Tentative Primary and Caucus Schedule
  March 1 (Super Tues)
  March 2-14
L blue   March 15-31
Delegates needed for nomination:
GOP: 1237,   Dem: 2242
Map explained
New polls:  
Dem pickups:  
GOP pickups:  

News from the Votemaster

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Republicans Preparing for a Brokered Convention
      •  Romney in 2016?
      •  Republicans Support Trump's Plan to Ban Muslims
      •  Could Muslims Swing the Election?
      •  Loretta Sanchez Says Many Muslims Desire a Caliphate
      •  Cruz Bags the Big Three in Iowa
      •  Rubio Also Bags a Big One
      •  Good News, Bad News for Christie
      •  McCaskill Slams Rubio and Cruz

Republicans Preparing for a Brokered Convention

On Monday, RNC chairman Reince Priebus hosted a dinner at a Japanese restaurant for top GOP politicians. Their task was to discuss what to do if Donald Trump ends up with a substantial number of delegates but not a majority, leading to a brokered convention. They even addressed the possibility of a deadlocked convention. What would happen if Trump got, say, 40% of the delegates and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) each had something like 30%? Nobody would be willing to run as Trump's veep, while Cruz and Rubio might be willing to make the other one his running mate but would insist on being on top of the ticket. It's enough to make a politician choke on his sushi.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. The whole 2016 nominating plan was to get a quick nominee so he could start working on defeating Hillary Clinton in April. A brokered convention was definitely not on anyone's agenda, but it is looking like a real possibility now unless Trump self destructs. The RNC itself meets in January in South Carolina and the topic of the convention rules will surely be near the top of the agenda. The convention rules can't be changed until the convention itself. If Trump has, say, 40% of the delegates, he will ask for 40% of the seats on the rules committee. When asked about the possibility of a brokered convention, Trump said he was thinking about the possibility, too.

The rules are very important. For example, in 2012 the rules committee decided that to have a candidate's name be placed before the convention, he had to have a majority in eight states. This rule was blatantly designed to keep Ron Paul from being put on the convention's ballot. Consider this hypothetical scenario. Suppose Donald Trump has 40% of the delegates, Ted Cruz has 35%, Marco Rubio has 20%, and Chris Christie has 5%. Trump and Cruz could get together and get a rule passed saying a candidate needs 30% of all the delegates to be placed on the convention ballot. This would only happen if both Trump and Cruz expected to pick up most of Rubio and Christie's delegates, but it could happen, so control of the rules committee could be crucial.

None of the delegates are bound to a candidate after the first ballot, so if no candidate is elected on the first ballot, all delegates become free agents. The bargaining will become intense. You can imagine this and worse from Delegate Smith: "Sen. Rubio, Sen. Cruz has promised money to improve Maple Avenue in my home town of East Cupcake. Would you be willing to improve Maple Avenue and also provide new fire engines to East Cupcake's fire department?" The delegates are for the most part amateurs—political activists to be sure—but amateurs nevertheless. The establishment will have the advantage here because RNC chairman Reince Priebus understands all the rules and details and will do his utmost to see that a candidate acceptable to the establishment is nominated.

A key factor here is that all the caucuses and primaries before March 15 award their delegates proportionally. This means that these delegates will be splintered over multiple candidates. Starting on March 15, when Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina hold their primaries, states can choose for winner-take-all primaries (as Florida and Ohio have done), but by then, much of the damage may have been done. And even with winner-take-all, Trump could win some states, Cruz could win some, and Rubio could win some. Also, the big blue states come later in the process. California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania combined send 458 of the 2473 delegates to the convention and those could go to a moderate like Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) or Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) no matter what happens earlier in the year. (V)

Romney in 2016?

A situation in which two or three candidates commanded enough delegate support to block their rivals, but not enough delegates to claim the nomination for themselves, was fairly common in the 19th century and was not unheard of in the first half of the 20th. Occasionally, the logjam was resolved by denying all of the frontrunners, and dipping into the second (or third) tier of candidates. Warren Harding was nominated in this way in 1920, as was Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

The emergence of the primary system, which took hold in the 1940s and 1950s, has largely forestalled this kind of convention brokering. The last true "surprise" nominee was businessman Wendell Wilkie, tapped by the Republicans to face Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. This was an enormous disappointment to the three frontrunners, Sen. Arthur H. Vandenberg, Sen. Robert Taft, and attorney Thomas E. Dewey, who had to console themselves that maybe their chance would come one day. It only came for Dewey, who went on to defeat Harry S. Truman in 1948. At least, that's what the headlines said.

The possibility that the Republican convention will begin without a candidate has raised all sorts of speculation. And the current whispers, getting louder, suggest that if the GOP turns to a fourth candidate because Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump cannot reach an understanding, that candidate might very well be Mitt Romney.

Romney 2016 is still, of course, a very long shot. The odds that the correct circumstances even arise are fairly small and Romney, for his part, claims he's not interested. But in a campaign that seems to adhere to no discernible rules or past precedents, anything is possible. And the fact that some Republicans are longing for Mitt Romney—who, recall, lost by 5 million popular and 126 electoral votes— certainly says something interesting about this year's field. (Z)

Republicans Support Trump's Plan to Ban Muslims

A new NBC/WSJ poll released yesterday shows that 42% of Republicans agree with Donald Trump's plan to bar Muslims from entering the country while 36% oppose the idea. Democrats oppose the idea 75% to 11%. This shows the pickle the other Republicans are in. They can't denounce Trump too strongly on this issue because their base really likes the idea. But if they fail to condemn Trump, Hillary Clinton is going to bring up the issue over and over during the general election. If the nominee, whoever he is, suddenly sees the light and belatedly denounces Trump, a sizable fraction of the Republican base will feel betrayed and not vote. If he supports Trump, he is going to lose most of the independents, who reject Trump's proposal by a margin of 55% to 30%. There is no easy way out and the longer this story stays in the news, the harder it will be to erase the Etch-a-Sketch later. (V)

Could Muslims Swing the Election?

Much ink has been spilled on the extent to which Islamophobia, the Middle East, terrorism, ISIS, etc. will be a factor in 2016. Politico points out an angle that hasn't gotten much attention, however: Muslims as a voting bloc.

The total number of Muslims in the United States is fairly small as a percentage of the overall population—somewhere between 1% and 3%. But they are not randomly distributed, of course, and they tend to be clustered in about half a dozen states. That includes the swing states of Ohio, Florida, and Virginia—each of them home to at least 50,000 Muslim voters. Recalling that just 1,000 votes in just one of those states would have changed the outcome of the 2000 election, it is not at all out of the realm of possibility that, in a close contest, Muslim votes could have a decisive impact. (Z)

Loretta Sanchez Says Many Muslims Desire a Caliphate

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), who is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), has something of a history of ill-advised remarks. She attracted controversy yet again on Thursday, suggesting that between 5 and 20% of Muslims worldwide desire a Muslim caliphate, and are willing to support the use of terrorism in order to get it.

Sanchez has no particular evidence for this assertion, but her game is quite clear. California, like Louisiana, has a jungle primary. As such, it is possible—and, in 2016, probable—that the Senate contest will come down to two Democrats, Sanchez and California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Harris is the more liberal of the two, so Sanchez is trying hard to attract "lesser of two evils" votes from California Republicans. She figures that if she can claim most of the Republican vote, plus a fair portion of the Latino vote, plus her home base in Orange County, that will be enough to send her to the Senate. The strategy could backfire, though, if she alienates enough Democratic votes in the primary to finish behind both Harris and an actual Republican. (Z)

Cruz Bags the Big Three in Iowa

In Iowa, three people have a huge influence with evangelical Christians. They are Rep. Steve King (R-IA), talk-radio host Steve Deace, and activist Bob Vander Plaats, head of The Family Leader, an umbrella group of Iowa's religious conservatives. A few weeks ago, Cruz landed King and Deace. Yesterday he added Vander Plaats to his trophy collection. With the three most-influential conservative leaders in Iowa now on his side, Cruz is clearly gaining real momentum and has a good chance to win the Iowa caucuses. One poll already shows him in the lead, but with Vander Plaats' endorsement, it is only going to get better for him. Turnout is low but crucial in any caucus, and with many pastors in his corner and now the Big Three, Cruz is on a roll. (V)

Rubio Also Bags a Big One

Ted Cruz may have landed Bob Vander Plaats, but Marco Rubio also got a huge boost yesterday as well: North Carolina billionaire Art Pope. Like the Koch brothers, Pope runs his own conservative network and has given tens of millions of dollars to Republican candidates in the past. In his endorsement statement, Pope said, "I plan to do everything I can to help him."

Pope is the third billionaire donor Rubio has lined up. Previously he got New York investor Paul Singer and Illinois hedge-fund manager Kenneth Griffin to sign up for his campaign. Up until now, Ted Cruz has raised more money than Rubio, mostly from small donations, but multimillion dollar donations to Rubio's super PAC could even out the score. This development also means that a three-way race among Trump, Cruz, and Rubio (with potential for a brokered convention) becomes more likely. (V)

Good News, Bad News for Christie

The presidential campaign of Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) has been looking up recently. After being demoted to the kiddie table for the fourth GOP debate, a new set of rules plus an uptick in his numbers in New Hampshire, means that he will likely return to the main stage for debate #5 (the news is less good for Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, who is almost certain to get demoted). The bad news for Christie is that his approval rating in his home state of New Jersey keeps hitting new lows, dropping to 33% in the latest poll.

The poor approval ratings are a double whammy for Christie. First of all, like any governor who would be president, a central part of his case is, "I did great at the state level, now I'm ready to try something bigger." Second, another part of Christie's pitch is that he can deliver New Jersey's 14 electoral votes, usually reliably Democratic, for the GOP. A 33% approval rating tends to cut him off at the knees on both fronts. (Z)

McCaskill Slams Rubio and Cruz

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is a friend of Barack Obama and has already endorsed Hillary Clinton. So, she's not exactly an objective voice. Still, she tends to be fairly reserved, and it's not terribly common for U.S. Senators to publicly lambaste their colleagues. As such, it's news when McCaskill offers a scathing assessment of her colleagues Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, while also doubting their fitness for the presidency.

Of Rubio, McCaskill acknowledges he is smart and capable. But she says he is also a flip-flopper who, "broke down like a cheap shotgun the minute the right started chewing on his rear end" on immigration. Her opinion of Ted Cruz is even lower; she observes that it may not be important that nobody in the Senate likes him, but "you need to be respected [and] I don't think Ted has the respect of his fellow senators." She probably won't be getting a Christmas Card from the Rubios or the Cruzes this year. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Dec10 Cruz May Be the 2016 Sleeper Candidate
Dec10 Trump Backs off Plan to Bar Muslims, but Only Slightly
Dec10 Trump Isn't Racist, Just Ask Him
Dec10 Would Conservative Pundits Support Trump against Clinton?
Dec10 Rubio Lands a Major Donor
Dec10 Scalia's Questions Take a Racist Turn
Dec10 Too Much Trump?
Dec09 Foreign Leaders Condemn Trump's Remarks on Muslims
Dec09 Republicans Also Condemn Trump's Remarks, But Cautiously
Dec09 Media Changing Its Approach to Trump?
Dec09 Clinton Prepares to Face Trump, Cruz, or Rubio
Dec09 Are the Candidates Polling at 0% Still Actually Running?
Dec09 Does Iowa Still Matter?
Dec09 Chris Christie Ascendant?
Dec09 Supreme Court May Change How Representation is Calculated
Dec08 Trump Demands Total and Complete Ban on Muslim Entry into the U.S.
Dec08 Cruz Jumps into the Lead in Iowa, or Maybe Not
Dec08 Trump's Standing in Iowa May Be Largely Due to Nonvoters
Dec08 The Adelson Primary May Be Between Miriam and Sheldon
Dec08 An Oppo Researcher Explains How the Deed is Done
Dec08 Some Politicians Are Living in the Internet Age...
Dec08 ...And Some, Apparently, Are Not
Dec07 Obama Addresses the Nation
Dec07 LGBT Rights Still a Wedge Issue?
Dec07 Could Republicans Bolt the Republican Party?
Dec07 Iowa Republican Party Will Try Hard to Prevent the 2012 Disaster from Repeating
Dec07 Kasich Comes Out for (Very Minor) Gun Control
Dec07 Cruz' Hawkish, Careless Rhetoric
Dec07 Rubio Trying to Out-Hawk Cruz
Dec07 Sanders Stays the Course
Dec07 Time to Put Horse Race Polling Out to Pasture?
Dec06 NYT Analyzed Trump's Speeches
Dec06 WaPo Analyzed Mass Shootings
Dec06 Gun Control Is Becoming a Hot Partisan Campaign Issue
Dec06 Are Trump and Cruz Like Goldwater?
Dec06 Is Rubio Scandal Brewing...Or Just Half-Baked?
Dec06 Bush Backers Are Sticking with Their Man
Dec05 Trump Has Massive Lead in New Poll
Dec05 Is Trump's Lead Deceiving?
Dec05 A Jeb Bush Premortem
Dec05 Clinton's Favorability Is Up Compared to Sanders
Dec05 Economy Added 211,000 Jobs in November
Dec05 Miami Healthcare Magnate Will Run Anti-Trump Campaign
Dec05 Anti-Trump Protestors Are Getting Louder
Dec04 Could Trump Run as an Independent?
Dec04 Trump Addresses Jewish Republicans and Gets Mixed Reaction
Dec04 New Information Turns Up on Rubio's Personal Finances
Dec04 Thursday Saw Lots of Posturing on the Hill
Dec04 Trump Will Debate After All
Dec04 Karl Rove is Worried about the Senate