look bad for the Field.

Official Predictions for Super Tuesday.

GOP: Trump wins everywhere except TX (Cruz) and MN (Rubio)

Texas: Cruz 41% Trump 29% Rubio 21%  Carson 5% Kasich 4%
Minnesota: Rubio 41%, Trump 39%, Cruz 14%, Kasich 6%
Georgia: Trump 49%, Rubio 27%, Cruz 18%, Carson 6%
Alabama: Trump 52%, Cruz 23%, Rubio 19%, Carson 5%

DEM: Clinton wins everywhere except VT, OK & CO
Vermont: Sanders 84%, Clinton 15%
Oklahoma: Sanders 52%, Clinton 48%
Colorado:  Sanders 51%, Clinton 48%
Minnesota: Clinton 53%, Sanders 47%
Massachusetts: Clinton 54%, Sanders 46%

Sunday, February 28, 2016

It's All Fun and Games Until a Fascist Wins

A Lot of Democrat Blue and Orangutan Orange

I am guilty of two political sins this election season.  First, I underestimated Trump's chance of being the nominee.  Once the field of candidates was more or less set, Nate Silver said that the GOP field was four roughly equal quadrants: one each for Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker and the fourth for everybody else.  I was even more heavily slanted toward the conventional candidates. I only left about 10% chance for anyone other than Bush, Rubio or Walker. I didn't make Trump the favorite until after New Hampshire.

Donald Trump has swallowed more than 3/4 of the field's chances, with only Rubio still sanding among the conventional candidates. The exact numbers at the moment are 80% for Trump, 16% for Rubio, 2% each for John Kasich and Ted Cruz.  (Here I will pause for one brief moment of celebration: we have almost certainly been spared the specter of Ted Cruz becoming President of the United States.)

I am about not enthused for a Hillary Clinton presidency.  I happen to prefer her over Bernie Sanders in about the same proportion that I prefer beige to taupe. I'm not going to go out and flip a police car over to prove it. But there is one thing I can get enthused about, and that is preventing a fascist president.  And that, it seems, will be our national task for the next eight months.

Schadenfreude Turns to Anxiety.
I am not alone in underestimating Trump's chance of being the nominee. That sin is easily forgiven. What I''m more troubled by is that I have enjoyed the process too much.  I think that Donald Trump is the natural product of a right-wing media that for seven years peddled and incessant flow of lies about Barack Obama, undocumented workers and a slew of nontroversies best embodied by their shameful exploitation of the attacks on the outpost Benghazi. Trump also used some brilliant jujitsu to point out that Citizens United corrupted our political system. Moreover, he promised to strengthen popular and necessary pieces of the social safety net, especially Social Security and Medicare.

It was fun to watch someone trounce  the hollow patriotism and phony "conservative values" of Walker, Bush, Rubio, Chrsistie and Cruz. Those sentiments were always a phony shell game and it was nice to have an actual WWE Hall of Famer tear down that facade.  I was also glad that Trump brought a streak of populism to the Republican race. At the last debate Cruz and Rubio were still attacking him for supporting an individual mandate. He defended his position as not wanting people to die in the streets and they called that socialism. That mentality has been dominant in politics because of the false narrative that this is a "conservative" country that hates government and loves the free market even to the detriment of our own well being. No we are not. We are a rich country that is skeptical of political philosophies. We like winners and we like the little guy. The trick is to win by convincing the little guy that you're on his side.

 But the time for enjoying the train wreck that has been the 2016 GOP nomination has to be cleared off the tracks even before the bodies get cold. In 72 hours, Donald Trump is going to have the silly half of this process sewn up. As the calendar turns to the general election, we can't mix words: Donald Trump is not merely a demagogue. He is a  fascist.

Fascism is a big charge. I do not lob it around lightly. I rest this assertion on his below statements, all of which have been well documented. I provide links to each one because I recognize the gravity of my accusation.

- Characterizing immigrants from Mexico as "rapists". Source.
-  Promising to bring back "waterboarding and worse" of terrorists because "they deserve it".
- Promising to murder the relatives of suspected terrorists.  Source.
- Declaring that he will ban all Muslims from entering the country.  Source.

This isn't just nuts.  It's a call to fascism. And we have to do whatever it takes to prevent him from winning the White House.

But Can it Happen?

Let's put it this way: all of the reasons why it can't happen are the same reasons we all thought he couldn't be the nominee. In the past two weeks, as a Trump nomination became more and more likely, the predictions market for who will win the general election barely budge.  Now that Trump is about to be the presumptive nominee, we need to look at a few specific things that will determine the shape of the general election.

A. His opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Bernie can not be the Democratic nominee without substantial report from black voters. Yesterday's result in South Carolina shows that he has not made that sale. His campaign schedule this week proves that he is not trying to anymore. He might win heavily white states like Minnesota, Vermont, West Virginia and Oklahoma. He will keep winning delegates throughout the spring. But he will not be the nominee.

This leaves Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump has obvious lines of attack against her. First he will claim that she is in the pocket of all the Wall Street banks that have given her so much money over recent years. Hillary foolishly avoided releasing the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. She will not have that luxury in the fall because Trump will call her a fraud.  She needs to release them early and get it over with. More importantly Trump will attack her on free-trade, immigration and the Muslim world.  Hillary can and should win all of those arguments on the substance but Donald is very capable of winning on style by just flat-out insulting her.

Hillary is also perceived as too ambitious and insufficiently honest. Those are traits that can kill a politician, especially against an opponent who can claim with a straight face to be making a personal sacrifice by running and when the public often confuses the lack of a filter for truthfulness.

I have written repeatedly that I think the predictions markets underestimate the Democrats' chances of winning the next election.  In the past 2 weeks the probability of a Trump-Clinton match-up nearly doubled from 41% to 78%. And the prediction markets have barely budged.  The Democrats were a 61% chance of winning then and they are a 63% favorite now.  That's right, the prospects of a Trump nomination have reaped all of a 2% jump for the Democrats.

This means that the betting public thinks Trump can beat Hillary. One scenario is equally horrible and plausible. We know that Hillary is a lousy presidential candidate. If she wasn't the Democratic race would be Bernie taking on Vice-President Obama.  And we know that Donald is a good candidate, because he's already gobbled up a deep field of Republicans that were more likely to win than him.

So we will get into September and October with the race too close to call. What if, in the middle of October two young men with Arab last names decide to shoot up a movie theater. Or a high school cafeteria. Or the parking lot of a major college football stadium right after a game. Does anyone doubt that people will bend towards the candidate promising to do something rash in response?

B.  His Party and its Appratchicks.

This is a fun mental concept. Can you imagine Bernie Sanders giving a full-throated endorsement of Hillary at the Democratic convention?  It's easy.  But what about Rubio or Cruz or Kasich endorsing Trump?  It's a little trickier, isn't it?

Sometime in March the GOP race will effectively be over. Kasich and Rubio have already said they will drop out if they do not win the race in their home states on March 15th, they will drop out. Cruz is likely to win his home state of Texas on March 1st, but it's hard to imagine him winning anywhere else.  So as the candidates drop out, what will they do?  I can't imagine Lindsay Graham endorsing Trump. Jeb Bush is hard to imagine also. But Rubio and Cruz have a future to worry about and they will be left with a choice-be loyal to the party and hope to win in four years or repudiate him and hope to say "I told you so" next time around.

Then there is the pundit class.  Does George Will hate Hillary Clinton enough to debase himself by banging the drum for Donald Trump? What about Charles Krauthamer? I don't think these guys have much influence over rank and file voters but they too will have to choose between a unified front and their need to oppose fascism.

C.  Third Party Candidates?
I think if Trump has the nomination sewn up by April 1st, someone will emerge to run as a third party candidate from the right.  This person will not win, but they can give intelligent Republicans an excuse to not vote for Hillary Clinton. But if the election is close, I don't think that candidate will get more than a blip on election night.  If however Hillary runs up a good lead, and current events don't jolt the race dramatically, this candidate might attract enough voters to throw all of the swing states to the Democrats and also some not-so contested states, like Missouri, Indiana and even Montana. Even Texas might be contested by Hillary. And the GOP could lose in the Electoral College by a 2 to 1 margin.

Then the Republicans will lick their wounds and try to get used to having lost the popular vote in six out of seven general elections. A few months later, the 2020 field will begin to ooze into a loose, murky condition. And the conventional wisdom will be that they screwed up by not nominating a true conservative.