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Your VP Derby Hot Sheet

And they're entering the final stretch . . .
July 29, 2020
Your VP Derby Hot Sheet
(Hannah Yoest / Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)

1. VP Horserace

I wish I could tell you what to think about yesterday’s Politico “leak” saying that Kamala Harris was Biden’s VP.

This immediately reminded me of the first season of Survivor, when CBS left a backdoor open on the network’s website that lead to a page suggesting that Gervase Peterson was the ultimate winner. A hacker stumbled onto the page midway through the season and America was convinced that CBS had spoiled its own ending. But it turned out to have been a deliberate plant of disinformation.

But that’s crazy. Obviously not what happened in this case. (Right?)

So either this was an honest CMS slip-up with a pre-written story (in the way that publications often pre-write obituaries). Or it’s the real-deal.

I lean toward toward CMS slip-up.

As for the idea of Kamala as a pick, I don’t know what I think of it from a purely electoral matter. Had we not seen her stumble through the campaign, I’d say she was a slam dunk. But Harris didn’t just run a bad campaign. She got noticeably worse as the campaign went on.

That sets off all sorts of alarm bells for me.

Anyway, after the Politico thing I reached out to a big time campaign guru I know and asked him to handicap the horserace. He took me literally and put together a hot sheet with odds. I asked him if I could publish it and he said yes, so long as I kept him blind. So here are the odds according to my guy, who I’ll just call Mr. X:

Disclaimer: The following are total guess based on silly CW noise and uninformed speculation. My one prediction: It will not, in the end, be Harris.

For entertainment purposes only.


Sacramento Harris: Odds 2-to-1
Fierce, crowd favorite. But jockeys privately say shaky in the stretch. Crowd money on her, not smart money.

Bashful Bass: 4-to-1 and moving up
Gaining speed. Steady performer, no surprises. No flash, but delivers. Has never played big time Churchill Downs though, doesn’t know the track. Mixed reviews from Florida bettors after happy run on Cuba circuit.

Plucky Ducky Duckworth: 4-to-1 and moving up
Very respected war horse. Crowd favorite. Tough and savvy.

Wild Warren: 5-to-1
Fast, savvy, and track wise. Hard to handle. Bit Corporate Raider at Belmont, and seen as slightly dangerous. But has many fans in racing.

Rippin’ Rice: 5-to-1
Brainy thoroughbred. But from Benghazi stables, which haven’t produced too many winners in past.

Whipper Whitmer: 7-to-1 and fading
Fast starter, but weaker in the stretch. Big future. May need more track time. But could surprise.

“Governor” Luhan-Grisham: 7-to-1 and fading
Good runner. Never trips. From small stable, not known. But a performer. Solid longshot.

Giddyup and Go Gina: 8-to-1 but creeping up
Great performer. Fast. But from Bloomberg stables. Big Union money betting short on her.

10-to-1 longshots: Super Stacey; Big Chief Val; “First” Lady

I agree with Mr. X on Harris.

I understand the idea of Kamala Harris. Biden is looking for someone who can check three boxes:

  1. Governing partner
  2. Electoral helpmate
  3. Potential successor and future of the party

You could plausibly argue that Harris checks all three of them as well as anyone else. You could also plausibly argue that while she fits (3), she’s much more suspect on items (1) and (2).

In this case, I think that Harris represents something of a trap, because she seems like the safe choice—her whole appeal is that she’s the safe choice. But she actually carries a bunch under-appreciated risks.

2. Portrait of the American Voter

I very much like Tim Alberta’s work in general, but confess that I do not like the man-on-the-street genre, of which his new piece is a masterclass.

Alberta has gone to Scranton and walked around in the heat talking to the Great and Good American people to see what they think about the 2020 election.

It is deeply, deeply depressing.

Not because of which way the people he talked to are going to vote—he talked to both Biden and Trump supporters—but because of everyone’s general idiocy and incoherence.

For example:

The Shermans’ neighbor from across the street, 51-year-old MELISSA KREINBERG, leaned against their white spindled railing at the far end of the porch, opposite Dave. Her son, 16-year-old JERRY SANDY, stood nearby checking his smartphone, while her mother, 80-year-old BOBBIE SANDY, sat on a small patio chair next to Ann Sherman. The Kreinberg home was under construction—a team of Spanish-speaking laborers clung to the rooftop, installing new, beige-colored shingles—and the five-person audience marveled at the danger of the work and the speed with which the contractors were completing it.

“Maybe they don’t know about the $600 per week they could be getting at home,” Kreinberg said, referring to the emergency unemployment being offered due to the pandemic. “That’s why nobody else is going back to work. They’re making more by doing nothing.”

“Bunch of bullshit,” said Dave, who retired after more than three decades as a truck driver. “Enough of the handouts. It’s not going to do anyone any good in the long term.” . . .

Ah yes. What a keen view of the subtle interactions between the labor market and monetary policy during a once-a-century plague. Then they turn their eye towards the third-party ranks:

Kreinberg, perhaps trying to change the subject to lessen the tension, chimed in: “What about the Independent Party? What about the one guy—what’s his name, the rapper. Canyon West?”

(Her teenage son, Jerry, politely corrected the mispronounced name, and informed his mother that Kanye West was too late to qualify for the ballot in most states. Despite his age, not yet old enough to vote, Jerry seemed to be the most informed participant in the conversation.)

When the 16-year-old kid is the best-informed person in the political discussion, you’ve got problems.

But at least Melissa’s and Dave’s worldviews—however stupid—are coherent.

The single most depressing story in Alberta’s piece is the philosophizing of one Bill McHale:

Neither of the McHale brothers voted in 2016. They are fed up with politics and politicians. Bill, a registered Democrat, “wasn’t a fan of Hillary,” and Bob, a conservative-leaning independent, “couldn’t stomach” supporting Trump. Four years later, their positions haven’t changed much.“I’m not real happy with my party these days,” said Bill, a custodian with the Scranton Public Schools. “They’re too far to the left for me at this point. The older I get, the more to the right I find myself.” He stops suddenly. “Trust me, I’m no Trumper. I think the Republicans are insane. But I don’t like the guy Democrats are putting up, either.”

Why not? “I could have voted for Buttigieg; I liked him. Maybe even Bernie.”

Read that again: Bill is a “registered Democrat” who is worried that the Democrats are “too far to the left” which is why he does not support Joe Biden, but would have supported Pete Buttigieg or possibly Bernie Sanders.

The most obvious explanation for American political life since 1992 is that we have become an unserious country populated by an unserious people. In that view, Donald Trump is not the cause of calamity, but simply one of the inevitable downstream effects.

3. Dodgers

The Dodgers finally faced off against the Astros and the LA Times was there with the kind of epic column you can only get from a local sports page:

Thank you, Joe Kelly.

Thank you for banging hard on the trash can that is the Houston Astros.

Thank you for making sure the Dodgers didn’t get cheated again.

Bless you, Joe Kelly, for a fearless, vengeful, and amazingly scoreless inning that will live forever in Dodgers lore.

In their first game at Houston’s Minute Maid Park since they were robbed of the 2017 World Series championship here, the Dodgers let long-bottled emotions finally explode through Kelly’s wild right hand, his sharp tongue and his mocking expressions.

He not only stood up for a wronged clubhouse, he spoke for an aggrieved Dodger Nation, and it was a sight to see. The Dodgers spent the first five innings carefully controlling their rage as their fans surely watched in frustration, then Kelly stepped on the mound in the sixth and let it all out.

The Dodgers won the game, 5-2, but Kelly owned the night.

He knocked a batter down, rattled another batter into a staring match, used pickoff throws to continually pound a baserunner into the ground, glared at another baserunner, and eventually walked off the field screaming at the Astros while scrunching his face into that of a crying, pouting baby.

The benches emptied, and the Dodgers fans’ newfound respect for the previously maligned Kelly will be overflowing.

On social media some suggested he be given a Mookie Betts-type contract. Others suggested they build him a statue. Don’t laugh. He was that big.

Read the whole thing.

If you want to watch a short video of highlights from the inning, it’s

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. The Dodgers’ play-by-play on it is classic.

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is editor of The Bulwark.