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Scores: A partisan Speaker

Published 8 months ago • 2 min read

Welcome to Nonrival, the newsletter where readers make predictions about business, tech, and politics.

Thanks for forecasting. Send feedback to newsletter@nonrival.pub.

In this issue

Scores: Will the next Speaker of the US House of Representatives be elected with votes from both Republicans and Democrats?

  • Your forecast: [101523 GOES HERE]%
  • Your score: [101523_POINTS GOES HERE] points (out of 100)

  • Your total Season 2 points: [TOTAL_POINTS GOES HERE]

Of readers who have made at least one forecast in Season 2...

  • If you have 150 points or more, you're in the top half
  • If you have 300 points, you're in the top quarter
  • If you have 380, you're in the top 10%
  • The current high score is 495

The worst job in Washington

We have a new House Speaker—no bipartisanship required. Last time Nonrival wrote about the Speaker drama, Jim Jordan was trying and failing to secure the necessary votes. Why was Mike Johnson, the new Speaker, able to succeed where Jordan—and Scalise, and McCarthy—had failed?

As one Nonrival reader wrote in their forecast on the chances of a bipartisan speaker, “I'm 50/50 because there's no way it will be Jim Jordan and then who are we left with? Every other candidate has the same problems as all the others the caucus rejected.”

What made Johnson different? In the New York Times, Jamelle Bouie argued that “A four-term backbencher with little leadership experience, Johnson was too obscure to have enemies, giving him an easy ride to the top.” It probably didn’t hurt that everyone knew they were running out of options.

So in the end, Republicans did pick someone for the worst job in Washington: An extremist in substance with a (relatively) more moderate style. (Want to know what Johnson believes? “Go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it,” he advises. “That’s my worldview.”)

I’m reminded of our collective forecasts on the government shutdown that didn’t happen: “We know shutdowns are rare,” I wrote. “But collectively we can't seem to describe how the no-shutdown scenario would go.”

The same went for the Speaker race. As one reader wrote of their 10% forecast of a bipartisan speaker: “Ever increasing partisanship in DC, and their districts, mean all the incentives are against bipartisanship.” That was and is the central fact of GOP politics. But it was tough to imagine just how the Republican caucus would coalesce around someone. Even now that it’s happened I’m still not sure how to describe it.

So, now what? Prediction markets currently give an 87% chance that Johnson is still speaker at the end of 2023. And the chance of a government shutdown in 2023 is falling again—it’s currently "just" 30%. Odds are that things calm down for a while. But remember that McCarthy lasted less than a year as Speaker.

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