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

Carson Leads in National Poll

Hillary Clinton is a Methodist and attends the Foundry United Methodist Church in D.C. with some regularity. When out on the campaign trail, going to a church Sunday morning can help connect her to religious voters. No doubt the coming Sunday she will open her prayers with: "Dear God, Thank you so much for putting Ben Carson on top of the new NBC/WSJ poll. When I asked you to do this last month, I realized it was an awfully big request and I know you get a lot of requests every day. You can't imagine how much I appreciate this. Thank you, thank you. This will show all those nonbelievers who don't believe in the power of prayer! One more small request, if I may. I realize that even Your power isn't enough to keep Carson on top for 6 more months, but do you think you could manage it until Super Tuesday at least? I would be immensely grateful if you could try. Your devoted worshipper, Hillary Clinton."

Here are the numbers from the poll.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Ben Carson 29%
2 Donald Trump 23%
3 Marco Rubio 11%
4 Ted Cruz 10%
5 Jeb Bush 8%
6 Chris Christie 3%
6 Carly Fiorina 3%
6 Mike Huckabee 3%
6 John Kasich 3%
10 Rand Paul 2%
  Lindsey Graham <1%
  Bobby Jindal <1%
  Rick Santorum <1%
  George Pataki <1%
  Jim Gilmore <1%

In the last debate, there was a brief mention of fantasy football. Carson as a presidential candidate is fantasy politics. (V)

Election Day 2015 Is Upon Us

Today is Election Day, and most localities have at least a few races and questions for voters to consider. Here are the ones with potential to be of national interest:

  • Kentucky Governor: Gov. Steve Beshear (D-KY) is term-limited. In the Democratic primary, the ticket of Jack Conway and Sannie Overly coasted to an easy victory, particularly after their main opponent was arrested for nonpayment of library fines (really). On the Republican side, Matt Bevin and Jenean Hampton took the nomination by a mere 83 votes (out of more than 214,000 cast). The campaign has been nasty, with Bevin trying to link Conway to the unpopular-in-Kentucky Barack Obama, and Conway asserting that Bevin will deny people access to Medicaid. Initially, the Republican Governors' Association determined that Bevin was a lost cause, and so left him to the wolves, but several million last-minute dollars they decided to bestow have turned the race into a tossup. Kentucky is one of the few Southern states where Democrats control the governor's mansion (Virginia and Missouri are the others), and they prefer not to lose it.

  • Virginia State Senate: Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) has seen his plans to expand Medicaid and to enact gun control legislation stymied by the Republican-controlled state legislature. The Virginia House of Delegates is a lost cause, but in the Virginia Senate only one seat needs to flip to hand the chamber to the Democrats. All 40 seats are technically up for re-election, but only 20 are actually being contested, and only eight of those are competitive. In the eight competitive races, three involve incumbent Republicans, three involve incumbent Democrats, and two involve only challengers. Polling has been sparse, so the outcome is anyone's guess. If McAuliffe gets the Democratic senate he wants, he has an outside chance to get some laws passed that would help his longtime ally Hillary Clinton in the state in 2016.

  • Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Pennsylvania has three open seats on its seven-person Supreme Court, where justices serve 10-year terms. The last time that was the case, the vacancies were filled by appointment, and the person doing the appointing was Queen Anne. This time, the people will choose. If the Democrats can get two of the three open seats, it will flip the political balance of the court in the Democrats' favor, 4-3. Pennsylvania is the most important state in the 3rd Circuit, and has historically sent a large number of cases to the Supreme Court.

  • Ohio Issue 1: Various attempts have been made in the past decade or so to counteract gerrymandering, with Arizona, California, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington all implementing various schemes to make the drawing of Congressional boundaries more fair. Ohio is the latest state to take a shot; Issue 1 would create a seven-person bipartisan commission to draw Ohio's congressional and legislative boundaries, starting with the next census. This is not a novel approach, but approval of the initiative—which seems likely—would certainly add to the momentum against the gerrymander.

  • Ohio Issue 3: If Ohioans approve Issue 3, the state will become the fifth to legalize marijuana. In contrast to their approach to gerrymandering, the Ohioans' approach to legal pot is definitely novel. The measure would create 10 privately-owned Marijuana Growth, Cultivation and Extraction (MGCE) facilities, which would be granted the exclusive right to sell legal marijuana in the state. The MGCEs, which would not be allowed to cooperate (so as to avoid violating the Sherman Antitrust Act). Each has a number of (celebrity) investors lined up, including former boy-bander Nick Lachey, NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, former NFL star Frostee Rucker, and William Howard Taft's great-grandson Woody. Issue 3 seems likely to pass in a close vote; if it does it would make Ohio the largest state (and the only one east of the Mississippi) to have legal weed. The success (or failure) of the initiative could have an impact on the 10 (or more) states expected to consider similar measures next year, among them Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Missouri.

  • Maine Question 1: Maine's Question 1, called the "Clean Elections" initiative, would increase penalties for candidates who fudge their financial disclosures (or who submit them late), would require more thorough disclosure of top donors' names, and would also increase public funding for elections. This is one of the first state-level responses to Citizens United; it's likely not the last.

  • Texas Proposition 6: This amendment would add a provision to the Texas state constitution "recognizing the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife." If this seems unnecessary, that is because it is. People in Texas are having no problem hunting, fishing, and harvesting wildlife as much as they wish to. The initiative, which will surely pass, is a backdoor attack on conservation and gun control groups. It may also provide a model for using ballot initiatives to get otherwise apathetic voters to the polls, not unlike anti-gay marriage initiatives were used by the Bush campaign in 2004.

  • Houston HERO Referendum: The HERO Referendum would give broad protection to many groups of Houston residents, banning discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, genetic information and pregnancy, among others. The passages that have attracted all the attention, however, are the ones that would extend anti-discriminatory laws to gay and transgender individuals. The referendum has gotten nationwide attention, including statements of support from Hillary Clinton and the White House. Six of the seven major candidates running for mayor have also endorsed HERO, as has sitting mayor Annise Parker. Opponents of the bill are mostly the leaders of local Christian denominations, who argue that it's a plot by Parker, or else lament that it will allow grown men to follow little girls into restrooms. Inasmuch as Houston elected Parker, who is openly lesbian, three times, HERO is certain to pass.

  • San Francisco Proposition F: The rise of the "gig" economy was initially greeted with almost universal enthusiasm, as working for Uber or Lyft or renting out an apartment on AirBnb represents an opportunity for go-getters to earn some extra money without strings attached or ongoing obligations. Now, the downsides are becoming apparent—workers are left with no safety net if they are hurt or if their car is damaged; daily rentals are more profitable than monthly or yearly, so long-term housing becomes more scarce and more expensive. Deep, deep blue San Francisco is, not surprisingly, the first city to strike back on the housing front, given that low- and middle- income residents there have been feeling the housing squeeze for years, even before the gig economy began to emerge. Proposition F would impose significant restrictions on private, short-term housing rentals. For that reason, it is being called—with good reason—the Airbnb initiative. Supporters have spent $300,000 promoting the proposition, while Airbnb has spent $8 million fighting back against it. Polls suggest the advertising blitz is working; before the ads began airing, voters were split; now they appear to be ready to defeat Proposition F by 15 or more points.

Tomorrow, we'll give a brief update on the outcomes of these contests. (Z)

Republican Candidates Demand Control over the Debates

Several Republican candidates have gotten together to try to wrest control of the debate process from RNC chairman Reince Priebus. It is unlikely that they will succeed because (1) the networks broadcasting the debates have a lot of power and (2) the candidates disagree among themselves on key issues. For example, one contentious issue is whether all candidates should get an equal number of quality questions and an equal amount of speaking time. The top candidates don't see any need to give the also-ran candidates equal time. Another hot potato is how candidates should be chosen for the debates. The top 10 candidates are happy with the current format. The kids at the kiddie table want two debates, each with seven or eight participants, with the decision to put which candidate in which debate done by random drawing just minutes before the debate starts. Candidates whose strength is repeating talking points they have memorized don't want candidate-to-candidate questions. Those who are quick on their feet like them. The inclusion or exclusion of opening and closing statements is also a hot item.

Although the candidates are acting like Priebus is the bad guy here, in reality he is the only person in the process looking out for the best interests of the Republican Party. The networks and candidates are interested only in what is good for themselves. When Priebus took control of the debates after Mitt Romney's loss in 2012, most Republicans regarded party control of the debate process to be a good thing, in order to avoid the catastrophic and nearly infinite number of debates in 2011 and 2012.

One example of where Priebus is much smarter than the candidates is in the choice of networks. After the last debate, where some of the candidates made hay by attacking host CNBC, Priebus temporarily suspended Telemundo, a Spanish-language channel owned by NBC, from hosting the February debate. This was just a mild warning; he didn't really mean it. The candidates may be angry with NBC, but Priebus understood (and still understands) that getting more Latinos to vote Republican is essential if the GOP is to take over the White House. The candidates' parochial views are far less important here. The worst case scenario for the Republicans is that the Telemundo debate is indeed canceled, the Democrats swoop in and have a debate on Telemundo, which both makes the network angry at the Republicans for dropping them and makes it cozy up to the Democrats—precisely the opposite of what Priebus had in mind when he signed up with Telemundo in the first place.

The attempt by the candidates to take control of the debate process may yet be foiled, not by Priebus, but by one of their own. Donald Trump has announced that he plans to personally negotiate with the networks about the terms. This move is in keeping with his attempt to build an image of himself as the master negotiator who can get whatever he wants. If he manages to cow all the networks, he will no doubt get a boost and convince some people if he can do that, he can build a wall on the Mexican border and get Mexico to pay for it. On the other hand, if the networks say no, what will happen to his image? It's a big risk.

With Trump negotiating on his own and Carly Fiorina not part of the group at all, the Republican candidates are getting an unexpected lesson in the need for unions. Collectively, employees/candidates are stronger when negotiating with an employer/network than when they are their own, but getting everyone on the same page is hard. (V)

Jeb 2.0 Relaunched Yesterday

In an effort to save his flailing campaign, yesterday Jeb Bush relaunched his campaign in Tampa, FL with a speech and an e-book. The e-book reveals a more personal side to Bush, something that has been lacking so far. In his speech, he said would do everything in his power to win except compromise his principles and trade in his optimistic outlook. He never mentioned any of his opponents by name, but did helpfully point out that the President can't go to Congress and say: "You're fired." (V)

How Super PACs and Campaigns Coordinate

By law, candidates for office may not communicate with super PACs that support them. Of course, if someone from the campaign and someone from the super PAC just accidentally happen to be playing tennis or golf at the same location at the same time, gee, stuff happens. For candidates who don't want to take chances on who will be at the tennis court or golf club, another method is available: Just tell the media what you'd like the super PAC to do and then hope someone from the super PAC is clever enough to get the message. Case in point: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wanted his super PAC to start running ads in Iowa and New Hampshire but legally he had no way to tell it. So he told Politico instead, which is perfectly legal. Politico promptly published the story and then called Cruz' super PAC to ask for comments about the story. The spokeswoman for the super PAC, Laura Barnett, said that reserving air time wasn't on the agenda so far. It is a pretty good bet it is now. (V)

Harvard Professor is a Drop-out

You can be excused for not knowing who Harvard professor Larry Lessig is or what he was running for before he dropped out yesterday. He was running for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. He concluded that he was going to have a tough time beating Hillary Clinton, so he gave up. Lessig made a promise as bizarre as any other candidate this year. He said he would push for a new law regulating campaign finance and once it was passed, would resign the presidency. He raised some money but didn't make the first Democratic debate, which was his only real chance. He finally realized he was not going to change the world as he had hoped, so he threw in the towel. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Nov02 November Ranking of the Republican Candidates
Nov02 Rubio and Cruz: the Finalists?
Nov02 Bernie Sanders Runs His First Ad
Nov02 Trump's Supporters Feel America Has Lost Its Greatness
Nov02 How Mysterious Is the Carson Mystery?
Nov02 Obama Will Leave $20 Trillion in Debt Behind
Nov02 Is Glenn Beckoning?
Nov01 Obama Sends Soldiers to Syria
Nov01 Bernie Sanders is in Trouble
Nov01 Gun Control Likely to Be a Talking Point in 2016
Nov01 Can the GOP Debates Be Fixed?
Nov01 The Jeb! Action Plan
Nov01 Rubio Gets Big Endorsement
Nov01 Rand Paul's Halloween Party
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