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

Ann Selzer: Cruz Is Leading Iowa by 10 Points

As all political junkies know, there is no pollster who is more accurate and who commands more respect than Ann Selzer, who does polling for the Des Moines Register. So when she released a poll yesterday afternoon showing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) leading Iowa by 10 points, it caused a magnitude 8 earthquake on the political Richter scale. Here are Selzer's results.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Ted Cruz 31%
2 Donald Trump 21%
3 Ben Carson 13%
4 Marco Rubio 10%
5 Jeb Bush 5%
6 Mike Huckabee 3%
6 Rand Paul 3%
6 Chris Christie 3%
9 Rick Santorum 1%
9 Carly Fiorina 1%
  Lindsey Graham <1%
  George Pataki <1%
  Jim Gilmore <1%

Cruz's lead in Iowa is unprecedented this year. Donald Trump maxed out at 23%, in August. Ben Carson hit 28% two months ago before cratering. No one else has been above 30% this year in Iowa. Furthermore, Cruz may not have hit his maximum yet. A lot of Iowans haven't really taken a good look at him and now that he is serious they may. Iowa Republicans are extremely conservative and deeply religious so they may like what they find after inspecting him. Cruz will no doubt be everyone's target at the next Republican debate, which will be on Tuesday in Las Vegas. Despite all the incoming arrows, Cruz is likely to do well in the debate as he was a champion debater at Princeton and hasn't lost any of his debating ability. All the attention he will get is likely to raise his profile even higher.

The poll also showed how deeply conservative Iowa's Republican primary electorate is and how far it is from mainstream America. For starters, 57% think climate change is a hoax, 54% want to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., 40% want to ban all abortions, including cases of rape, and 61% want to send at least 20,000 American soldiers to fight ISIS. If Cruz emphasizes these items, he might well get landslide primary victories in Iowa and South Carolina, but these positions will come back to haunt him in the general election in Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. The bad news for Cruz is that Iowa's Republicans have a dismal track record of picking the eventual Republican nominee.

If Cruz wins Iowa, everything changes. Suddenly Trump is vulnerable, just as all the pundits have been saying for months. The Texas Senator is unlikely to win New Hampshire as it is full of curmudgeonly Yankees rather than evangelicals but if the current number two there, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), wins it, then Trump will be a two-time loser. Whether his ego can handle that remains to be seen. He might just drop out.

What a difference a week makes. A week ago the GOP's heavy hitters were in a Japanese restaurant trying to figure out how to avoid a brokered convention. The next time sushi is on the menu they may be trying to figure out how to create a brokered convention, especially if Trump loses some of the early primaries and takes his marble bathrooms and goes home. The establishment despises Cruz but the situation is completely different from dealing with Trump, who the establishment sees as a buffoon. Trump doesn't know (or care) how the game is played. Cruz knows exactly how the game is played and is very good at it. He would never say anything outwardly racist. It is all dog whistles with him. The problem with Cruz is that he is trying to prove the way to victory is a very small tent. He hopes to get millions of conservatives who never vote to the polls. Party leaders don't believe there are so many conservatives who don't normally vote and see a rerun of 1964 writ large in a Cruz candidacy. (V)

Cruz's Surge in Iowa Is Worrying Trump

As Ted Cruz continues to climb in the polls in Iowa. Donald Trump is getting nervous. He really wants to win Iowa because he is a winner. If he loses Iowa, he will become a loser and that could be the beginning of the end for him. The Washington Post has a list of six items that suggest Trump is not doing as well as he would like in Iowa.

  • Trump slammed the Des Moines Register poll cited above before it was even released
  • Trump has started attacking Ted Cruz, something he never did before
  • Trump now calls himself an evangelical; previously he was a Presbyterian
  • There were rows of empty chairs at last Trump rally in Iowa; that's never happened before
  • Trump changed his mind about Iowans being stupid even though he rarely retracts anything
  • He has made it clear that winning Iowa is very, very, very important; in fact, it's yuuuge

What happens when Trump gets worried, or worse yet, angry No one knows. Does he calm down and become more conventional or does he double down on being outrageous? We may soon find out. (V)

Who is Trump's Target of the Day?

Donald Trump thinks about starting feuds with his enemies in the way that most people think about flossing their teeth—at least once per day is good, and two or three times is even better. Saturday's main target, as we noted above, was Ted Cruz. The Donald wondered if a Cuban can actually be an evangelical (has he been paying attention?) and also criticized the Senator's opposition to Iowans' beloved ethanol subsidies (though Trump himself has also been critical of those subsidies in the very recent past).

The Donald also turned his gaze toward one of the other branches of the federal government, and took a few shots at Chief Justice John Roberts. He characterized Roberts as "so disappointing" and was specifically critical of his vote to uphold Obamacare.

Meanwhile, when Trump wasn't tilting with his fellow Americans on Saturday, he was engaging in a Twitter spat with Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The Prince denounced Trump as a "disgrace" and called upon him to withdraw from the presidential race. Trump responded: "Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy's money." Apparently, The Donald has forgotten where his own fortune came from (Hint: A $40 million inheritance from "daddy"). If The Donald had just invested it in an S & P 500 index fund in 1974, he would he as rich as he is today without having to do any work.)

Really, the British books should start taking bets each day on who Trump's target du jour will be. Kim Kardashian? Vice President Joe Biden? Justin Bieber? Chinese premier Li Keqiang? Ronald McDonald? Your guess is as good as his. (Z)

Could Trump Beat Hillary Clinton in the General Election?

Let's forget about Iowa and the primaries for the moment. Suppose the unthinkable happens and Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for President. Could he beat Hillary Clinton in the general election? Vox asked six pollsters this question and got six different answers, but the bottom line is they think it is unlikely unless something very unexpected happens. Here is a list of potential unexpected events that could put Trump in the White House.

  • The economy collapses and the country turns to Trump to save it
  • A massive terrorist attack occurs and Trump's anti-Islam rhetoric wins the election for him
  • Something really bad happens to Clinton such as an indictment or a fatal disease
  • A left-leaning independent candidate, such as Michael Bloomberg, enters the race and upsets everything
  • White working-class men turn out in unprecedented numbers, far more than ever before
  • Trump builds and uses the biggest, most beautiful Etch-a-Sketch ever seen

Admittedly each of these is unlikely, which is why the pollsters don't believe Trump could beat Clinton, but one of them could conceivably happen. (V)

Clinton's Campaign Chairman Expects to Face Cruz in the General Election

While the news consists of Trump in the morning, Trump in the afternoon, and Trump in the evening, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, just said that he expects Clinton to face Ted Cruz in the general election. While Trump leads in many polls, his ceiling appears to be about 35%, which means that 65% of Republicans don't like him. Once all the weaker players finally exit stage right, that 65% has to go somewhere and Podesta thinks Cruz is the likely beneficiary. He is smart, well organized, has lots of money, and has strong backing from ultraconservatives. That could be the ticket. (V)

Rubio's Brother-in-law Was a Cocaine Dealer and Smuggler

The Washington Post has a long story about Orlando Cicilia, who is married to Rubio's sister, Barbara. Cicilia served 12 years in federal prison for his criminal activities as a drug dealer and smuggler. Now if Barbara and Orlando were deeply estranged from Marco, this story wouldn't matter so much since previous Presidents have had problem siblings and inlaws (think: Neil Bush and Billy Carter). But according to the report, Marco is very close to Barbara and Orlando. They also have financial ties, with Rubio-affiliated PACs and campaigns paying more than $130,000 to companies run by Cicilia's children. This article is going to be required reading by every oppo research team out there. (V)

Sanders Blasts the Media

Yesterday, we concurred with the notion that Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) level of media coverage is disproportionately light, while Donald Trump's is excessive. Today, The Bern himself waded into the discussion, ripping into the media's hands-off approach to his campaign. "The problem," he declared, "is that a lot of these issues are more complicated than a six-second sound bite and a lot of the issues we choose to raise end up in conflict with corporate America and the corporate media."

Again, there is certainly some substance to what the Senator is saying. But, notes the Washington Post, let's not go too far. Sanders may have more supporters than Trump, but he is not his party's frontrunner and Trump is (at least for now). That matters. A related point, though one that the Post does not mention explicitly, is that the various outlets (newspapers, blogs, television stations, etc.) generally try to remain in step with one another when it comes to the day's major headlines. Put another way, if 95% of the media is covering a story, that other 5% does not look bold or rebellious or thoughtful due to their omission of that story. In fact, it just looks like they missed something. And so, coverage choices are often dictated not by "This will get people's attention!" but instead, "I guess we have no choice but to cover this." Bernie Sanders is cantankerous, but he's cantankerous in the same way each day. And, unfortunately for him, that does not demand daily coverage. (Z)

196 Nations Agree on Climate Change Accord

After a week's worth of discussions and negotiations in Paris, the world's nations have reached agreement on a plan to combat climate change. President Obama lauded the pact as a "turning point for the world" while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that "History will remember this day." The deal has several parts, as this primer from the New York Times explains, but the main elements are:

  • Limiting global warming to 2°C (ideally 1.5°C) above preindustrial levels
  • Preservation of forests
  • A significant reduction in the burning of fossil fuels
  • Monitoring of carbon emissions on a country-by-country basis by an independent, international organization

The agreement, which has gotten cautious support from many environmental groups, will impact the 2016 elections in at least two ways. First, it will certainly contribute to the Democrats' narrative of "progress under Democratic leadership"—Osama bin Laden is dead, the economy is doing well, unemployment is down, global warming is being confronted, etc. The second is that global warming denial has become something of a litmus test for GOP presidential candidates. If the Republican nominee is, say, Ted Cruz—an avowed climate change denier —then the Democratic nominee (and the moderators) will be able to ask some very uncomfortable debate questions on the theme of "Could 196 countries really all be wrong?" (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Dec12 Trump Still Leading in First Poll After Muslim Remarks
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Dec11 Cruz Bags the Big Three in Iowa
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Dec11 Good News, Bad News for Christie
Dec11 McCaskill Slams Rubio and Cruz
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
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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...
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Dec07 Could Republicans Bolt the Republican Party?
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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
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Dec06 NYT Analyzed Trump's Speeches