Monthly Archives: October 2020

Chuck E. Trump


BLOGGER’S NOTE: If length were not an issue, today’s post would have been, “Everything I Needed to Know about Women Voters in 2020, I Learned from Chuck E. Cheese.”

Wednesday’s  ABC/Washington Post poll results in Michigan and Wisconsin affirm what may be the defining difference between this year’s election and 2016, a gender gap of historical proportions.  In Michigan, Biden’s lead among women is 24 percentage points.  In Wisconsin, 30 percentage points.  And the pundits have had a heyday analyzing this defection by females, the latest being the threat to reproductive rights following the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Chuck E. Cheese might be trying to hide who they are, but Orlando still  owes a lot to this mouse | BlogsBut, as is so often the case, current events are echoes of past experience if only we pay attention.  In this case, the ultimate clue that foreshadowed the propensity of women to reject Donald Trump in 2020, lies outside the political area.  Instead it is embedded in a 1998 business case involving the licensing of the Chuck E. Cheese  (CEC) brand by American Sales and Marketing (ASM) for the purpose of creating a line of retail food products to be sold in grocery stores, much like those offered by Boston Market and P. F. Chang.

Before executing the license agreement, ASM did its due diligence, contracting with a market research firm to provide concept guidance related to the children’s food market and the Chuck E. Cheese brand name.  John Fox Consulting conducted 200 mall intercept interviews in Baltimore, Jacksonville, Chicago and Los Angeles in mid-January, 1998.  The targeted interview subjects were females with at least one child age 3-12 who had purchased a frozen entrée, snack or pizza in the past month.  Based on these interviews, Fox Consulting recommended ASM develop a line of CEC frozen food products.  Specific items were selected through taste-tests in mid-March, 1998.  Based on this analysis and projected revenues and costs, ASM executed the license and introduced the initial products in early 1999 via a subsidiary of ASM called CCF Brands (CCF being shorthand for Chuck E. Cheese Foods).

At the end of two years, annual sales reached $8.8 million, significantly less than the  $33 million projected in the 1999 business plan.  The problem lay not in the product itself or the initial marketing.  The number of first time buyers exceeded expectations with favorable reviews related to quality and value.  The problem was a dramatic fall-off of repeat customers.  ASM conducted additional research to isolate the issue.

It was the findings from that analysis which also explain the migration of female voters from the Trump column.  The fatal flaw in the original research was failing to understand the attitudes toward Chuck E. Cheese between a three year old and a twelve year old are quite different.  In households where there were children with a gap in age, the introduction of CCF products produced chaos.  While the younger child was an eager consumer, the older sibling wanted something more age appropriate.  In one case, a mother reported the older child chided his younger brother repeatedly chanting, “Chuck E. Cheese is for babies.”  Before I am accused of perpetuating the dated stereotype of housewives Trump has voiced in the last days of this campaign, most of the females who initially bought the product were working mothers who saw the frozen foods as a convenience, an easily prepared meal or snack.  Instead, the sibling conflict produced the exact opposite effect adding to the mother’s roles as arbiter and disciplinarian.

All you have to do is substitute the name Donald Trump for CCF Brands and you could have seen the gender gap coming.  In 2005, I conducted an interview with ASM president Kevin Connor in which he identified three mistakes which sealed the fate of this venture.

  1. Conducting mall intercepts, especially pulling aside a woman with one child, did not replicate the conditions in a typical household with multiple offspring.  In concept it made sense.  Injecting the products into real world environments created previously unforeseen problems.
  2. The marketing campaign promoted “bringing the fun of a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant into your home.”  Instead, it resulted in anything but fun.
  3. Having a CCF Brand product in the freezer would make live easier.  In reality, parents either had to prepare two different meals or spend time de-escalating sibling conflict.

So, in 2016, all of the excitement and enthusiasm at a Trump rally felt good.  America First in concept was a relatively easy sell in arenas and on TV.  But once tested in homes and the marketplace, the sheen quickly wore off.  Trump claimed “we would get tired of all the winning,” but many of us are still waiting.  And has the Trump era made life easier for most women?  Ask any mother who cannot go back to work because her children are still at home taking remote classes.  Or the women worried about aging parents, afraid they might be the next COVID casualties.  Even before COVID, women understood they had to be peacemakers at family gatherings or social events where any moment there could be outbursts between Trump supporters and resisters. Walking on eggshells is itself exhausting.

For many women, life before Trump was turbulent enough.  Many of the causes were beyond their control.  Such is not the case with Trump.  That is why women will make the difference in 2020.  And hopefully, the next time Americans are faced with a similar choice, instead of looking to Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity for guidance, they first seek out an animatronic rodent named Chuck E. Cheese.

For what it’s worth.




WARNING:  Right brained readers of this blog may want to skip today’s post as it is the perfect example of what happens at the end of an election cycle if you have three too many degrees in political science.  And had the good fortune of studying under two of the most noted behavioral social scientists in America.

Last night I had a dream only a political scientist who has studied voter behavior since 1968 could have.  I was back at the University of Virginia, except it was not 1968 when I penned my first electoral analysis in a term paper titled, “George Wallace Is Alive and Living in Boston.”  It was November of 2020.  In the dream my professor John Ellwood asks his students, “After 2016, is there anyone in this class stupid enough to think he or she can predict who will carry Florida this year?  If so, now is the time to make your case.”  I timidly raised my hand to which Dr. Elwood replies, “Why am I not surprised?”  Below is the analysis I would have shared with him. (NOTE:  Dr. Ellwood, who earned his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, wrote the recommendation that was the sole reason I was accepted to his alma mater despite a less than exemplary undergraduate academic performance at UVA.)

One of the advantages of the graduate program at Johns Hopkins University was the opportunity to take classes outside one’s own department.  At the time, the political science department at JHU was among the best in political theory, but short on faculty with experience in empirical research.  To make up for that deficiency, I took a class in game theory with James Coleman, best known for his study of the learning gap resulting from years of “separate but equal” policies in public education, and created an independent study with psychology professor Warren Torgerson whose research focused on typing abnormal behavior (a skill I found most helpful for my dissertation on voting blocs in the U.S. Senate).

The major lesson I learned from both of these academic icons was no different than most situations in life.  Filter out the noise and look for the signals.  And noise has certainly been the order of the day this election cycle.  Equally important, the numbers are only as good as the assumptions used for any predictive model.  So let me start there.  The model I created for predicting the Florida outcome on November 3rd depends on the following assumptions.

  • When Democrats vote, Democrats win.
  • Partisan defections affect the magnitude of the outcome, but do not determine the winner.
  • Shifts in behavior by voters with no party affiliation (NPA), i.e. independents, can make the difference.

You may be surprised there is nothing related to demographics, either seniors or college educated suburban women, the focus of much media punditry.   Nor does it depend on early versus election day balloting.

Ready?  Put on your green visors.  Here come the numbers.  First, to test the validity of the model, I applied it to the actual 2016 results, initially relying on the second and third assumptions.

2016 Election

In 2016, 4.9 million registered Democratic voters in Florida cast a ballot of which 90 percent voted for Hillary Clinton and eight percent for Donald Trump.  On the GOP side of the equation, 4.5 million registered Republicans cast ballots with almost identical results–89 percent for Trump, eight percent for Clinton.  The 3.5 million independent voters broke for Trump by a 47-43 percent margin.  Despite the independent vote advantage, the model predicted Clinton should still have carried Florida by 177,230 votes.  Why?  Although independents made up 26.8  percent of all registered voters, they accounted for only 20.7 percent of all votes for president.

Either the model was flawed or another factor determined the outcome.  That is where partisan turn out becomes critical.   Just under 75 percent of all registered Florida voters cast a ballot in 2016.   When party affiliation is taken into account, Democrats made up 37.9 percent of all registered voters and 38.1 percent of 2016 Clinton ballots.  In contrast, Republicans outperformed.  Although only 35.3 of all registered voters, GOP ballots constituted 38.7 percent of actual voters.  With this additional factor, the model predicted Trump would win Florida by 90,000 votes, just 24,000 votes different from the actual margin of victory of 114,000 votes.

2020 Election

Which brings us to 2020 and the question, “What, if anything, has changed in the last four years?”  First, there has been an increase in voter registration by Democrats, Republicans and Independents.  The advantage, as his been widely reported, goes to the GOP with an addition of 427,000 registered voters.  Democrats added 299,000 registrations, while NPA/Independent registrations increased by 175,000.

But that is the only good news for the GOP.   According to a consensus of polling data, registered Florida Democrats will vote for Joe Biden by a margin of 96-2 percent, a six point increase from 2016.  However, Republicans remain slightly less united behind Trump with an anticipated margin of 91-7 percent.

The bigger news is Florida independents are now predicted to break for Biden by a 49-41 percent margin compared to the 47-43 Trump advantage in 2016 (Source:  October 7, 2020 Quinnapiac survey of Florida voters).  Without factoring in Democratic turnout, the model predicts a Biden win by 565,600 votes or 4.08 percent, slightly better than the FiveThirtyEight average of 2.4 percent Biden lead.

Therefore, it will again depend on Democratic voter turn out.  As of this morning, 51.6 percent of registered Democrats have already voted compared to 47.5 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of independents.  If the model is valid, Biden already has a 649,700 vote lead a week before election day.  Without a Trump in-person turnout of biblical proportions on election day, this margin will be hard to overcome, especially if Biden supporters also continue to vote in record numbers.

Just to make sure I do not make the same mistake twice, I went back to all my political posts in October and November of 2016.  It was a relief!  Fortunately, I never predicted a Clinton victory despite referencing polling data which suggested she would win.  In fact, I found that I have been pretty consistent.  Consider the following excerpt from the October 12, 2016 post titled, ” Why Trump Has Gone  Nuclear?”  It just as easily could have been written this morning.

As this election cycle comes to an end, and barring a major reversal of fortunes, Donald Trump will not be the next president of the United States.  Rather than exit with some modicum of dignity, he has elected to up the ante, trashing anyone and everyone who has abandoned his “crusade.”  Pundits attribute this to energizing his base of die-hard supporters.  However, is it more likely he views his constituents as potential consumers rather than voters?

Will Trump pull another inside straight?  He is betting the American voter is insane, and as Albert Einstein suggested, is doing the same thing over and over assuming the outcome is going to be the same.  I have more faith in the people of Florida and am putting my money on George W. Bush, who infamously tried his best to remind us, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

Hopefully, on November 4th, 5th or 6th, I will not have to change my alias from Dr. ESP to NostraDumbAss.

For what it’s worth.


Donald Chamberlain


I look at it, I view it as, in a sense, a wartime president.

~Donald J. Trump/March18, 2020

Hearing those words, almost two months after he had been warned by his national security team COVID-19 would be the single biggest challenge of his presidency, one would think Donald Trump had signaled he now understood the threat and was willing to take it on.  Media heralded the about face and Trump’s approval ratings rose to the highest level since he took office.

Neville Chamberlain | Biography & Facts | BritannicaBut there is a difference between being in office when an enemy is waging war all around you and actually engaging in the fight.  Even then Trump claimed the battlefield was limited to just a few hot spots, and the rest of the country need not worry.  Where had we heard this before?  Maybe a September 27, 1938 broadcast to the British people by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in reference to the German invasion of Czechoslovakia.

How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing. It seems still more impossible that a quarrel which has already been settled in principle should be the subject of war.

However much we may sympathize with a small nation confronted by a big and powerful neighbour, we cannot in all circumstances undertake to involve the whole British Empire in war simply on her account. If we have to fight it must be on larger issues than that.

To hear echoes of Chamberlain’s appeasement of the Fourth Reich, all you have to do is substitute “washing your hands” for “digging trenches.”  “N95 masks” for “gas-masks.”  Convince mid-westerners that New York, California and Washington state are the equivalent of a “far away country.” There was no reason to believe something “already settled in principle” would not “miraculously disappear.”  And finally, why would one ever consider a national response to a “big and powerful” health crisis confined to a few blue states?

How could two men, one with the benefit of “four score and two years” history and enlightenment following World War II, be so alike?  Perhaps, Chamberlain provides the answer in his June 1, 1937 remarks at Caxton Hall upon his election as leader of the Conservative Party.

I myself was not born a little Conservative. I was brought up as a Liberal, and afterwards as a Liberal Unionist. The fact that I am here, accepted by you Conservatives as your Leader, is to my mind a demonstration of the catholicity of the Conservative Party, of that readiness to cover the widest possible field which has made it this great force in the country and has justified the saying of Disraeli that the Conservative Party was nothing if it was not a National Party.

And to what extent was Trump’s non-answer about his response to the pandemic when George Stephanopoulos asked him during a September 15, 2020 town hall, “So you regret nothing?” straight out of the Chamberlain playbook.  In the same broadcast, the Prime Minister assures the audience:

You know already that I have done all that one man can do to compose this quarrel. After my visits to Germany I have realized vividly how Herr Hitler feels that he must champion other Germans, and his indignation that grievances have not been met before this. He told me privately, and last night he repeated publicly, that after this Sudeten German question is settled, that is the end of Germany’s territorial claims in Europe.

In that same ABC broadcast Trump took the opportunity to tell the viewers he was more akin to Winston Churchill than Chamberlain.  In Trump’s version of Bullfinch’s Mythology (in which “finch,” in this case, is now a euphemism for excrement), he claims his decision not to disclose the nature of the pandemic mirrored Churchill during the Battle of Britain.

When Churchill was on the top of a building, and he said everything’s going to be good, everything’s going to be – be calm.

What Churchill actually said in a speech to the House of Commons on January 22, 1941.

Far be it from me to paint a rosy picture of the future. Indeed, I do not think we should be justified in using any but the most sombre tones and colours while our people, our Empire and indeed the whole English-speaking world are passing through a dark and deadly valley. But I should be failing in my duty if, on the other wise, I were not to convey the true impression, that a great nation is getting into its war stride.

And four and a half years later, after a well-planned, concerted and coordinated effort by the allied forces, Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany miraculously disappeared.

For what it’s worth.


John in the Box


Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s three liberal members to leave intact a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision extending by three days the time for receipt of absentee ballots and allowing those with illegible postmarks to be counted if received by the deadline.

~Jess Bravin & Brent Kendall/Wall Street Journal

There being only eight justices following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a 4-4 decision requires the Supreme Court leave any lower court decision under appeal intact.  As is usually the case in such circumstance, neither side issues an opinion explaining the basis for their individual votes. right on cue, Republicans attacked the Chief Justice for siding with the three justices appointed by Democratic presidents.  If you had any doubt why Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell want nominee Amy Coney Barrett confirmed before the election, the answer is now obvious.  If already seated, this third Trump appointee would most likely have provided the pivotal vote to reverse the lower court decision potentially depriving tens of thousands of voters a voice in the presidential election.  And in the event of a close Biden victory in the Keystone State, I have no doubt Judge Barrett might still get her opportunity to weigh in on the issue.

How do you then explain Roberts’ joining with the three remaining Democratic appointees to create the deadlock?  The answer may lie in the less publicized news on Monday when the Court announced it would hear two cases involving challenges to the Trump administration’s efforts to curb immigration at the southern border.  The first challenge involves redirection without Congressional approval of $2.5 billion for defense projects  to build Trump’s border wall.  The second relates to the so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy, by which Spanish-speaking migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. must stay in Mexico while their requests are processed.  In both cases, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, i.e. against the Trump administration.

If I had to guess Roberts’ motivation, it is a combination of two things.  First, it is an admission he believes Joe Biden will become president on January 20th.  Second, regardless of his ideology, Roberts knows his legacy depends on his ability to eschew being viewed as a hypocritical partisan.  Therefore, in the waning hours of a Trump administration, it is in the interest of a right-leaning court to to tamp down efforts by Trump to expand executive authority.  Then, if the court is asked to consider any similar efforts by the Biden administration, Roberts can reference these pending cases as evidence of consistent rationale.

For example, suppose Biden declares a national emergency in response to future spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.  And one element of the declaration involves the re-appropriation of farm subsidies to fund urban food banks.  Who could argue with the Chief Justice this is no different from shifting dollars to build a wall.  It would be similar violation of Congress’ power of the purse authority in Article I of the Constitution?  Or in a post-Roe v. Wade world, policies affecting reproductive rights will revert to the states.  Roberts can point to his vote on the Pennsylvania voting deadline to proclaim, “As I have consistently done from this bench, render unto states what belongs to the states under the 10th Amendment.”

From a Constitutional perspective, that might not be a bad thing.  Americans would be well-served if both the judicial and legislative branches started to push back against the presidential power grab which has been the norm for too long when it comes to separation of powers as well as federal checks and balances.  The only remaining question would then be, “Can Chief Justice Roberts get the remaining five conservative judges to adopt a similar stance?  Or are we more likely to see them hypocritically hide behind the mantle of “originalism” to carry out their own activist agenda?”

I am still waiting for Justices Roberts, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito to show me the Constitutional language which justified their finding in Citizens United that money equals speech.

For what it’s worth.


Random Thoughts 16 Days Out


As I start this post, the Deprogramming101 countdown clock is at 16 days, 15 hours, 7 minutes and 47 seconds until election day.  But who’s counting.  EVERYONE!  And, if you are obsessed with what is at stake on the ballot November 3rd, your head explodes with every new headline and poll, each worthy of a deeper examination.  However, this morning I thought I would share some random thoughts, some sane, some less so.

The Ginsberg Effect

Democrats hoped Ruth Bader Ginsberg had enough life left in her to survive until January 3, 2021, the date on which they expected a majority of Democratic senators to be seated in the “world’s most deliberative body,” a moniker which hardly seems still appropriate.  But Ginsberg is not the only person who was in the race against time.

This week I learned a revered member of our community and a Biden supporter had passed away after a long illness.  I am embarrassed to admit my first reaction, “Did she get a chance to vote before she left us?”  Then I learned she died five weeks ago, before mail-in ballots were distributed.  I am sure Marco Rubio, the People of Praise and Father Edward Meeks will chalk this up to divine intervention.  And they wonder why 26 percent of Americans do not believe in God.

Biden’s Cuban-American Problem

The Trump campaign believes Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County will once again deliver Florida’s 29 electoral votes for the Republican candidate as they did in 2016.  To make that happen, they have targeted this voting bloc with television and social media advertising reminding this faction they left Cuba to get away from socialism.  So, why would they vote for Joe Biden, who, with help from Bernie Sanders and AOC, will make America just like Cuba.  Unfortunately, the tactic seems to be working, especially among older Cuban-American voters.

Yet, that is not Joe Biden’s problem.  The more salient issue is the inability of his campaign or the DNC to reframe the issue.  This is not rocket science.  These people did not leave Cuba because of socialism.  If Cubans were wealthy and lived freely in an open society they would still be there.  They left because Fidel Castro was corrupt, jailed his political opponents and put ideology above the welfare of the people.  Where are the Biden ads which remind Cuban-American voters:

Since the Mariel Boatlift, which brought many of you or your ancestors to America, you have enjoyed the rewards of living in a democracy.  During the intervening 40 years, the United States has been governed by Democrats and Republicans, but they all had one thing in common.  They believed in the rule of law, the right for opponents of the government to have a voice and the nation’s leaders should be chosen by ALL the people.

For the first time since many of you arrived on American soil, that legacy is in danger.  Donald Trump wants you to believe he can only lose if the election is rigged.  He wants Attorney General Bill Barr to jail his political opponents.  He does not distinguish between the government and his personal business interests.  He prefers catering to Russia more than supporting the spread of democracy globally.  Sound familiar?  Isn’t that the real reason you came to America, to get away from autocrats?

Sometimes You’re Right

Hall of Fame Pitcher Dizzy Dean once said, “It’s not bragging if you can do it.”  So, I am going to give myself a pat on the back.  In Wednesday’s post “Heed the POLITICAL Scientists,” one of the OLD rules of politics which I believe still apply to the NEW politics of the Trump era was, “Manufactured October Surprises Seldom Work.”  I bet Rudy Giulliani and the New York Post wish they had been a subscriber to Deprogramming101.

Facebook, Twitter block The Post from postingLess than 24 hours later the Post published an article titled, “Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad.”  Within hours of its dissemination, Twitter announced the conspiracy theory had so many holes in it they blocked on-line links to the article.  And now the FBI is investigating whether Giulliani had been targeted by Russian intelligence to be the bagman in LaptopGate.

As I watched this farce unfold, I was reminded of something former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) wrote in an article “How to Impeach Oneself” for The Hill.

Third, the president would bring in people to do damage control and have those supposed experts actually deliver more damage. This, of course, has been the outcome of the recent addition of Rudy Giuliani to the president’s personal legal team.

And Sometimes You’re Wrong

Some of you long-time readers might remember a February 15, 2017 post titled, “The Old Switcheroo,” in which I castigated NBC for courting the Trump resistance after “aiding and abetting the normalization of Donald Trump” during the 2016 election.  Evidence included Trump’s hosting “Saturday Night Live,” an appearance on the NBC/Golf Channel’s show “Feherty,” and Jimmy Fallon’s milquetoast interview in which he played with whatever that is on top of Trump’s head.

So, when NBC offered the crybaby-in-chief an hour of air-time opposite Joe Biden’s town hall on ABC, my first reaction was, “Here we go again.” In protest, I cancelled my subscription to Peacock, NBC’s new premium streaming service.  Catering to Trump was so unpopular among MSNBC on-air talent, they made a point of reminding viewers NBC News and MSNBC were separate legal entities under different management.

One voice in the wilderness was Joe Scarborough.  And the day after Trump’s latest on-air implosion, it was evident why Morning Joe was right.  He reminded us how quickly Trump’s approval ratings dropped during his White House “COVID briefings.”  In other words, the more people see Trump, the more likely they are to ask themselves, “Do I really want four more years of this?”  Even the overnight viewer ratings bear this out.  More people wanted to see what Biden had to say than watch Trump.

Sometimes I’m wrong, and that is not a bad thing.

The POLLar Express

If you are nervous about the outcome of this election, your blood pressure probably rises and falls based on the daily polling results.  Understanding where the race stands on any given day is further muddied by the numerous polling firms, the time frame in which the sample is queried and the differing methodologies.

One of my mentors in voting behavior, Richard Scammon, who designed the first exit poll, NBC’s Voter Profile Analysis, always reminded us, “Single polls tell you where voters are.  What you want to know is where they are heading.”  Unfortunately, most polls select a different voter sample each time they take the electorate’s temperature.  There is one major exception.  The USC Dornsife “Daybreak Poll” which repeatedly asks the same sample of approximately 5,500 likely voters their preference over two weeks, a 14th of the sample each day.  Their daily update is the average for that 14 day window.

Here’s what this kind of longitudinal tracking tells us.

  • On September 29, 2020, the day before the presidential debate, Biden already held a sizable lead 51.75-42.25 percent.
  • On October 1, 2020, the day after the debate, the lead increased to 52.48-42.14 percent.  Keep in mind, this is based on having re-checked only1/14 of the total sample.
  • As all of the sample were re-queried by the 14th day following the debate, the lead stretched to 53.72-41.58 percent.  However, a portion of the sample had now been affected by news of Trump’s contracting the coronavirus and hospitalization.
  • Since Trump’s return to the White House and campaign trail, the margin has hardly moved.  For October 16, 2020, the spread was 53.52-41.73 percent.

What does all this mean?  There has been some, but very little erosion, in Trump support, maybe .75 percent.  But late deciders, as predicted, are becoming more comfortable with Biden, increasing his support by almost two percent.

Of course, 16 days, 13 hours, 10 minutes and 1 second are an eternity in politics.

For what it’s worth.