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
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News from the Votemaster

Is the GOP in Trouble?

Time has an interesting editorial that includes such observations as this:

[O]ur country is increasingly divided between the "haves" and the "have-nots." As the gulf between these two gets larger, we are creating a permanent underclass while doling out welfare for the wealthy. Stopping and reversing this disastrous trend is one of the greatest challenges of our time..."

A reader might be forgiven for guessing that the editorialist is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), but in fact the piece comes from the pen of...Charles Koch. A careful reading of the piece reveals a surprisingly large amount of overlap between the thinking of the billionaire and the Democratic Socialist from Vermont. There is also a lot of Koch's libertarianism throughout—the two brothers are only nominally Republican, and David Koch even ran as the Libertarian candidate for vice president in 1980 on a platform that Ron Paul might find a bit overreaching. In any event, the publication of the item came on the same day that the brothers announced that they would not be supporting any of the GOP's candidates in the primary season.

The Republicans may not have lost the Kochs yet—the pair say they will "likely" lend support to the eventual nominee. Nonetheless, might this be something of a bellwether for where the Republican Party finds itself today? Varun Gupta, writing for the Huffington Post, certainly thinks so. The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky agrees. Both argue, in different ways, that the GOP has abandoned broad appeal in favor of rallying the base. This means an emphasis on bombast and drama, and little discussion of substantive policy issues (much less a cohesive political agenda). The problem is that even if 100% of the fringe shows up to vote, that's not enough to win a national election. And if a party focuses on catering to the fringe for too long, they begin to lose the support of the voters who are interested in serious policy discussions—fiscal conservatives, libertarians, moderates, etc.—in other words, people like the Kochs.

Pew Research has some instructive data about the current state of the Republican Party. The takeaways:

  • GOP voters like this year's candidates a lot
  • GOP voters currently prefer "new ideas" over experience
  • GOP voters hate Obamacare and the Iran nuclear deal
  • GOP voters are nonetheless sharply divided
  • Americans in general have a more favorable view of the Democrats than the Republicans

This seems very much like a recipe for selecting a candidate who will make some Republicans very happy but who will get slaughtered in the general election. (Z)

Case Study: GOP Foreign Policy

The Atlantic has a good analysis of the GOP candidates' foreign policy views, particularly as revealed in the debates. They note that the plans being described by most of the candidates—more bombs, more guns, more ships, more troops—would, by all evidences, be unproductive and would represent a repeat of the worst mistakes of the Cold War era (not to mention the presidency of George W. Bush). However, the strong talk is red meat that pleases the base, so this is what is proffered.

Author Peter Beinart also notes that the most thoughtful—and most practicable—foreign policy ideas are coming from the non-viable candidates, most obviously Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). He also notes the irony of the fact that Ronald Reagan—icon of the modern-day GOP—was himself very cautious about the use of military force, and rarely put American lives in harm's way. In short, candidates that are trying to be Reagan-like seem to have forgotten what Reagan was actually like. (Z)

Bush Not Going to Get Elected Saying Things Like This

Jeb Bush was at a rally in Michigan, and he said something extremely impolitic. In explaining his views on the problems that face Americans, he opined that, "Democrats are not our enemies."

Obviously, this is a very sensible, thoughtful thing to say. Bush also asserted that voters should support a candidate with, "joy in his heart (who) has the proven skills to fix things." This approach most obviously mirrors Hubert H. Humphrey's call for the "politics of joy" in 1964, though it also echoes his father's call for a "kinder, gentler nation" in 1988. In any event, positive messaging suits Jeb Bush's personality much better than going on the attack. Unfortunately for him, the GOP and the Democrats have both spent years demonizing the other party, and in particular the theme of the 2016 Republican campaign has been "the year of the angry outsider." In a world where Donald Trump is calling for 10 million people to be deported and Ben Carson is saying that Muslims are unfit to be president, Jeb's pleas are likely to fall on deaf ears. (Z)

Is Hillary Getting a Pass?

Hillary Clinton has a few cases where her memory of past events seems to be exaggerated, distorted, or outright fabricated. However, these cases appear to be getting less attention than Ben Carson's exaggerations, distortions, and fabrications. Carson, and others, think that the reason is that the liberal media is giving Clinton a free pass. Chris Cillizza, writing for the Washington Post, thinks it's not that simple. His primary argument is that the differential treatment of Carson vs. Clinton is less about politics, and more about newness. Clinton is a known commodity, and salacious stories about her don't move the needle much. Carson, on the other hand, is the flavor of the day. We are still learning about him, and shocking revelations have more impact.

Cillizza is surely right that politics are not the only (and probably not the main) issue here, though his analysis appears to overlook some other important differences between the two candidates. To start, the Hillary stories that are in question are somewhat tangential to her main story—whether or not she actually tried to join the Marine Corps in 1975 is not terribly central to her image. On the other hand, Ben Carson's story about stabbing or almost-stabbing a classmate is absolutely foundational to his public presentation of himself. There's also something to be said about information overload. Hillary Clinton already has Benghazi, and the emails, a few other irons in the scandal fire. Friends and foes can only keep track of so many things at once. Meanwhile, Ben Carson's list is still fairly short—there's room for a few more salacious additions. (Z)

Hillary All-In on Coal

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton proposed a $30 billion plan to help coal miners get the training necessary to transition to other professions, while also encouraging the slow but steady implementation of clean energy alternatives.

As a policy proposal, this is fairly shrewd—it allows Clinton to claim some "environmentalist" points and some "job creation" points, two issues where she definitely is getting crushed by Bernie Sanders. Meanwhile, it also hints at the campaign's thinking about 2016. Coal production is a major issue in five states: Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Wyoming is hopeless—it hasn't gone Democratic since 1964. And Illinois is in the bag, coal or not. Perhaps this proposal is primarily for Pennsylvania's benefit. But very likely, Clinton's team has taken note of the fact that the last times that West Virginia and Kentucky went Democratic were in 1992 and 1996. In other words, it seems probable that they are thinking that those two states may actually be in play for a Democrat in 2016—at least, a Democrat named Clinton. (Z)

Vitter Getting Desperate

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) was once considered a shoo-in to be elected governor of Louisiana. However, the unpopularity of Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), along with a series of scandals, have the senator scrambling. The runoff election is a week away, and Vitter has pulled out all the stops. His latest commercial features Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson asking, "I know he's made some mistakes, but who hasn't?"

Louisiana is an unusual state, and who knows—maybe it will work. However, the ad certainly seems to be a bit desperate, and perhaps a bit beneath the dignity of a U.S. Senator. Meanwhile, polling consistently puts Democrat John Bel Edwards ahead by 4 to 10 points. It is thus difficult to avoid the obvious conclusion: Vitter looks like a dead duck. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Nov12 GOP Debate Postmortem
Nov12 The GOP Race is Really a Series of Smaller Races
Nov12 Congress is Busy Posturing
Nov11 Conservatives and Moderates Fight over Immigration in Debate
Nov11 Court of Appeals Hands Obama a Defeat on Immigration
Nov11 Americans Fear Guns More than They Fear Terrorists
Nov11 Polling Is in Trouble Worldwide
Nov10 Trump and Carson Tied in South Carolina
Nov10 One For the Money, Two for the Show, Three to Get Ready...
Nov10 Bernie Sanders Is Trying to Win Latinos
Nov10 Media Attacks Have Helped Carson Raise $3.5 Million
Nov10 Tea Party Not Going After Senate Incumbents in 2016
Nov10 TPP Will Play a Big Role in Determining Control of the Senate
Nov10 Will Software Ruin the Campaigns?
Nov09 Trump and Carson Still Lead in Iowa
Nov09 Does Carson Speak in Parables?
Nov09 Rubio Was Often Late Paying His Credit Card Bill
Nov09 Lessons from Kentucky
Nov09 League of Conservation Voters Endorses Clinton
Nov09 Trumpism Explained
Nov09 GOP Moderates Working on New Hampshire
Nov09 statehood for Puerto Rico? Not Likely
Nov09 Statehood for Puerto Rico? Not Likely
Nov08 Rubio Credit Card Issue Fading
Nov08 Another Day, Another Question About Ben Carson's Past
Nov08 Trump's Saturday Night Was Lively, But Not Too Lively
Nov08 Who Should Be on the Debate Stage Has Become Contentious
Nov08 DSCC To Support Conner Eldridge in Arkansas Senate Race
Nov08 New House Committee Has a Majority of Women
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