Political Notes.

John Ellis
5 min readFeb 10, 2020

Political Notes.

I sent this around Sunday morning to News Items subscribers. This morning The Boston Globe published its final tracking poll results, which showed Klobuchar continue her march up the charts, now tied for third with Warren and Biden. Buttigieg lost some altitude. Sanders gained some.

The item about President Xi brought a response from two very knowledgeable China hands. Both said Xi was in no danger of being removed from his positions as head of state, commander of the PLA and Chairman of the Communist Party of China. Here’s the note:

The Iowa Bump.

Ever since Jimmy Carter parlayed a first place finish in the Iowa caucuses into a New Hampshire primary victory that launched his successful campaign for the 1976 Democratic party presidential nomination, “win Iowa” has been the go-to strategy for lesser-known candidates to establish themselves as “contenders.”

It worked for Carter in 1976, for George H.W. Bush in 1980, for Gary Hart in 1984 (who parlayed a distant second-place finish in Iowa into a New Hampshire primary win by doing “better than expected” in the Hawkeye State) and for John Kerry in 2004.

On the other hand, it’s no sure thing. Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses convincingly in 2008 (Hillary Clinton was third, behind John Edwards) and most everyone (myself included) assumed the “surge” would carry Obama to easy victory in New Hampshire eight days later. It did not. Hillary Clinton won.

The same thing happened to Bob Dole in 1988. Vice President George H.W. Bush, at that time the front-runner for the GOP nomination, finished third in Iowa (behind Dole and televangelist Pat Robertson!), but bounced back to win New Hampshire and go on to win the GOP presidential nomination with relative ease.

All of which leads to today’s question: Will Pete Buttigieg’s “win” in Iowa and his subsequent surge in New Hampshire tracking polls result in a “huge” primary win (regardless of the margin) on Tuesday night? Will he be Gary Hart? Or will he be….Rick Santorum?

Mr. Buttigieg looked like Gary Hart until this morning, when The Boston Globe reported on its most recent set of tracking poll numbers. Here are the first five paragraphs of the Globe story:

A strong debate performance by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar on Friday night appeared to halt Pete Buttigieg’s surging poll numbers in New Hampshire, the latest Boston Globe/WBZ-TV/Suffolk University daily tracking poll found.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders reclaimed the top spot in New Hampshire with 24 percent, followed by Buttigieg with 22 percent, a statistical tie for first place. The former South Bend, Ind., mayor dropped 3 percentage points from the previous day.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and former vice president Joe Biden remained relatively steady with 13 percent and 10 percent support each, the survey, released Saturday night, found.

Klobuchar has 9 percent support among likely New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary voters, up 3 percentage points from a day earlier and now knocking on the door of the perceived top-tier candidates.

“Amy Klobuchar’s strong debate performance had not only stopped Pete Buttigieg’s momentum but now she is the interesting person to watch,” said pollster David Paleologos, of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.

If you’re managing the Buttigieg campaign, that last paragraph is a killer. If you’re managing the Sanders campaign, that last paragraph is like a gift from God. If you’re managing the Biden and Warren campaigns, all five paragraphs are a nightmare.

The Hunter Problem.

This may be a moot point by now, but the impeachment hearings really did do major damage to Joe Biden’s candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. I think they were all-but-fatal to his cause and the contrast sketched out below is why:

Sue Wagner, founding partner and director of BlackRock, one of the most successful financial services companies in the world, is on the Board of Directors of Apple, one of the most successful business enterprises in the history of mankind. She is, by all accounts, a shrewd and accomplished businesswoman.

For her service on the Apple board, she is paid (annually) $100,000 in cash and $250,000 in restricted stock, which vests in February of the following year. Let’s say the stock appreciates 20%, just for easy arithmetic. In a year’s time, her stock would be worth $300,000. And she would have earned the $100,000 in cash. So: $400,000 annual compensation for serving on the Apple board.

Good for her.

Hunter Biden, someone whose knowledge of and experience in the energy business is underwhelming (at best), served on the Board of Directors of Burisma Holdings, one of Ukraine’s largest independent natural gas companies. For his service, he was paid (annually) $600,000. At the time, his father, Vice President Joe Biden, was the Obama Administration’s point person for Ukraine policy.

There’s no explaining away the contrast. One board position appears (and almost certainly is) well-earned, given Ms. Wagner’s extraordinary success in business. The other appears corrupt, since it is safe to say that the only reason Hunter Biden was paid $50,000 a month to serve on the board of a Ukrainian energy holding company was his last name.

Everything that people hate about Washington — elite self-dealing, insider trading (metaphorically) and unearned income (and all the rest of it) — is all right there, for all to see, in the Hunter Biden Ukraine story.

Because Joe Biden never stepped up and did the full go-to-hell-mistakes-were-made-answer-every-last-question press conference on the subject, it festered. And festered some more. And did immeasurable damage to his candidacy.

Liberals for Mike!

Michael Bloomberg, so far, is running a very good campaign. He’s irritating Trump (thus ingratiating himself with Democratic primary voters in Super Tuesday states, and everywhere else). He’s aligned himself with President Obama (the TV ad is very effective). He’s massaging Democratic primary voters’ erogenous zones, with testimonials to his hard work on health care, climate change and gun control. And he’s getting endorsements and building out a massive campaign organization, which will presumably be hyper-active through November, regardless of whether he is the Democratic nominee or not. His commitment to defeating President Trump has endeared him to Democratic primary voters and elected officials far more than most people anticipated.

And it’s beginning to pay off. A friend of mine on the faculty at Harvard University reports that among her colleagues, the “I Heart Mike” movement is now in full swing. I suspect, I don’t know, that her colleagues were probably more Warren than Biden but mostly with those two. The fact that many of them are reportedly realigning is:

  1. Insignificant. Who cares what a bunch of Harvard faculty members think about national politics? Or:

2. A metaphor for what is happening with liberals across the country.

My guess is #2.

Will the PLA dump Xi?

A friend of mine who is a whip-smart commentator on one of the financial news channels emailed yesterday to say that he thought China President Xi Jinping’s days were numbered and that the PLA would soon “make its move” to remove him.

I have no idea if my friend is right or not, but he’s surely right about the perilous state of Xi’s current “political position.” Today’s New York Times has a longish lead story on the subject. There will be many more in the coming days and weeks. If you see one that you think might be of interest to the News Items subscriber list, please forward it to me at jellis41@protonmail.com.

Thank you.



John Ellis

Founder and Editor, News Items. Political analyst. Founder of and contributing editor to Bird News Items. Former columnist for The Boston Globe.