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

Rubio Credit Card Issue Fading

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has released several years' worth of records for the Florida Republican Party credit card he used—and potentially abused—while serving in the Florida legislature. It is difficult to parse the records completely, since many expenses could be personal or business, and only Rubio knows for sure. Still, the evidence suggests that a fairly small minority of the charges actually were personal (about $20,000 out of $120,000) and that Rubio quickly reimbursed the GOP for all of those. Further, this sort of mixing of accounts was (and is) reportedly de rigueur with these cards, and Rubio has been very contrite about his behavior. Indeed, it is overall a textbook example of how to deal with a budding scandal. And while the senator's personal finances may still get a lot of scrutiny, it is looking more and more like the credit card portion of the issue will fade away. (Z)

Another Day, Another Question About Ben Carson's Past

Two questions, actually. This time, the Wall Street Journal—hardly a bastion of left-wing advocacy—is taking a turn, raising questions about a pair of stories Carson has told on the speaking circuit and in his autobiography. The first, from 1968, is a recollection of sheltering white students in a biology lab where he worked part time, so that they would not be harmed by marauding black mobs after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The WSJ found half a dozen people who remembered the riots in question very well; none could recall white students being hidden in a lab, and Carson cannot recall any names of people he helped. The second tells of a time when he was recognized as the most honest student in a psychology class called Perceptions 301, and was photographed for the Yale Daily News in honor of the occasion. However, the Yale psychology department did not offer a course with that title or that number during Carson's time at the college, and there is no photograph of him in the Yale Daily News.

Between pulling knives in school, and West Point scholarships, and awards for honesty, etc., it strains credulity that there could be this many honest misunderstandings and miscommunications, and this many highly memorable events that only Ben Carson remembers. Nonetheless, Carson continues to spin away, asserting that "there is a desperation on behalf of some to try to find ways to tarnish me because they've been looking through everything, they have been talking to everybody I've ever known, everybody I've ever seen." If Carson thinks he is unusual in this regard, he might want to talk to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or George W. Bush. But in any event, the spin is working. The more questions that are raised, the more money pours into the coffers of Carson 2016. At the same time, Carson's rivals—outside of Donald Trump—are scared to death of challenging him, for fear that the attacks will boomerang back upon them. It's a remarkable situation—the New Yorker's Andy Borowitz may have best captured the absurdity of it with his satirical piece entitled, "Carson Plummets in Polls Amid Reports He Did Not Stab Anyone." (Z)

Trump's Saturday Night Was Lively, But Not Too Lively

There was a good bit of drama leading up to Donald Trump's appearance as host of Saturday Night Live yesterday, with protests and offers of a $5,000 reward for anyone who would shout "racist!" during Trump's monologue, and promos being released and then yanked back by NBC, and the Donald himself rejecting certain sketches that he feared would not play well with Iowa voters.

Those who tuned in hoping for more drama, however, were disappointed. After all, both the host and the show are seasoned veterans when it comes to dealing with controversy. Someone did yell "racist!" during the monologue, but it was Larry David—fresh off his second dead-on sendup of Sen.Bernie Sanders (I-VT)—who explained that he heard he could get $5,000. This got a big laugh. Trump himself is a seasoned performer, and he had a strong night. In the aforementioned monologue, he shared the stage with two impersonators (Taran Killam and Darrell Hammond), trading barbs with them. He also appeared as a laser harpist, danced in a parody of Drake's "Hotline Bling" video, and imagined himself President two years in the future, having solved all of the United States' problems. The highlight, however, came when Trump was not technically on screen, and instead was hate-Tweeting his feedback during a sketch, making ad hominem attacks against cast members, such as, "An extremely credible source just told me that Kenan Thompson's birth certificate is a fraud" and "Taran Killam is a dumb loser."

The circles in a Venn diagram of "SNL viewers" and "potential Trump supporters" may not overlap all that much, but to the extent that the GOP frontrunner could help himself by appearing on the show, he certainly did. (Z)

Who Should Be on the Debate Stage Has Become Contentious

With 17 Republican candidates at the start of the primary season, figuring out how to have a debate was not easy for the networks sponsoring the debate. If, for example, a debate were 2 hours, with 17 minutes taken by opening and closing statements and 15 minutes for commercials, that would leave 88 minutes for debating or about 5 minutes per candidate. This is hardly enough time for viewers to get to know the candidates. So the networks decided to have two debates, a main one and an undercard, with candidates assigned by poll numbers. This whole concept has come under increasing fire of late by everyone from pundits to the candidates themselves.

The issue has come to the forefront recently, with the next Republican debate being limited to only eight candidates because the network—Fox Business News—arbitrarily decided that candidates polling below 2.5% would be excluded. Why 2.5%? Why not 2% or 3% or some other number? If the cutoff had been 2%, then Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Mike Huckabee would have made the cut, but with 2.5% as the cutoff, they have been shunted to the undercard and their campaigns are effectively over. One can legitimately ask if Fox Business News should be making the call about who is a viable candidate and who is not, especially when 0.5% means almost nothing when the polls have margins of error of about 4% and averaging four polls might cut the margin of error in half at best.

The fact that their campaigns were effectively killed off because they were polling only around 2% must be especially galling to Christie and Huckabee when they realize that Lincoln Chafee made cut at the Democratic debate even though they are polling infinitely better than he was (2/0 = infinity). They simply had the bad luck to be in a field so big that not everyone could fit on the stage at the same time, whereas the Democrats had a smaller pool so marginal candidates could be accommodated. Christie, in particular, must feel frustrated because he hasn't been campaigning nationally at all. He has put all of his effort into New Hampshire, where he is polling a respectable (for this year) 8%. Yet he is being dumped because he is polling close to zero in places he hasn't campaigned at all.

To avoid putting too much weight on polling at this early stage and to give the bottom tier a fair shot, some people have proposed have two equal debates, with the candidates chosen for each debate at random. But the networks chose not to do this, starting with the first debate, and the precedent was set. All in all, the mechanics of the debates and the whims of the sponsors are having a major effect on winnowing the field months before the Iowa caucuses—and let's not even begin on the logic of having a small and atypical state have so much influence in the whole process. (V)

DSCC To Support Conner Eldridge in Arkansas Senate Race

While the odds of the Democrats knocking off Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) are pretty slim, the DSCC has nevertheless picked someone to try: federal prosecutor Conner Eldridge. As a federal prosecutor, Eldridge can run a law-and-order campaign, highlighting criminals he has put behind bars. But there is one other peculiarity of this race that may give him more of a chance than he would have in, say Mississippi or Tennessee. Bill Clinton is still enormously popular in the state and is likely to campaign hard there for Hillary. While he is at it, he could also campaign for Eldridge and help raise money for him. (V)

New House Committee Has a Majority of Women

The House has created a new select committee to investigate Planned Parenthood after a doctored video surfaced purportedly showing the women's health organization selling baby parts. The committee is unusual in that both the chair, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and ranking member, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), are women. This is only the second time in history that both the chair and ranking member of a House committee have been women. The first time was the House Select Committee on the Beauty Shop, which ran the House beauty salon from 1967 to 1977. Not only are the two leaders women, but 9 of the 14 members are also women. The committee is almost certainly going to get into a brawl about abortion.

The creation of the committee shows how much short-term thinking dominates Congress. The committee is undoubtedly going to break down along party lines, with Democrats supporting abortion rights and Republicans opposing them. For the general election, this works against the Republicans, especially with women voters. But for the Republican primaries, opposing abortion is a winning strategy for the Republicans on the committee. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Nov07 Unemployment Falls Dramatically
Nov07 Carson's Biography is Unraveling
Nov07 Bush Probably Should Not Have Attacked Marco Rubio
Nov07 Clinton Emails Did Not Contain Classified Information
Nov07 Clinton Has Raised More Money in California Than in New York
Nov07 Clinton Campaign Hitting Its Stride
Nov07 Why Are They Running?
Nov07 Super PACs Not So Super?
Nov06 Carson's Comments on the Egyptian Pyramids Probably Won't Hurt Him
Nov06 Of Course, It's Not Just the Pyramids
Nov06 Another Nail in the Coffin Becomes Official
Nov06 Bernie Will Fix It?
Nov06 Trump's Turn to be Live From New, York!
Nov06 Conservative Talk Radio Is Forcing Republicans to the Right
Nov06 Dardenne Endorses Edwards in Louisiana Runoff
Nov06 Trans-Pacific Partnership Goes Public
Nov05 What Do the 2015 Election Results Mean for 2016?
Nov05 Obama Was Not Rebuked on Tuesday
Nov05 Blue States May Determine the Republican Nominee
Nov05 Story of Rubio's Finances Continues
Nov05 Christie May Not Make the Main Debate Next Time
Nov05 Jeb Can Fix It May Not Be the Ideal Slogan
Nov05 Do Democrats Suppress the Vote?
Nov04 And the Winners Are...
Nov04 Another Headache for Pollsters
Nov04 Trump Goes After Rubio
Nov04 Sanders Is Losing Ground Among Daily Kos Readers
Nov04 Will the Candidates' Attempt to Control the Debates Be Counterproductive?
Nov04 Bush Apologizes to France
Nov04 Obamacare Repeal Giving McConnell Headaches
Nov03 Carson Leads in National Poll
Nov03 Election Day 2015 Is Upon Us
Nov03 Republican Candidates Demand Control over the Debates
Nov03 Jeb 2.0 Relaunched Yesterday
Nov03 How Super PACs and Campaigns Coordinate
Nov03 Harvard Professor is a Drop-out
Nov03 Carson Leads in National Poll
Nov03 Election Day 2015 Is Upon Us
Nov03 Republican Candidates Demand Control over the Debates
Nov03 Jeb 2.0 Relaunched Yesterday
Nov03 How Super PACS and Campaigns Coordinate
Nov03 Harvard Professor is a Drop-out
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