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

Was the GOP the Real Loser on Tuesday Night?

The newspapers, Websites, and blogs, as well as TV and radio shows are full of debate commentary and analysis. A recurrent theme from the commentariat is that the Democratic debate served to significantly weaken the Republican Party. Not just because Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) got a boost from their performances, but because the contrast between the two parties (and their candidates) was so stark, and not in the Republicans' favor.

For example, leftist blogger Digby, writing for Salon, observes:

Republican America is a dystopian hellscape in which evil, violent foreigners are trying to kill us in our beds...Democratic America is a very powerful nation struggling with a declining middle class and economic insecurity at the hands of the ultra-rich, requiring some energetic government intervention to mitigate income inequality..."

John Hudak, writing for the more centrist Brookings Institution, makes a similar point:

The Democratic debate told us more about Republicans than Democrats. The debate reinforced pre-existing stereotypes about Republicans—that of a party in disarray. The presidential campaign is dominated by a laughable candidate who overshadows all other candidates not by the virtue of his ideas, but by the force of his personality and his magnetism of media attention. In the meantime, serious candidates are the victims of a politics more interested in entertainment and less in electability...

The starkest contrast between the parties tonight occurred when Sen. Bernie Sanders said the American public is sick and tired of hearing about her (Clinton's) damn emails. How would that line have been delivered in a Republican debate...from one Republican to another? It would not have been mature; it would not have been nurturing; it would not have been cooperative. It surely would not have ended in a sincere handshake. It would likely have been a nasty, personal attack launched in a vain effort at political gain.

Even arch-conservative Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review (which was founded by legendary conservative William F. Buckley) had this to say:

Yes, Hillary had a good night. She was polished, knowledgeable, shrewd and hard-hitting, clearly, not someone to be trifled with.

He went on to say that her performance didn't mean much because she had weak opponents, but anyone who watched knows very well that moderator Anderson Cooper asked her tough questions throughout and gave so little air time to the minor candidates that Jim Webb was constantly whining about not getting enough questions.

The Republican candidates did not do much to counter these arguments on Wednesday. Donald Trump, for example, released a political ad on Instagram that—backed by a melodramatic voiceover and music that sounds like a polka—asserts that Bernie Sanders' allowing Black Lives Matter to seize the microphone at one of his rallies is evidence that he would not be capable of dealing with ISIS. One could be excused for thinking the ad was a Saturday Night Live parody, if not for the fact that the punchline is "TRUMP: Make America Great Again!" (incidentally, Trump will host SNL on November 7). Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) admitted he did not see much of the debate, but nonetheless opined that it was "a recipe to destroy a country" and "an audition for who would wear the jackboot most vigorously."

The conservative commentariat went even further. TheBlaze characterized the Democratic candidates as "Godless heathen tyrant maniacs." Breitbart identified "27 lies, fibs, and obfuscations" that Hillary Clinton told on Wednesday night. Among the "lies" on the list was Clinton's assertion that, "Fathers will be able to say to their daughters, you, too, can grow up to be President." This is a falsehood, according to author Ben Shapiro, because not every daughter can "marry a president first." Meanwhile, World News Daily used its debate coverage as an opportunity to promote its "exclusive report" that they have learned the true identity of Chelsea Clinton's father.

Undoubtedly such theatrics and rhetoric work, at least with some voters, or we wouldn't see them at the debates, on the campaign trail, and in the blogosphere. But is it wise for the Republican party to bet that they will work with a majority of voters (or, at least, something close to a majority)? (Z)

The Other Three Democrats Had a Bad Wednesday

While there is some discussion as to whether Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders won Tuesday's debate, there was a broad consensus that the other three participants were all losers. Things did not improve much on Wednesday, as the media continued to pile on.

For Martin O'Malley, the bad news was David Simon bubbling back up to the surface. Simon is a liberal Democrat, the creator of The Wire, and a bestselling author. He also covered crime for the Baltimore Sun while O'Malley was the city's mayor. His damning assessment is that the mayor's record was achieved entirely through indiscriminate use of force: "The mass arrests made clear, we can lock up anybody, we don't have to figure out who's committing crimes, we don't have to investigate anything, we just gather all the bodies—everybody goes to jail."

Jim Webb, meanwhile, got attention for two things: His odd semi-joke about his greatest enemy (the man whom he ostensibly killed after being grenaded), and his very right-leaning responses. The Christian Science Monitor went so far as to wonder if the former senator should not quit the Democratic Party and see if he could secure a podium at the Republican debate.

Lincoln Chafee may have had the worst day of all. Having fumbled a few questions on Tuesday night, he appeared on Wolf Blitzer's show on CNN in order to repair the damage. The genial and generally not-too-confrontational Blitzer offered a devastating critique in the form of friendly advice: "Here's what worries me, Governor: Because of your distinguished career, you're going to wind up looking silly if you keep going on like this." Blitzer then asked Chafee exactly when he planned give up the charade and drop out of the race. Chafee had no reply to Blitzer's questions.

Entering Tuesday's debate, victory for all three men was a long shot. Now it is a near impossibility. The only question left is which one will throw in the towel first. (Z)

The Democratic Debates, Factually and Graphically

There has now been time enough to take an in-depth look at the debate data. FactCheck has completed its usual analysis of the Democratic candidates' statements, and found only a handful of objectionable points. Their report goes into great detail, but the brief version is:

  • Hillary Clinton was initially more enthusiastic about the Trans-Pacific Partnership than she claimed
  • Bernie Sanders oversimplified his Social Security plan
  • Martin O'Malley misstated workers' weekly earnings
  • Lincoln Chafee slightly overstated his success in combating unemployment
  • Sanders claimed 51% unemployment for young African Americans; it's actually 51% unemployment and underemployment
  • Clinton implied that the 90 people a day who die from guns are homicides; only 1/3 are
  • Sanders said the U.S. has the worst wealth inequality in the world, in fact the U.S. is 16th
  • Clinton did not acknowledge that she kept her emails longer than policy allowed

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, has rendered the debates in graphical form. Among the highlights:

  • Every candidate addressed Bernie Sanders at least once, but nobody addressed Lincoln Chafee
  • Clinton mentioned the Republican Party 16 times, Jim Webb did so only once
  • Clinton mentioned President Obama 12 times, the other candidates combined for 8 mentions
  • Clinton and Sanders combined for 54 rounds of applause, Martin O'Malley got 11, and Chafee and Webb combined for 3
  • Clinton uttered the most words (5,452), followed fairly closely by Sanders (4,838), while Chafee got in the fewest (1,641)

And the Washington Post put together an interesting Venn Diagram of the topics covered in the two parties' debates:

  • Democrats only: Racism, college debt, financial reform, paid family leave, wealth inequality, early childhood ed, renewable energy, campaign finance, veterans care, infrastructure, equal pay

  • Democrats and Republicans: Guns, health care, surveillance, gay marriage, foreign policy, incarceration, Black Lives Matter, minimum wage, climate change, Social Security, immigration, marijuana, taxes

  • Republicans only: Deficit, abortion, vaccines, religious freedom, military readiness, Supreme Court justices, birthright citizenship, Islamic terrorism, border control, unions, the IRS

  • Not mentioned by either: Affordable housing, standardized housing, transportation, the achievement gap, Net neutrality, poverty, The Fed

The Post concludes with the observation that, "The areas where the two don't overlap, though, are in some ways the most interesting, as they reveal two presidential fields that often sound as if they're running in completely different elections." (Z)

Debate May Slow Down Sanders in Iowa

Initial reactions coming out of Iowa suggest that Hillary Clinton's precipitous decline there may be coming to an end. After her debate performance, people who had given up on her are taking a second look. When the subject of her trustworthiness came up, one Democrat noted that President Obama had hired her as Secretary of State, something he would never have done if he didn't trust her. Another Iowan said that she had the "people skills" to be President. Yet another noted that the bar for her was high but she went over it by a lot.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) really needs to win both Iowa and New Hampshire to have a shot at the nomination. A win only in New Hampshire will not mean so much because he is a favorite neighbor. This makes Iowa especially crucial. Clinton has spent 22 days campaigning in Iowa already and Sanders has spent 20 days there. Both of them are likely to return to the state over and over again until the February 1 caucuses. (V)

The Window Is Closing for Joe Biden

Yesterday's debate was bad news for Joe Biden. If he was hoping Hillary Clinton would screw up and a petrified Democratic Party would beg him to run, he was surely disappointed. She did a fine job and made no serious mistakes.. She will undoubtedly get a bump in the polls as a result. And if Biden was thinking that Sen. Bernie Sanders would come off as a crazy man, requiring his presence to give Clinton a sparring partner, that didn't happen either. Sanders came off as extremely authentic, knowledgeable on all the issues, and determined to win.

Furthermore, Clinton hugged Obama all night, eliminating another rationale for Biden's candidacy: to save Obama's legacy. Clinton not only promised to do that, but she said she would extend it, so Democrats don't need Biden to do that.

Nevertheless, she could still mess up, requiring Biden to go find a white horse, take some riding lessons, and come rescue the party. Her next test comes on Oct. 22, when she will testify before the House Benghazi panel, which probably will not ask any questions about Benghazi, now that three insiders (see below) have said the only purpose of the panel was to discredit her. They are likely to focus on her email server. If she botches her testimony, Biden could yet come riding to the rescue. Either way, we will know how well she does in a week. (V)

Is Hillary Clinton Too Old?

Hillary Clinton will be 69 years old on inauguration day 2017. Some people have said that is too old to be President. If the Republicans nominate Marco Rubio (who will be 45 on inauguration day), count on him pointing this out, say 50 to 100 times a day. Clinton will no doubt reply to the Republicans with "Saint Ronald was also 69 when inaugurated the first time." However, a comparison of Clinton with Reagan is very misleading. What matters is not the age, but the life expectancy after inauguration. Women live longer than men and according to actuarial tables, a 69-year-old woman can expect to live another 17 years, more than enough time for two terms. In contrast, a 69-year-old man, can expect to live for only 12 more years.

Of course dying in office is only one of the factors that are relevant here, and not even the most important one because there is a clear procedure for dealing with a dead President—the Vice President actually gets a real job and then nominates someone to be the new Vice President and sends the nomination to the Senate for confirmation. A more serious possibility is that the President develops Alzheimer's disease and refuses to resign. Ronald Reagan had full-blown Alzheimer's at the end of his life and there are some signs that he had it in office. If that becomes apparent to the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet that the President is unable to function, the 25th Amendment provides that the Vice President shall become the acting President. If the President says "I'm fine" and the Vice President says "No, you're not" Congress gets to decide but it takes a 2/3 majority of each chamber to definitively remove the President from office and hand the job over to the Vice President. (V)

A Third Republican Says Benghazi Committee is All About Hurting Clinton

Following Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Maj. Bradley Podliska, a third Republican, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), has also admitted that the Benghazi Select Committee is simply about damaging Hillary Clinton, not getting the truth out. He said: "there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people, and an individual, Hillary Clinton." When Clinton testifies before the committee next week, she will surely point out that even Republicans now admit that the committee is merely on a witch hunt. The question remaining is how she does it. Will she be angry at the partisan politics? Will she go after the committee for wasting $4.5 million (so far) of the taxpayer's money? Will she try to tar the entire Republican Party with this investigation? If she pulls it off, the whole show could end up enhancing her status and scaring off Joe Biden—not exactly what the Republicans had in mind when they created the committee. (V)

Trump Has Big Leads in South Carolina and Nevada

A new CNN/ORC poll released yesterday puts Donald Trump at 36% in South Carolina to runner-up Ben Carson's 18%. In Nevada, Trump is at 38% to Carson's 22%. No other candidate is in double digits in either state. Here are the numbers.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 38%
2 Ben Carson 22%
3 Carly Fiorina 8%
4 Marco Rubio 7%
5 Jeb Bush 6%
6 Ted Cruz 4%
6 Mike Huckabee 4%
8 Rand Paul 2%
9 Chris Christie 1%
9 Jim Gilmore 1%
9 John Kasich 1%
9 George Pataki 1%
  Lindsey Graham <1%
  Bobby Jindal <1%
  Rick Santorum <1%
South Carolina
Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 36%
2 Ben Carson 18%
3 Marco Rubio 9%
4 Carly Fiorina 7%
5 Jeb Bush 6%
6 Ted Cruz 5%
6 Lindsey Graham 5%
8 Rand Paul 4%
9 Mike Huckabee 3%
10 Chris Christie 2%
11 John Kasich 1%
11 Rick Santorum 1%
  Jim Gilmore <1%
  Bobby Jindal <1%
  George Pataki <1%

With Trump now leading in all four early states, Ben Carson in second place, and Carly Fiorina in third or fourth, RNC chairman Reince Priebus might well pick up a copy of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's best seller Frankenstein for bedtime reading—it offers fewer horrors than his day job. For decades the Republicans have been saying, "government is the problem." Of course, what they meant was, "Democrats are the problem, so elect us." But the Republican base took the message to heart a bit too much and now they have to deal with candidates who are actually against governing. Who knows where this will end, but Priebus can't be a happy camper now. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Oct14 Clinton, Sanders both Winners in First Debate
Oct14 Democrats Have Detailed Policy Statements
Oct14 What is Hillary Really Thinking?
Oct14 Rubio Gaining with Megadonors
Oct13 Democratic Debate Preview
Oct13 Clinton Donors Worry about Biden
Oct13 O'Malley Is Fourth in His Home State
Oct13 Fringe Candidates Sometimes Pop and Sometimes Fizzle
Oct13 What is going on at Quinnipiac?
Oct13 Carson's Inflammatory Remarks Help Him
Oct13 Senate Republicans May Weaken the Filibuster
Oct12 Another Day, More Speaker Drama
Oct12 Koch Opposes Special Interests
Oct12 Obama May Issue Executive Order on Gun Sales
Oct12 Benghazi Inquiry Now Focused on Emails
Oct12 Part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Leaked
Oct12 Chris Christie Doesn't Get It
Oct11 Recent Speakers and Why They Stopped Being Speaker
Oct11 Half the Campaign Money Comes from Only 158 Families
Oct11 Julian Castro Expected to endorse Hillary Clinton Next Week
Oct11 Ex Benghazi Committee Staffer: It is a Partisan Investigation
Oct10 Paul Ryan Is between a Rock and a Hard Place
Oct10 Biden Is Also Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Oct10 GOP Fundraising Suffers from House Chaos
Oct10 The Resurrection of Chris Christie?
Oct09 McCarthy Out of the Speaker's Race...Probably
Oct09 Congressman Writes Job Ad for Speaker
Oct09 Boxer Wants to KO Fiorina
Oct09 Bush Opposes a New Voting Rights Act
Oct09 Democrats Speak English Gooder than Republicans?
Oct08 If Trump is the Hare, Cruz is the Tortoise
Oct08 Gallup Pulls the Plug
Oct08 Democratic Focus Groups: We Love You Joe, but Don't Run
Oct08 Export-Import Bank Causes Problems for Republicans
Oct07 Supreme Court Likely to Move to Center Stage
Oct07 Biden May Have Leaked Son's Dying Wish to Help His Campaign
Oct07 The Case For and Against Rubio
Oct07 Trump Sends Rubio a Case of Bottled Water
Oct07 Emailgate May Show that Clinton Would Be an Effective President
Oct07 Jindal Spins Out of Control
Oct06 States Change Primary Dates and Rules
Oct06 Democrats Get Nearly All the Senate Candidates They Wanted
Oct06 Fiorina took 4 Years to Pay Off Campaign Debt
Oct06 Freedom Caucus Growing More Unified
Oct06 Clinton's First Ad Focuses on Benghazi
Oct06 One Issue Where Hillary Clinton is to the Left of Bernie Sanders
Oct05 Hassan Will Run for the Senate in New Hampshire
Oct05 Clinton Gets A Big Endorsement
Oct05 What is Biden's Actual Deadline?
Oct05 Tomorrow's Polling...Today?