Tentative Primary and Caucus Schedule
  March 1 (Super Tues)
  March 2-14
L blue   March 15-31
Delegates needed for nomination:
GOP: 1236,   Dem: 2242
Map explained
New polls:  
Dem pickups:  
GOP pickups:  

News from the Votemaster

Obama Sends Soldiers to Syria

After promising at least 16 times that the United States would not have "boots on the ground" in Syria, President Obama has deployed troops to Syria. The commitment is very limited, with 50 Special Operations forces being sent to assist and advise the local forces who are fighting ISIS. Nonetheless, as the Washington Post observes, Obama came into office promising to end two wars, and he may very leave with three still underway.

In terms of the 2016 campaign, this is bad news for Hillary Clinton. She is expecting and hoping to lay claim to most of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) supporters at some point in the process, and they are not going to be happy with this development. In fact, the Vermont senator has already condemned the move. But if Clinton joins Sanders in lambasting the decision, she runs the risk of alienating the White House, whose support she also wants and needs. She will have to walk a delicate line, not unlike the one Hubert H. Humphrey tried to walk with Vietnam in 1968.

At the same time, committing U.S. troops to Syria opens up potential lines of attack for the GOP. The Republicans tend to favor use of military force, of course, but there are still many possible uncomfortable points they might make, like, "I guess Democrats don't mean what they say, no matter how many times they say it," and "Hillary was sure a great secretary of state; she helped Obama turn two wars into three." Or, they may focus on the small size of the deployment, and argue that the Democrats are weak-willed and only do things halfway. In fact, Donald Trump is already making that very point. These challenges are certainly not fatal to Clinton 2016, but they do create a new headache for a campaign that had hoped to coast into the primary season on the momentum they built in the last two weeks. (Z)

Bernie Sanders is in Trouble

The opportunity to make hay from President Obama's foreign policy notwithstanding, Salon's Gary Legum makes an excellent case that the Sanders campaign has fundamental problems that it is not going to be able to overcome.

The first issue is that Sanders is losing the "invisible primary," the process of lining up support of the various movers and shakers in the Democratic Party who have an enormous role in deciding the nominee. Hillary Clinton made this mistake in 2008, allowing Barack Obama to put the nomination out of reach early in the primary season. She's not repeating her errors—the fact that she has hundreds of endorsements, compared to two for Sanders, indicates that he has already lost this phase of the campaign. Especially when he's not even laying claim to the endorsements of very liberal Democrats like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

Sanders' second problem is that he has wedded himself to a strategy that is ultimately untenable: excessive reliance on the support and enthusiasm of young people. There is no question that the senator has done remarkably well in this area, as evidenced by his rallies, and by the attention he gets on Twitter, Facebook, and other young-skewing media. The problem is that there are only so many young people, and they are not enough by themselves to swing the nomination. As Legum puts it, "the Sanders strategy is great for setting opening weekend box office records for the next Avengers movie, but not for beating out Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination." (Z)

Gun Control Likely to Be a Talking Point in 2016

Hillary Clinton's pollsters are already looking for issues that will be useful when the main campaign begins, and it is becoming increasingly clear that gun control may be a winner. DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) spoke to the Florida Democratic Convention this weekend, and brought down the house with an impassioned plea for gun control.

Recent shootings, particularly those at schools, have highlighted weaknesses in American gun ownership laws, most obviously the "gun show loophole," which allows people to purchase weapons without background checks. Polls suggest that roughly 60% of Americans would like to see purchasing rules made more strict, and that the number is trending upward. This is one of the small handful of issues where Clinton is to left of Bernie Sanders, and could appeal to his supporters. Further, Clinton can bring her friend Gabby Giffords out on stage at rallies, giving a face to the problem. Surely, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre is already plotting his organization's response. (Z)

Can the GOP Debates Be "Fixed"?

As we and others have noted, efforts by the RNC and by the remaining candidates to "fix" the debates are prompted—in part—by a desire to avoid tough questions. However, it is also the case that shouting matches and mudslinging do not serve the party well. Can the current format be tweaked to make everyone happier? Not likely, according to The Atlantic, whose David A. Graham says that the debates will only improve once the field shrinks.

Graham focuses primarily on the irreconcilable preferences of the various candidates: Those performing poorly in the polls want equal time for everyone; those performing well want the frontrunners to be given special considerations. Further, there are differences in personal style—candidates who are good at insinuating themselves into the discussion (Donald Trump, for example) prefer a looser format, while those who have been shorted in terms of camera time (Mike Huckabee, for example) want to be given time for an opening and closing statement.

Graham does not say so, but the desperate circumstances of several of the campaigns—Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina—also work against a "clean" debate, as everyone tries to score points by going on the attack, veering off course, stepping on others' speaking time, etc. The upshot is that the next GOP debate—on November 10—is likely to be more of the same, regardless of whatever posturing or negotiating may take place in the interim. Thereafter, when several of the campaigns are likely to reach the end of the line, some semblance of sanity may reassert itself. (Z)

The Jeb! Action Plan

U.S. News & World Report has acquired a copy of the Bush campaign's recent 112-slide presentation that tries to rally the troops. Among the highlights:

  • We still have the most money!
  • Wesley Clark, Rudy Giuliani, and Herman Cain all led in the polls, didn't win!
  • Hugh Hewitt and George Will still support Jeb!
  • Independents, women, and Hispanics prefer Jeb over other Republicans!
  • Marco Rubio has weaknesses that can be exploited!
  • Jeb is still third in New Hampshire!
  • Donald Trump is wrong, George W. Bush kept us safe!
  • Bushes are more presidential than Clintons!

The document also outlines the Bush campaign's specific plans to right the ship. A large ad buy of $5.6 million will take place in New Hampshire, with heavy repetition of a commercial entitled "Denisha," featuring a black student who was able to graduate from college thanks to Bush-enacted tax credits in Florida. This will undoubtedly have a profound impact in the wealthy, 94% white state. Other planned ad buys include $2.7 million in South Carolina, $1.36 million in Iowa, and a mere $191,000 in fourth-in-line Nevada. The campaign, which does not presently have the money to fund all of these purchases, plans a series of fundraisers, including an event called "Pop Art, Politics & Jeb." This is a very curious mixing of hip and not hip, but at very least it allowed Slate's artists to imagine what Andy Warhol's take on Jeb Bush might look like (Z).

Rubio Gets Big Endorsement

Meanwhile, as the Bush campaign works to plug the holes in the dike, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has scored a big victory: The endorsement of billionaire Paul Singer. Singer is somewhat like Sheldon Adelson, in that his main issue is Israel. Unlike Adelson, he also has a second issue: He wants equality for gay people. This could create a bind for the Catholic, trying-to-appeal-to-the-social-conservatives Rubio, but he's nonetheless happy to take Singer's money.

This is not good news for the other candidates, particularly Jeb Bush. Singer gives a lot of money to the candidates he favors—more, in fact, than any other GOP donor in 2014 (even the Kochs). He also has influence over a large network of wealthy Republicans, and so could keep Rubio afloat for months, not unlike Adelson did with Newt Gingrich in 2012. Any faint hopes Jeb Bush had for quickly pushing Rubio out the door just evaporated. (Z)

Rand Paul's Halloween Party

The Daily Caller sent a reporter to Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) Halloween Party/fundraiser, and what they found was certainly illuminating.

To start, attendance was sparse—perhaps two dozen people—suggesting that whatever enthusiasm there was for Paul 2016 (which never matched the Paul 2012 enthusiasm) has largely dissipated. Even the senator himself, who went as the national debt (which amounted to wearing a turtleneck with "$18 trillion" written on it) appeared uninterested. Meanwhile, the costumes worn by the attendees—who are presumably the true believers—were on the frightening side, and not in a good way. There was a zombie Abraham Lincoln who shouted 'tyranny' at random intervals, Guy Fawkes (who tried to overthrow the British government), Obi-Wan Kenobi (who helped destroy the evil empire in Star Wars), and a Statue of Liberty with a knife in her chest ("The death of liberty," natch). Inasmuch as a major topic of conversation was which candidate to support if Paul drops out, the whole scene speaks to a campaign that is not long for this world. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Oct31 Bill de Blasio Endorses Hillary Clinton
Oct31 Candidates Plan to Talk About Future Debates But without the RNC
Oct31 Priebus Tries to Reassert Control of Debates
Oct31 Marco Rubio's Background is Not What He Makes It Out To Be
Oct31 Carson's Past Support of Gay Rights May Hurt Him Now
Oct31 Sanchez May Need GOP Help in Senate Primary
Oct31 Sen. Vitter Trails Democrat by Double Digits in Gubernatorial Race
Oct30 Bush Supporters Struggling to Pick Up the Pieces
Oct30 CNBC Was the Biggest Loser Wednesday
Oct30 Truth Was Another Loser at GOP Debate
Oct30 Bush and Rubio Are Now on a Collision Course
Oct30 For All His Strengths, Rubio also Has Serious Weaknesses
Oct30 Reid Calls on Rubio to Resign from the Senate
Oct30 Rubio and Cruz Each Raise A Million Dollars Since Debate
Oct29 Rubio and Cruz Shine at Chaotic Debate
Oct29 Could Bush Come Back Like McCain Did in 2008?
Oct29 Rafael Cruz is Too Busy To Campaign in Iowa So He Sent Rafael Cruz There
Oct29 Could a Cruz Nomination End the Gridlock?
Oct29 Florida Newspaper to Rubio: Resign
Oct28 Tonight's Debate is Number Three for the GOP
Oct28 Carson Passes Trump Nationally
Oct28 Trump Plays the Faith Card
Oct28 On Taxes, Republicans Go for Puppies and Rainbows
Oct28 Mark Kirk Is the Most Endangered Republican in the Country
Oct28 Could Hillary Clinton Really Be Beating Bernie Sanders by 41 Points in Iowa?
Oct28 Could It Be Cuban vs. Cuban in the End?
Oct27 Boehner Negotiates Stealth Budget Deal
Oct27 Carson Has Double-digit Lead in Iowa
Oct27 Republicans Are In Denial about Hillary Clinton's Chances
Oct27 Cruz Working on Texas
Oct27 Jeb Loads the Last Bullet into the Chamber
Oct27 Sharron Angle Might Run for the Senate Again in Nevada
Oct27 Hispanic Voters Don't Like Republicans
Oct27 Marco Rubio Doesn't Like the Senate
Oct26 Republican Voters See Trump as Strongest General Election Candidate
Oct26 Clinton Would Love to Face Trump
Oct26 Rubio Attacks Trump's Immigration Plan
Oct26 Carson Against Abortion Under All Circumstances
Oct26 Ross Douthat Meekly Predicts Rubio Will be the Republican Nominee
Oct26 Sanders Drawing Sharp Contrasts with Clinton
Oct26 No Smooth Sailing for Obamacare Repeal
Oct26 Fundraising Looks to Be No Problem for Ryan
Oct26 Republicans Facing a Tech Gap?
Oct25 Trump Attacks Carson's Religion
Oct25 Bushes Not Made for These Times?
Oct25 GOP Establishment Trying to Figure Out How To Attack Trump
Oct25 The Clinton and Clinton Show Hits Iowa
Oct25 Vitter Survives to Fight Another Day, Barely
Oct25 New Congressional Investigation: Planned Parenthood
Oct24 Jeb Bush Shakes Up His Campaign