The muse speaks.

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The Candidates in Verse

Stephen L. Carter is a Bloomberg View columnist. He is a professor of law at Yale University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His novels include “The Emperor of Ocean Park” and “Back Channel,” and his nonfiction includes “Civility” and “Integrity.”
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In advance of Wednesday night's Republican debate, I present a set of double-dactyl poems on all of the serious contenders from both parties. As I have explained before, the double dactyl is a form of light verse with quite exacting rules of meter. If you'd like to read the rules, check here. But a glance at the verses below will quickly make the game clear.

Note that the first line is always nonsense. Here I have used, alternately, "Higgledy-Piggledy" and "Jiggery-Pokery," two common openings of double-dactyl poems. I believe I've included all the candidates. If I've missed one, I apologize in advance to his or her supporters. 

*****

Higgledy Piggledy,
Democrat Hillary --
Poll numbers lately
have taken a bath.

Said to be losing her
unstoppability  --
Still can prevail on
electoral math.

(This article has been updated to correct the meter in this poem.)

*****

Jiggery Pokery,
Donald the Trumpeter --
Pundits decry him
as all full of fluff.

Wants to rely on his
autobiography --
Question is whether
we're angry enough.

*****

Higgledy Piggledy,
Bernie the crowd-pleaser --
Frightens establishment
out of its wits.

Promises policies
redistributional.
His staying power must
give Wall Street fits.

*****

Jiggery Pokery,
John Bush of Florida,
known to the voters quite
simply as Jeb. 

Strange deja vu for his
paterfamilias --
Watching a second son's
poll numbers ebb.

*****

Higgledy Piggledy,
Carson the tranquil is
quietly surging near
top of the charts. 

Calmness must stem from his
neurosurgosity --
seems more relaxed than his
fellow upstarts.

*****

Jiggery Pokery,
Kasich the pragmatist,
combative leader of
major swing state.

Came under fire for his
sentimentality,
Now it's the right he must
try to placate.

*****

Higgledy Piggledy,
Cruz the conservative --
right, left or center, he's
quick to attack. 

Saves his best shots for the
intelligentsia
Loves the Tea Party
and they love him back.

***** 

Jiggery Pokery,
Paul the Kentucky guy.
Few can recall if it's
Ron or it's Rand.

Thinks that the welfare state's
unlibertarian --
Those who love benefits
can't understand.

*****

Higgledy Piggledy
Carly the technocrat
Says she'll run government
more like a biz.

Talks like a college's
valedictorian --
Still her campaign just can't
get enough fizz.

*****

Jiggery Pokery,
Jim Webb the war hero --
Media darling for
two minutes flat.

Tries to make virtue of
hyper-centrality --
Too bad that's not where
the country is at.

***** 

Higgledy Piggledy,
Senator Rubio
must deal with critics who
say he's too young.

Marco replies that his
marketability
means he should leap to the
very top rung.

*****

Jiggery Pokery,
Walker the governor.
Stared down the unions
and made the right cheer.

Yet to show national
electability --
It's getting harder as
voting draws near.

*****

Higgledy Piggledy,
Minister Huckabee --
trying to run yet
stay true to his faith.

Wants to put limits on
marriageability,
but in some polls he's still
sitting at eighth. 

*****

Jiggery Pokery,
Christie the Jerseyman.
All voters know is he
closed that darn bridge.

He says that evidence
incontrovertible
proves that he didn't -- they
don't care a smidge.

*****

Higgledy Piggledy,
Jindal of Baton Rouge --
Former Rhodes Scholar
and popular gov. 

Tweeters find speeches too
sesquipedalian,
ask what he wants to be
president of.

*****

Jiggery Pokery,
Lindsey the senator --
Angered some voters by
pushing tax hike.

Rightists complain he lacks
predictability --
ACU score is not
high as they like.

*****

Higgledy Piggledy,
Rick the conservative
claims that of all he leans
most to the right. 

GOP fears he's too
ultratraditional:
"Let's keep Santorum way
far out of sight." 

*****

Jiggery Pokery,
George the ex-governor --
native New Yorker from
small town upstate. 

Polls say Pataki has
invisibility --
Pundits predicting quick
withdrawal date.

***** 

Higgledy Piggledy,
Martin of Maryland
Waits for a gaffe at the
head of the clique.

Some think he's running quite
vice-presidentially --
hoping for place at the
foot of the tick.

*****

Jiggery Pokery,
Warren the firebrand
keeps on insisting she's
not in the race.

Fans aren't bothered by
improbability --
hope a late entry might
somehow take place.

*****

Higgledy Piggledy,
Biden of Delaware
hasn't announced if he's
in or he's out. 

Some say he's acting quite
hyper-strategically --
All are agreed he'd have
plenty of clout.

*****

Jiggery Pokery,
Chafee the Islander,
former Republican
runs as a Dem. 

Voters are treating him
radioactively --
Often in polls he gets
zero from them.

*****

Higgledy Piggledy,
Gilmore the governor -- 
Nobody seems to know
quite who he is.

Hard as he works he's still
hyper-anonymous --
Always the one we
forget in the quiz.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Stephen L Carter at scarter01@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Tracy Walsh at twalsh67@bloomberg.net